The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party is a political party in the United Kingdom. It is a third party of varying strength and importance. Its current leader is Adam Croft.

A History Edit

The last member of the Liberal Party to hold a Cabinet seat was Sir Archibald Sinclair, who served as Secretary of State for Air. The exclusion of the Liberal Party from Churchill's War Cabinet was a sign of how far the party had fallen from its heydey in the late nineteenth century. A concerted effort by the Labour party to replace Labour as Britain's party of the left occured in the formative years of the twentieth century. The Labour campaign was so successful that only twelve Liberal MP's were elected in the 1945 general election.

By 1951 only six MP's remained, five of them aided by the Conservatives not standing a candidate in their constituencies. 1957 saw the party lose a by-election to the Labour party who had who fielded the former Liberal Deputy Leader Lady Megan Lloyd George as their candidate. Jokes reverberated around Westminster Village that the party could now hold meetings in the back of a taxi - it appeared that the Liberal party, for all extents and purposes, was dead.

Through the 1950s and into the 1960s the Liberals survived only because a handful of constituencies in rural Scotland and Wales clung to their Liberal traditions, whilst in two English towns, Bolton and Huddersfield local Liberals and Conservatives agreed to each contest only one of the town's two seats. Jo Grimond was elected Liberal leader in 1956 and vowed to lead a revival of the party throughout the United Kingdom. The Orpington by-election of 1962 saw the party win a seat in London's suburbs for the first time 1935.

The Liberals were the first mainstream British political party to advocate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). Grimond was determined to position the party as a non-socialist radical alternative to the prevailing Tory values of the day. The Liberal leader also overtly attempted to win over younger voters, in a manner none of his predecessors had.

Grimond's successor, Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberals began to be taken seriously again as the third party of British politics, regularly scoring up to 20% of the popular vote, but failing to break the stranglehold of Labour and the Tories on the electorate. The party was unable to rise past fourteen Commons seats, despite higher poll numbers. The growth of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru also caused the party increased competition in areas of traditional strength.

In local elections Liverpool remained a Liberal stronghold, with the party taking the plurality of seats on the elections to the new Liverpool Metropolitan Borough Council in 1973. In the February 1974 general election the Conservative government of Edward Heath won a plurality of votes cast, but the Labour Party gained a plurality of seats due to the Ulster Unionist MPs refusing to support the Conservatives after the Northern Ireland Sunningdale Agreement. The Liberals now held the balance of power in the Commons.

Conservatives offered Thorpe the Home Office if he would join a coalition government with Heath. Thorpe was personally in favour, but the party insisted on a clear government commitment to introducing proportional representation and a change of Prime Minister. The former was unacceptable to Heath's Cabinet and the latter to Heath personally, so the talks collapsed. Instead a minority Labour government was formed under Harold Wilson but with no formal support from Thorpe. In the October 1974 general election the Liberals slipped back slightly and the Labour government won a wafer-thin majority.

Thorpe was subsequently forced to resign in a sordid sex scandal. The party's new leader, David Steel negotiated the Lib-Lab pact with the new Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, whereby the Liberals would support the government in crucial votes in exchange for some influence over policy. This pact lasted from 1977-1978 but proved relatively fruitless as the Liberals' key demand of proportional representation was rejected by most Labour MPs whilst the contacts between Liberal spokespersons and Labour ministers often proved detrimental.

When the Labour government fell in 1979, the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher won a victory which served to push the Liberals back into the margins. January 1980 saw the Liberals, not for the first time in their history, at a crossroads. The relative success of recent years was threatened by a resurgent Tory party, many members looked to the future concerned about the direction of the party.

Political Parties of the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party | The Labour Party | | The Liberal Party | The SDP

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.