The ‘Coupon Election’ was on December 14th, 1918. The ‘Coupon Election’ is so-called as those candidates for the Liberal Party who had supported the coalition government of David Lloyd George during World War One were issued with a letter of support signed by both Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative Party. This was seen as being a mark of approval for those candidates. Herbert Asquith, the official leader of the Liberals, referred to the letter as a “coupon” and the title stuck with regards to the name of the actual election in 1918. 159 Liberal candidates received the ‘coupon’.
Where a ‘Coupon’ Liberal stood for election, no Conservative challenged him. Where a Conservative stood, no ‘Coupon’ Liberal challenged him. Therefore there was no chance of coalition candidate competing against another.
Those Liberals not issued with the coupon were faced with a huge political mountain to climb and only 26 ‘Squiffites’ who supported Asquith won a seat. Even Asquith lost his place in the Commons when he lost his seat for East Fife. Many see the 1918 election as the start of the end for the Liberal Party as a major influence in the British political scene.
The ‘Coupon Election’ was the first election when women over the age of 30 and with property qualifications could vote. The 1918 Representation of the People Act also gave all males the right to vote. Therefore, the 1918 election saw a huge rise in the number of people voting compared to the last election held in the UK – December 1910. In 1918, 10,786,818 people voted. In December 1910, the figure was 5,235,238.
The election also saw the rise of Sinn Fein in Ireland. The party had 72 members elected, including Countess Markievicz, the first female to be elected to Parliament. However, in line with Sinn Fein policy, the countess did not take her seat in the House of Commons.
The 1918 Coupon Election was also the first election when everyone in the UK voted on the same day. However, the count did not begin until December 28th.