Lincoln: The Background to Taverne’s Triumph

  • John Ramsden
  • Richard Jay


On 6 October 1972 Dick Taverne resigned his seat as Labour MP for Lincoln1 and on 1 March 1973 he was triumphantly returned to Parliament with an overwhelming majority. His re-election was on the platform of the newly formed Lincoln Democratic Labour Association and was opposed by the full weight of both Conservative and Labour party machines. It was the first victory by any Independent candidate in post-war by-elections, and was perhaps the greatest personal election victory in British political history. Taverne’s resignation had been the result of a long-standing dispute with the Lincoln Labour Party, and so the election campaign seemed to involve both the issue of Labour’s future role as a party, and the entirely separate question of the independence of a Member of Parliament. For this reason, the Lincoln by-election was widely seen as more than a freak local contest, from which no lessons could be drawn. Along with other by-elections in the winter of 1972–3, Lincoln was used by a section of the press to demonstrate the desirability — even the inevitability — of a fundamental realignment in the two-party system.


Opinion Poll Labour Party Major Party Centre Party Local Party 
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  1. 2.
    Uwe Kitzinger, Diplomacy and Persuasion (1973) esp. pp. 276–330, 371–406, gives a much fuller account of Labour’s divisions over Europe.Google Scholar

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© John Ramsden and Richard Jay 1973

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  • John Ramsden
  • Richard Jay

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