On This Day in History: December 14

Izzy Semich

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Exactly 100 years ago marked an important election for the United Kingdom. The 1918 United Kingdom General Election, of course. The election immediately began once the Armistice with Germany ended, which also ended World War One.

The election began on Saturday, December 14th, 1918, and ran until Saturday, December 28th, 1918. The two week-long period was given just so soldiers could vote as well.

Along with soldiers voting, another group of people also was allowed access to the polls:  Women. This was one of the few instances that women were allowed to vote! It was thus the first election in which women over the age of 30, and all men over the age of 21, could vote. Previously, all women and many poor men had been excluded from voting.

The election resulted in a landslide victory for the coalition government of David Lloyd George, who had replaced H. H. Asquith as Prime Minister in December of 1916.

Lloyd George’s coalition government was supported by the majority of the Liberals and Bonar Law’s Conservatives. However, the people saw a split in the Liberal Party. It was between those who were aligned with Lloyd George, and the government and those who were aligned with Asquith, the party’s actual official leader.

On November 14th, it was announced that Parliament would shuffle on out of here on November 25th and host elections on December 14th.

Following confidential negotiations over the summer of 1918, it was agreed that certain candidates were to be given the support of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party at the next general election. A letter was sent to many of the candidates. The letter was known as the Coalition Coupon, and was sent out as support. Due to that, this election has been sometimes retold as the Coupon Election.

However, 80 Conservative candidates stood without a coupon. Of these, 35 candidates were Irish Unionists. Of the other non-couponed Conservative candidates, only 23 stood against a Coalition candidate; the remaining 22 candidates stood in areas where there were no coupons, or refused the offer of a coupon.

The Labor Party, led by William Adamson, fought the election independently, as did those Liberals who did not receive a coupon.

The election was not fought over what peace to make with Germany, although those issues played a role. More important was the voters’ evaluation of Lloyd George in terms of what he had accomplished so far, and what he promised for the future. His supporters emphasized that he had won the Great War. Against his strong record in social legislation, he called for making “a country fit for heroes to live in”

Despite the firsts for everything, this became the first for much worse as well. Many people were given opportunities, while others were given the stink eye. Some people went up into the right direction of equality, while others spiraled downwards. Even though things seemed to get better or worse in some perspectives, things were ultimately getting better. Not everything lasts, and equality will come soon.