Liberal Democrat History Group’s Sound Archive

Adrian Slade carried out all the interviews and here he explains their background: Since 2004 the Journal of Liberal History has been the guardian of what, although I say it myself, is now becoming a uniquely interesting party archive a set of CDs and audio-cassette tapes of in-depth interviews I have conducted with leading Liberal […]

National Sound Archive

The National Sound Archive at the British Library holds various recordings of key Liberal figures.

Richard Holme on the merger negotiations

My recollections of the process which led to the merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP are hazy since I am not a diary-keeper. Nor can I give anything but an outsider's view of the formal merger negotiations since, to my chagrin at the time, I was not elected to be a member of the negotiating team – any small ability I had as a negotiator being nullified in the eyes of the Party Assembly by my parti-pris commitment to the merger itself.

The Liberals and Ireland since 1801

Underneath the surface of this [Irish question], and wrapped up in it, are nearly all the controversies of principle which will agitate the political atmosphere of our time. It is a microcosm of the whole imperial question.

The Midlothian Campaign

A year after the defeat of his government in 1874, William Ewart Gladstone retired as leader of the Liberal Party. At 65, he deeply desired an interval between parliament and the grave to devote to religious affairs. Indeed, it was while engrossed in notes on Future Retribution that he was called away to write the pamphlet on the 1876 Bulgarian atrocities that marked his return to politics. At the beginning of 1879, he accepted an invitation to stand for Midlothian in the general election expected for 1880.

1906 Election

In the General Election of January 1906 the Liberals swept to victory in a landslide result, which saw the party win 400 seats. Conservative strongholds such as Bath and Exeter were conquered as Liberal leader, Henry Campbell Bannerman capitalised on the unpopularity of the previous Tory administration, which had been replaced by his new Liberal government in December 1905.

The 1924 general election

In contrast to the contest of 1923, the General Election of 29 October 1924 was an unmitigated disaster for the Liberals and the Party's parliamentary strength was reduced to just 40 MPs. A number of leading Liberal figures failed to emerge victorious from the contest, including the Party's leader, Herbert Henry Asquith, who lost the Paisley seat that he had won in a by-election just four years earlier.

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.

Gladstone’‘s second government

The Liberals won the 1880 election by a greater margin than anticipated, gaining 112 seats and, despite the strength of the Irish nationalist party, a majority of over 50 against all other parties. Despite significant achievements including the 1884 Reform Act the 1880-1885 Gladstonian administration has not been celebrated in the same way as its Liberal predecessor. Most commentary, coloured by hindsight of the schism in the party in 1886, has focussed on its difficulties.

1909 People’s Budget

The 1909 People's Budget was the Liberal Government's key weapon in instigating social reform and marked a final move away from the system of Gladstonian finance, which had seen the Liberals traditionally associated with retrenchment in government expenditure and an emphasis on self-help. With its radical plans to redistribute the burden of tax and finance social provisions, such as old age pensions, the Budget was swiftly rejected by the landed majority in the House of Lords, sparking the first constitutional crisis of the twentieth century.

The 1929 general election

The election of May 1929 took place against a backdrop of economic depression, as the Conservative government struggled to stem a growing tide of unemployment in the aftermath of the First World War.

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.

Macaulay on the role of the Whigs

Extract from a review of Henry Hallam’s The constitutional history of England in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 48, September 1828.

Chamberlain’s Radical Programme

Joseph Chamberlain, the Birmingham manufacturer, took up full time politics in the 1870s. As mayor of Birmingham he built his reputation by successfully importing business methods into local government and the Radical Programme was his attempt to apply his techniques on a national stage.

Lloyd George on the People’s Budget

Lloyd George's 1909 People's Budget was devised to bring about social reform and featured increases in income tax and excise duties, new taxes on cars, petrol and land, and a new supertax for those with incomes above £5,000.

The Liberal Nationals

The Liberal National group was officially formed on 5 October 1931; two days before the commencement of the election campaign, which saw the Liberals enter the polls as three distinct groups.

Impact of the French and American Revolutions

The French Revolution had important consequences for every major country in Europe. What was particularly remarkable about the impact of the French Revolution on Britain was its profound and abiding influence on the ideological climate and its impact on the development of politics inside and outside parliament.

The Home Rule crisis

Shortly after Gladstone’s second government had seen the third reform act safely onto the statute book in 1885, it suffered a defeat on the budget and resigned. Lord Salisbury formed a minority Conservative government that called an election when the new enlarged electoral register was ready.