United Kingdom general election, 1880

United Kingdom general election, 1880
United Kingdom
31 March27 April 1880[1]

All 652 seats to the House of Commons
327 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Lord Hartington Lord Beaconsfield William Shaw
Party Liberal Conservative Home Rule
Leader since January 1875 27 February 1868 May 1879
Leader's seat North East Lancashire Earl of Beaconsfield County Cork
Last election 242 seats, 52.0% 350 seats, 44.3% 60 seats, 3.7%
Seats won 352 237 63
Seat change Increase 110 Decrease 113 Increase 3
Popular vote 1,836,423 1,426,351 95,535
Percentage 54.7% 42.5% 2.8%
Swing Increase 2.7% Decrease 1.8% Decrease 0.9%

PM before election

Lord Beaconsfield

Subsequent PM

William Ewart Gladstone

1868 election MPs
1874 election MPs
1880 election MPs
1885 election MPs
1886 election MPs

The United Kingdom general election of 1880 was a general election in the United Kingdom held from March to April 1880.

Intense rhetoric of the election was provided by the Midlothian campaign of the Liberals, led by the fierce oratory of Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone.[2] Gladstone vehemently attacked the foreign policy of the government of Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield) as utterly immoral.

The Liberals secured one of their largest ever majorities in the election, leaving the Conservatives a distant second. As a result of the campaign, the Liberal leaders, Lord Hartington and Lord Granville, withdrew in favour of Gladstone, who thus became Prime Minister a second time.


The Conservative government was doomed with by the poor condition condition of the British economy, And the vulnerability of its foreign policy to moralistic attacks by the Liberals. Gladstone, appealing to moralistic evangelicals, led the attack on the foreign policy of Disraeli (now known as Lord Beaconsfield) as immoral.[3] Historian Paul Smith paraphrases the rhetorical tone which focused on attacking "Beaconsfieldism" (in Smith's words) as a:

Sinister system of policy, which not merely involved the country in immoral, vainglorious and expensive external adventures, inimical to peace and to the rights of small peoples, but aimed at nothing less than the subversion of parliamentary government in favour of some simulacrum of the oriental despotism its creator was alleged to admire.[4]

Smith notes that there was indeed some substance to the allegations, but, "Most of this was partisan extravaganza, worthy of its target's own excursions against the Whigs."[5]

Disraeli himself was now the Earl of Beaconsfield in the House of Lords, and custom did not allow peers to campaign. His party was unable to deal effectively with the rhetorical onslaught. Although he had improved the organization of the Conservative Party, Disraeli was firmly based in the rural gentry, and had little contact with or understanding of the urban middle class that was increasingly dominating his party. Besides issues of foreign policy, even more important thing Conservatives were unable to effectively defend their economic record on the home front. The 1870s coincided with a long term global depression caused by the collapse of the worldwide railway boom of the 1870s which previously had been so profitable to Britain. The stress was growing by the late 1870s: prices fell, profits fell, employment fell, and there was downward pressure on wage rates that cause much hardship among the industrial working class. The free trade system supported by both parties made Britain defenseless against the flood of cheap wheat from North America, which was exacerbated by the worst harvest of the century in Britain in 1879. The party in power, of course, got the blame, and Liberals repeatedly emphasized the growing budget deficit as a measure of bad stewardship. In the election itself, Disraeli's party lost heavily up and down the line, especially in Scotland and Ireland, and in the urban boroughs. His Conservative strength fell from 351 to 238, while the Liberals jump from 250 to 353. Disraeli resigned on 21 April 1880.[6][7]


United Kingdom General Election 1880
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % Net %
  Liberal 499 352 + 110 54 54.7 1,836,423 + 2.7
  Conservative 521 237 - 113 36.3 42.5 1,426,351 - 1.8
  Home Rule 81 63 + 3 9.7 2.8 95,535 - 0.9
  Independent 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,107 0.0

Total votes cast: 3,359,416.

Voting summary

Crowds wait outside Leeds Town Hall to hear the result.
Popular vote
Home Rule

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Home Rule

Regional Results

Great Britain

Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Liberal 337 Increase105 1,780,171 57.3 Increase1.9
Conservative 214 Decrease105 1,326,744 42.7 Decrease1.9
Others 0 Steady 1,107 0.04 Increase0.04
Total 551 3,108,022 100
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Liberal 254 Increase83 1,519,576 56.2 Increase2.4
Conservative 197 Decrease83 1,205,990 43.7 Decrease2.5
Others 0 Steady 1,107 0.1 Increase0.1
Total 451 2,726,673 100
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Liberal 52 Increase12 195,517 70.1 Increase1.7
Conservative 6 Decrease12 74,145 29.9 Decrease1.7
Total 58 269,662 100
Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Liberal 29 Increase10 50,403 58.8 Decrease2.1
Conservative 4 Decrease10 41,106 41.2 Increase2.1
Total 33 100,509 100


Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Home Rule 63 Increase3 95,535 37.5 Decrease2.1%
Irish Conservative 24 Decrease8 99,607 39.8 Increase1.0%
Liberal 15 Increase5 56,252 22.7 Increase4.3%
Total 101 251,394 100


Party Seats Seats change Votes % % Change
Conservative 7 5,503 49.2
Liberal 2 5,675 50.8
Total 9 11,178 100



  1. M.A. Fitzsimons, "Midlothian: the Triumph and Frustration of the British Liberal Party," Review of Politics (1960) 22#2 pp 187–201. in JSTOR
  2. H.C.G. Matthew, Gladstone: 1809-1898 (1997) . pp 293-312.
  3. Paul Smith (1996). Disraeli: A Brief Life. Cambridge UP. pp. 198–99.
  4. Smith p 199
  5. Smith, pp 202-3
  6. Robert Blake, Disraeli (1967) pp 707-13, 717
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