1924 United Kingdom general election
The 1924 United Kingdom general election was held on Wednesday 29 October 1924, as a result of the defeat of the Labour minority government, led by Ramsay MacDonald, in the House of Commons on a motion of no confidence. It was the third general election to be held in less than two years.
All 615 seats in the House of Commons
308 seats needed for a majority
The Conservatives, led by Stanley Baldwin, performed better, in electoral terms, than in the 1923 general election and obtained a large parliamentary majority of 209. Labour, led by Ramsay MacDonald, lost 40 seats. The election also saw the Liberal Party, led by H. H. Asquith, lose 118 of their 158 seats which helped to polarise British politics between the Labour Party and Conservative Party.
The Conservative landslide victory and the Labour defeat in this general election has been, in part, attributed to the Zinoviev letter, a forgery, which was published in the Daily Mail four days before the election. However, it is difficult to prove that this had a major impact on the election result. The Labour vote increased by around one million popular votes in comparison to the 1923 general election, however, the increase in the number of popular votes for the Labour Party may be due, in part, to the party putting up eighty-seven more candidates than it did in the previous year's general election.
After the previous general election, the Labour Party had finished as the second-largest party, but formed their first-ever government with the support of the Liberal Party, after the ruling Conservative Party's shock loss of their majority made it untenable for Baldwin to continue as Prime Minister. However, relations between Labour and the Liberals proved stormy, eventually resulting in Asquith calling a motion of no confidence in MacDonald's government, which was carried by a large majority. Asquith had gambled that neither Baldwin nor MacDonald would want to put the country through a third general election in two years, and that one of them would be forced to enter into a formal coalition with the Liberals. However, the gambit backfired when MacDonald instead called an election, knowing full well that a Conservative landslide was the only likely outcome, but himself gambling that it would be primarily at the expense of the Liberals. MacDonald's judgement proved correct, as the Liberals, who were still mostly dependant on former Prime Minister David Lloyd George for funds, ended up financially crippled from the very start of the campaign, while Labour were actually able to expand the scope of their own campaign thanks to increasing support from the workers' unions.
It is speculated that the combination of Labour forming its first government in January 1924 and the Zinoviev letter helped to stir up anti-socialist fears in Britain among many traditional anti-socialist Liberal voters, who then switched their support to the Conservative Party. This partly helps to explain the poor performance of the Liberal Party in the general election. The party also had financial difficulties which allowed it to contest only 339 seats, a lack of distinctive policies after the Conservative Party dropped their support for protected trade, and poor leadership under Asquith, who lost his own seat for the second time in six years. It would be the final election for Asquith, who was subsequently forced to lead the party from the House of Lords after being elevated to the Earldom of Oxford and Asquith the following year, with Lloyd George as Liberal chairman in the House of Commons. Declining health saw Asquith replaced by Lloyd George in 1926.
The fourth party in terms of number of candidates, number of seats and number of votes were not a party but a group of former National Liberals standing under the Constitutionalist label, led by Winston Churchill. They favoured Conservative/Liberal co-operation and had intended to formally organize as a party, but the election was called before they had the opportunity to actually do so. Three of the seven Constitutionalists elected, including Churchill, had been opposed by official Liberal candidates, and sat as Conservatives after the election. The other four sat as Liberals.
Sinn Féin ran Westminster candidates for the first time since 1918, running a total of eight candidates; all but two of them lost their deposits, however, and none came close to winning the seats they contested, halting any serious prospect of the Northern Irish counties seceding and forming a United Ireland. Aside from a largely abortive attempt at a comeback in the 1950s, it would be 1983 before the party began regularly fielding candidates at Westminster elections.
|Party||Leader||Stood||Elected||Gained||Unseated||Net||% of total||%||No.||Net %|
|Liberal||H. H. Asquith||339||40||10||128||−118||6.5||17.8||2,818,717||−11.9|
|Sinn Féin||Éamon de Valera||8||0||0||0||0||0.2||34,181||N/A|
|NI Labour||Sam Kyle||1||0||0||0||0||0.1||21,122||N/A|
|Scottish Prohibition||Edwin Scrymgeour||1||1||0||0||0||0.1||14,596||0.0|
Transfers of seatsEdit
- All comparisons are with the 1923 election.
- In some cases the change is due to the MP defecting to the gaining party. Such circumstances are marked with a *.
- In other circumstances the change is due to the seat having been won by the gaining party in a by-election in the intervening years, and then retained in 1924. Such circumstances are marked with a †.
- 1 Previous MP had defected to Labour by the time of the 1924 election