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Graham was the M.P. for Hull (1818-20), Carlisle (1826-29), Cumberland East (1830-37), Pembroke (1838-41), Dorchester (1841-47), Ripon (1847-52) and Carlisle (1852-61).
He was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty in Earl Grey's government in 1830, but resigned in 1834 due to his opposition to the proposed reform of the Irish Church.
The following year he moved from the Whig to the Conservative benches, although his relationships with more hard-line Conservative M.P.s were often difficult.
Graham was brought back into government by Peel as Secretary of State for the Home Department between 1841 and 1846. He was one of the Conservative Peelite M.P.s who supported the Russell government of 1846. In 1852 he stood for election in Carlisle as a Liberal.
He once again served as First Lord of the Admiralty, in Aberdeen's coalition government of 1852-1855. He held no further office after that time, but remained a prominent parliamentarian until his death.