Historical UK General Election Results and Suffrage

With the upcoming General Election in the UK, it might be interesting to look at the Elections and changes in suffrage in UK history.

2017

Not yet known (as of 7 June 2017)

2015

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
David Cameron
Theresa May

Majority: 16

Theresa_May_(cropped)
Theresa May

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

2011

Fixed Term Parliament Act – 5 year Parliaments which requires a Parliamentary vote for an election to be called outside of this.  Prior to this the Prime Minister could call an Election at will.

2010

Victory: Conservative (coalition with liberal Democrats)
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
David Cameron

Majority: 78 (coalition)

256px-Official-photo-cameron
David Cameron

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

2005

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Tony Blair
Gordon Brown

Majority: 66

Gordon_Brown_official
Gordon Brown

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

2001

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Tony Blair

Majority: 167

Tony_Blair
Tony Blair

1997

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Tony Blair

Majority: 179

1992

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Sir John Major

Majority: 21

256px-John_Major_1996
Sir John Major

1987

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Margaret Thatcher
Sir John Major

Majority: 102

512px-Reagan_et_Thatcher
President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

1983

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Margaret Thatcher

Majority: 144

1979

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Margaret Thatcher

Majority: 43

1974 (October)

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Harold Wilson
James Callaghan

Majority: 3

187px-James_Callaghan
James Callaghan

1974 (February)

Victory: Labour (minority government)
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
Harold Wilson

Majority: -33

256px-Harold_Wilson_Number_10_official
Harold Wilson

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

1970

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Edward Heath

Majority: 30

Heathdod
Edward Heath

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

1969

Representation of the People Act 1969 gave the vote to the adult population over 18 years old.

1966

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Harold Wilson

Majority: 98

1964

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Harold Wilson

Majority: 4

1959

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Majority: 100

Harold_Macmillan_number_10_official
Harold Macmillan

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

1955

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Sir Anthony Eden
Harold Macmillan

Majority: 60

Sir_Anthony-Eden_number_10_Official
Sir Anthony Eden

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office 

1951

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden

Majority: 17

Churchill_V_sign_HU_55521
Sir Winston Churchill

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

1950

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Clement Attlee

Majority: 146

256px-Attlee_with_GeorgeVI_HU_59486
Clement Attlee with King George VI

Image: By Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office

1948

Representation of the People Act 1948 abolished plural voting, university constituencies and two-member constituencies.

Plural voting allowed people to vote in a university constituency, where they owned property and the constituency where their home was located.

1945

Victory: Labour

Prime Minister(s):
Clement Attlee

Majority: 146

1939 to 1945

Elections were not held due to the Second World War.

1935

Victory: Conservative (National Government) / Conservative (Wartime Coalition)

Prime Minister(s):
Stanley Baldwin (National Government)
Neville Chamberlain (National Government)
Sir Winston Churchill (Wartime Coalition)
Sir Winston Churchill (Caretaker Government)

Majority: 242 (National Government) / 609 (Wartime Coalition)

The National Governments were effectively a coalition of all of the major political parties.

256px-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H12967,_Münchener_Abkommen,_Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain arriving in Munich, September 1938

Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H12967 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de

1931

Victory: National Labour (National Government)

Prime Minister(s):
Ramsay MacDonald

Majority: 492

Ramsay_MacDonald_ggbain_35734
Ramsay MacDonald

1929

Victory: Labour
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
Ramsay MacDonald

Majority: -42

This was known as the “flapper” election as women aged 21 could vote for the first time.  “Flappers” being a generation of young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, drank excessively, smoked, had causal sex and generally flouted what was considered acceptable behaviour at the time.

1928

Representation of the People Act 1928 gave the vote to the adult population over 21 years old.

1924

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Stanley Baldwin

Majority: 210

256px-Stanley_Baldwin_ggbain.35233
Stanley Baldwin

1923

Victory: Conservative
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
Stanley Baldwin (resigned almost immediately)
Ramsay MacDonald (in coalition with the Liberals)

Majority: -98

This was the last election where the third placed party gained more than 100 seats.  Ramsay MacDonald formed the first Labour Government.

1922

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Bonar Law
Stanley Baldwin

Majority: 74

256px-Andrew_Bonar_Law_02
Bonar Law

1918

Victory: Liberal (Coalition Government)

Prime Minister(s):
David Lloyd George (Liberal)
Bonar Law (Conservative – immediately dissolved Parliament on appointment in 1922)

Majority: 238

The Coalition was planned as part of the election campaign and a letter known as the “Coalition Coupon” was sent to parliamentary candidates who were seen as patriotic and not anti-war or pacifist.  The intent being to form a strong government intent on wreaking revenge on Germany and its allies following the end of the First World War.

The “Coupon” read as follows:

‘Dear ……

We have much pleasure in recognizing you as the Coalition Candidate for (name of constituency). We have every hope that the Electors will return you as their Representative in Parliament to support the government in the great task which lies before it.

Yours truly,

D. Lloyd George
A. Bonar Law’

David_Lloyd_George
David Lloyd George

1918

Representation of the People Act 1918 gave the vote to men over 21 years old and women over 30 years old.

1914 to 1918

Elections were not held due to the First World War.

1911

The Parliament Act 1911 changed the maximum term of a Parliament from seven to five years.

1910 (December)

Victory: Liberal (with support from the Irish Parliamentary Party)
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
Herbert Henry Asquith
David Lloyd George

Majority: -126

This was the last election which was not won by either the Conservative or Labour Parties.

256px-Herbert_Henry_Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith

1910 (January)

Victory: Liberal (with support from the Irish Parliamentary Party)
(hung parliament)

Prime Minister(s):
Herbert Henry Asquith

Majority: -122

1906

Victory: Liberal

Prime Minister(s):
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Herbert Henry Asquith

Majority: 129

Picture_of_Henry_Campbell-Bannerman
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

 

1900

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
The Marquess of Salisbury
Arthur Balfour
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal – immediately dissolved Parliament on appointment)

Majority: 135

This was the first election in which the Labour Representation Committee (later the Labour Party) participated.  Keir Hardie and Richard Bell were the only successful candidates.

It was also the first election in which Sir Winston Churchill was successfully elected to the House of Commons and the last of the Victorian era.

256px-Arthur_Balfour,_photo_portrait_facing_left
Arthur Balfour

1895

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
The Marquess of Salisbury

Majority: 153

Robert_cecil
Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

1892

Victory: Liberal (with support from the Irish Parliamentary Party) – Conservatives actually won most seats
(minority government)

Prime Minister(s):
The Marquess of Salisbury (resigned at the start of the Parliament and immediately dissolved Parliament when appointed in 1895)
William Ewart Gladstone
The Earl of Rosebury

Majority: 135

The first Asian MP, Dadabnai Naoroji, was successfully elected in this election.

Archibald_Primrose,_5th_Earl_of_Rosebery_-_1890s
Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebury

1886

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
The Marquess of Salisbury

Majority: 116

1885

Victory: Conservative (with support from the Irish Parliamentary Party)

Prime Minister(s):
The Marquess of Salisbury
William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal)

Majority: -172

Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone

 

1884

Representation of the People Act 1884 and the Redistribution Act 1885 extended the voting qualifications to rural in addition to urban areas.

All men owning property or paying annual rent valued £10 or greater were now eligible.

This increased the electorate to 5.5 million.

This breaks down as follows (as a percentage of the population):

Women: 0%
England and Wales: 66% of adult males
Scotland: 60% of adult males
Ireland: 50% of adult males

This Act was particularly important in Scotland where many crofters qualified enabling them to ultimately put an end to the Highland Clearances.

1880

Victory: Liberal

Prime Minister(s):
William Ewart Gladstone
The Marquess of Salisbury (Conservative)

Majority: 51

1874

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
Benjamin Disraeli

Majority: 49

Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield

1868

Victory: Liberal

Prime Minister(s):
William Ewart Gladstone

Majority: 115

1867

The Reform Act 1867 gave the vote to a significant part of the urban working class.  The numbers were far higher than intended by the Government but many large, organised demonstrations that were reported as “riots” forced Parliament into significant change.

Many boroughs were reduced or abolished for corruption, or for rebalancing power and many new boroughs were enfranchised.

The electorate rose from one million to two million adult males (of a population of seven million adult males).

1865

Victory: Liberal

Prime Minister(s):
The Viscount Palmerston (Died in office)
The Earl Russell (resigned June 1866)
The Earl of Derby (Conservative)
Benjamin Disraeli

Majority: 81

NPG Ax38629; John Russell, 1st Earl Russell by John Jabez Edwin Mayall
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

1859

Victory: Conservative

Prime Minister(s):
The Earl of Derby (resigned June 1859)
The Viscount Palmerston (Liberal)

Majority: 59

Edward_Smith-Stanley,_14th_Earl_of_Derby-1865
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby

1857

Victory: Whig

Prime Minister(s):
The Viscount Palmerston (resigned February 1858)
The Earl of Derby (Conservative)

Majority: 100

The Whig Party was ultimately superseded by a coalition of Whigs, free trade Tories and free trade radicals who became the Liberal Party.

Henry_John_Temple,_3rd_Viscount_Palmerston
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

1852

Victory: Conservative
(minority government)

Prime Minister(s):
The Earl of Derby (resigned December 1852)
The Earl of Aberdeen (Peelite – resigned January 1855)
The Viscount Palmerston (Whig)

Majority: 7

Earlofaberdeen
George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen

1847

Victory: Whig

Prime Minister(s):
Lord John Russell (continued in Government due to splits in the new Conservative Party)
The Earl of Derby (Conservative)

Majority: -72

The election also witnessed the election of Britain’s first Jewish MP; the Liberal Lionel de Rothschild in the City of London. Members being sworn in were however required to swear the Christian Oath of Allegiance, meaning Rothschild was unable actually to take his seat until the passage of the Jews Relief Act in 1858.

1841

Victory: Whig

Prime Minister(s):
The Viscount Melbourne (resigned August 1841)
Sir Robert Peel (Conservative – resigned June 1846)
Lord John Russell (Whig)

Majority: 77

The electorate consisted of 3.17% of the population and this election was considered as being one of the most corrupt in British Parliamentary history.

The Westminster Review wrote that the :

annals of parliamentary warfare contained no page more stained with the foulness of corruption and falsehood than that which relates the history of the general election in the year 1841.”

NPG Ax38629; John Russell, 1st Earl Russell by John Jabez Edwin Mayall
Lord John Russell

 

1837

Victory: Whig

Prime Minister(s):
The Viscount Melbourne

Majority: 29

This election was the first in the reign of Queen Victoria.

NPG 941; William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne by John Partridge
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne

1835

Victory: Conservative
(minority government)

Prime Minister(s):
Sir Robert Peel (resigned April 1835)
The Viscount Melbourne

Majority: -113

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), Prime Minister
Sir Robert Peel

1832

Victory: Whig

Prime Minister(s):
The Earl Grey
The Viscount Melbourne (Whig – dismissed by the King November 1834)
The Duke of Wellington (Tory)
Sir Robert Peel (Conservative)

Majority: 225

Sir_Arthur_Wellesley,_1st_Duke_of_Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

1832

The Reform Act 1832 gave the vote to copyhold landowners and long-term leaseholders and higher value tenants.  Most significantly the number of boroughs and the representation of MPs was changed.

Prior to this, there were many rotten boroughs where the landowner controlled the electorate.  A borough with only a few electors could have two MPs, for example.

Charles Howard, Duke of Norfolk, controlled at least eleven boroughs.

The electorate increased from about 500,000 to 813,000 (about 20% of adult males).

Prior to 1832, the general elections could hardly be described as a democratic activity due to Rotten Boroughs and the restricted electorate.

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