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Isle of Ely
County constituency
House House of Commons
Elects One MPs
Created 1918 (1918)
Abolished 1983 (1983)

Isle of Ely was a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, centred on the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire. Until its abolition in 1983, it elected one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

Contents

History

The Isle had previously been represented by two members of the First and Second Protectorate Parliaments, between 1654 and 1658.

The twentieth century constituency was created in 1918. The territory included in the new seat was similar to that previously constituting the Wisbech constituency (the north division of Cambridgeshire). That constituency was dominated by the Fens, a district of Liberal inclined smallholders. The towns in the Wisbech division, predominantly Conservative Wisbech and the more Liberal inclined March, tended to be outvoted by the rural areas.

The small city of Ely had formerly been part of the Newmarket constituency (the east division of Cambridgeshire). Pelling suggets Ely was Conservative "because of the cathedral and its fairly substantial middle-class population".

In 1918 the former Liberal MP for Wisbech, Colin Coote, was returned unopposed as a Coalition Liberal. In 1922 Coote contested the seat again, this time as a National Liberal candidate. A Labour candidate appeared for the first time. The anti-Conservative vote was badly split (National Liberal 27.7% and Labour 21.4%), so the Conservative soldier Lieutenant Colonel Norman Coates was easily elected. Coates retired and did not seek re-election in 1923.

In 1923 the reunited Liberal Party nominated a member of the family of one of their richest members. Henry Mond was the son of the industrialist Alfred Mond (later the 1st Lord Melchett). He was able to squeeze the Labour vote down to 12.4%, which was sufficient for a narrow Liberal victory as part of the party's best election result after the First World War.

In the 1924 general election, both the Conservative and Labour candidates increased their vote. Mond was defeated. The new MP was the Conservative, Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, Bt. Lucas-Tooth had a long political career, not leaving the House of Commons until 1970, but he only retained this seat for one Parliament until his defeat in 1929.

The Monds had joined the Conservative Party in 1926 after a disagreement with Lloyd George's land policy. However another rich Liberal stood in this constituency in 1929, the flamboyant James de Rothschild. He retained the seat for three Parliaments, serving from 1929 to 1945. In the 1945 general election de Rothschild came third, the first time this had happened to any Liberal candidate in the constituency.

It must have appeared that the days when the Isle seat was a Conservative/Liberal marginal had ended in 1945. The new Conservative MP, Harry Legge-Bourke, had a majority of 6.1% over Labour, with the Liberal almost 10% further behind. He retained the seat until his death in 1973, with Labour in second place. The Liberal Party did not contest general elections in 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1970. The Liberal vote in 1966 was only 11.4%.

Clement Freud gained the seat for the Liberals from the Conservatives in a 1973 by-election during the height of the 1970s Liberal revival. He retained this seat until it was abolished in 1983; however, Freud surprisingly lost its successor seat in 1987.

The constituency was renamed in 1983, with most of the territory incorporated into the constituency of North East Cambridgeshire.

Boundaries

In 1918 the county constituency was defined as having the same boundaries as the administrative county of the Isle of Ely, which had been formed in 1889 from a traditional sub-division of the historic county of Cambridgeshire in East Anglia.

In 1965 the Isle of Ely area was merged into the new administrative county of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely and in 1974 this merged with Huntingdon and Peterborough to form the non-metropolitan county of Cambridgeshire

In the next redistribution of parliamentary seats, which took effect in 1974, the Isle constituency was defined as comprising the Municipal Borough of Wisbech; the urban districts of Chatteris, Ely, March, and Whittlesey; with the Rural districts of Ely, North Witchford, and Wisbech.

Members of Parliament

Election Member Party
1918 Colin Reith Coote Coalition Liberal
1922 Norman Coates Conservative
1923 Henry Mond Liberal
1924 Hugh Lucas-Tooth Conservative
1929 James de Rothschild Liberal
1945 Harry Legge-Bourke Conservative
1973 Clement Freud Liberal
1983 constituency abolished

Elections

Election Political result Candidate Party Votes %
General election, December 1918
Electorate 34,132
Coalition Liberal win Capt. Colin Reith Coote DSO Coalition Liberal unopposed
General election, November 1922
Electorate 36,966
Turnout 72.0%
Conservative gain
Majority 6,193 (23.2%)
Lt.-Col. Norman Coates MC Conservative 13,552 50.9
Colin Reith Coote DSO National Liberal 7,359 27.7
Capt. William George Hall Labour 5,688 21.4
General election, December 1923
Electorate 37,656
Turnout 68.1%
Liberal gain
Majority 467 (1.8%)
Henry Ludwig Mond Liberal 11,476 44.7
Maximilian Gowran Townley Conservative 11,009 42.9
Lt.-Cmdr. Richard Henry Kennard Hope Labour 3,172 12.4
General election, October 1924
Electorate 38,281
Turnout 75.7%
Conservative gain
Majority 1,963 (6.8%)
Sir Hugh Vere Huntley Duff Lucas-Tooth, Bt. Conservative 13,344 46.1
Henry Ludwig Mond Liberal 11,381 39.3
Maj. Dermot Johnston Freyer Labour 4,235 14.6
General election, May 1929
Electorate 48,924
Turnout 75.0%
Liberal gain
Majority 2,483 (6.8%)
James Armand Edmond de Rothschild DCM Liberal 16,111 43.9
Sir Hugh Vere Huntley Duff Lucas-Tooth, Bt. Conservative 13,628 37.1
Maj. Dermot Johnston Freyer Labour 6,967 19.0
General election, October 1931
Electorate 50,849
Turnout 63.2%
Liberal hold
Majority 13,849 (43.0%)
James Armand Edmond de Rothschild DCM Liberal 20,842 64.8
John Alexander Whitehead Independent Agricultural Protectionist 6,993 21.8
Francis Joseph Knowles Labour 4,302 13.4
General election, November 1935
Electorate 52,515
Turnout 66.0%
Liberal hold
Majority 699 (2.0%)
James Armand Edmond de Rothschild DCM Liberal 17,671 51.0
William Francis Cuthbert Garthwaite Conservative 16,972 49.0
General election, July 1945
Electorate 56,661
Turnout 67.8%
Conservative gain
Majority 2,321 (6.1%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 15,592 40.6
Lt.-Cmdr. Alfred Francis Colenso Gray, RNVR Labour 13,271 34.5
James Armand Edmond de Rothschild DCM Liberal 9,564 24.9
General election, February 1950
Electorate 60,070
Turnout 79.6%
Conservative hold
Majority 4,963 (10.4%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 21,528 45.0
Lt.-Cmdr. Alfred Francis Colenso Gray, RNVR Labour 16,565 34.6
Thomas Grenville Jones Liberal 9,733 20.4
General election, October 1951
Electorate 60,918
Turnout 75.9%
Conservative hold
Majority 6,404 (13.8%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 26,319 56.9
Lt.-Cmdr. Alfred Francis Colenso Gray, RNVR Labour 19,915 43.1
General election, May 1955
Electorate 61,188
Turnout 70.7%
Conservative hold
Majority 6,446 (14.8%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 24,862 57.4
Lt.-Cmdr. Alfred Francis Colenso Gray, RNVR Labour 18,416 42.6
General election, October 1959
Electorate 61,387
Turnout 74.7%
Conservative hold
Majority 6,468 (14.0%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 26,173 57.0
John Derek Page Labour 19,705 43.0
General election, October 1964
Electorate 61,004
Turnout 73.8%
Conservative hold
Majority 5,625 (12.4%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 25,317 56.2
Cyril Shaw Labour 19,692 43.8
General election, March 1966
Electorate 60,758
Turnout 75.9%
Conservative hold
Majority 1,754 (3.8%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 21,320 46.2
Graham Nurse Labour 19,566 42.4
Derek Malcolm Rigby Liberal 5,250 11.4
General election, June 1970
Electorate 67,226
Turnout 71.9%
Conservative hold
Majority 9,606 (19.8%)
Major Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke Conservative 28,972 59.9
Rex Edgar O'Hare Labour 19,366 40.1
By-election, 26 July 1973
Electorate 69,069
Turnout 65.8%
Liberal gain
Majority 2,483 (6.8%)
Clement Raphael Freud Liberal 17,390 38.3
John Burdett Stevens Conservative 15,920 35.0
Barry A. Young Labour 12,153 26.7
General election, February 1974
Electorate 67,913*
Turnout 83.1%
Liberal gain
Majority 8,347 (14.8%)
Clement Raphael Freud Liberal 27,647 49.0
John Burdett Stevens Conservative 19,300 34.2
Michael Brendon Ferris Labour 9,478 16.8
General election, October 1974
Electorate 68,473
Turnout 77.1%
Liberal hold
Majority 2,685 (5.0%)
Clement Raphael Freud Liberal 22,040 41.7
Dr Irving Thomas Stuttaford Conservative 19,355 36.7
Michael Brendon Ferris Labour 11,420 21.6
General election, May 1979
Electorate 69,954
Turnout 80.8%
Liberal hold
Majority 3,330 (5.9%)
Clement Raphael Freud Liberal 26,397 46.7
Dr Irving Thomas Stuttaford Conservative 23,067 40.8
Colin Harry Saunders Labour 7,067 12.5

See also

References

  • Boundaries of Parliamentary Constituencies 1885-1972, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1972)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1977)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1950-1973, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Research Services 1983)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1974-1983, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Research Services 1984)
  • Social Geography of British Elections 1885-1910, by Henry Pelling (Macmillan 1967)
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, Volume III 1919-1945, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1979)
  • Who's Who of British Members of Parliament, Volume IV 1945-1979, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1981)
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