- Cecil Harmsworth following his 1911 election win in Luton.
The result of the election in the Luton division was not declared on Saturday afternoon [September 28, 1918] until after three o'clock, when there was a dense crowd outside the Town Hall eager to hear the figures. Mr Graham, the Deputy Returning Officer was followed to the Town Hall steps by the candidates and some of their prominent supporters and, amidst cheering and counter-cheersing, he declared the result as follows:
Cecil B. Harmsworth (Lib-Con) 13501
Willet Ball (Lab) 5964
Mr Harmsworth - his majority over a Conservative opponent in the 1911 by-election when he first won the seat was just 613 - at once stepped to the front and expressed thanks to Mr Graham for the able and impartial manner in which he had conducted the election.
He expressed his heartfelt thanks to Mr Ball for his unvarying kindness and consideration, and for his absolutely sportsmanlike conduct throughout the election. He himself would go to the House of Commons to do his best to represent his constituents.
Mr Ball – the first Labour candidate to contest the constituency – had a sympathetic reception and loudly and passionately cried: “Who in it speaks of defeat? We are a party that never knows defeat, and we are going yet We shall come again.”
In total 19,465 electors participated in the poll, including women for the first time. The Buxton Road polling centre saw 683 votes cast, St Mary's Hall 1,108, Dunstable Road 895, Luton Town Hall 1,167, Waller Street 1,318, St Matthew's 892, Surrey Street 1,088, Beech Hilol 780, Chapel Street 578, Charles Street 734, Bury Park 1,037, Langley Street 1,122, Old Bedford Road 812, Dunstable 2,162, Leagrave 374, Limbury 362, Caddington 333, Barton 284, Houghton Regis 306, Kensworth 211, Totternhoe 134, Stopsley 214, Hyde 122.
Soldiers still serving were included on absent voters lists for the election, and the two week delay between polling and the declaration allowed their returns to be gathered and counted. There were 7,326 names on the list, with 5,883 ballot papers issued and 2,081 returned for inclusion in the vote.
There were 74 spoiled papers on the day, plus about 100 among those from the troops. One soldier placed a large cross against both candidates and wrote, 'Here you are gents. Divide this between you'. Other soldiers wrote, 'demobilisation first'.
[The Luton News: Thursday, January 2, 1919]