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1958 Argyll by-election

1958 Argyll by-election

The Argyll by-election of 12 June 1958 was held after the death of Conservative Party MP Duncan McCallum.

The seat was safe, having been won at the 1955 United Kingdom general election by over 10,000 votes[1] On the eve of the by-election The Glasgow Herald said the campaign had been "strenuously", but cleanly fought by the candidates. It also noted that while Labour's candidate, Robert Young, had predicted a victory for himself, such a result would be a surprise, with the contest being seen as a battle between the Unionists (as the Conservatives in Scotland were styled) and the Liberals.[2]

Result of the previous general election

General election 1955: Argyll
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Duncan McCallum 19,119 67.77
Labour Robert M. Young 9,091 32.23
Majority 10,028 35.54
Turnout 28,210
Conservative hold Swing

Result of the by-election

By-election 1958: Argyll[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Michael Noble 12,541 46.79 -20.98
Liberal William D. McKean 7,375 27.52 New
Labour Robert M. Young 6,884 25.69 -6.54
Majority 5,166 19.27 -16.28
Turnout 26,800
Conservative hold Swing


While Noble held the seat for the Unionists, their majority was significantly reduced, while the Liberal Party pushed Labour into third place. After his victory Noble said that his win represented "a vote of confidence in the Government" as he had fought the contest "entirely on the Government's record". In contrast McKean said that the result meant that the constituency was "no longer a safe Tory seat". He also claimed that the contest had been a "trial run" for the next general election and the Liberals would be ready to fight it.[4] The Glasgow Herald noted that the election was the first time the Liberals had contested Argyll since 1945, further commenting that "the Argyll Liberal Party re-formed only a few months before the by-election". The newspaper stated that given this, the Liberals had "every reason to be pleased" with the result they had achieved.[4]

Young claimed that the "anti-government vote" had been split, but argued that despite winning the seat the Conservative government could not "view the result with any great satisfaction." He also announced that he would not contest the seat again in the future, this being the third time that he had stood in Argyll and failed to be elected.[4]

Ultimately the Liberals did contest the seat at the next year's general election, but their new candidate Gerard Noel could only finish in third place, with Labour regaining second spot. The Labour vote share actually remained relatively static, with Noble's vote share increasing from 46.8% to 58.4%, with the Liberal vote share dropping from 27.5% to 15.7%. However both the Labour and Conservative share were down on their 1955 levels.[5]


  1. Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  2. "UNIONIST CANDIDATE PLEDGE. Last Words in Well-Fought Campaign TO ELECTORS". The Glasgow Herald. 12 June 1981. p. 5. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  3. "1958 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 25 June 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  4. "CONSERVATIVE SUCCESS. Labour Foot of the Poll". The Glasgow Herald. 17 June 1981. p. 7. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  5. The Times Guide to the House of Commons 1959. London: The Times Office. 1959. p. 203.

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