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Released from his duties as private secretary by the general election of 1880 he began to take a more active part in parliamentary affairs. As the session proceeded the rift grew in the Unionist ranks. In the late 1920s he served as an elder statesman in the second government of Stanley Baldwin.
At first seen as something of a dilettante he attained prominence as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1887–1891. The general election the following January was a disaster for the Conservatives and their Liberal Unionist allies left with a mere 157 seats in Parliament.