Leeds Parliamentary Election Results
1940 - 13 March by-election
Professor J. J. C. Henderson (Conservative) 23,882
S. Allen (British Union of Fascists) 722
The by-election was brought about by the resignation of John Birchall in February 1940. The parties had declared a wartime truce and consequently Henderson was expected to be returned unopposed. However, Sydney Allen of the British Union of Fascists decided to stand in this safe Conservative seat and campaign on an anti-war policy. Neville Chamberlain sent a letter of support to Henderson saying, ‘I trust that the electors of North East Leeds will send you to Parliament as the National Government representative by a majority that will be a clear and decisive endorsement of the ends to which the national war effort is directed.’ The Yorkshire Post was emphatic, ‘Anyone who deserves the name of patriot should welcome this rare chance to strike a blow at Nazism on the home front.’
Sir Oswald Mosley spoke at Gipton Council School on behalf of Allen the night before polling day. He advocated immediate peace with Germany, provided she agreed to leave Britain and the British Empire alone. Henderson’s campaign was summed up simply: ‘In Freedom’s Call Pile up the Majority’. Rather more than a third of the electorate of 70,404 voted and did just that, giving the Conservative candidate 97.2% of the vote. Allen lost his deposit and after the election refused to shake hands with his opponent when the result was announced saying, ‘This is a fight not a sham battle. British Union does not shake hands with its enemies’. Henderson’s response was, ‘If Mr Allen did not wish to shake hands with me, I shall do my best to bear the disappointment with fortitude.’ He then went on to say, ‘North East Leeds is on this occasion speaking for Yorkshire and for Britain’.