Great Britain

By-elections have a habit of leaving a mark on UK politics

F

or the political obsessive, the apparently unconnected areas of Orpington, Glasgow Govan, Glasgow Hillhead, Bermondsey, Eastbourne, Wirral South, Copeland and Clacton have a resonance which gives them a special place in history.

It is one of the many vagaries of the UK’s political system that an individual MP’s death or resignation can set a train of events in motion which make or break a government or a party leader – or in some cases provide the catalyst for new political forces to emerge.

The Orpington by-election in 1962 was one of the latter, with a stunning Liberal victory on a 22-point swing providing a shot in the arm for a party which was languishing at little more than 2 per cent in the polls with just six MPs.

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