1874 United Kingdom general election


The 1874 United Kingdom general election saw the incumbent Liberals, led by William Ewart Gladstone, lose decisively, even though it won a majority of the votes cast. Benjamin Disraeli's Conservatives won the majority of seats in the House of Commons, largely because they won a number of uncontested seats. It was the first Conservative victory in a general election since 1841. Gladstone's decision to call an election surprised his colleagues, for they were aware of large sectors of discontent in their coalition. For example, the nonconformists were upset with education policies; many working-class people disliked the new trade union laws and the restrictions on drinking. The Conservatives were making gains in the middle-class, Gladstone wanted to abolish the income tax, but failed to carry his own cabinet. The result was a disaster for the Liberals, who went from 387 MPs to only 242. Conservatives jumped from 271 to 350. For the first time the Irish nationalists would be elected. Gladstone himself noted: "We have been swept away in a torrent of gin and beer" (Roberts 2001, p. 332).

1874 United Kingdom general election

 1868 31 January – 17 February 1874 (1874-01-31 1874-02-17) 1880 

All 652 seats in the House of Commons
327 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Benjamin Disraeli William Ewart Gladstone Isaac Butt
Party Conservative Liberal Home Rule
Leader since 27 February 1868 3 December 1868 November 1873
Leader's seat Buckinghamshire Greenwich Limerick City
Last election 271 seats, 38.7% 387 seats, 61.2% Did not contest
Seats won 350 242 60
Seat change 79 145 60
Popular vote 1,091,708 1,281,159 90,234
Percentage 44.3% 52.0% 3.7%
Swing 5.6% 9.2% New party

Colours denote the winning party

Prime Minister before election

William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal

Prime Minister after election

Benjamin Disraeli
Conservative

The election saw the Irish of the Home Rule League become the first significant third party in Parliament, with 60 of 101 of the seats for Ireland. This had been the first general election that used a secret ballot following the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. The Irish Nationalist gains could well be attributed to the effects of the Secret Ballot Act as tenants faced less of a threat of eviction if they voted against the wishes of their landlords. In this election also, the first two working-class MPs were elected: Alexander MacDonald and Thomas Burt, both members of the Miners' Union, were elected as Liberal-Labour (Lib–Lab) MPs in Stafford and Morpeth, respectively.[1]

This is the only time since the introduction of the secret ballot that a party has been defeated despite receiving an absolute majority of the popular vote. This was primarily because over 100 Conservative candidates were elected unopposed. This meant no votes were cast in those 100 places where the Conservative candidates were anticipated to be popular; in the seats where Liberal candidates did stand, they polled a high proportion of the vote on average.

The election saw 652 MPs elected, 6 fewer than at the previous election. Following allegations of corruption the Conservative-held constituencies of Beverley and Sligo Borough, and the Liberal-held constituencies of Bridgwater and Cashel, had been abolished.

Results


UK General Election 1874
Party Candidates Votes
Stood Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % No. Net %
  Liberal 489 242 139 37.12 51.95 1,281,159 9.5
  Conservative 507 350 +79 53.68 44.27 1,091,708 +5.9
  Home Rule 80 60 0 0 +60 9.20 3.66 90,234 N/A
  Others 4 0 0 0 0 0 0.12 2,936 0.0

Voting summary

Popular vote
Liberal
51.95%
Conservative
44.27%
Home Rule
3.66%
Others
0.12%

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Liberal
37.12%
Conservative
53.68%
Home Rule
9.2%

Regional results

Great Britain
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 319 85 1,000,006 44.6
Liberal 230 93 1,241,381 55.4
Lib-Lab 2 2
Other 0 2 0.0
Total 551 4 2,241,389 100
England
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 280 69 905,239 46.2
Liberal 171 75 1,035,268 53.8
Lib-Lab 2 2
Other 0 2 0.0
Total 451 4 1,940,509 100
Scotland
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Liberal 40 11 148,345 68.4
Conservative 18 11 63,193 31.6
Total 58 211,538 100
Wales
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Liberal 19 4 57,768 60.9
Conservative 14 4 31,574 39.1
Total 33 89,342 100


Ireland
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Home Rule 60 60 90,234 39.6
Irish Conservative 31 6 91,702 40.8 1.1%
Liberal 10 56 39,778 18.4 39.5%
Other 0 2,934 1.2
Total 101 2 224,648 100
Universities
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 7 1
Liberal 2 1
Total 9 100

Notes


  1. Whitfield, Bob (2001). The Extension of the Franchise, 1832-1931. Heinemann. p. 240. ISBN 9780435327170. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  2. "Others" include the Catholic Union.

References


  • Craig, F. W. S. (1989), British Electoral Facts: 1832–1987, Dartmouth: Gower, ISBN 0900178302
  • Hurst, Michael (1972), "Liberal versus Liberal: The General Election of 1874 in Bradford and Sheffield", Historical Journal, 15 (4): 669–713, doi:10.1017/s0018246x00003502
  • Maehl, William Henry (1963), "Gladstone, the Liberals, and the Election of 1874", Historical Research, 36 (93): 53–69, doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.1963.tb00622.x
  • Rallings, Colin; Thrasher, Michael, eds. (2000), British Electoral Facts 1832–1999, Ashgate Publishing Ltd
  • Roberts, Martin (2001), Britain: 1846–1964: The Challenge of Change, Oxford University Press