History

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.

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.

Journal articles

Geoff Tordoff: an appreciation

A look back at the life and long political career in the Liberal Party and Liberal Democrats of Geoff Tordoff

Tentative feelers: the Liberal Party’s response to the emergence of the Green Party

An examination of the early contacts between the Liberal Party and the emerging Green Party in the 1970s

E. D. Simon: Intellectual in politics

Biography of E. D. Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe

A lifetime in Liberalism: where do we go now?

The fourth Viv Bingham Lecture, as delivered by Tony Greaves

Welsh Liberal Party 1966–70

New beginnings and the challenge of Plaid Cymru

The long march of British history

Review of Martin Pugh, State and Society. A Social and Political History of Britain since 1870 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)

Europe: The Liberal Commitment

Autumn Conference fringe meeting, 16 September 2018, with Anthony Howe and Eugenio Biagini; chair: Julie Smith.

The long-lived Liberal Party of Canada

An examination of the history of the Canadian Liberal Party.

Interview with David Steel

David Steel on his recollections of Jeremy Thorpe

Hidden Liberal Traumas Exposed

Review of A Very English Scandal, BBC One, 20 May – 3 June 2018

Social democracy versus socialism

Review of Patrick Bell, The Labour Party in Opposition 1970–1974 (Routledge, 2016)

The governance of Europe

Review of Andrew Duff, On Governing Europe: A Federal Experiment (Spinelli Group, 2018)

Verhofstadt’s last chance

Review of Guy Verhofstadt, Europe’s Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union (Basic Books, 2017)

Shirley Williams, the SDP and Europe

Interview with Shirley Williams

Liberal Parties in Europe

How the Liberal Party became committed to the European Union

The Liberal contribution to the Council of Europe

Liberals, free trade and Europe

From Cobden to the Common Market

Liberals in Local Government 1967–2017

Report of Liberal Democrat History Group fringe meeting, Bournemouth, 17 September 2017, with Kath Pinnock, Tony Greaves, Richard Kemp, Sarah Bedford, Matt Cole and Ruth Dombey; chair: Andrew Stunell

Lord Geraint of Ponterwyd

Biography of Geraint Howells

Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott

John Preston, A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment (Viking, 2016)

‘Jeremy is innocent’: the life and times of Jeremy and Marion Thorpe

Liberal Democrat History Group meeting, 6 February 2017, with Ronald Porter; chair: Michael Steed

The New Orbits Group, 1958 – c.1962

A look at the purpose and achievements of the New Orbits Group.

The straight line deviationist

Review of Dick Taverne, Against the Tide (Biteback Publishing, 2014).

Churchill Archives Centre

Liberal archives at the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge.

The legacy of Roy Jenkins

Evening meeting of the Liberal History Group, 27 June 2016, with John Campbell and David Steel. Chair: Dick Newby.

Richard Livsey and the politics of Brecon and Radnor

A review of the life and political career of Richard Livsey, Lord Livsey of Talgarth (1935–2010)

The economic policies and initiatives of the Liberal Party

Review of Peter Sloman, The Liberal Party and the Economy, 1929–1964, Oxford Historical Monographs (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Jeremy’s story

Review of Michael Bloch, Jeremy Thorpe (Little, Brown, 2014).

Eric Lubbock and the Orpington moment

Report: Community politics and the Liberal revival

Conference fringe meeting held jointly with the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors, 13 March 2015.

Emlyn Hooson

An examination of the life and career of the Liberal MP for
Montgomeryshire, 1962–79

Assessing Jeremy Thorpe

Four views on Thorpe’s record and character

It’s Boy David

Review of David Torrance, David Steel: Rising Hope to Elder Statesman (Biteback Publishing, 2012).

Friends and allies

Review of Ian Hunter (ed.), Winston and Archie: The Letters of Sir Archibald Sinclair and Winston S. Churchill (Politico’s, 2005).

‘His presence generated electricity’

Review of Peter Barberis, Liberal Lion, Jo Grimond: A Political Life (I.B. Tauris, 2005).

The forgotten leader

Review of Alan Wyburn-Powell, Clement Davies: Liberal Leader (Politico’s, 2003).

Too short a history

Review of Chris Cook, A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-2001 (Palgrave, 2002).

The Liberals in Hampshire: Martin Kyrle’s reminiscences

Review of Martin Kyrle, The Liberals in Hampshire – a Part(l)y History Part 1: Southampton 1958–65 (Sarsen Press, 2013).

The strange survival of Liberal Lancashire

An examination of the resilience of the Liberal Party in the Lancashire cotton districts between the 1920s and 1970s.

Remembering Jeremy Thorpe

A commemoration of the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who passed away in December 2014.

It’s Boy David

Review of David Torrance, David Steel: Rising Hope to Elder Statesman (Biteback Publishing, 2012)

Liberal defectors identified and explored

Review of Alun Wyburn-Powell, Defectors and the Liberal Party, 1910-2010: A Study of Inter-Party Relations (Manchester University Press, 2012).

Elegant and concise

Review of David Dutton, A History of the Liberal Party Since 1900 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2013).

Liberal roots

The Liberal Party in a West Yorkshire constituency, 1920s-1970s.

‘A nasty, deplorable little incident in our political life’

Liberalism, National Liberalism and the editorship of the Dumfries Standard, 1957.

A life-long espousal of Liberal values

Review of Mark Pottle (ed.), Daring to Hope: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter 1946 – 1969 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000).

More mirage than vision

Review of Garry Tregidga, The Liberal Party in South-West Britain since 1918: Political Decline, Dormancy and Rebirth (University of Exeter Press, 2000).

Re-establishing the faith

The revival of Liberalism in Dumfriesshire, 1931-63.

Report: 1974 remembered

Report of LDHG meeting of September 1999, on the 1974 elections, with Tim Beaumont, Viv Bingham, Sir Cyril Smith, Paul Tyler MP and Richard Wainwright.

Tory cuckoos in the Liberal nest?

Since the Liberal Nationals first divided from the official Liberals and eventually merged with the Conservatives, they have often been regarded as Tory cuckoos in the Liberal nest. This article re-evaluates their role.

The watchword liberty

Review of, 50 Years On: A History of the Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists, 1947-97 (Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists, 1997).

The Alliance and after: The travelling of a necessary road

Was it all worth it? A look back at the Alliance years.

The SDP’s ideological legacy

What was the ideological inheritance of the Social Democratic Party? And what did it bequeath to the Liberal Democrats?

Young Liberals; the ‘Red Guard’ era

The role of foreign policy issues in the growth of the Young Liberals in the 1960s and ’70s.

Report: from Beveridge to Blair

Report of LDHG meeting of September 1997 on the welfare state, with Frank Field MP and Nick Timmins.

Scottish devolution: the Grimond years

After 300 years, Scotland is to have a Parliament again. This article examines the role of Jo Grimond in the story of Scottish devolution.

The Labour Party and the pursuit of the Liberal vote, 1945-1959

Labour made a determined effort to absorb the Liberal vote when the party seemed to be in terminal decline after 1945.

Report: why didn’t the Liberal Party die?

Report of LDHG meeting of March 1997 on the near death and survival of the Liberal Party in the 1950s and ’60s, with William Wallace.

The election of Jeremy Thorpe to the Liberal leadership

The first phase of the Liberal postwar revival came to an end with the resignation of Jo Grimond as leader. Tim Beaumont recalls the election of his successor.

Young Liberal influence and its effects, 1970-74

Young Liberals provided the Liberal Party with activists, candidates and radical ideas. This article examines the YL record of the early 1970s.

The Sutton & Cheam by-election

The Sutton & Cheam by-election was won for the Liberal Party in December 1972. Jennifer Tankard interviews the victor, Graham (now Lord) Tope.

Abortion reform 1967

Memories of the battles over one of the key pieces of social reform legislation of the 1960s.

The lessons of Orpington

Analysis of the importance of the by-election result for the Liberal Party.

Fighting Orpington

The stunning by-election victory of Orpington in 1962 was the high point of the first Liberal revival. Eric Lubbock (now Lord Avebury) was the candidate.

Jo Grimond’s leadership of the Liberal Party

‘The personification and the hope of postwar Liberalism.’ The record of Jo Grimond.

1959-74: years of Liberal revolution?

Introduction to this special issue on the Liberal postwar revival.

The slow death of Liberal Wales 1906 – 1979

The story of Liberalism in Wales 1906 – 1979.

Battle of ideas or absence of leadership?

Analysis of the ideological struggle in the Liberal Party in the 1940s and 1950s.

One of nature’’s Liberals

Biography of Sir Clement Freud, Liberal MP 1973-87.

The growth of Liberal International

The development of global cooperation between Liberal parties.

Liberals and Europe

The development of the Liberal commitment to Europe, 1945-64.

The Liberal Party and general elections

Report of Liberal Democrat History Group meeting of February 2003, with David Butler and Neil Stockley.

What might have been

Interview with John Pardoe, Liberal MP for North Cornwall, 1966-79.

Liberalism and Unionist Northern Ireland

1921 – 1971: despite all the obstacles, Liberalism survived in Northern Ireland after partitition.

Alliance, Liberals and the SDP

1971 – 1985: the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland was born in the midst of the Troubles, in April 1970. This article looks back at the party’s history and its relationships with the Liberal Party and the SDP.

1945-1964: The gory, gory years

The survival and development of the Liberal Party in the post-war era.

A Radical Life

Review of Mervyn Jones, A Radical Life: The Biography of Megan Lloyd George (Hutchinson, 1991).

Liberals and local government in London since the 1970s

Report of meeting of 4 February 2008, with Cllr Sir David Williams and Mike Tuffrey GLA.

‘Asking too much and offering too little’?

The Conservative-Liberal coalition talks of 1-4 March 1974.

Report: Torrington ’58 – Liberal survival and revival, 1945-79

Report of full-day seminar, with LSE, 14 June 2008.

The yellow glass ceiling: the mystery of the disappearing Liberal women MPs

Only six women ever sat as Liberal MPs, and most only for very short periods. This article examines why.

Review: A neglected party

Review of David Dutton, Liberals in Schism – A History of the National Liberal Party (I. B. Tauris, 2008).

Helen Suzman: An Appreciation

Personal recollection of the life of South Africa’s first anti-apartheid MP.

‘An out-of-date word’

Jo Grimond and the left.

The Young Liberals and the left, 1965-70

The relationship between the Young Liberals and the left in the 1960s.

Swinging in the 60s to the Liberals

Mary Murphy and Pontypridd Urban District Council.

Red Guard versus Old Guard? The influence of the Young Liberal movement on the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s

Report of the Liberal Democrat History Group conference fringe meeting held in Birmingham, 12 March 2010, with Matt Cole, Michael Steed, William Wallace, George Kiloh, and Bernard Greaves; chair: Tony Greaves.

Liberal thought

Review of Kevin Hickson (ed.), The Political Thought of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats since 1945 (Manchester University Press, 2009).

Sheelagh Murnaghan and the Ulster Liberal Party

The life and political career of the only Liberal to win a seat in the Northern Ireland parliament.

Survival and revival

Review of Mark Egan, Coming into Focus: The Transformation of the Liberal Party 1945-1964 (VDM Verlag Dr Muller, 2009).

Policy and ideology

Review of Tudor Jones, The Revival of British Liberalism – From Grimond to Clegg (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Not playing games

The Young Liberals and anti-apartheid campaigns, 1968-70.

Whatever happened to ‘Orpington Man’?

Report of a Liberal Democrat History Group meeting at the National Liberal Club, 23 January 2012, with Dr Mark Egan and Professor Dennis Kavanagh. Chair, Duncan Brack.

In further search of ‘Orpington Man’

A response to the report on the Liberal Democrat History Group meeting about ‘Orpington Man’.

Labour’s right wing

Review of Stephen Meredith, Labours Old and New: The Parliamentary Right of the British Labour Party 1970-79 and the Roots of New Labour (Manchester University Press, 2008).

The Liberal predicament, 1945-64

How, despite the desperate state of their party, many Liberals kept the faith going at the nadir of the Liberal Party’s fortunes.

Sir Frank Medlicott (1903-72)

The life and political career of a Liberal and Liberal National MP and activist.

Events

Community politics and the Liberal revival

The famous community politics resolution, adopted by the Liberal Party at its 1970 Assembly, helped to lay the foundations for revival after the party’s loss of half its seats in the 1970 election.

Liberals and local government in London since the 1970s

Winning local elections has been a keystone in Liberal (Democrat) success in the years since the adoption of the community politics strategy at the Eastbourne Assembly in 1970. There have been many spectacular advances across London, from the heartland of the south western boroughs to Southwark, Islington and more recently breakthroughs on Camden and Brent […]

Torrington ’58: Liberal survival and revival, 1945-79

On 27 March 1958, Mark Bonham Carter, Asquith’s grandson, won the Parliamentary by-election in the Devon seat of Torrington by a margin of just 219 votes. It was the first Liberal by-election gain since the 1920s. Although the seat was lost in the 1959 general election, it marked the beginning of the first major Liberal […]

Red Guard versus Old Guard? The influence of the Young Liberal movement on the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s a witness seminar

In the 1960s and early 1970s the press coined the phrase the “Red Guard” to describe the radical politics of the youth wing of the Liberal Party. At the 1966 Party Conference in Brighton, the Red Guard sponsored an anti-NATO resolution. Over the next decade the YLs were active on a number of foreign policy […]

Whatever happened to ‘Orpington Man’?

The Orpington by-election of March 1962 was a political landmark: a stunning victory for Jo Grimond’s Liberal Party, as Eric Lubbock turned a Conservative majority of 14,760 into a Liberal majority of 7,855. The term ‘Orpington Man’ was coined by the press to identify a new type of voter, young, white-collar, skilled, well-educated and upwardly […]

Research in progress

Russell Johnston, 1932-2008

Scottish Liberal politics was dominated for over thirty years (1965-95 and beyond) by two figures: David Steel and Russell Johnston. Of the former, much has been written; of the latter, surprisingly little. I am therefore researching with a view to writing a biography of Russell. If any readers can help – with records, other written […]