1820 United Kingdom general election

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1820 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1818 6 March – 14 April 1820 (1820-03-06 1820-04-14) 1826  

All 658 seats in the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
 First partySecond party
  Earl jenkinson.jpg Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey after Sir Thomas Lawrence copy.jpg
Leader Earl of Liverpool Earl Grey
Party Pittite Whig
Leader since8 June 1812
Seats won341215

Prime Minister before election

Earl of Liverpool
Pittite

Prime Minister after election

Earl of Liverpool
Pittite

The 1820 United Kingdom general election was triggered by the death of King George III and produced the first parliament of the reign of his successor, George IV. It was held shortly after the Radical War in Scotland and the Cato Street Conspiracy. In this atmosphere, the Tories under the Earl of Liverpool were able to win a substantial majority over the Whigs.

Contents

The sixth United Kingdom Parliament was dissolved on 29 February 1820. The new Parliament was summoned to meet on 21 April 1820, for a maximum seven-year term from that date. The maximum term could be and normally was curtailed, by the monarch dissolving the Parliament before its term expired.

Political situation

The Tory leader was the Earl of Liverpool, who had been Prime Minister since his predecessor's assassination in 1812. Liverpool had led his party to two general election victories before that of 1820. The Tory Leader of the House of Commons was Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh.

The Whig Party continued to suffer from weak leadership, particularly in the House of Commons.

At the time of the general election, the Earl Grey was the leading figure amongst the Whig peers. It was likely that Grey would have been invited to form a government, had the Whigs come to power, although in this era the monarch rather than the governing party decided which individual would be Prime Minister.

The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, George Tierney, was successful at first after the Whig gains at the 1818 general election. However, on 18 May 1819, Tierney moved a motion in the House of Commons for a committee on the state of the nation. This motion was defeated by 357 to 178. Foord comments that "this defeat put an effective end to Tierney's leadership". However he continued to be the nominal leader at the time of the 1820 election.

Dates of election

At this period there was not one election day. After receiving a writ (a royal command) for the election to be held, the local returning officer fixed the election timetable for the particular constituency or constituencies he was concerned with. Polling in seats with contested elections could continue for many days. It was triggered by the death of King George III.

The general election took place between the first contest on 6 March and the last contest on 14 April 1820.

Summary of the constituencies

Monmouthshire (1 County constituency with 2 MPs and one single member Borough constituency) is included in Wales in these tables. Sources for this period may include the county in England.

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country

CountryBCCCUCTotal CBMPCMPUMPTotal MPs
Flag of England.svg  England 202402243404784486
Flag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 13120261314027
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 15300451530045
  Ireland 333216635641100
 Total26311433804671765658

Table 2: Number of seats per constituency, by type and country

CountryBCx1BCx2BCx4CCx1CCx2UCx1UCx2Total C
Flag of England.svg  England 4196203902243
Flag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 13001210026
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 15003000045
  Ireland 31200321066
 Total631982427212380

See also

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