Leeds Parliamentary Election Results


1956 - 9th February by-election

North East
Sir K. Joseph (Conservative) 14,081
H. W. Waterman (Labour) 8,212

The by-election was brought about when Osbert Peake was ennobled in January 1956. This was a straight fight between the two main parties. With a large Jewish community in the constituency, The Times believed that Israel and the tensions in the Middle East would weigh just as heavily among the concerns of voters as did the cost of shopping and the inadequacy of the Conservative leadership. Both candidates were Jews. Harry Waterman, raised the point that the Government had allowed ‘discarded tanks and other weapons’ to be sent to the Middle East. He railed ‘Such incompetence – at a time when tensions between Israel and the Arab States threatens to explode into large-scale hostilities – amounts to criminal negligence.’ Sir Keith Joseph, countered that people knew that Labour was the party of Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, who ‘left Israel without adequate protection’ and ‘that is all there is to it’.

The Conservatives held the seat and increased their share of the vote by 1.8%. The turnout dropped to 39.9%, down from 73.09% in 1955. The party took 63.2% of the vote to Labour’s 36.8%. There were some problems with the voting register and it was reckoned that possibly 20% of the 55,441 names on the register were ineffective. Sir Keith Joseph would become one of the most influential politicians in the Conservative Party.