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The Spen Valley by-election of 1919 was held on 20 December 1919. The by-election was held after the death of the incumbent Coalition Liberal MP, Thomas Whittaker. It was won by the Labour candidate, Tom Myers,[1] who had contested the constituency at the 1918 general election.

1919 Spen Valley by-election

← 1918 20 December 1919 1922 →
  Tom Myers crop.jpg John Simon crop.jpg Bryan Charles Fairfax.jpeg
Candidate Myers Simon Fairfax
Party Labour Liberal Coalition Liberal
Popular vote 11,962 10,244 8,134
Percentage 39.4 33.8 26.8

MP before election


Subsequent MP


The poll came at the same time as a serious split in the Liberal Party over continuing support for the coalition government: Colonel B C Fairfax was nominated as the Coalition Liberal candidate, and Sir John Simon stood as an Independent Liberal.[2] The poll was held on 20 December 1919, but the votes were not counted until 3 January 1920.[2] The result was seen as sensational, with The Times describing it as a "political event of great significance", with voters deserting the government candidate in "a humiliation which cannot be explained away".[3]

In the view of Maurice Cowling, Simon's defeat by Labour marked the point at which Labour began to be seen as a serious threat by the older parties.

Spen Valley by-election, 1919 [4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Tom Myers 11,962 39.4 –5.0
Liberal John Simon 10,244 33.8 21.8
Coalition Liberal Bryan Charles Fairfax 8,134 26.8 n/a
Majority 1,718 5.6 26.8
Turnout 76.5 +27.1
Labour gain from Liberal Swing +13.4


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Spen Valley's Verdict. A Blow To The Coalition, Labour Member Returned, Sir J. Simon's Big Poll". The Times. 5 January 1920. p. 13.
  3. ^ "The Parting of the Ways. Mr Lloyd-George's Two Courses". The Times. 5 January 1920. p. 13.
  4. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig