Leeds MPs

GLADSTONE, William Ewart (1809–1898) Conservative and then Liberal.

He stood successfully for Newark as a Tory in the 1832 election following the passing of the Reform Bill. However, over the years his views became more radical and by 1859 he was a member of the Liberal Party and was appointed to Lord Palmerston’s government as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1880 he stood for Leeds as well as Midlothian in the general election topping the poll in Leeds with 24,622 votes. He opted to represent Midlothian but in 1881 he visited Leeds to thank the voters for their support. Crowds of between 250,000–300,000 were reported turning out to see him. At a huge banquet held in the Coloured Cloth Hall he delivered a keynote speech on Ireland and coined the phrase, ‘The resources of civilisation are not yet exhausted.’ For the next two days torchlight processions and parades were part of the Liberal celebrations. He was Prime Minister on four occasions; 1868–1874, 1880–1885, 1886 from February to July, and 1892–1894. He declined an earldom in 1885. He was a man either loved or loathed. To his supporters he was ‘G. O. M.’ the ‘Grand Old Man’, to the Tories he was ‘God’s Only Mistake’, to others he was ‘Gordon’s Old Murderer’ whilst to Queen Victoria he was a ‘half-mad firebrand’. For further reading see Leeds Mercury, 7, 10 October, 1881; Leeds Times, 8 October 1881; Yorkshire Post, 8 October 1881; R. Jenkins, Gladstone (1995).