After a decade of serious decline, St. Ives was one of a group of by-election victories for the Liberal Party in the late 1920s, under Lloyd George’s leadership. However, Lloyd George did not approve of the actions of the Liberal candidate, Hilda Runciman.
Hilda Runciman had an unusual motive for standing in the by-election. Her husband, Walter, former President of the Board of Trade, was sitting as Liberal MP for Swansea West, but was due to transfer to St. Ives at the following general election. The by-election arrived at a rather inconvenient time for him, so his wife agreed to fight the by-election and, if she won, to keep the seat warm for her husband.
The plan worked. Hilda won the by-election, beating a Conservative newspaper editor and a Labour vicar. Hilda became only the third female Liberal MP, after Margaret Wintringham and Vera Terrington. Hilda and Walter Runciman became the first married couple to sit together in the House of Commons. At the general election held only just over a year later, Walter transferred to St. Ives and held the seat for the Liberals.
Some wives do facilitate rather dubious transfers in the interests of their husbands’ political careers. Hilda Runciman never claimed she was coerced, even though her husband was literally standing there.