Official launch of the Social and Liberal Democrats

The new party came into being as a result of the merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The new party’s birth was protracted and difficult. The merger negotiations were often acrimonious, culminating in a policy document which was roundly condemned by many Liberals and had to be hastily withdrawn. The merger was endorsed by the two parties at meetings in January followed by a postal ballot of all members; however, some members of the Liberal Party led by Michael Meadowcroft and the SDP led by David Owen refused to accept the merger and began to make plans to keep the two parties going. The new party’s name was officially shortened to Democrats though some, less well disposed to the party, abbreviated it to Salads. In either case it proved unpopular and was changed to Liberal Democrats in 1989. The outgoing leaders – David Steel (Liberal) and Robert Maclennan (SDP) acted as interim leaders until a postal ballot could be held to elect a new leader. Poor results in the local elections and a financial crisis saw the party endure a difficult first year but gradually under the new leader, Paddy Ashdown, the party turned its fortunes around and established itself on a firmer footing.