House of Commons
In October 1780, Stanhope was first elected to Parliament, as the nominee of Lord Shelburne for the borough of High Wycombe. His maiden speech and general behaviour on the first day of business marked him as a strong vocal opposition force. Stanhope remained involved with campaigns for reform, mainly via his involvement in the Yorkshire Association, “advocating an increase in the number of MPs who could be described as independent and a corresponding reduction of those returned for pocket and rotten boroughs.” (Aubrey Newman - The Stanhopes of Chevening: A Family Biography. Macmillan and Co, 1969, London. P. 141.)
Involvement in the early reform movement
In early 1782 the political environment and scene began to change rapidly. Dissatisfaction about defeats in America meant that many MPs began to turn against the King's ministers. This culminated in March 1782 with the fall of Lord North's government and the formation of the Rockingham administration. Hopes began to build about the possibility of reform measures passing through Parliament. However, whilst the new ministers proposed measures for economic reform, they did not pursue Parliamentary reform with any vigour.
Stanhope's contributions during this period included the introduction of a Bill to prevent bribery and to cut down expenses. Stanhope faced strong objections, amended the Bill numerous times, but ultimately it was defeated by 66 votes to 40. Stanhope's political interests would continue to be multiple and diverse, seeing him introduce a Bill aiming to limit the expense of county elections. He spoke on a number of financial and commercial measures, including duties on tea, taxes on soap and salt, and even presented a petition to reduce the carat-standard in gold.