'His Last Decoration'
Cartoon from Fun, 28 April 1880, NS, 31, p. 169
N. 2706 d. 13
At the General Election of 1880 Disraeli's government were roundly defeated. Since the Congress of Berlin, the Prime Minister's vitality had been slipping away. The session of 1879 appeared noticeably lacklustre - rather than shaping events, his tired administration waited increasingly upon them. Like Gladstone in 1874, Disraeli had forced 'an election on to an ill-prepared party' (Blake, Disraeli (London, 1969), pp. 697-704). The Liberal Party electoral machine had long since mobilised - epitomised by the tactical brilliance of Gladstone's Midlothian campaigns. Disallowed as a peer from public campaigning, Disraeli exiled himself in Salisbury's Hatfield home.
The result swung the parliamentary landscape into reverse formation, with the ruling majority remaining around a hundred seats: the Conservatives left with 237 to Liberal's 353, plus 63 Home Rulers. While the worst Tory returns came in the principalities and boroughs, the loss of 29 English county seats was all the more striking. On 21 April Disraeli resigned. In the pages of Fun, the event was marked with acerbic imagination by political cartoonist, J. Gordon Thomson (fl. 1861-93). Shedding a tear, Disraeli bows to receive 'his last decoration' from Britannia - 'the order of the sack'. Behind her back she holds Her Majesty's invitation to 'Gladstone & Co.' to form the new government - a summons Queen Victoria had been loath to transmit.
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