London Elections 1900-1998

By the end of the 20th century, London was divided into 74 parliamentary constituencies, each of which sent elected representatives to the national parliament at Westminster. In the middle of the century, London had had 103 constituencies, but in 1900 London had had only 60Members of Parliament.

The change in the number of constituencies over the 20th century reflected not only population change but also political change, which, over the century, had extended the right to vote to new groups of men and women. By the end of the 20th century, 5.06 million Londoners had the right to vote.

Before 1872 when the secret ballot was introduced, elections were conducted through public hustings, a process notorious for riotous behaviour, bribery and corruption. Secret ballots produced a fairer system, but elections were still major events in London's political calendar.

By the end of the century, Londoners were voting not just in parliamentary elections but also in local council elections, elections to the Greater London Assembly and the European parliament. London sent ten Members of the European Parliament (M.E.P.s) to the European parliament.

Throughout the century, most of London's political battles at both local and national level were between the three major parties, Labour, Conservative and the Liberals (the Liberal Democrats from the 1980s). Labour's fortunes were transformed by the 1918 Act that enfranchised the working man. Several places in inner London have returned Labour M.P.s solidly since the 1930s.

In 1966, London returned 65 Labour M.P.s, 37 Conservative and one Liberal to its 103 seats. In 1997 the capital returned 55 Labour, 13 Conservative and six Liberal M.P.s. London has elected two communist M.P.s during the century, one in Battersea and one in Stepney.

At the start of the 20th century, London had the only ethnic minority M.P. in the British parliament, Sir Mancherjee Bownacherjee, the Conservative M.P. for Bethnal Green North East from 1895 to 1905. Between 1922 and 1929 the only M.P. in Westminster from an ethnic minority background was Shapurji Saklatvala, the communist M.P. for Battersea North. In the 1987 general election, three out of the four newly elected ethnic minority M.P.s were from London constituencies: Dianne Abbot (Hackney North and Stoke Newington), Paul Boateng (Brent South) and Bernie Grant (Tottenham).

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