‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Friday, 14 December 2012

Anniversary of 1918 Election, but not first votes for women

Today is the anniversary of the 1918 general election. There were many unusual features about this election:
It was held on a Saturday, just five weeks after the end of the First World War - the first election for eight years.

Despite the deaths of 885,000 British troops in the war, the electorate tripled. Over 21 million people were eligible to vote in 1918 (including women over 30 years old), compared to only 7.7 million in 1910. But the turnout was only 58.9%. Spanish Flu was ravaging the population and young adults were particularly susceptible – 250,000 died in the UK. 24 MPs had been killed in the war – 15 Conservatives, 7 Liberals and 2 Irish Home Rulers.

This election was not actually the first time that women had been allowed to vote in Britain. Women had had the vote in elections for school boards since 1870 and, in theory at least, some women met the qualifications to vote in elections before the 1832 ‘Reform’ Act, although historians are still searching for evidence of whether any actually did vote. 

The outcome of the 1918 election was a coalition government of Conservatives and Lloyd George Liberals, faced with a mountain of debt.

1 comment:

  1. Women could vote in borough and county elections from 1888 onwards and could become councillors from 1907 onwards (though this ratified an earlier legal judgment allowing women to stand). Women were also appointed to the magistrates' bench in increasing numbers in the first years of the C20.

    The 1918 Act merely extended the existing local government franchise (aged over 30 and a ratepayer or married to one) to Parliamentary elections whilst abolishing the property qualification for men (the biggest obstacle to female suffrage before WWI as 40% of men were disqualified from voting) which accounts for the discrepancy between the two.

    The genders were equalised as regards voting only in 1928 by the Baldwin Govt (thereby enfranchising the largest number of women) long after the suffragette campaign had subsided.