Today the people of Britain go to the polls. The electorate has been greatly expanded since the last election in 1911: all men aged 21 and over are now able to vote, as are women over 30 if they meet minimal property requirements. No one is quite sure how this extension of the franchise will affect the composition of the House of Commons but all parties are competing for the attentions of the new voters. Prime Minister David Lloyd George hopes that the coalition government of Conservatives and his faction of the Liberals will be returned to office, while Labour and Asquith‘s Liberals are trying to overturn the government’s majority.
As well as voting for the first time, women are now also able to run for office, following a change to the law in November. However, only a small number of women have put themselves forward for election, including former suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, standing for the Women’s Party. Other candidates are running as independents or for Labour or the Liberals. In Ireland Sinn Féin has put forward two women candidates, Winifred Carney and Constance Markievicz.
Although Britain votes today, it will be some time before the results are known. Because so many voters are still serving overseas in the armed forces, the results will not be counted until the 28th of December.
Lloyd George campaigning (University of Oxford World War 1 Centenary: Lloyd George’s Ministry Men)
Cartoon from The Railway Review, newspaper of the National Union of Railwaymen (University of Warwick Library – ‘The parliamentary battlefield’: Government, Labour and the khaki election)