Redistribution of Seats Act 1885


Redistribution of Seats Act 1885

The Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict., c. 23) was a piece of British electoral reform legislation that redistributed the seats in the House of Commons, introducing the concept of equally-populated constituencies, in an attempt to equalize representation across the UK. It was associated with, but not part of, the Reform Act 1884.

The Act made the following changes:
* Seventy-nine towns with populations smaller than 15,000 lost their right to elect an MP;
* Thirty-six towns with populations between 15,000 and 50,000 lost one of their MPs and became single member constituencies;
* Towns with populations between 50,000 and 165,000 were given two seats;
* Larger towns and the county constituencies were divided into single member constituencies

As support of the Irish members was needed by both major parties, the representation of Ireland in Parliament was not reduced, even though it had suffered a relative loss of population compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, due to emigration and famine.

Background

Faced with the prospect of a Liberal Bill extending the vote in the counties, Lord Salisbury, the Conservative leader, had agreed to the Bill in order to preserve the old order of the aristocracy and the church and in particular, their roles in government and the House of Lords. Reform seemed inevitable and he wanted to have a say and gain as much advantage for the Conservatives as possible in seat redistribution, so agreed to the 1884 Act on the condition that urban constituencies could be drawn up along class lines, so that the Conservatives would win middle class seats.

Key provisions

In total, 160 seats were redistributed and in England and Wales, 79 boroughs of less than 15,000 inhabitants lost one seat each. London increased its number of seats from 22 to 62 and most constituencies became single member, to the benefit of the Conservatives in the towns.

Consequences

Old historic communities were broken up when new single-member constituencies were created and the redistribution finally ended the under-representation of London and the industrial north and the predominance of the rural south. The division of formerly two member constituencies had important political consequences. It hastened the decline of the aristocracy and the landed class domination of Parliament – however the aristocracy continued to dominate the Cabinet and the political power of the landed classes was evident in the power of the Lords to veto legislation until 1911. After 1885, for the first time, the number of Members of Parliament connected to industry and commerce outnumbered the number connected to the gentry – a trend accelerated by the agricultural depression of 1870s into the 20th Century.

There was a growing radicalisation of parties. In the Liberal party, in two member constituencies a Whig had been paired with a Radical, but with only one MP to be returned the Whigs lost out as the Radicals gained support from the new rural voters. Joseph Chamberlain, encouraged by the growing radicalisation of the Liberals, mounted his assault on the Whigs firmly entrenched in power with his 'Unauthorised Programme' of 1885 or proposed radical reforms (although Gladstone was able to ignore it). The expansion of the working class electorate meant that the number of 'Lib/Lab' MPs rose from 2 in 1874 to 13 in 1885.

There was also a Conservative resurgence, as they gained massively from the constitutional changes they had helped to engineer. The majority of the 132 seats taken from small boroughs to be redistributed had been Liberal and in many of the new single member constituencies, particularly the suburban ones, the Conservatives were triumphant – the electorate were discouraged by Chamberlain’s radicalism and not appeased by Gladstone’s Home Rule crusade. The Liberals won the 1885 General Election, but the Conservatives dominated the final years of the 19th century and most of the 20th century, which owed much to Lord Salisbury’s shrewdness in 1885.

ee also

* The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918
* Official names of United Kingdom Parliamentary constituencies "for names of constituencies provided for by this Act"


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Redistribution of Seats (Ireland) Act 1918 — The Redistribution of Seats (Ireland) Act 1918 (7 8 Geo. 5 c. 65), is a law of the United Kingdom which provided for parliamentary constituencies in Ireland for the House of Commons of the 31st Parliament of the United Kingdom 1918 1922. These… …   Wikipedia

  • 1885 in Wales — This article is about the particular significance of the year 1885 to Wales and its people. Incumbents*Prince of Wales Edward Albert, son of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom *Princess of Wales Alexandra of Denmark *Archdruid of the National… …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom general election, 1885 — The 1885 UK general election was from 24 November to 18 December 1885. This was the first general election after an extension of the franchise and redistribution of seats. For the first time a majority of adult males could vote and most… …   Wikipedia

  • Reform Act 1832 — First page of the Reform Act 1832 This painting by …   Wikipedia

  • Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883 — The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1883 Parliament of the United Kingdom Long title An Act for the better prevention of Corrupt and Illegal Practices at Parliamentary Elections …   Wikipedia

  • Municipal Corporations Act 1835 — The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 Parliament of the United Kingdom Long title An Act to provide for the Regulation of Municipal Corporations in England and Wales Statute book chapter …   Wikipedia

  • Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 — The Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840 Parliament of the United Kingdom Long title An Act for the Regulation of Municipal Corporations in Ireland Statute book chapter …   Wikipedia

  • Scottish Westminster constituencies 1868 to 1885 — The Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868 redefined the boundaries of Scottish constituencies of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (at Westminster), and the new boundaries were first used in the 1868 general… …   Wikipedia

  • Scottish Westminster constituencies 1885 to 1918 — The Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 redefined the boundaries of English, Scottish and Welsh constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (at Westminster), and the new boundaries were first used in the 1885 general …   Wikipedia

  • Number of Westminster MPs — Over the history of the House of Commons, the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) has varied for assorted reasons, with increases in recent years due to increases in the population of the United Kingdom. There are currently 650 constituencies,… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.