The Liberal Democrats

The merger of the Liberals and the SDP was finally completed on 3 March 1988, when the new Social & Liberal Democrats (SLD) was formally launched following a majority vote by the memberships of both parties.

‘Dead Parrot’ document

The 'Dead Parrot' became the nickname of the policy document due to be issued, alongside the new party's constitution, at the successful culmination of merger negotiations between the SDP and the Liberals. In fact it proved a disaster, nearly upsetting the whole merger process, after its controversial contents were disowned by Liberal MPs and activists on the very day it was due to be released.

The New Liberalism

The disaster of the 1895 election, when the Liberals lost almost a hundred seats, struck a mortal blow at Rosebery's leadership and pointed to the urgent need for a new direction. Although for some it was the party's abandonment of its historic principles of self-help, voluntaryism and constitutional reform that lay at fault, to others it was the failure of the party to embrace the new imperialism. A growing number also felt that Liberalism's failure to formulate an adequate response to the new social problems of industrialisation had undermined its appeal.

Preamble to Liberal Democrat constitution

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Michael Meadowcroft on the merger negotiations

It is difficult to realise that it is now sixteen years since the trauma and angst of the merger negotiations. As far as factual accuracy is concerned the book by Tony Greaves and Rachael Pitchford is an excellent record of the proceedings. There were only a few points of difference that I took up with them at the time.

Old heroes for a new leader

As we have done in each of the last two Liberal Democrat leadership elections, in 1999 and 2006, the Liberal Democrat History Group has asked both candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership to write a short article on their favourite historical figure or figures – the ones they felt had influenced their own political beliefs most, and why they had proved important and relevant. Their replies are reproduced below. Their heroes? Vaclav Havel, David Lloyd George and Harry Willcock.

The Liberal – SDP merger

The poor performance of the Liberal-SDP Alliance at the June 1987 election prompted the Liberal leader, David Steel to call for the unity of both wings, after only 22 seats were secured by both sides.

Formation of the SDP

Launching the new Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the 26th March 1981, the former Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins announced that the aim of the new party was to get away from the politics of outdated dogmatism and class confrontation and to release the energies of those who were fed up with the old slanging match.

Realignment of the left

The end of Jo Grimond's leadership in 1967 heralded a bleak period for the Liberal Party. His successor, Jeremy Thorpe, was never assured of the complete confidence of his parliamentary colleagues. Unlike Grimond, he displayed little interest in ideas, though he was an accomplished organiser, fund-raiser and speaker.

Community politics

Community Politics describes a particular style of locally organised campaigning on specifically local issues pioneered by the Liberal Party in the 1950s and 1960s and now practised by Liberal Democrat activists throughout the UK.

Grimond and the first post-war revival

The apogee of two-party politics in the UK was reached in the 1950s. At the 1955 election, the Conservative and Labour parties, and their allies, between them took 96.10 per cent of the vote and 98.73 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the UK.

Liberal Nadir, 1935-56

The 1935 General Election was a catastrophic defeat for the Liberals. The number of MPs for the party was reduced to 19, 12 of whom had majorities of less than 2,000, seven less than 1,000. The party's leader, Herbert Samuel, former Cabinet Minister and Governor-General of Palestine, was defeated at Darwen in Lancashire; other leading Liberals such as Isaac Foot, Harcourt Johnstone and Walter Rea all shared the same fate.

Liberal Party funding between the wars

One of the major problems facing the Liberal Party in the inter-war period was the lack of funds that they had at their disposal. As the Party became increasingly defunct, so it became impossible to attract the wealthy donors, who formed the foundation of the Liberal finances.

The 1931 general election

The National Government was formed in August 1931, following the failure of Ramsay Macdonald's minority Labour administration to deal with the mounting unemployment that was paralysing Britain. The Conservatives had been pressing for the adoption of protection throughout the proceeding period and the public were becoming increasingly frustrated by the apparent ineffectiveness of the free trade policy, that had underpinned Britain's economic policy since the repeal of the Corn Laws. In contrast, the majority of Liberals remained distinctly opposed to the introduction of protection, which they associated with inflated food prices, vested interests and international conflict. The new administration was therefore far from harmonious.