1831 United Kingdom general election

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1831 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1830 28 April – 1 June 1831 (1831-04-28 1831-06-01) 1832  

All 658 seats in the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
 First partySecond party
  Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey after Sir Thomas Lawrence copy.jpg Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by John Jackson cropped.jpg
Leader Earl Grey Duke of Wellington
Party Whig Tory
Leader since22 November 183022 January 1828
Seats won370235
Seat changeIncrease2.svg174Decrease2.svg15

United Kingdom general election 1831.svg
Colours denote the winning party

1831 UK parliament.svg
The UK parliament after the 1831 election

Prime Minister before election

Earl Grey
Whig

Prime Minister after election

Earl Grey
Whig

The 1831 United Kingdom general election saw a landslide win by supporters of electoral reform, which was the major election issue. As a result, it was the last unreformed election, as the Parliament which resulted ensured the passage of the Reform Act 1832. Polling was held from 28 April to 1 June 1831. The Whigs won a majority of 136 over the Tories, which was as near to a landslide as the unreformed electoral system could deliver. As the Government obtained a dissolution of Parliament once the new electoral system had been enacted, the resulting Parliament was a short one and there was another election the following year. The election was the first since 1715 to see a victory by a party previously in minority.

Contents

Political situation

The ninth UK Parliament elected in 1830 lacked a stable Commons majority for the Tory government of the Duke of Wellington: the best estimate is that it there had 310 supporters, 225 opponents and 121 doubtful. [1] After a series of defeats, on 15 November 1830 Henry Parnell's motion for an inquiry into the civil list was carried by 233 to 204; this defeat surprised Wellington and his cabinet and forced their resignation. Wellington went into opposition, with Sir Robert Peel as the Tory Leader of the Opposition in the Commons. A Whig government under Earl Grey was appointed on 22 November 1830, the first since the Ministry of all the Talents in 1806–07. The government's Leader of the House of Commons was Viscount Althorp, who also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Grey was determined to bring in reform to the traditional electoral system, which had been discussed for many decades. With aristocratic colleagues he produced a surprisingly bold scheme of reform; the second reading of the Reform Bill was carried by only one vote (302–301) on 22 March 1831. The Tory opposition was determined to stop the scheme going ahead, and when the Bill went into committee on 18 April, General Gascoyne moved an amendment which required that the total number of MPs representing England and Wales ought not to be reduced. This proposal was a skilfully drafted 'wrecking amendment' and when it was passed by 299–291 on 19 April, the Grey government knew it would not get its legislation. In truth Grey had been ready to ask for a dissolution immediately the Committee stage began, and King William IV reluctantly agreed; the King dissolved Parliament in person (amid a great political tumult) on 22 April. [2]

The new Parliament was summoned to meet on 14 June 1831, for a maximum seven-year term from that date.

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.

The general election took place between the first contest on 28 April and the last contest on 1 June 1831.

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 201392242402804486
Flag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 13130261314027
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 15300451530045
  Ireland 333216635641100
 Total26211433794651785658

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

CountryBCx1BCx2BCx4CCx1CCx2CCx4UCx1UCx2Total C
Flag of England.svg  England 41952038102242
Flag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 130012100026
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 150030000045
  Ireland 312003201066
 Total6319724271112379

See also

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References

  1. D.R. Fisher, History of Parliament 1820–1832, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press 2009, p. 349.
  2. D.R. Fisher, History of Parliament 1820–1832, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press 2009, p. 351–360 passim.

Sources