Hutt by-election, 1929

Hutt by-election, 1929
New Zealand
18 December 1929 (1929-12-18)

Candidate Walter Nash James Kerr Harold Johnston
Party Labour United Reform
Popular vote 5,047 4,835 2,570
Percentage 40.53% 38.83% 20.64%

Hutt electorate boundaries used for the by-election

Member before election

Thomas Wilford

Elected Member

Walter Nash

The Hutt by-election was a by-election in the New Zealand electorate of Hutt, an urban seat at the bottom of the North Island. The by-election was held on 18 December 1929, and was precipitated by the resignation of sitting United MP Thomas Wilford on who had been appointed the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Joseph Ward.[1][2] The by-election was contested by Walter Nash of the Labour Party, James Kerr from the United Party and Harold Johnston of the Reform Party. The lead up to the by-election was marred by harsh words between candidates.[3]

Candidates and selection process

Labour Party

After standing in Hutt for Labour in both 1925 and 1928, Walter Nash's selection as the Labour candidate for the by-election came as no surprise. Nash came a respectable second to Wilford and was seen as well capable of winning the seat. He was the current General Secretary of the Labour Party and was thus well known. Local newspaper the Hutt News printed several articles through the campaigning attempting to discredit Nash as a Soviet-style socialist.[4] Peter Fraser served as the campaign organiser, and Mark Fagan was Nash's election secretary.[5]

United Party

James Kerr, a resident of Petone, was be the official United Party candidate in the election. He was the son of James Kerr, a former member of the Legislative Council. At the time Kerr was the proprietor of the Hutt and Petone Chronicle newspaper, a position he had held since 1912. He previously resided in Greymouth serving as the proprietor of the Grey River Argus. In 1908 he stood for the Grey seat against Speaker of the House, Arthur Guinness, being defeated by a small majority.[6] Outgoing MP Thomas Wilford and his wife campaigned intensely on Kerr's behalf.[7] Kerr was a member of the Petone Fire Board, an associate of the Petone Borough Council, President of the Petone Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Hutt Valley High School Board of Governors. He was one of the foundation members of the United Party, and at the time a member of the executive and had been chairman of Wilford's election committee.[5]

Reform Party

Harold Featherston Johnston was chosen as the Reform Party candidate for the contest. Johnston was a respected lawyer and the fourth son of Charles John Johnston, former MP for Te Aro and Speaker of the Legislative Council.[8] Earlier that year the position of Chief Justice was offered to Johnston upon the death of Charles Skerrett, but he declined the offer, with Michael Myers becoming the next Chief Justice instead.[9] Johnston was well known as an able speaker and he was regularly able to draw large crowds to his meetings.


Mr. H Bennett announced his candidacy as an Independent. He proposed to stand in the interests of the country itself, rather than of any particular political party. Bennett was concerned that New Zealand could be 'handed over' to Socialism by a minority vote given the increasing competition for right wing votes by United and Reform. With candidate from both parties standing Bennett was not ignorant of the fact that he too was helping to split the anti-Labour vote, but claimed his hopes were that both would withdraw their candidates in favour of himself.[10] However, his plea fell on deaf ears with United wanting to retain their seat and Reform seeking to supersede United in seats. As a result, Bennett withdrew and hoped either Kerr or Johnston would prevail.[11]


Dozens of meetings were held and speeches made by the three candidates. Many high-profile figures spoke on behalf of the candidates as well, Harry Holland, James McCombs & Michael Joseph Savage for Nash, Thomas Wilford & Harry Atmore for Kerr and both Gordon Coates & William Downie Stewart, Jr. for Johnston.[7][12][13]

Date Nash Kerr Johnston
Wed, 20 November Labour Hall, PetoneOddfellows' Hall, Petone
Thu, 21 November Eandwick SchoolLyceum Hall, Lower Hutt
Fri, 22 November
Sat, 23 November
Sun, 24 November
Mon, 25 November Oddfellows' Hall, Lower HuttDellabarca's Hall, Eastbourne
Tue, 26 November Eastbourne Borough ChambersPetone Committee Rooms
Wed, 27 November
Thu, 28 November 95 Hutt Road, Petone
Fri, 29 November
Sat, 30 November
Sun, 1 December
Mon, 2 December King George Theatre, Lower Hutt
Tue, 3 December
Wed, 4 December King George Theatre, Lower Hutt
Thu, 5 December Labour Hall, Petone
Fri, 6 December
Sat, 7 December
Sun, 8 December
Mon, 9 December Day's Bay PavilionAlicetown Church Hall
Tue, 10 December Moera Community HallEmpire Theatre, PetoneWaiwhetu Methodist Hall
Wed, 11 December Moera Community Hall
Thu, 12 December Eastern Hutt SchoolOddfellows' Hall, PetoneKing George Theatre, Lower Hutt
Fri, 13 December Labour Hall, PetoneKnox Church HallWesley Hall, Petone
Sat, 14 December King George Theatre, Lower Hutt
Sun, 15 December
Mon, 16 December Korokoro School
Tue, 17 December Eastbourne, Picture Hall

Election results

The following table gives the election results:

Hutt by-election, 1929[14]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Walter Nash 5,047 40.53 -4.55
United James Kerr[mb 1] 4,835 38.83
Reform Harold Johnston[mb 2] 2,570 20.64
Majority 212 1.70 -8.14
Informal votes 103 0.82 -1.31
Turnout 12,555 84.27 -6.67
Registered electors 14,898

Table footnotes:

  1. For some biographical details of Kerr refer to his father's article.
  2. For some biographical details of Johnston refer to his father's article.


  1. Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 245. OCLC 154283103.
  2. Scholefield, Guy (1932). Who's Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, 1932 (3rd ed.). Wellington: The Rangatira Press. p. 15.
  3. Sinclair 1976, p. 78-9.
  4. Sinclair 1976, p. 78.
  5. 1 2 "Choice of Candidates". Evening Post. 15 November 1929. p. 13. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  6. "The General Election, 1908". National Library. 1909. pp. 1–34. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  7. 1 2 "Mr. Kerr's Meetings". Evening Post. 25 November 1929. p. 10. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  8. "Four Candidates Announced". Hutt News. 21 November 1929. p. 2. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  9. Spiller, Peter. "Myers, Michael". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  10. "Party or Country?". Evening Post. 19 November 1929. p. 10. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  11. "Mr. Bennett Retires". Evening Post. 25 November 1929. p. 10. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  12. "Candidates' Meetings". Evening Post. 19 November 1929. p. 10. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  13. "Mr. Nash's Campaign". Evening Post. 25 November 1929. p. 10. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  14. "The Hutt Seat". The Evening Post. CXII (108). 3 November 1931. p. 8. Retrieved 18 November 2014.


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