Finsbury was a radical constituency, electing only one Tory (called Mr Spankie) in its 55 years of existence. Thomas Slingsby Duncombe MP (1834-65) had only needed to canvass the seat by horse “half a dozen times before election”. W M Torrens served from 1865-85, having previously been MP for Dundalk (1848-52) and then stood in Great Yarmouth with Admiral Sir Harry Vane.
In his book Twenty Years in Parliament Torrens recalled that Vane’s “first article of faith was to go further than anyone else”. Goaded by a heckler, Vane exploded, “What more could I promise, short of undertaking to repeal the Ten Commandments?” They lost.
Torrens expanded the franchise for lodgers who paid more than £10 a year in rent. By 1885, 57,684 lodgers had joined the electoral register.