The 2024 General Election saw history repeat itself on the Isle of Wight, with Bob Seely voted out 100 years after his great-great uncle John Seely in 1924.

John, also known as Jack, was a Conservative and Liberal MP in three constituencies during his political career, with his 1924 defeat bringing his time in the Commons to an end.

John Seely’s political life

In May 1900, an Isle of Wight by-election was held after sitting MP Richard Webster resigned to accept a peerage.

While still fighting in the Boer War, Seely beat Liberal Godfrey Baring with a majority of 1,062 and was re-elected later in the autumn of the same year, unopposed.

After a dispute with the Conservatives, Seely left the party in March 1904, triggering a by-election, which he won as an Independent Conservative, again unopposed. 

Seely then spent four years as MP in Liverpool and 12 years in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Promoted to the rank of major general during the war, Seely is well-known for leading one of history’s last-ever cavalry charges, on his war horse Warrior against the Germans near Amien, France, in March 1918. He wrote the book My Horse Warrior in 1934.

General Seely on his horse Warrior, painted just 1,000 yards from enemy lines, by Alfred MunningsGeneral Seely on his horse Warrior, painted just 1,000 yards from enemy lines, by Alfred Munnings (Image: Contributed)

Ahead of the 1923 election, caused by the death of Prime Minister Bonar Law, Seely returned to the Island to reclaim his old seat for the Liberals.

He clinched a 90-vote majority (16,249) against Conservative Peter Macdonald (16,159), with third place Emily Palmer of the Labour Party, and the Island’s first female MP candidate, taking 2,475 votes.

The 1924 General Election, 100 years ago

1924 vs 2024 General Election comparison1924 vs 2024 General Election comparison (Image: IWCP)

The 1924 election, a third in less than two years, was called following a motion of no confidence in the Labour minority government and saw Seely once again face Macdonald.

Macdonald, who was born in Nova Scotia, was a descendant of Canada’s first prime minister John Macdonald, who led the country between 1878 and 1891.

Following a sweeping Conservative majority nationwide, Seely lost his seat to Macdonald by 5,402 votes.

36,910 ballots were cast out of 46,052 registered electors (80.1 per cent turnout).

As reported in the November 1, 1924, edition of the County Press:

“At the election in December 1923, Major-Gen. Seely defeated Capt. Macdonald by only 90 votes, but this time, in common with the rest of the country, the tide turned with a vengeance, and the Conservative won a sweeping majority which was not anticipated by even the most optimistic supporter.

November 1, 1924, edition of the County PressNovember 1, 1924, edition of the County Press (Image: IWCP)

The contest saw a then-record vote count on the Island history and the highest majority, smashed by Macdonald again in 1931 (23,089) and only beaten by Seely's great-great nephew, Bob, in 2019 (23,737).

Macdonald became the longest-serving Isle of Wight MP, stepping down to retire in 1959, a total of 35 years.

Seely did not return as a candidate in a General Election.

He was raised to the peerage as Baron Mottistone in June 1933 served as vice-president of the RNLI, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire from 1918 to 1947, the first chairman of Wembley Stadium and a director of Thomas Cook.

John Seely died in Westminster aged 79 in 1947, while his political rival, Macdonald, died at Ningwood Manor in Yarmouth in 1961, aged 67.

In the 2024 election, Bob Seely lost by 3177 votes to the Island's first Labour MP, Richard Quigley, in the new IW West constituency.