The seat had become vacant when the constituency's Labour Member of Parliament (MP), Harold Lever had been made a life peer on 3 July 1979. He had held the seat since its creation for the February 1974 general election, having represented previous constituencies in Manchester since the 1945 general election.
Being held less than five months after the 1979 general election (where the Tories had won power from Labour after five years), it was the first by-election of the 1979–1983 parliament.
Manchester Central was a safe seat for Labour. On a heavily reduced turnout, the result of the contest was a victory for the Labour candidate, Bob Litherland, who won with the same 70.7% share of the vote which Lever had won at the general election in May 1979.
Litherland held the seat until he retired from the House of Commons at the 1997 general election.
|Manchester Central by-election, 1979|
|Independent Labour||Syed Ala-Ud-Din||187||1.8||N/A|
|Democratic Monarchist, Public Safety, White Resident.||Bill Boaks||12||0.1||N/A|
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