United Kingdom general election, 1931

United Kingdom general election, 1931
United Kingdom
27 October 1931

All 615 seats to the House of Commons
308 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 76.4% (Increase0.1%)
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Stanley Baldwin Arthur Henderson John Simon
Party Conservative Labour Liberal National
Leader since 23 May 1923 1 September 1931 5 October 1931
Leader's seat Bewdley Burnley (defeated) Spen Valley
Last election 260 seats, 38.1% 287 seats, 37.1% N/A
Seats won 470 52* 35
Seat change Increase 210 Decrease 225 N/A
Popular vote 11,377,022 6,339,306 761,705
Percentage 55.0% 30.6% 3.7%
Swing Increase 16.9% Decrease 6.5% Increase 3.7%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Herbert Samuel Ramsay MacDonald David Lloyd George
Party Liberal National Labour Independent Liberal
Leader since October 1931 24 August 1931 1931
Leader's seat Darwen Seaham Caernarvon Boroughs
Last election 59 seats, 23.6% N/A N/A
Seats won 33 13 4
Seat change Decrease 26 N/A N/A
Popular vote 1,346,571 316,741 106,106
Percentage 6.5% 1.5% 0.5%
Swing Decrease 17.1% Increase 1.5% Increase 0.5%

* The Labour total includes six unendorsed candidates associated with the Independent Labour Party. Of these, three retook the Labour whip during the parliament. The ILP would contest the next two elections entirely separately from Labour.

PM before election

Ramsay MacDonald

Subsequent PM

Ramsay MacDonald

1924 election MPs
1929 election MPs
1931 election MPs
1935 election MPs
1945 election MPs

The United Kingdom general election held on Tuesday 27 October 1931 saw a landslide election victory for the National Government which had been formed two months previously after the collapse of the previous Labour government. The bulk of the National Government's support came from the Conservative Party, and the Conservatives won 470 seats. The Labour party suffered its greatest defeat, losing four out of five seats compared with the previous election. The Liberal Party, split into three factions, continued to shrink and the Liberal National faction never reunited. Ivor Bulmer-Thomas said the results "were the most astonishing in the history of the British party system".[1] It was the last election where one party (the Conservatives) received an absolute majority of the votes cast and the last UK general election not to take place on a Thursday.


After battling with the Great Depression for two years, Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government had been faced with a sudden budget crisis in August 1931. The cabinet deadlocked over its response, with several influential members such as Arthur Henderson unwilling to support the budget cuts (in particular a cut in the rate of unemployment benefit) which were pressed by the civil service and opposition parties. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Snowden refused to consider deficit spending or tariffs as alternative solutions. When the government resigned, MacDonald was encouraged by King George V to form an all-party National Government to deal with the immediate crisis.

The initial hope that the government would hold office for a few weeks and then dissolve to return to ordinary party politics were frustrated when the government was forced to remove the Pound sterling from the Gold standard; meanwhile the Labour Party expelled all those who were supporting the government. The Conservatives began pressing for the National Government to fight an election as a combined unit, and MacDonald's supporters from the Labour Party formed a National Labour organisation to support him; MacDonald came to endorse an early election to take advantage of Labour's unpopularity. However the Liberals were sceptical about an election and had to be persuaded. Former Liberal leader David Lloyd George firmly opposed the decision to call an election and urged his colleagues to withdraw from the National Government.

A main issue was the Conservatives' wish to introduce protectionist trade policies. This issue not only divided the government from the opposition but also divided the parties in the National Government: the majority of Liberals, led by Sir Herbert Samuel, were opposed and supported free trade, but on the eve of the election a faction known as Liberal Nationals under the leadership of Sir John Simon was formed who were willing to support protectionist trade policies. In order to preserve the Liberals within the National Government, the government itself did not endorse a policy but appealed for a "Doctor's Mandate" to do whatever was necessary to rescue the economy. Individual Conservative candidates did support protective tariffs.

Labour campaigned on opposition to public spending cuts, but found it difficult to defend the record of the party's former government and the fact that most of the cuts had been agreed before it fell. Historian Andrew Thorpe argues that Labour lost credibility by 1931 as unemployment soared, especially in coal, textiles, shipbuilding, and steel. The working class increasingly lost confidence in the ability of Labour to solve the most pressing problem.[2]

The 2.5 million Irish Catholics in England and Scotland were a major factor in the Labour base in many industrial areas. The Catholic Church had previously tolerated the Labour Party, and denied that it represented true socialism. However, the bishops by 1930 had grown increasingly alarmed at Labour's policies toward Communist Russia, toward birth control and especially toward funding Catholic schools. They warned its members. The Catholic shift against Labour and in favour of the National government played a major role in Labour's losses.[3]

In the event, the Labour vote fell sharply, and the National Government won a landslide majority. Although the overwhelming majority of the Government MPs were Conservatives under the leadership of Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald remained Prime Minister in the new National government. The Liberals lacked the funds to contest the full range of seats, but still won almost as many constituencies as the Labour Party.


UK General Election 1931
Candidates Votes
Party Leader Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % No. Net %
National Government
  Conservative Stanley Baldwin 518 470 207 0 + 207 76.4 55.0 11,377,022 + 16.9
  Liberal Herbert Samuel 112 33 16 7 + 9 5.4 6.5 1,346,571 − 17.1
  Liberal National John Simon 41 35 10 2 + 8 5.7 3.7 761,705 N/A
  National Labour Ramsay MacDonald 20 13 3 5 − 2 2.1 1.5 316,741 N/A
  National N/A 4 4 4 0 + 2 0.7 0.5 100,193 N/A
  National Government (total) 694 554 239 21 + 218 90.1 67.2 13,902,232
  Labour Arthur Henderson 490 46 2 208 − 206 7.5 29.4 6,081,826 − 7.7
  Ind. Labour Party Fenner Brockway 19 3 0 6 − 6 0.5 1.2 239,280 N/A
  Other unendorsed Labour N/A 6 3 0 1 − 1 0.5 0.3 64,549 N/A
  NI Labour Jack Beattie 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 9,410 N/A
  Labour total 516 52 0 213 − 213 8.5 30.6 6,395,065 − 6.5
  Opposition Liberal David Lloyd George 6 4 0 1 − 1 0.7 0.5 106,106 N/A
  Nationalist Joseph Devlin 3 2 0 1 − 1 0.3 0.4 72,530 + 0.3
  Communist Harry Pollitt 26 0 0 0 0 0 0.3 69,692 + 0.1
  Independent N/A 7 3 1 3 − 2 0.5 0.2 44,257 N/A
  New Party Oswald Mosley 24 0 0 4 − 4 0 0.2 36,377 N/A
  National (Scotland) Roland Muirhead 5 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 20,954 + 0.1
  Independent Labour N/A 2 0 0 1 − 1 0 0.1 18,200 0.0
  Scottish Prohibition Edwin Scrymgeour 1 0 0 1 − 1 0 0.1 16,114 0.0
  Liverpool Protestant H. D. Longbottom 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 7,834 N/A
  Agricultural Party J. F. Wright 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 6,993 N/A
  Independent Nationalist N/A 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 3,134 N/A
  Independent Liberal N/A 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,578 − 0.1
  Plaid Cymru Saunders Lewis 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,050 0.0
  Commonwealth Land 2 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,347 N/A

Turnout: 76.4%.[4]

Note: Seat changes are compared with the dissolution and are based on "The Times House of Commons 1931" p. 134–6 with revisions from F. W. S. Craig.

Votes summary

Popular vote
National Liberal

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
National Liberal

Incumbents defeated

Party Name Constituency Office held during 1929–1931 Parliament Year elected
Labour Party William Wedgwood Benn Aberdeen North Secretary of State for India 1906
Tom Snowden Accrington 1929
James Shillaker Acton 1929
James Brown South Ayrshire Secretary of the National Union of Scottish Mineworkers 1918
Will Lawther Barnard Castle 1929
John Potts Barnsley 1922
Sir Ben Turner Batley and Morley Secretary for Mines 1929
William Sanders Battersea North Financial Secretary to the War Office 1929
William Bennett Battersea South 1929
Jack Lees Belper 1929
George Sinkinson Berwick and Haddington 1929
John Baker Wolverhampton, Bilston 1924
William Henry Egan Birkenhead West 1929
John Strachey Birmingham Aston 1929
Fred Longden Birmingham Deritend 1929
George Francis Sawyer Birmingham Duddeston 1929
Charles Simmons Birmingham Erdington 1929
Wilfrid Whiteley Birmingham Ladywood 1929
Archibald Gossling Birmingham Yardley 1929
Hugh Dalton Bishop Auckland Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1924
Mary Agnes Hamilton Blackburn 1929
Thomas Harry Gill Blackburn 1929
William Whiteley Blaydon Lords of the Treasury 1929
Michael Brothers Bolton 1929
Albert Law Bolton 1929
John Kinley Bootle 1929
Joseph Sullivan Bothwell 1926
William Leach Bradford Central 1929
Frederick William Jowett Bradford East 1929
Norman Angell Bradford North 1929
William Hirst Bradford South 1924
Peter Freeman Brecon and Radnorshire 1929
David Quibell Brigg 1929
Joseph Alpass Bristol Central 1929
Walter Ayles Bristol East 1929
Alexander Walkden Bristol South 1929
Arthur Henderson Burnley Leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the Opposition and Foreign Secretary 1924
Charles Ammon Camberwell North 1929
Hyacinth Morgan Camberwell North West 1929
Leifchild Leif-Jones Camborne 1929
William Murdoch Adamson Cannock 1929
James Ewart Edmunds Cardiff East 1929
Arthur Henderson Cardiff South 1929
George Middleton Carlisle 1929
Daniel Hopkin Carmarthen 1929
George Benson Chesterfield 1929
Lauchlin MacNeill Weir Clackmannan and Eastern Stirlingshire 1922
William Thomas Mansfield Cleveland 1929
James C. Welsh Coatbridge 1922
Herbert Dunnico Consett 1922
Philip Noel-Baker Coventry 1929
John William Bowen Crewe 1929
Arthur Lewis Shepherd Darlington 1926
John Edmund Mills Dartford 1929
C. W. Bowerman Deptford 1906
William Robert Raynes Derby 1929
Frank Lee North East Derbyshire 1922
David Pole South Derbyshire 1929
Ben Riley Dewsbury Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food 1924
Wilfred Paling Doncaster Lord of the Treasury 1922
Oliver Baldwin Dudley 1929
Willie Brooke Dunbartonshire 1929
Michael Marcus Dundee 1929
William McLean Watson Dunfermline Burghs 1922
Joshua Ritson Durham 1922
Susan Lawrence East Ham North Chair of the Labour Party 1926
Alfred Barnes East Ham South Lords of the Treasury 1922
David Mort Eccles 1929
William Graham Edinburgh Central President of the Board of Trade 1918
Drummond Shiels Edinburgh East Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies 1924
George Mathers Edinburgh West 1929
Frank Broad Edmonton 1922
Charles Roden Buxton Elland 1929
William Henderson Enfield Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for India 1929
John Richard Anthony Oldfield South East Essex 1929
Guy Rowson Farnworth 1929
William Adamson West Fife Secretary of State for Scotland Dec. 1910
David Vaughan Forest of Dean 1929
Frederick Gould Frome 1929
Campbell Stephen Glasgow Camlachie 1922
John Smith Clarke Glasgow Maryhill 1929
Adam McKinlay Glasgow Partick 1929
George Hardie Glasgow Springburn 1922
Tom Henderson Glasgow Tradeston Comptroller of the Household 1929
Edward Timothy Palmer Greenwich 1929
Frederick Charles Watkins Hackney Central 1929
Herbert Morrison Hackney South Minister of Transport 1929
Arthur Longbottom Halifax 1928
James Patrick Gardner Hammersmith North 1926
Dan Chater Hammersmith South 1929
Robert Richardson Houghton-le-Spring 1918
James Hindle Hudson Huddersfield 1923
The Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Kingston upon Hull Central 1919
George Muff Hull East 1929
John Arnott Kingston upon Hull South West 1929
George Oliver Ilkeston 1929
Leah Manning Islington East February 1931
Robert Young Islington North 1929
William Sampson Cluse Islington South 1923
Frederick Montague Islington West Under-Secretary of State for Air 1923
Robert John Wilson Jarrow 1922
Hastings Lees-Smith Keighley President of the Board of Education 1923
Leonard Matters Kennington 1929
Fielding Reginald West Kettering 1929
Samuel Perry Keighley National Secretary of the Co-operative Party 1929
Charles Henry Sitch Kingswinford 1918
Tom Kennedy Kirkcaldy Burghs Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury 1923
George Strauss Lambeth North 1929
Jennie Lee North Lanarkshire 1929
Henry Charleton Leeds South Lords of the Treasury 1929
Thomas William Stamford Leeds West 1923
William Bromfield Leek 1918
Edward Frank Wise Leicester East 1929
Frederick Pethick-Lawrence Leicester West Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1923
Fenner Brockway East Leyton 1929
Reginald Sorensen Leyton West 1929
Robert Arthur Taylor Lincoln 1924
Manny Shinwell Linlithgowshire Secretary for Mines 1929
John Henry Hayes Liverpool Edge Hill Vice-Chamberlain of the Household 1923
Derwent Hall Caine Liverpool Everton 1929
Elijah Sandham Liverpool Kirkdale 1929
Joseph Gibbins Liverpool West Toxteth 1924
Charles Ellis Lloyd Llandaff and Barry 1929
George Ernest Winterton Loughborough 1929
Joseph Henderson Manchester Ardwick June 1931
John Edward Sutton Manchester Clayton 1922
Joseph Compton Manchester Gorton 1923
Andrew McElwee Manchester Hulme 1929
J. R. Clynes Manchester Platting Home Secretary 1906
Ellen Wilkinson Middlesbrough East Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health 1929
John Scurr Mile End 1923
Ebby Edwards Morpeth 1929
Herbert Gibson Mossley 1929
James Barr Motherwell 1924
Arthur Greenwood Nelson and Colne Minister of Health 1922
Sir Charles Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet Newcastle Central President of the Board of Education 1922
John Henry Palin Newcastle upon Tyne West 1924
James Walker Newport 1929
Robert Young Newton Chairman of Ways and Means 1918
Lucy Noel-Buxton, Baroness Noel-Buxton North Norfolk 1930
William Benjamin Taylor South West Norfolk 1929
Cecil L'Estrange Malone Northampton 1929
Walter Robert Smith Norwich Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade 1929
Arthur Hayday Nottingham West President of the Trades Union Congress 1918
Frank Smith Nuneaton Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Lansbury 1929
Rev. Gordon Lang Oldham 1929
James Wilson Oldham 1929
James Welsh Paisley 1929
John Beckett Peckham 1924
Joseph Westwood Peebles and Southern Midlothian Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 1922
Rennie Smith Penistone 1924
J. F. Horrabin Peterborough 1929
James John Hamlyn Moses Plymouth Drake 1929
Tom Smith Pontefract 1929
Glenvil Hall Portsmouth Central 1929
Tom Shaw Preston Secretary of State for War 1918
William Jowitt Preston Attorney General for England and Wales 1929
Somerville Hastings Reading 1929
William Kelly Rochdale 1929
H. T. Muggeridge Romford 1929
Arthur Law Rossendale 1929
Fred William Lindley Rotherham 1929
Ben Smith Rotherhithe Treasurer of the Household 1923
David Hardie Glasgow Rutherglen 1931
James Sexton St Helens 1918
James Marley St Pancras North 1929
Herbert George Romeril St Pancras South East 1929
William Carter St Pancras South West 1929
Ben Tillett Salford North 1929
Joseph Toole Salford South 1929
Alexander Haycock Salford West 1929
John Herriotts Sedgefield 1929
Cecil Wilson Sheffield Attercliffe 1922
Fred Marshall Sheffield Brightside 1930
Philip Hoffman Sheffield Central 1922
A. V. Alexander Sheffield Hillsborough First Lord of the Admiralty 1922
George Lathan Sheffield Park 1929
Ernest Thurtle Shoreditch Lord Commissioner of the Treasury 1923
Tommy Lewis Southampton 1929
Ralph Morley Southampton 1929
James Chuter Ede South Shields 1929
Harry Day Southwark Central 1924
George Isaacs Southwark North Parliamentary Private Secretary 1929
Thomas Naylor Southwark South-East 1923
William John Tout Sowerby 1929
Hugh Hartley Lawrie Stalybridge and Hyde 1929
Hugh Murnin Stirling and Falkirk Burghs 1924
Tom Johnston Stirling and Clackmannan West Lord Privy Seal 1922
Arnold Townend Stockport 1925
Frederick Fox Riley Stockton-on-Tees 1929
Andrew MacLaren Burslem 1924
Arthur Hollins Hanley 1929
Wilfred Wellock Stourbridge 1927
Marion Phillips Sunderland 1929
Alfred Smith Sunderland 1929
Howel Walter Samuel Swansea West 1929
Christopher Addison Swindon Minister of Agriculture 1929
Robert Morrison Tottenham North 1929
Frederick Messer Tottenham South 1929
Benjamin Walter Gardner Upton 1929
George Henry Sherwood Wakefield 1929
Margaret Bondfield Wallsend Minister of Labour 1926
John James McShane Walsall 1929
Harry Wallace Walthamstow East 1929
Major Archibald Church Wandsworth Central 1929
George Shield Warrington 1929
Charles Duke Wansbeck 1929
Alfred Short Wednesbury Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 1918
George Dallas Wellingborough 1929
Frederick Roberts West Bromwich Minister of Pensions 1918
J. H. Hall White Chapel and St Georges 1930
Morgan Philips Price Whitehaven Parliamentary Secretary 1929
Alexander Gordon Cameron Widnes 1923
Samuel Viant Willesden West Assistant Postmaster General 1923
William Brown Wolverhampton West General Secretary of the Civil Service Clerical Association 1929
Edith Picton-Turbervill The Wrekin 1929
Robert Richards Wrexham 1929
Frederick George Burgess York 1929
Liberal Party Rev. Roderick Kedward Ashford 1929
Milner Gray Mid Bedfordshire Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Labour 1929
Leifchild Leif-Jones Camborne 1929
Alec Ewart Glassey East Dorset Lord Commissioner of the Treasury 1929
Frank Owen Hereford 1929
James Scott Kincardine and Aberdeenshire West Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Scotland 1929
Philip Oliver Manchester Blackley 1929
Ernest Simon Manchester Withington 1929
New Party Cecil Dudgeon Galloway 1929
Robert Forgan West Renfrewshire 1929
Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet Smethwick Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1929-1930) 1926
Lady Cynthia Mosley Stoke 1929
Scottish Prohibition Party Edwin Scrymgeour Dundee 1922

Results by constituency

These are available at the PoliticsResources website, a link to which is given below.

See also


  1. Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, The Growth of the British Party System Volume II 1924–1964 (1967) p 76
  2. Andrew Thorpe, "The Industrial Meaning of 'Gradualism': The Labour Party and Industry, 1918–1931." The Journal of British Studies 35#1 (1996): 84-113.
  3. Neil Riddell, "The Catholic Church and the Labour Party, 1918–1931." Twentieth Century British History 8.2 (1997): 165-193.
  4. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/rp2008/rp08-012.pdf

Further reading

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