1857 United Kingdom general election

In the 1857 United Kingdom general election, the Whigs, led by Lord Palmerston, won a majority in the House of Commons as the Conservative vote fell significantly. The election had been provoked by a vote of censure in Palmerston's government over his approach to the Arrow affair which led to the Second Opium War. Aged 72 Palmerston is the oldest person to win a general election for the first time in history.

1857 United Kingdom general election

 1852 27 March – 24 April 1857 (1857-03-27 1857-04-24) 1859 

All 654 seats in the House of Commons
328 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
 
Leader Viscount Palmerston Earl of Derby
Party Whig Conservative
Leader since 6 February 1855 July 1846
Leader's seat Tiverton House of Lords
Last election 324 seats, 57.9% 330 seats, 41.9%
Seats won 377 264[1]
Seat change 53 66
Popular vote 464,127 239,712
Percentage 64.8% 33.5%
Swing 6.9% 8.4%

Colours denote the winning party—as shown in § Results

Prime Minister before election

Viscount Palmerston
Whig

Prime Minister after election

Viscount Palmerston
Whig

There is no separate tally of votes or seats for the Peelites. They did not contest elections as an organised party but more as independent Free trade Conservatives with varying degrees of distance from the two main parties.

According to A. J. P. Taylor:

The general election of 1857 is unique in our history: the only election ever conducted as a simple plebiscite in favour of an individual. Even the "coupon" election of 1918 claimed to be more than a plebiscite for Lloyd George; even Disraeli and Gladstone offered a clash of policies as well as of personalities. In 1857 there was no issue before the electorate except whether Palmerston should be Prime Minister; and no one could pretend that Palmerston had any policy except to be himself.[2]