The by-election occurred in the early days of the Liberal-SDP Alliance and was expected to be used as a platform for Shirley Williams to return to the Commons. However, the Liberal candidate from the last three elections, Bill Pitt, was chosen, after some wrangling, to be the Alliance’s candidate.
Pitt won the by-election on a swing of 24.2% from the Conservatives, who had previously held the seat. The by-election attracted a total of 12 candidates, who included Nick Griffin in his first contest and an Anti-Common Market candidate who attracted eleven votes.
Pitt had started out as a Conservative, sat as the Liberal MP for Croydon North West from 1981 to 1983 when he lost the seat and then later became a Labour Party supporter.
Shirley Williams won the Crosby by-election the following month.