Glasgow Camlachie by-election, 1948

The Glasgow Camlachie by-election was held on 28 January 1948, following the death of Member of Parliament for Glasgow Camlachie Campbell Stephen.

Stephen had been elected for the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the 1945 general election, and had held the seat for them since 1935. However, he resigned the ILP whip in 1947, and later that year joined the Labour Party - for which he had held the seat from 1922 until 1931.

The ILP had achieved a fairly close victory over the Unionist Party in the seat in a two-way fight at the 1945 general election. Since then, its most prominent figure, James Maxton, had died. The party won the subsequent by-election, but all three of its MPs had since defected to the Labour Party. With the ILP in sharp decline, and given that the Labour Party intended to contest the seat, commentators did not expect the ILP to hold the seat, and concluded that it would be a Labour-Unionist contest. The ILP stood Annie Maxton, sister of James.

As a seat in a working class area of Glasgow, the constituency seemed natural Labour Party territory. The party stood John M. Inglis, a train driver and trade unionist.

UK-wide, Labour had won a large victory at the 1945 general election, and the Conservatives had not gained a single seat since. However, given their strong second place in Camlachie in 1945, and the left divided, they hoped to gain the seat. They stood Charles McFarlane, a local factory owner.

Despite having no background in the constituency, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Liberal Party also stood candidates. Guy Aldred, a well known local anarcho-communist stood for his United Socialist Movement on an abstentionist anti-Parliamentary platform.

The SNP also suffered a rift as a result of the by-election; although Wilkie ran under the SNP banner, his candidature had not been approved by any leadership body in the party, and the SNP's executive subsequently stripped him of his membership. As a result, former SNP Chairman Douglas Young quit the party, eventually rejoining Labour, while Andrew Dewar Gibb considered returning to the Unionists.[1]

The election was won narrowly by McFarlane for the Unionists. Labour came a close second, but were warned by the Manchester Guardian "Camlachie's chief warning is ... that a government candidate cannot even rouse the slums".[2] The ILP vote declined dramatically, and demonstrated that the party was no longer a significant political force. The SNP took a close fourth place, while the Liberals came in sixth, beaten even by Aldred. This was the worst Liberal placing in any British by-election since World War II, until the Liberal Democrats took eighth place at the Rotherham by-election, 2012.

McFarlane lost the seat at the 1950 general election to William Reid of Labour. Annie Maxton remained prominent in the ILP, eventually becoming its chair.


Glasgow Camlachie by-election, 1948[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Charles McFarlane 11,085 43.7 + 1.4
Labour John M. Inglis 10,690 42.1 N/A
Ind. Labour Party Annie Maxton 1,622 6.4 - 51.3
SNP Robert B. Wilkie 1,320 5.2 N/A
United Socialist Movement Guy Aldred 345 1.4 N/A
Liberal Roger Goodfellow 312 1.2 N/A
Majority 395 1.6
Turnout 25,374 56.8
Unionist gain from Ind. Labour Party Swing 26.4


  1. National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Acc. 10090, Papers of Dr Robert Douglas McIntyre, MB ChB, DPH, Duniv, JP. File 15: Correspondence and papers of or concerning Douglas Young. 11 December 1947 letter from Young to McIntyre; 16 April 1948 letter from Young to Jock Mackie. Accessed 16 July 2015.
  2. "1948 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
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