United Kingdom general election, 1874

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United Kingdom general election, 1874

← 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
  Illustrirtes Konversations-Lexikon; vergleichendes Nachschlagebuch für den täglichen Gebrauch. Hausschatz für das deutsche Volk und "Orbis pictus" für die studirende Jugend (1870) (14781283621).jpg The Great war (1915) (14781959884).jpg O'CONNOR(1880) p4.549 ISAAC BUTT M.P..jpg
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, 38.4% 387 seats, 61.5% Did not contest
Seats won 350 242 60
Seat change Increase79 Decrease145 Increase60
Popular vote 1,091,708 1,281,159 90,234
Percentage 44.3% 52.0% 3.7%
Swing Increase5.9% Decrease9.5% New party

United Kingdom general election 1874.svg
Colours denote the winning party

Prime Minister before election

William Ewart Gladstone
Liberal

Appointed Prime Minister

Benjamin Disraeli
Conservative

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 251. Conservatives jumped from 271 to 342. For the first time the Irish Nationalists gained seats, returning 59. Gladstone himself noted: "We have been swept away in a torrent of gin and beer" (Roberts 2001, p. 332).

The election also saw Irish nationalists in the Home Rule League become the first significant third party in Parliament. 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.

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 that there was no contest in many constituencies where the Conservatives were popular.

The election saw 652 MPs elected: 6 fewer than at the prior 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[edit]

UK General Election 1874
Party Candidates Votes
Stood Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % 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[edit]

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

Seats summary[edit]

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

Regional results[edit]

Great Britain[edit]

Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 319 1,000,006 44.6
Liberal 232 1,241,381 55.4
Other 0 2 0.0
Total 551 2,241,389 100
England[edit]
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 280 905,239 46.2
Liberal 171 1,035,268 53.8
Other 0 2 0.0
Total 451 1,940,509 100
Scotland[edit]
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Liberal 40 148,345 68.4
Conservative 18 63,193 31.6
Total 58 211,538 100
Wales[edit]
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Liberal 19 57,768 60.9
Conservative 14 31,574 39.1
Total 33 89,342 100

Ireland[edit]

Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Home Rule 60 New entry 90,234 39.6 New entry
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[edit]

Party Seats Seats change Votes % % change
Conservative 7
Liberal 2
Total 9 100

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Others" include the Catholic Union.

References[edit]

  • 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 
  • Maehl, William Henry (1963), "Gladstone, the Liberals, and the Election of 1874", Historical Research, 36 (93): 53–69 
  • 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