1918 United Kingdom general election

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1918 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  Dec 1910 14 December 1918 1922  

All 707 seats in the House of Commons
354 seats needed for a majority
Turnout57.2% Decrease2.svg 24.4 pp
 First partySecond partyThird party
  A. Bonar Law LCCN2014715818 (cropped).jpg David Lloyd George.jpg Eamon de Valera.jpg
Leader Bonar Law David Lloyd George Éamon de Valera
Party Conservative Coalition Liberal Sinn Féin
Leader since13 November 19117 December 191625 October 1917
Leader's seat Glasgow Central Caernarvon Boroughs East Clare;
East Mayo [lower-alpha 1]
Last election271 seats, 46.6%Did not contestDid not contest
Seats won37912773 [lower-alpha 2]
Seat changeIncrease2.svg 108Increase2.svg 127Increase2.svg 73
Popular vote4,003,8481,396,590476,458
SwingDecrease2.svg 8.2 pp New partyNew party

 Fourth partyFifth partySixth party
  Cropped photograph of William Adamson.jpg Herbert Henry Asquith.jpg John Dillon, circa 1915.jpg
Leader William Adamson H. H. Asquith John Dillon
Party Labour Liberal Irish Parliamentary
Leader since24 October 191730 April 19086 March 1918
Leader's seat West Fife East Fife (defeated) East Mayo (defeated)
Last election42 seats, 6.4%272 seats, 44.2%74 seats, 2.5%
Seats won57367
Seat changeIncrease2.svg 15Decrease2.svg 236Decrease2.svg 67
Popular vote2,171,2301,355,398226,498
SwingIncrease2.svg 14.5 pp Decrease2.svg 31.2 pp Decrease2.svg 0.3 pp

1918 UK general election map.svg
Colours denote the winning party

1918 United Kingdom general election.svg
Composition of the House of Commons after the 1918 General Election

Prime Minister before election

David Lloyd George
National Liberal

Prime Minister after election

David Lloyd George
National Liberal

The 1918 United Kingdom general election was called immediately after the Armistice with Germany which ended the First World War, and was held on Saturday, 14 December 1918. The governing coalition, under Prime Minister David Lloyd George, sent letters of endorsement to candidates who supported the coalition government. These were nicknamed "Coalition Coupons", and led to the election being known as the "coupon election". The result was a massive landslide in favour of the coalition, comprising primarily of the Conservatives and Coalition Liberals, with massive losses for Liberals who were not endorsed. [1] Nearly all the Liberal MPs without coupons were defeated, including party leader H. H. Asquith. [2]


It was the first general election to include on a single day all eligible voters of the United Kingdom, although the vote count was delayed until 28 December so that the ballots cast by soldiers serving overseas could be included in the tallies. [3]

It resulted in a landslide victory for the coalition government of David Lloyd George, who had replaced H. H. Asquith as Prime Minister in December 1916. They were both Liberals, and continued to battle for control of the party, which was rapidly losing popular support, and never regained power. [4]

It was the first general election to be held after enactment of the Representation of the People Act 1918. It was thus the first election in which women over the age of 30 (with some property qualifications), and all men over the age of 21, could vote. Previously, all women and many poor men had been excluded from voting. Women generally supported the coalition candidates. [5] [6]

It was the first parliamentary election in which women were able to stand as candidates, following the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, believed to be one of the shortest Acts of Parliament ever given Royal Assent. The Act was passed shortly before Parliament was dissolved. It followed a report by Law Officers that the Great Reform Act 1832 had specified parliamentary candidates had to be male, and that the Representation of the People Act passed earlier in the year did not change that. One woman, Nina Boyle, had already presented herself for a by-election earlier in the year in Keighley, but had been turned down by the returning officer on technical grounds. [7]

The election was also noted for the dramatic result in Ireland, which showed clear disapproval of government policy. The Irish Parliamentary Party were almost completely wiped out by the Irish republican party Sinn Féin, who vowed in their manifesto to establish an independent Irish Republic. They refused to take their seats in Westminster, instead forming a breakaway government and declaring Irish independence. The Irish War of Independence began soon after the election. Because of the resulting partition of Ireland, this was the last United Kingdom general election to include the entire island of Ireland.


Lloyd George's coalition government was supported by a minority (majority after the election) of the Liberals and Bonar Law's Conservatives. However, the election saw a split in the Liberal Party between those who were aligned with Lloyd George and the government and those who were aligned with Asquith, the party's official leader.

On 14 November it was announced that Parliament, which had been sitting since 1910 and had been extended by emergency wartime action, would dissolve on 25 November, with elections on 14 December. [8]

Following confidential negotiations over the summer of 1918, it was agreed that certain candidates were to be offered the support of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party at the next general election. To these candidates a letter, known as the Coalition Coupon, was sent, indicating the government's endorsement of their candidacy. 159 Liberal, 364 Conservative, 20 National Democratic and Labour, and 2 Coalition Labour candidates received the coupon. For this reason, the election is often called the Coupon Election. [9]

80 Conservative candidates stood without a coupon. Of these, 35 candidates were Irish Unionists. Of the other non-couponed Conservative candidates, only 23 stood against a Coalition candidate; the remaining 22 candidates stood in areas where there were no coupons, or refused the offer of a coupon. [10]

The Labour Party, led by William Adamson, fought the election independently, as did those Liberals who did not receive a coupon.

The election was not chiefly fought over what peace to make with Germany, although those issues played a role. More important was the voters' evaluation of Lloyd George in terms of what he had accomplished so far and what he promised for the future. His supporters emphasised that he had won the Great War. Against his strong record in social legislation, he called for making "a country fit for heroes to live in". [11]

This election was also known as a khaki election, due to the immediate postwar setting and the role of the demobilised soldiers.

Coalition victory

The coalition won the election easily, with the Conservatives the big winners. They were the largest party in the governing majority. Lloyd George remained Prime Minister, despite the Conservatives outnumbering his pro-coalition Liberals and had a majority in their own right. The Conservatives welcomed his leadership on foreign policy as the Paris Peace talks began a few weeks after the election. [12]

An additional 47 Conservatives, 23 of whom were Irish Unionists, won without the coupon but did not act as a separate block or oppose the government except on the issue of Irish independence.

While most of the pro-coalition Liberals were re-elected, the Independent Liberal faction was reduced to a handful of MPs, not all of whom were opponents of the coalition. Asquith and the other leaders lost their seats, and only three with junior ministerial experience were elected. [13] According to Trevor Wilson's book, The Downfall of the Liberal Party, 136 couponed Liberals were elected, whereas only 29 who did not receive the coupon were returned to Parliament, but as 8 Independent Liberals received the coupon and 10 Lloyd George Liberals did not, the actual number of the Asquith faction was 27. [14] Another historian puts the Asquith faction at 36 seats, of whom nine of these MPs subsequently joined the Coalition Liberal group. The remainder became bitter enemies of Lloyd George. [15] Asquith's biographer Stephen Koss accepts that, although accounts differ as to the exact numbers, around 29 uncouponed Liberals had been elected. On 3 February 1919, 23 non-coalition Liberals formed themselves into a "Free Liberal" group (soon known as the "Wee Frees" after a Scottish religious sect of that name); they accepted Asquith's appointment of Sir Donald Maclean as chairman in his absence. After a brief attempt to set up a joint committee with the Coalition Liberal MPs, the "Wee Frees" resigned the government whip on 4 April, although some Liberal MPs still remained of uncertain allegiance. Maclean served as Leader of the Opposition until Asquith returned at a by-election in February 1920. [13]

The Labour Party greatly increased its vote share and surpassed the total votes of either faction of the Liberal party, but they lacked an official leader. Labour could only slightly increase their number of seats, however, from 42 to 57 and some of their earlier leaders including Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson lost their seats. Labour won the most seats in Wales (which had previously been dominated by the Liberals) for the first time, a feat it has continued to the present day. [16]

The Conservative MPs included record numbers of corporate directors, bankers and businessmen, while Labour MPs were mostly from the working class. Bonar Law himself symbolised the change in the type of a Conservative MP as he was a Presbyterian Canadian-born Scottish businessman who became, in the words of his biographer Robert Blake, the leader of "the Party of Old England, the Party of the Anglican Church and the country squire, the party of broad acres and hereditary titles". [17] Bonar Law's ascent as leader of the Conservatives marked a shift in Conservative leaders from the aristocrats who generally led the party in the 19th century to a more middle class leadership who usually led the party in the 20th century. [17] Many young veterans reacted against the harsh tone of the campaign and became disillusioned with politics. [18]


Constance Markievicz was the first woman elected to the House of Commons and also to the Dail Eireann, but as an Irish nationalist she did not take her seat at Westminster. Countess Constance Markiewicz-1.1.2 (cropped).jpg
Constance Markievicz was the first woman elected to the House of Commons and also to the Dáil Éireann, but as an Irish nationalist she did not take her seat at Westminster.

In Ireland, the Irish Parliamentary Party, which favoured Home Rule within the United Kingdom, lost almost all their seats, most of which were won by Sinn Féin under Éamon de Valera, which called for independence. The executions of many of the leaders of the Easter uprising of 1916, the force-feeding of those imprisoned in connection with the uprising who had gone on a hunger strike in 1917, and the Conscription Crisis of 1918 all served to alienate Irish Catholic opinion from the United Kingdom. [19] The Sinn Féin candidates had promised on the campaign trail to win an Irish republic "by any means necessary", which was a code-word for violence, though it is not entirely clear if all Irish voters understood what the phrase meant. [20] The 73 Sinn Féin elected members declined to take their seats in the British House of Commons, sitting instead in the Irish revolutionary assembly, the Dáil Éireann. On 17 May 1918 almost the entire leadership of Sinn Féin, including de Valera and Arthur Griffith, had been arrested. In total 47 of the Sinn Féin MPs were elected from jail. The Dáil first convened on 21 January 1919, which marks the beginning of the Irish War of Independence.

In the six Ulster counties that became Northern Ireland, Unionists consolidated their position by winning 23 out of the 30 seats. Cardinal Michael Logue brokered a pact in eight seats (one, East Donegal, not in the six counties), after nominations closed, where Catholic voters were instructed to vote for one particular nationalist party. Split evenly, the Irish Parliamentary Party won four of those seats and Sinn Féin three. (The pact failed in East Down). Joseph Devlin, memorably, also won Belfast (Falls) for the Irish Parliamentary Party in a straight fight with Éamon de Valera of Sinn Féin.

Constance Markievicz became the first woman elected to Parliament and also to the Dáil Éireann. She was a Sinn Féin member elected for Dublin St Patrick's, and like the other Sinn Féin MPs, did not take her seat at Westminster.

Women candidates

The seventeen women candidates were:


Seats by party

1918 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 1918
PartyLeaderStoodElectedGainedUnseatedNet % of total %No.Net %
Coalition Government [lower-alpha 3]
  Conservative Bonar Law 445379+10853.638.44,003,8488.2
  National Liberal David Lloyd George 145127+12718.012.61,318,844N/A
  Coalition National Democratic 189+91.31.5156,834N/A
  Coalition Labour N/A54+40.50.440,641N/A
  Coalition Independent N/A 1 1 +10.10.19,274N/A
Coalition Government (total) David Lloyd George 614520+24973.653.05,529,441+6.4
Non-Coalition parties
  Labour William Adamson 36157+158.120.82,171,230+14.5
  Liberal H. H. Asquith 277362365.113.01,355,39831.2
  Sinn Féin Éamon de Valera 10273+7310.34.6476,458N/A
  Irish Parliamentary John Dillon 577671.02.2226,4980.3
  Independent Labour N/A2922+20.31.1116,322+1.0
  Independent N/A4222+20.11.0105,261+1.0
  National Henry Page Croft 2622+20.30.994,389N/A
  Independent NFDSS James Hogge 30000.00.658,164N/A
  Co-operative Party William Henry Watkins 10 1 1 +10.10.657,785N/A
  Ind. Conservative N/A17 1 00.10.444,637+0.3
  Labour Unionist Edward Carson 333+30.40.330,304N/A
  Independent Liberal N/A8 1 1 +10.10.224,985+0.2
  Agriculturalist Edward Mials Nunneley7000.00.219,412N/A
  National Democratic 8000.00.217,991N/A
  NFDSS James Hogge5000.00.112,329N/A
  Belfast Labour N/A4000.00.112,164N/A
  National Socialist Party H. M. Hyndman 3 1 1 +10.10.111,013N/A
  Highland Land League N/A4000.00.18,710N/A
  Women's Party Christabel Pankhurst 1 000.00.18,614N/A
  British Socialist Party Albert Inkpin 3000.00.18,394N/A
 Independent DemocraticN/A4000.00.18,351N/A
  NADSS James Howell1 1 1 +10.10.18,287N/A
  Independent Nationalist N/A6000.00.18,183+0.1
  Socialist Labour Tom Bell 3000.00.17,567N/A
  Scottish Prohibition Edwin Scrymgeour 1 000.00.05,212N/A
  Independent Progressive N/A3000.00.05,077N/A
 Ind. Labour and AgriculturalistN/A 1 000.00.01,927N/A
  Christian Socialist N/A 1 000.00.0597N/A

Votes summary

Popular vote
Coalition Liberal
Sinn Féin
Irish Parliamentary
Popular vote (all coalition parties)
Coalition Gov't
Sinn Féin
Irish Parliamentary

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Coalition Liberal
Sinn Féin
Irish Parliamentary
Parliamentary seats (all coalition parties)
Coalition Gov't
Sinn Féin
Irish Parliamentary


Transfers of seats

Labour Labour (HOLD) Burslem (replaced Staffordshire North West), Deptford, Plaistow (replaced West Ham South), Woolwich East (replaced Woolwich)
Coalition Labour Norwich (1 of 2), Stockport (1 of 2)
Coalition National Democratic Hanley
National Liberal
Conservative Bow and Bromley†, Nuneaton
Sinn Féin Nationalist
Nationalist Nationalist
Lib-Lab National Liberal Battersea North (replaced Battersea)
Liberal Labour Forest of Dean, Leek, Wellingborough (replaced Northamptonshire Mid)
National Democratic Walthamstow W (replaced Walthamstow)
Liberal (HOLD) Bermondsey West (replaced Bermondsey), Camborne, Cornwall North (replaced Launceston), Newcastle-under-Lyme, Norwich (1 of 2), Saffron Walden, Whitechapel and St Georges (replaced Whitechapel), Wolverhampton East
National Liberal Banbury, Barnstaple, Bedford, Bethnal Green NE, Bristol East, Bristol North, Bristol South, Cambridgeshire (replaced Chesterton), Crewe, Dartford, Dorset East, Eye, Hackney Central, Isle of Ely (replaced Wisbech), Kennington, Lichfield, Stepney Limehouse (replaced Limehouse), Lowestoft, Luton, Norfolk South, Norfolk South West, Northampton (1 of 2), Peckham, Poplar South (replaced Poplar), Romford, St Ives, Shoreditch (replaced Hoxton), South Molton, Southampton (both seats), Southwark Central (replaced Newington West), Southwark North (replaced Southwark West), Southwark South East (replaced Walworth), Stockport (1 of 2), Stoke-upon-Trent, Stroud, Thornbury, Wellington (Salop)
Coalition Independent Norfolk North
Independent Hackney South
Conservative Bedfordshire Mid (replaced Biggleswade), Bethnal Green South-West†, Buckingham, Camberwell North, Cheltenham†, Coventry, Exeter†, Frome, Gillingham (replaced Rochester), Ipswich (1 of 2)†, Islington East, Islington South, Islington West, Macclesfield, Norfolk East, Northwich, Peterborough, Reading†, Rotherhithe, St Pancras North, Stafford, Swindon (replaced Cricklade), Tottenham South (replaced Tottenham), Upton (replaced West Ham North), Westbury, Yeovil (replaced Somerset Southern)†
abolished Finsbury East, Haggerston, Hyde, Ipswich (1 of 2), Newmarket, Norfolk North West, Northampton (1 of 2), Northamptonshire East, St Austell, St George, Tower Hamlets, St Pancras East, Stepney, Truro, Worcestershire North
Speaker Liberal
Liberal Unionist Conservative Aylesbury*, Birmingham West*, Bodmin*, Burton*, Birmingham Handsworth*, Hythe*, Ludlow*, Portsmouth North (replaced 1 of 2 Portsmouth seats)*, Stepney Mile End (replaced Mile End)*, Birmingham Sparkbrook (replaced Birmingham South)*, Stone (replaced Staffordshire West)*, Torquay*, Totnes*, Westminster St George's (replaced St George, Hanover Square)*
abolished Ashburton, Birmingham Central, Birmingham North, Birmingham Bordesley, Droitwich, Norfolk Mid, Ross, Somerset Eastern, Worcestershire East
Conservative Labour Kettering (replaced Northamptonshire North), Kingswinford, Wednesbury, West Bromwich
Liberal Lambeth North, Weston-super-Mare (replaced Somerset Northern)
National Liberal Sudbury
Conservative (HOLD) Abingdon, Altrincham, Ashford, Birmingham Aston (replaced Aston Manor), Basingstoke, Bath (1 of 2), Bewdley, Bilston (replaced Wolverhampton South), Birkenhead East (replaced Birkenhead), Brentford and Chiswick (replaced Brentford), Bridgwater, Brighton (both seats), Bristol West, Brixton, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Chatham, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Chertsey, Chester, Chichester, Chippenham, Cirencester and Tewkesbury (replaced Tewkesbury), Clapham, Colchester, Croydon South (replaced Croydon), Daventry (replaced Northamptonshire South), Devizes, Plymouth Devonport (replaced 1 of 2 Devonport seats), Dorset North, Dorset South, Dorset West, Dover, Plymouth Drake (replaced 1 of 2 Plymouth seats), Dudley, Dulwich, Ealing, East Grinstead, Eastbourne, Eddisbury, Birmingham Edgbaston, Enfield, Epping, Epsom, Birmingham Erdington (replaced Birmingham East), Essex South East, Evesham, Fareham, Faversham, Finsbury (replaced Finsbury Central), Fulham East (replaced Fulham), Gloucester, Gravesend, Great Yarmouth, Greenwich, Guildford, Hackney North, Hammersmith South (replaced Hammersmith), Hampstead, Harrow, Harwich, Hastings, Henley, Hereford, Hitchin, Holborn, Honiton, Hornsey, Horsham and Worthing (replaced Horsham), Huntingdonshire (replaced Huntingdon), Isle of Thanet, Isle of Wight, Islington North, Kensington North, Kensington South, Kidderminster, King's Lynn, Kingston upon Thames, Knutsford, Leominster, Lewes, Lewisham West (replaced Lewisham), City of London (both seats), Maidstone, Maldon, New Forest & Christchurch (replaced New Forest), Newbury, Norwood, Oswestry, Oxford, Paddington North, Paddington South, Penryn and Falmouth, Petersfield, Portsmouth South (replaced 1 of 2 Portsmouth seats), Reigate, Rugby, Rye, St Albans, St Marylebone (replaced Marylebone West), St Pancras South East (replaced St Pancras South), St Pancras South West (replaced St Pancras West), Salisbury, Sevenoaks, Shrewsbury, Stalybridge and Hyde (replaced Stalybridge), Plymouth Sutton (replaced 1 of 2 Plymouth seats), Tamworth, Taunton, Tavistock, Tiverton, Tonbridge (replaced Tunbridge), Uxbridge, Wandsworth Central (replaced Wandsworth), Warwick and Leamington, Watford, Wells, Westminster Abbey (replaced Westminster), Wimbledon, Winchester, Windsor, Wirral, Wolverhampton West, Woodbridge, Worcester, Wycombe
National Bournemouth (replaced Christchurch)†, Walsall
Silver Badge Hertford
abolished Andover, Bath (1 of 2), Cirencester, Devonport (1 of 2), Marylebone East, Medway, Newport (Shropshire), Ramsey, St Augustine's, Stowmarket, Strand, Stratford upon Avon, Wellington (Somerset), Wilton, Wokingham, Woodstock
Ind. Conservative Conservative Canterbury
Ulster Unionist Ulster Unionist
Irish Unionist abolished
Seat created Labour Smethwick
Coalition Labour Cannock
National Socialist Party Silvertown
National Democratic Birmingham Duddeston, East Ham South
Liberal Portsmouth Central, Stourbridge
National Liberal Camberwell North-West, East Ham North, Leyton East
Conservative Acton, Aldershot, Balham and Tooting, Battersea South, Birkenhead West, Bristol Central, Bromley, Chislehurst, Croydon North, Birmingham Deritend, Edmonton, Farnham, Finchley, Fulham West, Hammersmith North, Hemel Hempstead, Hendon, Ilford, Birmingham King's Norton, Birmingham Ladywood, Lewisham East, Leyton West, Mitcham, Birmingham Moseley, Putney, Richmond (Surrey), Southend, Spelthorne, Stoke Newington, Stratford, Streatham, Surrey East, Tottenham North, Twickenham, Wallasey, Walthamstow East, Willesden East, Willesden West, Wood Green, Woolwich West, Birmingham Yardley
Ulster Unionist

See also


  1. De Valera was elected in both seats.
  2. The Sinn Féin MPs did not take their seats in the House of Commons, and instead formed the Dáil Éireann.
  3. The Conservative total includes 47 Conservative candidates elected without the Coalition Coupon, of whom 23 were Irish Unionists. Historians do not agree about the exact split between Asquith and Lloyd George Liberals - see above.
  4. All parties shown.

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  1. J. M. McEwen, "The coupon election of 1918 and Unionist Members of Parliament." Journal of Modern History 34.3 (1962): 294–306.
  2. Stuart R. Ball, "Asquith's Decline and the General Election of 1918." Scottish Historical Review 61.171 (1982): 44–61.
  3. Barry McGill, "Lloyd George's Timing of the 1918 Election." Journal of British Studies 14.1 (1974): 109–124.
  4. Paul Adelman, The decline of the Liberal Party 1910–1931 (2014).
  5. Hilson, Mary (2001). "Women voters and the rhetoric of patriotism in the British general election of 1918". Women's History Review . 10 (2): 325–347. doi: 10.1080/09612020100200284 .
  6. David Thackeray, "Home and politics: women and Conservative activism in early twentieth-century Britain." Journal of British Studies 49.4 (2010): 826-848, esp. p. 836.
  7. Hallam, David J. A, Taking on the Men, the first women parliamentary candidates 1918, Studley, 2018, p 11-12
  8. Mowat 1955, p. 3.
  9. Trevor Wilson, "The Coupon and the British General Election of 1918." Journal of Modern History 36.1 (1964): 28–42.
  10. McEwen 1962, p. 295.
  11. Taylor 1976, pp. 127–128.
  12. Inbal Rose, Conservatism and foreign policy during the Lloyd George coalition 1918–1922 (2014).
  13. 1 2 Koss, pp. 241–242.
  14. Wilson, Trevor (1966). The Downfall of the Liberal Party . Cornell University Press. p.  393.
  15. Edward David, "The Liberal Party Divided 1916–1918." Historical Journal 13.3 (1970): 509–532.
  16. Chris Wrigley, Lloyd George and the challenge of Labour: The post-war coalition, 1918–1922 (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990).
  17. 1 2 Blake, Robert The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858–1923, London: Faber and Faber, 2011 p.86.
  18. Mowat 1955, p. 9.
  19. Cottrell, Peter The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913–1922, London: Osprey, 2006 page 39.
  20. Cottrell, Peter The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913–1922, London: Osprey, 2006 page 29.
  21. Hallam, David J. A., ibid, pp 73–90
  22. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading