1831 United Kingdom general election

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 following Parliament 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.

1831 United Kingdom general election

← 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
Registeredabout 516,000 [1] (out of a population of 24,000,000)
  First party Second party
Leader Earl Grey Duke of Wellington
Party Whig Tory
Leader since 22 November 1830 22 January 1828
Last election 196 seats, 59.3% 250 seats, 38.4%
Seats won 370 235
Seat change Increase174 Decrease15
Popular vote 80,763 46,892
Percentage 63.3% 36.7%
Swing Increase4.0% Decrease1.7%

Colours denote the winning party

The UK parliament after the 1831 election

Prime Minister before election

Earl Grey

Prime Minister after election

Earl Grey

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.[2] 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.[citation needed]

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 when the Committee stage began, and King William IV reluctantly agreed; the King dissolved Parliament in person (amid a great political tumult) on 22 April.[3]

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

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.[citation needed]

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country

Country BC CC UC Total C BMP CMP UMP Total MPs
  England 201 39 2 242 402 80 4 486
  Wales 13 13 0 26 13 14 0 27
  Scotland 15 30 0 45 15 30 0 45
 Ireland 33 32 1 66 35 64 1 100
 Total 262 114 3 379 465 178 5 658

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

Country BCx1 BCx2 BCx4 CCx1 CCx2 CCx4 UCx1 UCx2 Total C
  England 4 195 2 0 38 1 0 2 242
  Wales 13 0 0 12 1 0 0 0 26
  Scotland 15 0 0 30 0 0 0 0 45
 Ireland 31 2 0 0 32 0 1 0 66
 Total 63 197 2 42 71 1 1 2 379

See also



  1. ^ "Elections and the electorate in the Eighteenth Century". The Age of George III. Retrieved 28 January 2023.
  2. ^ D.R. Fisher, History of Parliament 1820–1832, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press 2009, p. 349.
  3. ^ D.R. Fisher, History of Parliament 1820–1832, vol. 1, Cambridge University Press 2009, p. 351–360 passim.


  • British Electoral Facts 1832–1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher (Ashgate Publishing Ltd 2000). Source: Dates of Elections – Footnote to Table 5.02
  • British Historical Facts 1760–1830, by Chris Cook and John Stevenson (The Macmillan Press 1980). Source: Types of constituencies – Great Britain
  • His Majesty's Opposition 1714–1830, by Archibald S. Foord (Oxford University Press 1964)
  • Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland 1801–1922, edited by B.M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978). Source: Types of constituencies – Ireland