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United Kingdom general election, 1931: Map

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The UK general election on Tuesday 27 October 1931 was the last in the United Kingdommarker not held on a Thursday. It was also the last election, and the only one under universal suffrage, where one party (the Conservatives) received an absolute majority of the votes cast.

The 1931 general election was held in the middle of the Great Depression, and by 1931 Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government had reached a deadlock over a response to the crisis. Influential members of the Labour Cabinet, such as Arthur Henderson, were not willing to support the budget cuts advised by the civil service, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Snowden refused to consider deficit spending or tariffs. MacDonald was then encouraged to form an all-party National Government to deal with the financial crisis.

MacDonald's decision before the election to form a coalition with the Conservatives saw him expelled from the Labour Party. He was replaced as leader by Henderson. MacDonald and a small group of supporters then formed National Labour. The Labour split persuaded MacDonald that a quick election was necessary.

The Liberals opposed the calling of an election and Liberal leader David Lloyd George urged his colleagues to withdraw from the National Government. However, the majority of Liberals, led by Sir Herbert Samuel decided to remain within it. Complicating matters further a group of Liberal MPs emerged as the "Liberal Nationals" who urged full support for the National Government and expressed a willingness to fill any vacancies created by the resignations of other Liberals and maintain the multi-party nature of the government.

A main issue was the Conservatives' wish to introduce protectionist trade policies. This not only divided the government from the opposition but also divided the parties in the National Government. The Liberal Nationals under Sir John Simon supported the Conservative protectionist trade policies. The Liberals led by Samuel and Lloyd George campaigned in defence of free trade.

1924 election MPs
1929 election MPs
1931 election MPs
1935 election MPs
1945 election MPs


In the event, the Labour vote fell sharply, and the Conservatives, led by Stanley Baldwin, won a landslide majority of 324 seats, although Ramsay MacDonald remained Prime Minister in the new National government. The Liberals lacked the funds to contest the full range of seats, but still won almost as many constituencies as the Labour Party.

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