Some problems are older than we sometimes think

Posted by Helen Monday, May 05, 2014 ,

1886 was an important election in British history as it ended the Liberal dominance of parliamentary politics that had given that party victory in five of the six elections since 1859 and power for seventeen of those twenty-seven years. In the subsequent nineteen years the Libearals would hold power for only three of them. The results were particularly spectacular as the previous year the Liberals had won again but Gladstone's growing obsession with Home Rule for Ireland split his party. The Conservatives under Lord Salisbury won 317 seats and their allies, the Liberal Unionists under Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, 77. The Liberals had 191 seats and their more or less reliable allies, the Irish Parliamentary Party, still under Charles Stewart Parnell, 85. The Conservatives and Liberal Unionists had a handsome majority. One of the people who won a seat with a majority of 461 in a poll of just under 7,000 was George Nathaniel Curzon who thus became an MP for Southport. In his biography of the man David Gilmour makes the following interesting comments:

A significant aspect of the election was the difference in the voting patterns between England and the Celtic fringe: Gladstone lost heavily in England, but his supporters won a majority of seats in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Nevertheless, the English predominance gave victory to Salisbury and enabled him to set about the composition of his second ministry.
In fact the predominance, as can be seen from the figures above, was very handsome. Yet, it is interesting to see how early that pattern set in. These days it is the Labour Party that tends to win in the Celtic fringe with Northern Ireland presenting a picture that is as different from the rest of the country as Ireland was then. Some of us still remember when the Scottish Conservative Party was a power in the land and when a number of Scottish seats were more or less permanently reserved for the Liberal Party as it was then. All that has changed but the different pattern between England and the rest of the United Kingdom remains.


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