Leyton: Parliamentary representation

Page 214

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.

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Under the Representation of the People Act, 1918, Leyton, previously part of the Walthamstow division, became a parliamentary borough with two divisions, east and west. (fn. 1) Under the Representation of the People Act, 1948, the two divisions were combined to form a single constituency, the first election under the new arrangement being held in 1950. (fn. 2)

The 1918 election and by-election were won by Liberal Coalition and Unionist Coalition candidates; in 1922 two Conservative members were returned. In 1923 one seat fell to Labour, the other being retained by the sitting Conservative. The Conservatives won both seats in 1924, but lost them to Labour in 1929. The Conservatives recovered both seats in 1931, but lost one to Labour in 1935 and both in 1945. (fn. 3) From 1950 to 1964 the single constituency was held for Labour by a local nonconformist, the Revd. Reginald Sorensen, first elected in 1929, and its representative without break since 1935. At the 1964 general election he again had a majority of 7,926; but he was persuaded to accept a life peerage, to create a vacancy for the foreign secretary, Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, who had been defeated at Smethwick in a contest embittered by racial issues. The by-election which followed early in 1965 produced 'the most astonishing election result since the war'. There was a massive abstention of Labour voters, widely interpreted as resentment against the 'disposal' of Lord Sorensen and introduction of a newcomer, and on a low poll, the Conservative was elected by a majority of 205. (fn. 4) Leyton returned to its Labour allegiance at the general election in 1966, when Mr. Gordon Walker defeated the same Conservative opponent by a majority of 8,646. (fn. 5)


  • 1. Wilkinson, Leyton, preface, p. 64; E.R. xxvii. 61; W. H. Weston, Story of Leyton and Leytonstone, 223.
  • 2. L.B.C. Year Bk. (1950–1).
  • 3. The Leyton members are listed in the U.D.C. and B.C. Year Bks. Their political affiliations can be traced in: Leyton and Leytonstone Express and Independent 21 Dec. 1918; Who's Who, 1927; E.R. xxviii. 3, 80; and Kelly's Dir. Leytonstone, Wanstead and Snaresbrook (1925), p. A20.
  • 4. Illustrated London News, 30 Jan. 1965, p. 31; Guardian, 22 Jan. 1965; The Times, 14 Nov. 1964.
  • 5. Whitaker's Almanack (1967).