Following the 1708 election the fortunes of the Whigs seemed at last to be rising. During the summer, news of Marlborough’s victory at Oudenarde brought the ministry a fresh burst of popularity. In November the senior Junto politicians were given office in the Cabinet, the first time since William III’s reign. Yet in less than two years their political world was collapsing around them, culminating in a crushing election defeat in 1710. Very rapidly, the ministry succumbed to growing opposition in the Commons on account of the war and the belief that the Whigs were attempting to undermine the Church of England.
At the election in May 1708 there were contests in 95 (35 per cent) of the 269 English and Welsh constituencies. It was the first election in which the Scots elected representatives to the Westminster Parliament, with contests occurring in 26 (58 per cent) of the 45 Scottish constituencies. Not since 1695 had an election been held under a Whig administration. The result was a clear majority for the Whigs, marking a significant improvement of their position in the Commons. The new House, insofar as the English and Welsh constituencies were concerned, comprised 268 Whigs and 225 Tories, with a further 20 MPs unclassified (the Scottish contingent was dominated by 28 MPs who might be labeled as ministerial supporters). Of the 549 MPs who sat during the course of this Parliament, 129 (23 per cent) had no previous parliamentary experience.
The Queen’s long-standing resolve against the senior Junto lords gave way in the weeks following the death of her consort Prince George in October 1708, and in November Somers and Wharton were admitted to the Cabinet, while Halifax’s brother Sir James M