Leeds Parliamentary Election Results
1859 - 30th April
E. Baines Jr (Liberal) 2,343
G. S. Beecroft (Conservative) 2,302
W. E. Forster (Liberal) 2,280
Palmerston resigned and Lord Derby formed a Conservative administration in February 1858 but was then forced to call a general election over Parliamentary Reform but a foreign policy issue over Italy’s liberation from Austria also arose to dominate matters. Palmerston’s Liberals, with the support of the Peelites, were returned to power with 65.7% of the popular vote and winning 356 seats to the Conservatives 298. In general the majority of the old MPs retained their seats. In Leeds Matthew Talbot Baines declined to stand for the Liberals and his brother Edward Jr stood in his place. According to The Times, the two sections of the Liberal party in the town, the ‘moderates’ with Edward Jr their candidate and the ‘advanced’ group with W. E. Forster, had some weeks before the election formed a united committee.
In June, that pattern was followed nationally when the various Liberal factions came together in London to form the modern Liberal Party. It was said that the election was one of the fiercest fought in the town and one of the closest, but The Times remarked ‘the poll was carried on with perfect good feeling among the parties’. In the end the seats were shared between the Liberals and Conservatives with Beecroft receiving several Liberal supporters second votes and those of uncommitted voters.