At the British general election of 1931, 25 candidates closely connected to the Labour Party stood for election without the party's official endorsement, primarily as a result of disagreements over changes in the party's rules introduced shortly before the election. All but one of the candidates were members of the Independent Labour Party which was then affiliated to the Labour Party; the remaining candidate had been adopted by a Constituency Labour Party whom the central party thought lacked the finance and organisation to fight the election. Six of these candidates were elected, one of whom through an unopposed nomination.
During the second Labour Government from 1929, the Independent Labour Party had become increasingly alienated from the party as a whole. Although 142 out of the 287 Labour MPs were members of the ILP, most took membership automatically and only a small number were aligned with the leadership. At the 1930 conference of the ILP, a resolution was passed that henceforth ILP MPs should back its policy instead of Labour Party policy where the two were in conflict; 18 MPs accepted this resolution, and formed a quasi-independent group in Parliament under the leadership of James Maxton (MP for Glasgow Bridgeton). The Labour Party objected to this situation and refused to give endorsement to ILP sponsored candidates in by-elections unless they signed a pledge which effectively reversed the conference decision.
In 1931 the Parliamentary Labour Party adopted a new set of Standing Orders which tightened up on discipline, and required that Labour MPs support the party programme. The new standing orders were endorsed at the Labour Party conference in October 1931 by 2,117,000 to 193,000, and on 7 October 1931 (the day after the general election was called), the National Executive Committee ruled that all candidates would have to sign an undertaking to abide by the new standing orders in order to receive official endorsement. Maxton considered that the conference decision effectively expelled him from the party and refused to sign.
The last-minute nature of preparations for the general election led to a scramble to adopt candidates. Eventually 25 candidates were nominated. The Labour Party's reaction to them varied. Six were elected.
|Bradford East||Frederick William Jowett||15,779||41.2||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Bute and Northern Ayrshire||Alexander Sloan||10,227||29.5||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Camborne||Kate Florence Spurrell||8,280||24.5||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Clapham||Hilda Alice Browning||7,317||23.0||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Dumbarton Burghs||David Kirkwood||16,335||51.6||Member of the ILP sponsored by the CLP. Sitting MP re-elected.|
|Glasgow Bridgeton||James Maxton||16,630||58.2||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP re-elected.|
|Glasgow Camlachie||Rev. Campbell Stephen||15,282||45.3||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Glasgow Gorbals||George Buchanan||19,278||58.1||Member of the ILP sponsored by the CLP. Sitting MP re-elected.|
|Glasgow Hillhead||Charles Aloysius O'Donnell||7,539||26.2||Sponsored by the CLP, against a decision by the Glasgow Burgh Labour Party not to fight the seat.|
|Glasgow Kelvingrove||John Winning||12,415||36.6||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Glasgow Shettleston||John McGovern||16,301||47.8||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP re-elected. An official Labour candidate stood in the constituency.|
|Kilmarnock||John Pollock||14,767||40.4||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Lanark||Jack Gibson||11,815||36.4||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|North Lanarkshire||Janet Lee||19,691||44.7||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Leyton East||Archibald Fenner Brockway||10,433||37.6||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Liverpool Kirkdale||Elijah Sandham||9,531||30.1||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Merthyr||Richard Collingham Wallhead||24,623||69.4||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP re-elected.|
|Newcastle-under-Lyme||Josiah Clement Wedgwood||Unopposed||Member of the ILP sponsored by the CLP. Sitting MP re-elected.|
|Newcastle upon Tyne Central||Sir Charles Philip Trevelyan, Bt.||12,136||37.3||Member of the ILP sponsored by the CLP. Sitting MP defeated.|
|Norwich||Dorothy Jewson||26,537||19.7||Official candidate of the ILP. Ran in conjunction with an official Labour candidate in a two-member seat. Labour MP for seat 1923-1924.|
|Peckham||John Warburton Beckett||11,217||33.5||Official candidate of the ILP. Sitting MP defeated. An official Labour candidate stood in the constituency.|
|Perth||Helen Eaton Gault||3,705||9.7||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|West Renfrewshire||Jean Mann||10,203||31.5||Official candidate of the ILP.|
|Stockport||John Thomas Abbott||15,591||11.3||Official candidate of the ILP. Two-member seat; the official Labour candidate refused to run a joint campaign.|
|Warwick and Leamington||Charles George Garton||9,261||19.4||Member of the ILP sponsored by the CLP.|
In the new Parliament, James Maxton, together with John McGovern and Richard Wallhead, formed a separate Independent Labour Party Parliamentary group. David Kirkwood and George Buchanan subsequently joined the group. Later in the Parliament, Kirkwood and Wallhead rejoined the Parliamentary Labour Party. Wedgwood did not join the ILP group and took the Labour whip once Parliament met.
- Andrew Thorpe, "The British General Election, 1931", Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 17-18.
- Andrew Thorpe, "The British General Election, 1931", Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 152-153.
- A list of the "non-endorsed candidates", drawn up by the National Agent G.R. Shepherd, was included in the minutes of the National Executive Committee in October 1931. This list had 22 names on it: it did not include John Abbott (Stockport), John McGovern (Glasgow Shettleston) or Charles O'Donnell (Glasgow Hillhead).
- F. W. S. Craig, "British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949" 3rd ed., Parliamentary Research Services, Chichester, 1983.
- McGovern's selection in the 1930 by-election had been achieved through dubious means and had been condemned by the Labour Party conference which declared he was unfit to be a Labour Party candidate. See Thorpe, p. 182-3.
- The Times House of Commons 1931. London: The Times Office. 1931. p. 51.
- F. W. S. Craig, "British Electoral Facts", Parliamentary Research Services, Chichester, 1989, p. 31.