United Kingdom general election, 1865

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United Kingdom general election, 1865
United Kingdom
← 1859 11–24 July 1865 1868 →
← List of MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1859

All 658 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Palmerston.jpg 14th Earl of Derby.jpg
Leader The Viscount Palmerston The Earl of Derby
Party Liberal Conservative
Leader since 12 June 1859 July 1846
Leader's seat Tiverton Earl of Derby
Last election 356 seats, 65.7% 298 seats, 34.3%
Seats won 369 289
Seat change Increase 13 Decrease 9
Popular vote 508,821 346,035
Percentage 59.5% 40.5%
Swing Decrease 6.2% Increase 6.2%

Prime Minister before election

Lord Palmerston

Subsequent Prime Minister

Lord Palmerston

The 1865 United Kingdom general election saw the Liberals, led by Lord Palmerston, increase their large majority over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives to more than 80. The Whig Party changed its name to the Liberal Party between the previous election and this one.

Palmerston died in October the same year and was succeeded by Lord John Russell as Prime Minister.[1] Despite the Liberal majority, the party was divided by the issue of further parliamentary reform, and Russell resigned after being defeated in a vote in the House of Commons in 1866, leading to minority Conservative governments under Derby and then Benjamin Disraeli.

This was the last United Kingdom general election where a party increased its majority after having been returned to office at the previous election with a reduced majority.


The 1865 general election was regarded by contemporaries as being a generally dull contest nationally, which exaggerated the degree of corruption within individual constituencies. In his PhD thesis, Cornelius O'Leary described The Times as having reported "the testimony is unanimous that in the General Election of 1865 there was more profuse and corrupt expenditure than was ever known before".[2] As a result of allegations of corruption, 50 election petitions were lodged, of which 35 were pressed to a trial; 13 ended with the elected MP being unseated. In four cases a Royal Commission had to be appointed because of widespread corrupt practices in the constituency.[3]

As a result, when he became Prime Minister in 1867, Benjamin Disraeli announced that he would introduce a new method for election petition trials, which were then determined by a committee of the House of Commons, resulting in the Parliamentary Elections Act 1868, whereby two Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, Exchequer of Pleas or Queen's Bench would be designated to try election petitions with full judicial salaries.[3]


369 289
Liberal Conservative
United Kingdom general election 1865
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % Net %
  Liberal 516 369 +13 56.1 % 59.5 % 508,821 –6.2 %
  Conservative 406 289 –9 43.9 % 40.5 % 346,035 +6.2 %
Total 658 +4 100% 100% 854,856


  1. ^ Everett, Jason M., ed. (2006). "1865". The People's Chronology. Thomson Gale. Retrieved 12 May 2007. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Kelly, Richard; Hamlyn, Matthew (2013). "The Law and Conduct of MPs". In Horne, Alexander; Drewry, Gavin; Oliver, Dawn. Parliament and the Law. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-7822-5258-0. 
  3. ^ a b O'Leary, Cornelius (1962). The Elimination of Corrupt Practices in British Elections 1868–1911. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 27–28, 39. 


  • F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832–1987
  • Crewe, Ivor. "New Labour's Hegemony: Extension or Erosion?" Bartle, John and King, Anthony. Britain at the Polls 2005. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006. p. 204
  • British Electoral Facts 1832–1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher (Ashgate Publishing Ltd 2000)
  • Spartacus: Political Parties and Election Results