2016 Witney by-election

The Witney by-election was a UK parliamentary by-election held on 20 October 2016 in the constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire. It took place on the same day as the Batley and Spen by-election.[1] They were the fifth and sixth by-elections of the 56th UK Parliament.

2016 Witney by-election

 2015 20 October 2016 2017 

Witney constituency
  First party Second party Third party
Candidate Robert Courts Liz Leffman Duncan Enright
Party Conservative Liberal Democrats Labour
Popular vote 17,313 11,611 5,765
Percentage 45.0% 30.2% 15.0%
Swing 15.2% 23.4% 2.2%

Location of Witney within Oxfordshire

MP before election

David Cameron

Elected MP

Robert Courts

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of the sitting Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 12 September 2016.[2][3] The election was won by the Conservative Robert Courts with a reduced vote share, and the Liberal Democrats came in second with an increase in vote share of 23.4 percentage points.


David Cameron had been the Conservative Party MP for the seat since the 2001 general election, becoming leader of the Conservative Party in 2005 and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2010. Following the Leave result in the referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union that Cameron had campaigned against, he resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, being replaced by Theresa May. In September 2016 he announced his resignation as an MP saying he did not want to be a distraction to May's premiership.[4]


The Conservatives picked Robert Courts, a barrister and West Oxfordshire District Councillor since 2014, from a shortlist of three candidates; he defeated Natasha Whitmill, a former aide to Cameron, and John Cotton, the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council.[5] Though Witney voted in favour of remain in the EU referendum on 23 June 2016,[6] Courts is a "Brexiter", which means that he supports Brexit.[7]

The Labour Party selected Duncan Enright as their candidate. He serves as a West Oxfordshire District Councillor and stood in Witney at the 2015 general election, finishing second behind Cameron.[8]

The Liberal Democrats selected Liz Leffman, a West Oxfordshire District Councillor (for Charlbury and Finstock) and local businesswoman, as the party's candidate.[9] She stood in Witney in the 2005 general election, finishing second to Cameron.[9]

The UK Independence Party named Kenrick "Dickie" Bird.[10] He served in the army in Oxfordshire's local Regiment, The Royal Green Jackets, before becoming Head Porter at Oriel College, Oxford,[11] and stood in Banbury in 2015, coming third.[12]

The Green Party named Larry Sanders, a former Oxfordshire County Councillor and brother of US Senator Bernie Sanders. He came fifth in the 2015 general election in the neighbouring constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon.[13]

The National Health Action Party (NHA) selected Dr Helen Salisbury, a GP and lecturer at Oxford University Medical School.[14] Salisbury was their candidate in Oxford West & Abingdon at the 2015 general election.[15][16]

Winston McKenzie, a former professional boxer and a perennial candidate, was named as the candidate of the English Democrats.[17] He came third in Croydon North at the previous general election.[18]

Independent candidate Adam Knight endorsed the Liberal Democrat candidate, Leffman, during the campaign.[19]

Overall, fourteen candidates stood in the by-election.[14]


By-election 2016: Witney[20]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Robert Courts 17,313 45.0 -15.2
Liberal Democrats Liz Leffman 11,611 30.2 +23.4
Labour Duncan Enright 5,765 15.0 -2.2
Green Larry Sanders 1,363 3.5 -1.6
UKIP Dickie Bird 1,354 3.5 -5.7
National Health Action Helen Salisbury 433 1.1 0.0
Independent Daniel Skidmore 151 0.4 New
Monster Raving Loony Mad Hatter 129 0.3 New
Independent Nicholas Ward 93 0.2 New
Bus-Pass Elvis David Bishop 61 0.2 New
Eccentric Party Lord Toby Jug 59 0.2 New
English Democrat Winston McKenzie 52 0.1 New
One Love Emilia Arno 44 0.1 New
Independent Adam Knight 27 0.1 New
Majority 5,702 14.8 -28.2
Turnout 38,455 46.8 -26.5
Conservative hold Swing -19.3

The Liberal Democrats recorded their highest share of the vote in Witney since 1983.

Previous results in constituency

2015 election results

General election 2015: Witney[21][22][23]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative David Cameron 35,201 60.2 +1.4
Labour Duncan Enright 10,046 17.2 +4.2
UKIP Simon Strutt 5,352 9.2 +5.7
Liberal Democrats Andy Graham 3,953 6.8 -12.7
Green Stuart MacDonald 2,970 5.1 +0.9
National Health Action Clive Peedell 616 1.1 New
Wessex Regionalist Colin Bex 110 0.2 +0.1
Independent Christopher Tompson 94 0.2 New
Reduce VAT in Sport Vivien Saunders 56 0.1 New
Give Me Back Elmo Bobby Smith 37 0.1 New
Land Party Deek Jackson 35 0.1 New
Independent Nathan Handley 12 0.02 New
Majority 25,155 43.0 +3.6
Turnout 58,482 73.3 0.0
Conservative hold Swing -1.4

2016 EU referendum result

The constituency is co-terminous with the district of West Oxfordshire which, in the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, voted in favour of remain.[6]

TurnoutRemain votesLeave votesRemain %Leave %
West Oxfordshire79.72% 35,23630,43553.6%46.4%

See also


  1. "Batley by-election to be on 20 October". BBC News. 15 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  2. "David Cameron resigns as an MP – ITV News". itv.com. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  3. "House of Commons Votes and Proceedings Monday 12th September 2016". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  4. "David Cameron quits as Conservative MP for Witney". BBC News. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  5. Hughes, Laura (22 September 2016). "New Conservative candidate for David Cameron's Witney seat revealed as barrister Robert Courts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  6. "Referendum on the United Kingdom's Membership of the European Union" (PDF). West Oxfordshire District Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 July 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. Elgot, Jessica (11 October 2016). "Witney byelection: hard Brexit may be key issue in Cameron's former constituency". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. "Duncan Enright selected as Labour's candidate for Witney". Labour South East. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  9. "Liz Leffman selected for the Lib Dems in Witney". Mark Pack. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  10. "UKIP announce Witney candidate – Oxfordshire Live: Monday 26 September". BBC News. 26 September 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  11. "Head porter at one of Oxford University's oldest colleges quits to run as Ukip MP candidate". The Daily Telegraph. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  12. "Banbury constituency 2015 results". Cherwell District Council. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  13. "Tories select barrister for Cameron's Witney seat". BBC News. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  14. "Witney by-election: The candidates". BBC News. 5 October 2016. Archived from the original on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  15. "Meet the GPs heading for parliament after general election". GP magazine. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  16. "GP launches her campaign for General Election". Witney Gazette. 14 March 2015. Archived from the original on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  17. "Seat left vacant by former PM David Cameron will be contested by Winston McKenzie". The Oxford Times. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  18. "Croydon North". BBC News. 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  19. "Rival candidate endorses Liz Leffman for Witney". Lib Dem Voice. 7 October 2016. Archived from the original on 28 August 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  20. Oliver, Matt (21 October 2016). "AS IT HAPPENED: Witney by-election count and results". Witney Gazette. Archived from the original on 21 April 2020. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  21. "Election Data 2015". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  22. Butler, Keith (9 April 2015). "Statement of Persons Nominated and Notice of Poll" (PDF). West Oxfordshire District Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  23. "Witney parliamentary constituency – Election 2015 – BBC News". BBC. Retrieved 12 September 2016.