First elected as Whig MP for Hull in 1818, Graham became a noted advocate of parliamentary reform. With the formation of Earl Grey’s administration in 1830, Graham entered the cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. He split with the Whigs in 1834 over the Irish Church Question and joined the Tories in 1837, serving in Sir Robert Peel’s administration as Home Secretary. In the arguments over repeal of the corn laws that split the Tory Party Graham sided with Peel. Later in 1852 with other Peelites he joined Lord Aberdeen’s coalition government, returning to the Admiralty. Although refusing further office after 1855, Graham played a leading role in persuading the Peelites to join Lord Palmerston’s government and helped to found the Liberal Party.