Harpenden's MPs

Photo:J.C. Davidson MP for Hemel Hempstead Division, 1920-1923 and 1924-1937

J.C. Davidson MP for Hemel Hempstead Division, 1920-1923 and 1924-1937

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Photo:James Allason MP for Hemel Hempstead Division 1959-1974

James Allason MP for Hemel Hempstead Division 1959-1974

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Photo:Victor Goodhew MP for St Albans Division 1974-1983

Victor Goodhew MP for St Albans Division 1974-1983

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Changing constituencies

By Gavin Ross

Harpenden has been part of several different parliamentary constituencies over time. Apart from two short periods when Liberals were elected the seats containing Harpenden have always returned Conservatives. In the mid-nineteenth century Harpenden was part of St Albans or Mid-Herts Division, but from 1852 to 1885 St Albans was deprived of its MP after a notorious vote-buying scandal. The first elected MP in 1885 was Viscount Grimston (Conservative), the 3rd Earl of Verulam. He was succeeded in 1892 by Vicary Gibbs, who had to resign in 1904 (over a business deal involving the sale of warships to the Chilean navy), and the Liberal John Slack won the ensuing by-election. The Conservatives won the seat back in 1906 and Sir Hildred Carlile served as MP until 1918, when Harpenden was incorporated into the new Hemel Hempstead Division. In 1918 women (over 30) had the vote for the first time, and all men over 21 regardless of income.  

The 1918 election was won by the Coalition Conservative, Gustavus Arthur Talbot, and on his death in 1920 by John Davidson (elected unopposed). In the 1923 election the seat was narrowly won by a Liberal, John Freeman Dunn, but Davidson regained the seat in 1924 and served as MP until his elevation to the peerage in 1937. As Private Secretary to Andrew Bonar Law he was involved with decision to appoint Stanley Baldwin rather than Lord Curzon as PM in May 1923. He held several ministerial posts and served as Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1926-30.  

His wife, Lady Frances Davidson, won the resultant by-election and served as MP until 1959, and later entered the House of Lords as Baroness Northchurch. In 1945 she was the only woman Conservative MP. On her retirement the seat was held by James Allason until boundary revisions in 1974 when Harpenden became part of St Albans Division. Allason narrowly won the February 1974 election but in the subsequent October election of that year the new Hemel Hempstead seat was won by Labour's Robin Corbett. 

The St Albans seat had been held from 1970 by Victor Goodhew, who continued to hold the seat after the boundary changes until he retired in 1983. The seat was won by Peter Lilley in 1983 until the next round of boundary changes in 1997, when the new constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden was formed. Peter Lilley chose to move from St Albans to Hitchin and Harpenden, for which he was still the MP after the 2015 election, while his former seat of St Albans was won by Labour's Kerry Pollard in 1997. Peter Lilley served in several ministerial posts and was deputy Leader of the Conservative Party from 1998-99.  

Harpenden residents who became MPs elsewhere include Leslie Burgin (Nat. Liberal, Luton, 1929-45), Charles Hill (Con, Luton, 1950-63), Robin Corbett (Lab, Hemel Hempstead, 1974-79, Birmingham Erdington, 1983-2001) and Kelvin Hopkins (Lab, Luton North, 1997-).   

The election results from 1885 were as follows: 

St Albans (Mid-Herts) Division 

  • 1885  Viscount Grimston (Con) 4108  J. Coles (Lib) 3037
  • 1892  Vicary Gibbs (Con) 3417  T.M. Harvey (Lib) 2573  W.H. Brigham Cox (Ind C) 1580
  • 1895  Vicary Gibbs unopposed
  • 1900  Vicary Gibbs unopposed
  • 1904 (By-)  John Bamford Slack (Lib) 4757  V. Gibbs (Con) 4635
  • 1906  Hildred Carlile (Con) 5856  Slack (Lib) 5304 
  • 1910 (Jan) Carlile 7323  H.R. Beddoes (Lib) 5271
  • 1910 (Dec) Carlile 6809  R.C. Phillimore (Lib) 4777 

Hemel Hempstead Division 

  • 1918  Gustavus Arthur Chetwynd Talbot (Con) 10070  Jesse Hawkes (Lab) 2913
  • 1920  (By-) John Colin Campbell Davidson (Con) unopposed
  • 1922  Davidson (Con) 11847  John H Clynes (Lab) 5726
  • 1923  John Freeman Dunn (Lib) 8892  Davidson (Con) 8875
  • 1924  Davidson (Con) 12985  Dunn (Lib) 7994  Amy Sayle (Lab) 1553
  • 1929  Davidson (Con) 15145  Charles T. Le Quesne (Lib) 11631  A.E.R. Millar (Lab) 3624
  • 1931  Davidson (Con) 21946  Le Quesne (Lib) 8021  Millar (Lab) 2677
  • 1935  Davidson (Con) 20074  Margery Corbett Ashby (Lib) 7078  C.W. James (Lab) 4951
  • 1937 (By-) Lady Frances Davidson (Con) 14992  Ashby (Lib) 7347  James (Lab) 3651
  • 1945  Lady Davidson (Con) 19536  Miss D W Mobbs (Lab) 14426  Wing Com. Trotter (Lib) 10219
  • 1950  Lady Davidson (Con) 22022  R. Moss (Lab) 15165  P.A. Stevens (Lib) 6696
  • 1951  Lady Davidson (Con) 25620  Norman MacKenzie (Lab) 18220
  • 1955  Lady Davidson (Con) 25648  MacKenzie (Lab) 19512  E. Saich (Lib) 5111
  • 1959  James Allason (Con) 30189  B.F.C. Floud (Lab) 21954  M. Neilson (Lib) 8358
  • 1964  Allason (Con) 31119  G.D. Hitchcock (Lab) 26273  A.J. Whiteside (Lib) 11986
  • 1966  Allason (Con) 31742  Robin Corbett (Lab) 29704  Whiteside (Lib) 9970
  • 1970  Allason (Con) 40417  P.A. Fletcher (Lab) 28067  A.J. Wilson (Lib) 9274 

St Albans Division 

  • 1974 (Feb)  Victor Goodhew (Con) 26345  Anthony.C. Shaw (Lib) 17924  Danny Bernstein (Lab) 14077
  • 1974 (Oct)  Goodhew (Con) 24436  Edwin Hudson (Lab) 15301  Shaw (Lib) 14614
  • 1979  Goodhew (Con) 31301  David Picton (Lib) 14057  John Greaves (Lab and Co-op) 13638
  • 1983  Peter Lilley (Con) 29676  Sandy Walkington (Lib) 21115  Rita Austin (Lab) 6213
  • 1987  Lilley (Con) 31726  Walkington (Lib) 20845  Tony McWalter (Lab) 6922  E.V. Field (Green) 788 W.H.Pass 110
  • 1992  Lilley (Con) 32709  Monica Howes (Lib Dem) 16305  Kerry Pollard (Lab) 12016  Craig Simmonds (Green) 734  David Lucas (Natural Law) 161 

Hitchin and Harpenden Division 

  • 1997  Peter Lilley (Con) 24038  Rosemary Sanderson (Lab) 17367  Chris White (Lib Dem) 10515  D. Cooke (Natural Law) 290  Jim Horton (Soc Alternative) 217
  • 2001  Lilley (Con) 21271  Alan Amos (Lab) 14608  John Murphy (Lib Dem) 8076  John Saunders (UKIP) 606  Peter Rigby (Ind) 363
  • 2005  Lilley (Con) 23627  Hannah Hedges (Lib Dem) 12234  Paul Orrett (Lab) 10499  Saunders (UKIP) 828  Rigby (Ind) 199
  • 2010  Lilley (Con) 29869  Nigel Quinton (Lib Dem) 14598  Oliver de Botton (Lab) 7413  Graham Wilkinson (UKIP) 1633 Richard Wise (Green) 807  Others 109, 108, 90, 50 
  • 2015 Lilley (Con) 31488  Rachel Burgin (Lab) 11433  John Stocker (UKIP) 4917  Pauline Pearce (Lib Dem) 4484 Richard Wise (Green) 3053.    
This page was added by Gavin Ross on 13/10/2015.

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