The East Fulham by-election of 25 October 1933 has aroused more controversy than any other. Caused by the death in August 1933 of Sir Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan, the Conservative who had held the seat since 1922, it was won dramatically two months later by Labour on a turnover of over 19,000 votes and a swing of 29.1 per cent. But it was not merely as a spectacular electoral upset that the result at East Fulham became controversial. It was cited as an indicator of the popular pacifism which delayed the National Government’s rearmament programme, and it therefore became notorious as a political symbol of the locust years — the vital early years of the Hitler regime — during which Baldwin and MacDonald failed to build up adequate national defences. More recently, the by-election has become a matter of dispute among historians who have disagreed over the issues which the result reflected, despite subjecting the campaign at East Fulham to the minutest scrutiny.1 This account will therefore seek not to retell the details of the campaign, but to answer three questions of interpretation which lie at the heart of the East Fulham controversy.
KeywordsForeign Affair Political Trust Labour Party International Situation Peace Movement
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- Other accounts include A. J. P. Taylor, The Trouble Makers (1957) p. 186;Google Scholar
- J. P. Kyba, ‘British Attitudes toward Disarmament and Rearmament, 1932–1935’, Ph.D. thesis (London, 1967) pp. 318–19;Google Scholar
- K. Middleman and J. Barnes, Baldwin (1969) pp. 744–6 (which all assert the primacy of the peace question);Google Scholar
- A. J. P. Taylor, English History, 1914–1945 (1965) pp. 367, 387;Google Scholar
- A. Marwick, Britain in the Century of Total War (1968) p. 251 (which both argue that social issues were more important).Google Scholar
- All quotations from parliamentary speeches are taken from Hansard. The Baldwin Papers contain nothing on East Fulham, and no political papers survive for John Wilmot (created Baron Wilmot of Selmeston in 1960, died 1964). I am indebted to his widow, Lady Wilmot, for discussing with me the election and her husband’s career. The discussion of the context of ideas and opinion on the peace question is derived from the author’s own forthcoming work on pacifism and the public mind in Britain in the inter-war period.Google Scholar