Westminster Elections in Northern Ireland
The 1931 UK general election was held on 27 October 1931. It followed
a period of political and economic crisis that saw the minority Labour government under MacDonald collapse in
August and replaced by a National Government supported mainly by Conservatives and Liberals, with MacDonald
remaining Prime Minister. Battling the challenges of the Great Depression and pressures for cuts in unemployment
benefit, MacDonald’s cabinet had been irreconcilably divided and the Government was forced to resign. The coalition that
replaced it included Labour, Conservative and Liberal members with the intended short-term goal of balancing the
budget. However, the Labour Party officially rejected the new National Government and expelled MacDonald from
the party. The Liberals were also divided with factions supporting of the National Government, those against,
and those opposing the pro-tariff policies of the government.
In the election that followed, only the Conservatives under
Baldwin had a unified platform. MacDonald led the National Labour faction, with Arthur Henderson leading the
official Labour Party. For the Liberals, John Simon led the National Government faction, Herbert Samuel led
the faction opposed to the National Government joint platform, and Lloyd George led the anti-tariff faction.
The result was a landslide victory for the Conservatives, winning an outright majority with 470 seats. The
official Labour Party lost 235, a reduction of 80% over their 1929 result.
In Northern Ireland only three constituencies were contested in
the 1931 election. The Unionists comfortably overcame NILP opposition in East Belfast
and defeated the Nationalist Party candidate in West Belfast. The Unionist Party had
not contested the two-seat Fermanagh and Tyrone constituency in 1929 and despite a
strong performance this time round, they were unable to unseat the Nationalist Party candidates. In all other
constituencies the Unionist candidates were returned unopposed.
This map by Conal Kelly shows
the winner in each constituency in 1931.
The details of each seat are
on the relevant constituency page; the totals for the whole of Northern Ireland were as follows:
This graph contrasts the 1931 election result
with the Westminster elections of 1929, 1924,
1923, 1922, 1918 and
It is important to note that the comparison chart below can be somewhat misleading given the high number of seats that went uncontested during this period. The Unionist Party was unopposed in nine seats in December 1910, ten in 1922, nine in 1923, three in 1924 and four in 1929. In addition, Nationalists were unopposed in two seats in December 1910.
In Antrim (2 seats), Armagh,
North Belfast, South Belfast,
Down (2 Seats), Londonderry
and Queens University Unionist candidates were returned
unopposed. Thomas Campbell, the successful Nationalist candidate for West
Belfast, had previously stood unsuccessfully for the Irish Parliamentary
Party (IPP) in South Monaghan at the 1918 general election. Cahir Healy, the successful Nationalist candidate for Fermanagh and
Tyrone, had previously been the MP between 1922-1924. John Campbell, the unsuccessful candidate in East Belfast, was
the first Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) candidate put forward for a
Only three of the MPs elected in 1929 were not returned to Westminster in