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.

Edison’s recording of Gladstone

The Gladstone recording would originally have been made on a cylinder for the phonograph which Thomas Edison announced to the world in 1877.

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.

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.

The Liberals and the First World War

Understanding the history of the Liberal Party during the First World War has been made harder by hindsight. Later Liberal decline has called into question the efficacy of Liberal ideology in wartime.

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.

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.

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 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.

The 1923 general election

The 1923 election was sparked in October of that year, when the Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin announced that his government would be seeking a mandate to introduce tariff protection, in order to tackle growing levels of unemployment.

Fusion: Liberals and Conservatives

The concept of fusion between the Liberal and Conservative parties was considered in the immediate post-war years as the solution for a new political age, in which traditional party allegiances had outlived their usefulness.

The 1918 ‘coupon’ general election

Just 24 hours after the Armistice had been signed with Germany, Lloyd George announced his decision to hold an election in alliance with his Coalition partners and Parliament was accordingly dissolved on 14 November 1918. The ensuing contest shattered the Liberal Party by formalising wartime divisions and providing a clear distinction between those Liberals who supported Lloyd George and those who continued to stand by Asquith.

Inter-war decline

The Liberals were a political casualty of the Great War – emerging from the conflict as a divided party, whose key ideological beliefs had been sacrificed to meet the needs of modern warfare.

The Maurice debate, 9 May 1918

According to A. J. P. Taylor, the historic Liberal Party committed suicide on 9 May 1918 in a parliamentary debate which saw the former Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith openly inferring that his former Liberal colleague and wartime Premier, David Lloyd George had misled the House of Commons about the number of British troops serving on the Western front during a German attack in March of that year.

The ‘Buckingham Palace plot’, 1916

Edwin Montagu, Minister of Munitions and confidant of both Asquith and Lloyd George lamented that the two great men of England were being slowly but surely pushed apart during the winter of 1916.

Conscription and the Liberal Party

The issue of conscription rocked the Liberal Party to its very core during the first part of the Great War, as Liberal parliamentarians struggled to justify the needs of war and necessity of compulsion against the concepts of individualism and laissez faire which they held so dear.