Electoral Reform in England and Wales: The Development and Operation of the Parliamentary Franchise, 1832-1885

By Charles M. A. Seymour | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XVI
THE DETERMINATION OF ELECTORAL POWER: THE REDISTRIBUTION ACT OF 1885

Importance of the question of redistribution--Anomalies of the distribution of seats--No proportional relation between votes cast and members elected--Movement for redistribution in the Commons--Opposition of Disraeli--Attitude of parties after 1880--No general demand for equal electoral districts or periodic redistribution--Question of proportional representation--The preferential vote--The second ballot--Single-member districts--Opposition--Radical attitude of Conservative leaders--Gladstone's theory of centrifugal representation--The Redistribution Bill-- Influence of Conservative ideas--Disfranchisement--New seats-- Division of the counties--Opinion on the measure--Attack on university representation--Effects of Redistribution Act--Equality of voting values in county divisions--Anomalies that still persisted--Significance of the redistribution of 1885.

THE determination of the suffrage in 1884 was by no means an easy task, nor, as we have seen, was it one upon which complete unanimity of opinion was possible. It was, however, of a less complex character and productive of far less discordance than the redistribution of electoral power. The extension of the franchise, vital as it was in the minds of the legislators, had about it a comparatively abstract character which was totally lacking in the question of distribution, where party and personal interests were affected in a fashion by no means indirect.1

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1
"From a tactical point of view the extension of the franchise is a comparatively simple operation; redistribution is one of extreme difficulty, magnitude, and danger," Holland, Life of the Duke of Devonshire, i, 394.

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