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How the Government's Majority Disappeared

The Conservatives started the 1992-1997 Parliament with a majority over all other parties of 21. By 16 January 1997, with the death of Iain Mills, this majority had become a minority. Below we chart the loss of the Government's majority.

By-elections and defections

Nine Conservative MPs have died in the 1992-1997 Parliament. By-elections have been held in eight of these seats and all of them have been lost to other parties. There have been three defections.


Judith Chaplin died on 19 February 1993. The Lib Dems' David Rendel won the by-election on 6 May 1993. Majority reduced to 19.


Robert Adley died on 13 May 1993. The Lib Dems' Diana Maddock won the by-election on 29 July 1993. Majority reduced to 17.


Stephen Milligan died on 7 February 1994. The Lib Dems' David Chidgey won the on by-election 9 June 1994. Majority reduced to 15.

Dudley West

Dr John Blackburn died on 12 October 1994. Labour's Ian Pearson won the by-election on 15 December 1994. Majority reduced to 13.

Perth & Kinross

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn died on 19 February 1995. SNP candidate Roseanna Cunningham won the by-election on 25 May 1995. Majority reduced to 11.

Littleborough & Saddleworth

Geoffrey Dickens died on 17 May 1995. Lib Dem candidate Chris Davies won the by-election on 27 July 1995. Majority reduced to 9.


Alan Howarth defects to Labour on 7 October 1995. Majority reduced to 7.

Devon West & Torridge

Emma Nicholson defects to the Lib Dems. Majority reduced to 5.

Staffordshire South East

David Lightbown died on 12 December 1995. Labour candidate Brian Jenkins won the by-election on 16 April 1996. Majority reduced to 3.

Bolton North East

Peter Thurnham defects to the Lib Dems. Majority reduced to 1.

Wirral South

Barry Porter died on 3 November 1996. Labour's Ben Chapman won the seat on 27 February 1997. The government was now in a minority with 322 seats compared to 323 for the combined opposition parties.


Iain Mills found dead on 16 January 1996. By-election pending. Minority of one, Con 322-Others 323.

Note: On 20 January 1997, Labour MP Martin Redmond died, ending that period of minority government and putting the Conservatives back on the same number of MPs as all other parties put together - 322:322.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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