Leeds Parliamentary Election Results


1963 - 20 June - by-election

M. Rees (Labour) 18,785
J. Udal (Conservative) 5,996
B. Walsh (Liberal) 4,399
B. Ramelson (Communist) 670

The by-election came about as a result of the unexpected death of Hugh Gaitskell which was considered on all sides of the political spectrum as a national tragedy. The rare nature of the disease that killed him led some to suggest that the KGB may have been involved but nothing was ever proved. Harold Wilson, now the Leader of the Opposition, issued a statement to the Leeds voters saying that he felt they would send a message to the Government saying, ‘Whatever you do in Westminster to obscure and deceive, we in South Leeds stand by the memory and values of Hugh Gaitskell and wish you to go, and to go quickly, so that our national honour may be saved.’

In a four cornered fight Merlyn Rees was a convincing victor in this safe Labour seat. The Communist candidate lost his deposit. Labour’s vote increased to 62.9%, up from 58.6% in the general election. The Conservatives dropped significantly down to 20.1% from 31%. Walsh for the Liberals claimed, ‘We are the only ones to have increased our share of the vote.’ They did so by 59 votes. Rees, who would eventually become the Home Secretary, commented on the result, ‘From this constituency a message goes: “We want a change not only of Prime Minister but a change of government, and we want it very soon.”’