Stephen had been elected for the Independent Labour Party (ILP) at the 1945 general election, and had held the seat for them since 1935. However, he resigned the ILP whip in 1947, and later that year joined the Labour Party - for which he had held the seat from 1922–1931.
The ILP had achieved a fairly close victory over the Unionist Party in the seat in a two-way fight at the 1945 general election. Since then, its most prominent figure, James Maxton, had died. The party won the subsequent by-election, but all three of its MPs had since defected to the Labour Party. With the ILP in sharp decline, and given that the Labour Party intended to contest the seat, commentators did not expect the ILP to retain control of the seat, and concluded that it would be a Labour-Unionist contest. The ILP selected Annie Maxton, sister of James as their candidate.
Nationwide, Labour had won a landslide victory at the 1945 general election, and the Conservatives had not gained a single seat since. However, given their strong second place in Camlachie in 1945, and the left-wing vote divided, they hoped to gain the seat. They selected Charles McFarlane, a local factory owner.
Despite having no background in the constituency, the Scottish National Party and Liberal Party also stood candidates. Guy Aldred, a well-known local anarcho-communist stood for his United Socialist Movement on an abstentionist anti-Parliamentary platform.
The SNP also suffered a rift as a result of the by-election; although Wilkie ran under the SNP banner, his candidature had not been approved by any leadership body in the party, and the SNP's executive subsequently stripped him of his membership. As a result, former SNP Chairman Douglas Young quit the party, eventually rejoining Labour, whilst Andrew Dewar Gibb considered returning to the Unionists.
The election was won narrowly by McFarlane for the Unionists. Labour finished in a close second place, but were warned by the Manchester Guardian "Camlachie's chief warning is ... that a government candidate cannot even rouse the slums". The ILP vote declined dramatically, and demonstrated that the party was no longer a significant political force. The SNP finished in fourth place, while the Liberals finished in sixth place, beaten even by Aldred. This was the worst Liberal result at any British by-election since World War II, until the Liberal Democrats took eighth place at the 2012 Rotherham by-election.
|Glasgow Camlachie by-election, 1948|
|Unionist||Charles McFarlane||11,085||43.7||+ 1.4|
|Labour||John M. Inglis||10,690||42.1||N/A|
|Ind. Labour Party||Annie Maxton||1,622||6.4||- 51.3|
|SNP||Robert Blair Wilkie||1,320||5.2||N/A|
|United Socialist Movement||Guy Aldred||345||1.4||N/A|
|Liberal||Edward Rogers Goodfellow||312||1.2||N/A|
|Unionist gain from Ind. Labour Party||Swing||26.4|
- National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Acc. 10090, Papers of Dr Robert Douglas McIntyre, MB ChB, DPH, Duniv, JP. File 15: Correspondence and papers of or concerning Douglas Young. 11 December 1947 letter from Young to McIntyre; 16 April 1948 letter from Young to Jock Mackie. Accessed 16 July 2015.
- "1948 By Election Results". Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2015.