Leeds Parliamentary Election Results
1880 - 1st April
W. E. Gladstone (Liberal) 24,622 *
J. Barran (Liberal) 23,647
W. L. Jackson (Conservative) 13,331
W. Wheelhouse (Conservative) 11,965
[* Being also elected for Midlothian he decided to represent the Scottish seat.]
The Liberals under William Ewart Gladstone secured one of their greatest successes. Their 352 seats gave them a 52 seat majority over the other parties. The Conservatives registered 237 seats and the Irish Home Rule Party 63. Gladstone himself stood for both Leeds and Midlothian and revolutionised campaigning by embarking on a ‘pilgrimage of passion’ across the Scottish constituency. It became known as the Midlothian Campaign in which he addressed huge crowds from the windows of railway carriages. The election was fought mainly over Disraeli’s foreign policy.
In Leeds election day was changed from Friday to Thursday to accommodate Jewish voters. There was a significant drop in Conservative support in the town with The Times confirming the view declaring, ‘There has been a striking decline of Conservatism in Leeds.’ Wheelhouse lost his seat and the Leeds Times went so far as to say that if the Liberals had entered a third candidate, he would have won. The Conservative candidates both polled more than 10,000 votes less than their Liberal opponents. The Liberal Party had never been more united in the town than on this occasion.
Cabs, waggonettes, horse buses and drays were used to ferry voters and in Leeds most factories suspended the afternoon shift to allow workers to vote. Hunslet and Holbeck proved to be the main Liberal strongholds in the town. Gladstone went so far as to say that the Leeds election was ‘one of the most conspicuous and imposing victories ever won for the Liberal cause,’ but nevertheless, he opted to represent Midlothian.