2004 Hartlepool by-election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hartlepool by-election

← 2001 30 September 2004 2005 →
Candidate Iain Wright Jody Dunn
Party Labour Liberal Democrats
Popular vote 12,752 10,719
Percentage 40.7% 34.2%

Candidate Stephen Allison Jeremy Middleton
Party UKIP Conservative
Popular vote 3,193 3,044
Percentage 10.2% 9.7%

MP before election

Peter Mandelson

Subsequent MP

Iain Wright

Location of Hartlepool constituency

On 23 July 2004, the Member of Parliament for Hartlepool, in England, Peter Mandelson (Labour), was nominated as the United Kingdom's new European Commissioner for Trade. On 8 September, he accepted the office of Steward of the Manor of Northstead, thereby disqualifying himself from Parliament, and causing a by-election. Polling took place on 30 September.

It was the last of six by elections held during the 2001–2005 Parliament.


Out of a registered electorate of 68,517, there were 31,362 valid votes, making a turnout of 45.77%. This was the highest by-election turnout since the Romsey by-election in May 2000. The Labour Party candidate Iain Wright won the seat with a majority of 2,033, a substantially reduced majority. The Liberal Democrat vote more than doubled, leaving that party a close second. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) held its deposit, and beat the Conservative Party into fourth place.

This marked the first time UKIP had come third in a by-election (and followed a successful European election in June 2004, in which countrywide it had come third and won twelve seats). It would be over six years before the party improved on this position, when it took second place at Barnsley Central in 2011. It would go on to win a by-election for the first time a little over a decade after the Hartlepool contest, in Clacton in October 2014.

The Conservative vote in Hartlepool dropped considerably, leaving the party in fourth place for the first time in an English by-election since Liverpool Walton in 1991.

2004 Hartlepool by-election[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Iain Wright 12,752 40.7 –18.5
Liberal Democrats Jody Dunn 10,719 34.2 +19.2
UKIP Stephen Allison 3,193 10.2 N/A
Conservative Jeremy Middleton 3,044 9.7 –11.1
Respect John Bloom 572 1.8 N/A
Green Iris Ryder 255 0.8 N/A
National Front John Starkey 246 0.8 N/A
Independent Peter Watson 139 0.4 N/A
Socialist Labour Christopher Herriot 95 0.3 –2.1
Common Good Dick Rodgers 91 0.3 N/A
Independent Philip Berriman 90 0.3 N/A
Monster Raving Loony Alan Hope 80 0.3 N/A
Independent (Rainbow) Ronnie Carroll 45 0.1 N/A
English Democrat Ed Abrams 41 0.1 N/A
Majority 2,033 6.5 –31.7
Turnout 31,362 45.8 –10.0
Labour hold Swing

Robert Kilroy-Silk of UKIP initially suggested he might stand but later ruled this out, as did Hartlepool and Middlesbrough mayors Stuart Drummond and Ray Mallon.

Preceding by-elections had seen the Liberal Democrats come from third place to beat the Conservative Party, and in Brent East and Leicester South take seats from Labour. The seat was safer (judging by the 2001 result) than Leicester but was vulnerable to swings such as achieved in Brent, or in Birmingham Hodge Hill where the Liberal Democrats narrowly failed to win.

In the event, the Liberal Democrats were not quite able to repeat these performances. Their campaign suffered from the choice of a candidate who was not from Hartlepool, while the Labour candidate had been born and brought up in the town.

In addition, the Liberal Democrat candidate made reference, on a campaign blog, to having canvassed a street where everyone she met "was either drunk, flanked by an angry dog, or undressed"; this happened despite a Liberal Democrat minder, Ed Fordham, having been appointed by the party's Campaigns Department to proof read Dunn's blog before any posts went up. Fordham removed a reference to some of the people canvassed being Labour supporters, but he thought the rest of the comment was fine.[2]

Labour gave wide publicity to this remark and asserted that it was an insult to the people of Hartlepool. Dunn defended her remarks on the Today programme, in a performance that was perceived to be unconvincing, so Labour Party vans toured the constituency playing her Today interview on loudspeakers.[3]

Hartlepool had no significant ethnic minority vote, unlike the other three by-elections. The Liberal Democrats were nevertheless content to claim the large swing to them, and the Conservatives' fourth place established the Liberal Democrats as the main opposition party to Labour in the seat. UKIP did well with a local candidate, and its message of opposition to European Union fishing rules was a popular one in a port town.

The Conservative Party dropped from second place at the 2001 general election to fourth place, its worst place in an English by-election since 1991.

Labour believed its performance good, for it came at the end of a very long campaign (effectively seventy-one days), and with a swing markedly smaller than in other seats over the previous year; the party also regarded the result – along with that in Hodge Hill – as a vindication of its decision to aggressively attack the Liberal Democrats and essentially ignore the Conservative challenge.

2001 result[edit]

From the 2001 general election.

General election 2001: Hartlepool
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Peter Mandelson 22,506 59.1 –1.6
Conservative Gus Robinson 7,935 20.9 –0.5
Liberal Democrats Nigel Boddy 5,717 15.0 +1.0
Socialist Labour Arthur Scargill 912 2.4 N/A
Independent Ian Cameron 557 1.5 N/A
Independent John Booth 424 1.1 N/A
Majority 14,571 38.2
Turnout 38,051 55.8 –9.8
Labour hold Swing


  1. ^ Boothroyd, David. "Results of Byelections in the 2001-2005 Parliament". United Kingdom Election Results. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  2. ^ Greg Hurst, Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw (Politico's, London, 2006) p.196
  3. ^ Greg Hurst, Charles Kennedy: A Tragic Flaw (Politico's, London, 2006) p.197

External links[edit]

See also[edit]