New Zealand Liberal Party leadership election, 1889

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New Zealand Liberal Party leadership election, 1889

6 July 1889 1893 →

  John Ballance 1880.jpg William Campbell Walker, ca 1890s.jpg
Candidate John Ballance William Walker
Leader's seat Wanganui Ashburton
Popular vote 23 11
Percentage 67.6 32.4

Leader before election


Leader after election

John Ballance

The New Zealand Liberal leadership election, 1889 was held on 6 July 1889 to choose who would lead New Zealand's parliamentary opposition and, ultimately, decide the inaugural leader of the New Zealand Liberal Party. The election was won by Wanganui MP John Ballance.


After the Stout–Vogel Ministry had been defeated in the polls at the 1887 election parliament's liberal wing was in disarray. The MPs had lost their leader Sir Robert Stout, and were overwhelmingly tasked with defeating the sitting ministry headed by Harry Atkinson at the next general election. Sir Julius Vogel became the leader of the opposition with Stout out of Parliament, however he too decided to retire in early 1889.[1] Parliament continued and the opposition politicians were in limbo with little real leadership. To address these concerns a caucus was organised to select a new leader from amongst them to rival Atkinson and win back power in 1890.


John Ballance

Ballance had been a leading figure in parliament's liberal faction for years and was a prominent critic of Atkinson. He had been a minister in the two previous liberal ministries of Sir George Grey and Sir Robert Stout. After Stout lost his seat in 1887, Ballance had been urging him to return and once again lead the liberal cause in parliament. Stout declined, and after his retirement from politics was known to Ballance, he took the initiative to stake his own claim to the leadership.[2]

William Campbell Walker

Walker had been in Parliament from 1884 representing the Ashburton electorate. Since 1887 he had been the opposition Whip. Like Ballance, he had progressive views and was a personal friend of both him and Stout. Prior to entering parliament he had involved in provincial politics as a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council.[3]


The election was conducted through a members' ballot by the opposition caucus upon which Ballance was successful. Walker made known his support for Ballance and a second vote entailed at his request, the vote unanimous.[4]

Name Votes Percentage
John Ballance 23 67.6%
William Campbell Walker 11 32.4%


John Ballance led the Liberals until his death in 1893 including two years as Prime Minister, forming his own ministry in 1891 after winning the 1890 election.[2] He took on the leadership by stating to caucus that he accepted 'not without much hesitation' and feeling it was his duty. The Premier, Harry Atkinson, congratulated Ballance on winning the leadership at Parliament's next sitting.[4]


  1. ^ Dalziel 1986, p. 300.
  2. ^ a b McIvor, Timothy L. "Ballance, John". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1897). "The Hon. William Campbell Walker". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Wellington Provincial District. Wellington: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b McIvor 1989, p. 158.


  • McIvor, Timothy (1989). The Rainmaker: A biography of John Ballance journalist and politician 1839–1893. Auckland: Heinemann Reed. ISBN 0-7900-0024-5. 
  • Hamer, David A. (1988). The New Zealand Liberals: The Years of Power, 1891–1912. Christchurch. 
  • Dalziel, Raewyn (1986). Julius Vogel: Business Politician. Auckland: Auckland University Press. ISBN 0-19-648047-7. 
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