Striving for a world transformed by justice and peace - a TL from 1827

The Conservative Party feared that Liberal intervention in marginal constituencies would hurt them, so the two parties entered into local negotiations. In Ribble Valley [south and east of Preston] which Ann Hewitson had won for the Commonwealth Party with a majority of 95 votes in a straight with the Tories in 1974. The Liberals agreed not to put up a candidate because the Tory candidate, George Dewhurst, was a Free Trader. He was the owner of Cuerden and Higher Walton cotton mills in the constituency.

The Liberal Party leader, Sir Charles Dilke, had a majority of only 1.1% over Commonwealth. Although the Tories polled 27.1% in 1874, they agreed not to contest the seat.
The Conservatives agreed to stand aside for the Liberals in 14 seats, while in the same number of constituencies the Liberals stood aside for the Conservatives. Among the seats where the Tories stood aside were Leeds West, Penryn and Falmouth, Spen Valley, Swansea. Among the constituencies where the Liberals reciprocated were Cardiff North, Nottingham South, Plymouth East, York North.
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In Swansea in the 1874 general election, Evan Morris, the Commonwealth Party candidate, received 48.6% of the vote. The combined Liberal and Conservative votes were 51.4%. The Liberal/Tory pact in the constituency for the June 1878 general election meant that it could be won by the Liberal candidate, Benjamin Thomas Williams.
Because Swansea was a Commonwealth/Liberal marginal the Prime Minister, George Cowell, and other cabinet ministers, spoke at meetings in the constituency. As did the Liberal leader, Sir Charles Dilke, and members of the Liberal 'shadow cabinet'. [1] Angarahad
Griffiths and Helen Price and their families and friends, were all active in the Commonwealth Party campaign. They canvassed, delivered leaflets and spoke at Commonwealth Party meetings. Because Ferryside was in the safe Commonwealth seat of Carmarthenshire East, Maire Griffiths helped out in the Commonwealth Party election campaign in Swansea at weekends. Because Aneurin Griffiths was a newspaper reporter he was not active in the campaign.

The Swansea Conservative Association published and distributed leaflets urging the people of Swansea to vote for the Liberal candidate, Benjamin Thomas Williams, as the only alternative to Evan Morris, the socialistic Commonwealth Party candidate, with their policies of wasteful welfare expenditure financed by high taxation. In the event of the Tories needing the Liberals for an overall majority in the House of Commons, Williams had pledged to vote with the Tories.

[1] What was in effect the 'shadow cabinet' though the term had not been coined.
Arthur Jenkins, a friend of Angharad, was defending Cardiff North for the Commonwealth Party. In the 1874 general election he won the seat with a majority of 2.4% over the Conservatives, but for the 1878 election the Liberals withdrew and it was a straight fight between Commonwealth and Conservative. The Liberal vote in 1874 was 16.8%. Because it was a marignal seat the prime minister and other cabinet ministers, and the Tory Party leader, Stafford Northcote and 'shadow cabinet' ministers spoke at election meetings. One Saturday afternoon Angharad and her youngest daughter Megan and her girlfriend Esther Jenkins, and Helen Price all travelled by train from Swansea to Cardiff to help in Jenkins' campaign.
Lady Anna Gore-Langton had been elected as Conservative MP for Bath in the 1874 general election and crossed the floor and joined the Commonwealth Party in February 1875. She resigned her seat and stood for re-election for the Commonwealth Party. She was re-elected with a majority of 67 over Conservative. She decided not to stand in the 1878 general election.

Hackney North was the most marginal Conservative/Liberal city constituency with a Conservative majority of 61. The Liberal candidate was Louisa Twining of the famous tea firm. It was a solidly middle class constituency with streets of substantial three storey houses. However it was not as high on the social scale as districts such as Mayfair or South Kensington, so no one of aristocratic pretensions would live there.

Liberal activists poured into the constituency which had the great advantage of being in London. In the 1874 general election the Commonwealth candidate polled 14.6% of the vote, and the Conservative and Liberal percentage votes were 42.8 and 42.6 respectively. So there was a fairly sizeable Commonwealth vote to be squeezed. The Liberals flooded the constituency with leaflets declaring that 'Commonwealth can not win here and only Miss Twining can beat the Tory'.
There were 73 women candidates standing in the general election, up from 56 in the October 1874 election. The numbers
for each party were as follows [1874 election]:
Commonwealth: 32 [25]
Conservative: 15 [11]
Liberal: 20 [16]
Irish Nationalist: 6 [4].

In Manchester the Chorlton constituency in the south of the city was the best prospect for the Liberal Party. They had gained the seat from the Conservatives in a by-election in February 1876 with a majority of 5.3%. The result was as follows:
John Bright [Liberal]: 42.1% [39.8%]
Conservative: 36.8% [41.3%]
Commonwealth: 21.1% [18.9%]
John Bright had been a junior minister in Liberal governments in the 1850s and 1860s. He had lost his Manchester South-West seat to the Commonwealth Party in the 1870 general election.

The Manchester Liberal Party concentrated most of their resources in Chorlton, with activists pouring into the constituency. They targeted the Commonwealth Party vote with leaflets declaring that Commonwealth candidate could not win there.

In Ireland the election was dominated by the issue of Home Rule. Although the Commonwealth Party manifesto promised that a Commonwealth government would introduce legislation to give Home Rule to Ireland, the party concentrated its campaign on the achievements of the government and the other policies in the manifesto. It claimed that they were the only party to bridge the sectarian divide and attacked the Irish Nationalists for being a single issue party.

The number of candidates standing for each party in Ireland were as follows:
Commonwealth: 72
Conservative: 94
Irish Nationalist: 103
Liberal: 25
Total: 294
Nine Irish Nationalist candidates were returned unopposed.
Joseph Chamberlain was the Commonwealth Party candidate for Birmingham Ladywood. He was mayor of Birmingham from 1874 to 1877. His programme of acquisition of land, the bringing under municipal control of gas and water, slum clearance, and the provision of public parks,called 'gas and water socialism', he transformed the city.

The party leaders toured the country and spoke to packed meetings of the party faithful. On Saturday 1 June 1878, the prime minister, George Cowell, spoke at St. George's Hall. Sarah Taylor, the parliamentary secretary to the Local Government Board and Commonwealth candidate for Liverpool Kirkdale was on the platform with him. She fired up the meeting by recounting her life - how her parents died of cholera when she was a child, how she left school at ten years old to work as a maid, how she had illegitimate children, how she was an inmate in the Brownlow Hill workhouse in Liverpool, now closed down.
Sarah Taylor had surprised political commentators by being much more competent as a parliamentary secretary than they expected. Though she was a passionate and eloquent speaker, they had low expectations of her ministerial abilities. Though as the woman MP, and one of only three women in a mostly male government, she had a lot to live up to.

In his speech in Liverpool, Cowell said that the Commonwealth Party was committed to Home Rule for Ireland, but if there was a Commonwealth Party government after the general election, he would offer the other parties represented in Parliament all party talks on the constitutional future of Ireland, to try and build a consensus on giving Ireland a measure of self government.

Newspaper reports of the prime minister speech led on his Irish proposal, on what it would mean in terms of political advantage for his party and how the other parties would react. Unlike other British cities, Liverpool had elected a Conservative MPs in the 1874 general election, and it was thought that the proposal was an attempt to neutralise the Home Rule issue in a religiously divided city.
The Conservative leader, Stafford Northcote, was in a difficult position regarding the prime minister's proposal for all party talks on Ireland. If he came out in opposition he would be accused of being unreasonable in rejecting a constructive proposal, and would lose Conservative/Commonwealth and Conservative/Liberal swing voters. If he supported it, most of his party would oppose him. In fact Conservative Central Office was inundated with telegrams urging him to reject the proposal. When questioned in newspaper interviews, his first reply was that the Conservative Party would win a majority and form the government after the general election. When pressed further he said that if the Conservative Party was in opposition after the election, it would not take part in any talks on the future of Ireland.

The leader of the Irish Nationalist party, John Blake Dillon, gave a cautious welcome to the prime minister's proposal. But he warned that his party would oppose any sell out of the legitimate aspirations of the Irish people for self government. The Liberal leader, Sir Charles Dilke, gave general support to the proposal, which he described as being constructive.
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The Commonwealth Party made the most of Northcote's rejection of the prime minister's proposal for all party talks on the future of Ireland, saying that it showed the Tory party's negative and unconstructive attitude to the Irish question. But whether it would make any difference in people's votes remained to be seen.

In the absence of opinion polls as an indication of public opinion and to raise or lower the hopes of the political parties, party activists were generally hopeful, but realistic, about their party's prospect. Most Commonwealthers expected to lose seats, after enjoying a net gain of 102 seats in the October 1874 general election, but were confident that at worst they would be the largest party in the House of Commons, though without an overall majority, and stay in power with Irish Nationalist support.

Conservatives were aware that they had a steep mountain to climb to gain the 132 seats, compared to the previous general election, needed for an overall majority, but where confident that they would gain seats and become the largest party and form a government with Liberal support.

Irish Nationalists expected to gain seats. The more optimistic hoped they would increase their representation to the low eighties from their current 74 seats.

Liberals were also confident that they would end up with more seats. The more optimistic expected them to replace the Irish Nationalists as the third party in the House of Commons, but the more realistic hoped for an increase to more than fifty seats, up from 38 in the 1874 election.
Election day was Monday 10 June 1878 and polling stations were open from 7am to 10pm. Turnout was high, but observers had the impression that it was somewhat lower than in the previous general election.

There was telegraphic communication between town halls where the counts were taking place and the party headquarters in London and Dublin. The first result was declared at 11.38. It was for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central and was held by the Commonwealth candidate with a majority of 15.8% over Conservative [19.1% in 1874]. This was followed by a trickle of results for about the next hour and a half . The first seat which changed hands was Ipswich East at 11.55. This was a Conservative gain from Commonwealth with a majority of 6.1%. [1.8% in 1874].
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After midnight the pace of results declared increased reaching a flood between 1am and 2am. The Tories made gains from Commonwealth, but only in two and threes. If they were going to win an overall majority they would need to gain a few dozen seats. Though they did fairly well in London, taking Hammersmith, Islington North, Paddington North, Peckham, and St.Pancras West from Commonwealth. But lost Hackney North to the Liberals. The result there was as follows [1874 general election]:
Louise Twining [Liberal]: 44.8% [42.6%]
Conservative candidate: 41.9% [42.8%]
Commonwealth candidate: 13.3% [14.6%
Liberal majority: 2.9% [Conservative majority: 0.2%
The swing from Conservative to Liberal was 1.55%.
The Conservatives made more gains from Commonwealth. Going from north to south in England, in addition to those mentioned previously, these were as follows: Newcastle-on-Tyne East, York North, Sheffield Central, Bury, Nottingham South, Leicester South, Northampton South-West, Walsall, Wolverhampton West, Coventry, Norwich South, Gillingham, Gloucester, Bristol North, Southampton West, Plymouth East. Commonwealth gained Kingston-upon-Hull North and Liverpool West Toxteth from the Tories.
The Liberals held Manchester Chorlton which they had gained from the Tories in a by-election in February 1876. The percentages votes for each candidate were as follows [1876 by-election]:

John Bright [Liberal]: 45.7 [42.1]
Conservative candidate: 36.0 [36.8]
Commonwealth: 18.3 [21.1]
Liberal majority: 9.7 [5.3]

The Liberals did fairly well in Manchester. In addition to winning Chorlton they came second to the Commonwealth Party
in Blackley, where Lydia Becker was re-elected, Exchange, Hulme, and Moss Side. Commonwealth held all their seats and the Conservatives didn't win any.

There was no change in Birmingham with the Tories holding Edgbaston with an increased majority, and Commonwealth holding the rest. Joseph Chamberlain was elected Commonwealth member for Ladywood with a swing of 1.7% from Conservative to Commonwealth.

In Liverpool the Commonwealth Party held all their seats. The Tories were back in East Toxteth, West Derby, Walton, and Wavertree, but lost West Toxteth to Commonwealth. Sarah Taylor, the parliamentary secretary to the Local Government Board, held Kirkdale with a majority of 23.8% over Conservative, up from 16.1% in the 1874 general election.

The Prime Minister, George Cowell, was re-elected for Preston South. His majority over Conservative was 28.6%, down from 29.4 in 1874.

In the overnight results from Wales the only Tory gain was Cardiff North from Commonwealth. The Liberals gained Leeds West, Leith Burghs, and Swansea West from Commonwealth.

In Ireland only Belfast and Dublin declared overnight. There was no change in Belfast with the Tories holding East, South and North, and Commonwealth back in West. In Dublin the Irish Nationalists gained College Green from Commonwealth and Rathmines from Conservative.
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The result for Cardiff North was as follows [1874 general election]:
Conservative: 51.6% [40.4%]
Arthur Jenkins [Commonwealth]: 48.4% [42.8%]
[ Liberal: 16.8%]
Conservative majority: 3.2% [Commonwealth majority 2.4%]
The swing from Commonwealth to Conservative was 2.8%.
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Swansea was a Liberal gain from Commonwealth. The percentage votes for each party were as follows [1874 general election]:
Benjamin Thomas Williams [Liberal]: 52.0 [40.3]
Evan Morris [Commonwealth]: 48.0 [48.6]
[Conservative: 11.1]
Liberal majority: 4.0% [Commonwealth majority: 8.3%]
There was a swing of 6.15% from Commonwealth to Liberal. However the reduction in the Commonwealth percentage vote of only 0.6% was below the national average.

Angharad Griffiths, Helen Price, Tom and Nia Price, John and Rhiannon Davies, and Aneurin Griffiths and Megan Griffiths were at the count in Swansea Town Hall, and were very disappointed with the result. Maire Griffiths was at home with her children in Ferryside.
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The result for Dublin Rathmines was as follows [1874 general election]:
Thomas Hanna [Irish Nationalist]: 45.6% [41.1%]
Conservative candidate: 40.4% [47.2%]
Commonwealth candidate: 9.7% [11.7%]
Liberal candidate: 4.3% [-]
Irish Nationalist majority: 5.2% [Conservative majority: 6.1%]
The swing from Conservative to Irish Nationalist was 5.65%.

Hanna is a fictional character. He was a local business man and a member of the Church of Ireland. If it was not for the issue of Home Rule he would have been a Conservative. In his campaign he made much of the fact that a self-governing Ireland would be free to follow its own economic policies.

By 4am in the morning of Tuesday 11 June 1878 all the overnight results had been declared. The number of seats won by each party were as follows:
Commonwealth: 141
Conservative: 97 [of which 5 were unopposed]
Irish Nationalist: 12 [of which 9 were unopposed]
Liberal: 7
Total: 257.

The Tories had gained 23 seats from Commonwealth, but lost two seats to Commonwealth and two seats to Liberal, and one to Irish Nationalist, so a net gain of 18 seats. Commonwealth had lost 23 seats to the Tories, three seats to the Liberals and one to Irish Nationalist, but gained two seats from the Tories. This was a net loss of 25 seats. The Liberals gained three seats from Commonwealth and two from Conservative. The Irish Nationalists gained one seat from Commonwealth and one from Irish Nationalist.
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Counting recommenced at 9 am on 11 June 1878. The first seat to be declared was Hitchin, Hertfordshire, at 10.32 which was held by the Conservatives. The first seat to change hands was Lichfield, Staffordshire, at 11.15, which was a Conservative gain from Commonwealth. Declarations came in slowly at first, but speeded up after midday and reached their peak between 1 pm and 2 pm. The Tories gained seats from Commonwealth, but only in one and twos. Not the numbers needed to win an overall majority. Their gains in England going clockwise were as follows: Shipley, Bassetlaw, Derbyshire South, Northamptonshire North, Norfolk South, Essex South-East, Romford, Willesden, Faversham, Frome, Aston [northern suburbs of Birmingham] Lichfield, Wellington [Shropshire], Hyde [Cheshire], Stretford, Middleton [Lancashire], Ribble Valley. The Tory gains from Commonwealth in Scotland were Elgin District, Partick [north-western suburbs of Glasgow], Lanarkshire South.

Liberal gains from Commonwealth were Luton, Montrose Burghs, Northamptonshire East, Penryn and Falmouth. They also gained Norfolk East, and Westbury from the Tories, and held Darwen which they had taken from the Tories at a by-election in 1875. The Irish Nationalists gained County Dublin North and also Waterford from Commonwealth, and Fermanagh North from Conservative.

When all the results had been declared in the afternoon on 12 June, the number of seats in the House of Commons for each party was as follows [October 1874 general election]:
Commonwealth: 308 [361]
Conservative: 246 [211]
Irish Nationalist: 79 [74]
Liberal: 51 [38]
Total: 684 [684]
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The percentage votes obtained by each party in the general election were as follows [October 1874 general election]
Commonwealth: 42.3 [46.4]
Conservative: 35.6 [33.5]
Liberal: 18.4 [16.7]
Irish Nationalist: 3.5 [3.2]
Independents and others: 0.2 [0.2]
Total: 100.0 [100.0]
The national swing from Commonwealth to Conservative was 3.1%. The turnout was 80.7% [85.4%].

The number of seats won by each party in each nation of the United Kingdom and for the University seats were as follows:
Commonwealth: 241 [283]
Conservative: 200 [168]
Liberal: 30 [20]
Total: 471 [471]
Irish Nationalist: 79 [74]
Conservative: 17 [19]
Commonwealth: 7 [10]
Total: 103 [103]
Commonwealth: 38 [44]
Conservative: 17 [13]
Liberal: 12 [10]
Total: 67 [67]
Commonwealth: 22 [22]
Liberal: 9 [8]
Conservative: 3 [2]
Total: 34 [34]
Conservative: 9 [9]
Total: 9 [9]

The Commonwealth Party having lost its overall majority in the House of Commons, it returned to power as a minority government with confidence and supply from the Irish Nationalist Party.
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