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At 9:30 on the night of April 24, 1908 the results of the by-election in the constituency of Manchester North-west were announced with Winston Churchill going down to defeat. Despite winning the constituency by more than 1,000 votes in the 1906 general election, he lost this by-election that was held after the seat became vacant upon his appointment to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. It was common practice for cabinet ministers to run unopposed in these by-elections, but Churchill’s opponent in the 1906 election, William Joynson-Hicks, returned to face him in the poll. The campaign was, in the words of Ronald Blythe in his book The Age of Illusion, “the most brilliant, entertaining and hilarious electoral fight of the century” with Manchester in “a state of near-hysteria” on polling day. The voting results were Joynson-Hicks (Unionist) 5,417, Churchill (Liberal) 4,988, and Dan Irving (Socialist) 276. Churchill’s opponents were thrilled with the result with the Daily Telegraph writing the next day that “Winston Churchill is out-out-OUT. We have all been yearning for this to happen with a yearning beyond utterance.”

After the announcement of the result Churchill drove through large crowds from the Town-Hall to the Manchester Reform Club where he received an enthusiastic welcome. In addressing the capacity crowd, he said that the result was “a heavy blow,” but remarked on the “recuperative force in Liberal principles” and encouraged his supporters to be spurred on in their efforts. Although Churchill said in his speech that the result was “bitter” and “crushing,” it was only a minor setback. Late that night the Liberals of Dundee sent him a telegram inviting him to contest the safe Liberal constituency in the upcoming by-election caused by the elevation of their sitting member of parliament to a peerage. Just two weeks later, on May 9, 1908, Churchill was easily elected at Dundee and returned to the House of Commons.

The practice of requiring members of parliament to seek reelection in their constituency upon their appointment to the cabinet was abolished in 1926.

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