Leeds Parliamentary Election Results
1908 - 13 February by-election
W. Middlebrook (Liberal) 5,274
R. J. N. Neville (Conservative) 4,915
A. Fox (Labour) 2,451
The election came about as a result of the death of John Lawson Walton. Free trade was again a central issue in the campaign. The Conservatives were relieved when Sir Henry Fairfax-Lucy, who was a free trader and who stood in 1906, decided not to run a second time and leave the field clear for the Protectionist Reginald Neville who had contested Leeds South on four previous occasions. He opposed legislation regarding licensed houses, argued that trade was declining and unemployment increasing, supported denominational schools, supported votes for qualified women but opposed Irish Home Rule. Labour was racked with internal squabbling finally settling for Albert Fox who supported free trade and adult universal suffrage. During the campaign Mary Gawthorpe and Emmeline Pankhurst visited the constituency to campaign against William Middlebrook in protest at the Liberal Government’s policy regarding women’s suffrage.
In the event the Liberals retained the seat but with a reduced majority whilst Labour dropped into third place. The Conservatives increased their vote by 2,789 votes as opposed to the Liberals whose majority went down by 926. Neville was still able to claim ‘The electors have shown their appreciation of the admirable record of the Government in the matter of social reform during the past two years. Old age pensions scored heavily for us.’ The Yorkshire Evening Post took a different view arguing, ‘Mr Neville’s gallant fight for Unionism in South Leeds has resulted in another serious blow to the prestige of the Government.’