The process of consolidating the Whig regime continued into this Parliament. The elections held in March 1722 saw further Tory losses and more Whig gains, giving the Whigs an even greater overall majority than in 1715. However, ongoing rivalries among the senior Whig politicians ensured that the king’s ministry would not be a united body. Robert Walpole retained his position as first lord of the treasury, though largely in recognition of his value as a finance minister. After the death of the king’s favourite minister, Lord Sunderland, in April 1722, his future seemed uncertain in view of George I’s retention of those who had been Sunderland’s leading adherents in the ministry, the most prominent of whom was Lord Carteret.
At the general election 379 Whigs were returned as against 178 Tories. Thirty-five more contests were fought than in 1715, a likely indication of Tory desperation. There was a record number of petitions against the returns – 99, of which only 24 were deliberated on in the House of Commons. These proceedings awarded ten Tory seats to the Whigs, increasing their number still further to 389 seats. In one of the more protracted hearings the Government ousted the two Tories returned in the riotous contest for the populous Westminster constituency in London.
Just weeks after the election came news of a new Jacobite conspiracy. When the new Parliament assembled in October, Walpole persuaded the Commons of the severity of the intended plot, and its ringleaders and chief participants – who included Dr Francis Atterb