A quick guide to the key dates in Liberal History
Created by jezalhem on 06/12/2008
Last updated: 11/03/10 at 06:25
Tags: Liberal Social Democrat Liberal Democrat Whig
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LibDems make modest gains of One extra council and 33 extra councillors in local council elections.
They keep Labour in third place, based on the percentage of the popular vote, while the Tories snap up most of Labour's losses.
"Nick Clegg has won the race to become the next Liberal Democrat leader.
The 40-year-old beat Chris Huhne to become the party's third leader in two years - in a contest which turned out to be even closer than expected.
Mr Clegg, an ex-journalist and former Euro MP, won 20,988 votes to the 20,477 votes cast for Mr Huhne by members.
In his acceptance speech Mr Clegg said he wanted his leadership to be about "ambition and change", saying "we want to change politics and change Britain"."
"Sir Menzies Campbell abruptly resigned as Liberal Democrat leader tonight in the face of mounting criticism of his leadership.
His departure, only 18 months after he took over from Charles Kennedy, was announced tonight by Simon Hughes, the party president, who said that the 66-year-old Scot had decided to step down "in the interests" of his party."
Scottish LibDems lose one seat in the latest Scots' Parliament elections.
Welsh LibDems maintain their stock of six seats in the Senedd.
"The leadership result was announced on 2 March. Simon Hughes's campaign never really recovered from his media problems of late January, and he ended up third with 12,081 votes to Chris Huhne's 16,691 and Sir Menzies Campbell's 23,264. Although Huhne had fought an energetic campaign, it was not enough to overcome his relative lack of profile - he had only been elected to the Commons the year before, although he had previously been an MEP for six years - and on the redistribution of Hughes's second preferences, the final outcome was Campbell 29,697 and Huhne 21,628. The party thus opted for its former Deputy Leader, who had taken over as acting leader after Kennedy's resignation."
"Throughout the autumn Kennedy's parliamentary colleagues became increasingly exasperated with the party's drift and lack of direction. Events suddenly accelerated in early January 2006, with Kennedy's announcement (forestalling an ITN news story) that he had been receiving treatment for alcoholism. His fondness for drink had been an open secret in the party for years, but allegations of drunkenness, although they had often been aired in the media, had always been vigorously denied. In an attempt to reassert his authority, Kennedy announced that he was calling a leadership election in which he would be a candidate.
Over the following thirty-six hours, however, the bulk of the parliamentary party decided that they had had enough, and queued up to call on Kennedy to stand down - citing not just his alcoholism but also his lack of effective leadership and drift over policy positions. In the face of this, Kennedy took the decision to resign as leader, which he announced on 7 January."
With a little under 6m votes and a 22% share of the popular vote, the LibDems return 62 MPs to Westminster, their best result since 1923.
Liberal Democrats gain an extra two seats in Euro elections.
Liberal Democrats gain 100 seats and beat Labour into third place with 27% of the national vote to Labour's 26%.
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2004/rp04-049.pdf [pp. 3, summary of main points]
The Liberal democrats hang on to their power sharing agreement with Labour in Scotland, retaining 17 MSPs.
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/research/briefings-03/sb03-25.pdf [pp. 3-4]
Although they retained six seats in the Welsh Assembly elections, the LibDems were ousted from a power sharing agreement with Labour due to the latter's improved showing at the polls.
LibDems take an 18.3% share of the vote and 52 seats in the general election.
They pick up votes from disaffected Labour supporters and restricting Conservatives. many see it as aprotest against the Iraq war.
Blair's Labour win with a majority of 166.
Scottish MP Charles Kennedy wins a leadership
ballot, after the resignation of Paddy Ashdown.
Unlike Ashdown, Kennedy is less inclined towards working with Labour.
"While the Liberal Democrats saw their number of MEPs rise to 10, their share of the vote in Britain fell to 12.7%.
The UK Independence Party with 3 MEPs and the Greens with 2 MEPs were main beneficiaries of proportional representation, winning seats in the European Parliament for the first time."
The Liberal Democrats gain from Proportional representation Wales and have six member elected to the National Assembly for Wales.
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2001/rp01-037.pdf [table 12]
They go one to form the first administration as the smaller party in a collaboration with Labour in 2000.
The elections for the Scottish devolved parliament saw the Liberal Democrats win 17 seats under the Scottish system of proportional representation.
They went on to be the minority party with Labour in the first Holyrood administration.
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-050.pdf [pp. 5-6]
"In July 1997, five Liberal Democrats were appointed to a cabinet committee established to examine constitutional reform, including the introduction of proportional representation for elections, a key Liberal objective since the 1920s. Lord Jenkins was appointed to head the commission set up to examine this issue and reported in October 1998, though no further progress was made. Nonetheless, significant measures were taken in other areas, namely the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales and the reform of the House of Lords."
"The 1997 general election was characterised by a high degree of tactical voting in many areas, which helped ensure that the Conservatives were crushed. The Liberal Democrats won 46 seats, the highest number won by a third party since 1929. Whilst the party's overall share of the vote fell slightly, to 16.8 per cent, ruthless targeting of resources on winnable constituencies showed how the detrimental effects of the first-past-the-post electoral system on a third party could be countered."
The Liberal Democrats become the second largest party within local government with over 5,000 councillors.
Liberal Democrats have two MEPs elected for the first time.
In the 1992 General Election, the Liberal Democrats again polled a respectable popular vote (almost 6m votes - 18.3% share). Yet this only translated into 20 seats - down on their 1987 result. Labour polled just over 11.5m votes (35.2%) but gained a massive 271 seats.
Whether the Tory supporting Sun's nine page spread (front page pictured) had an effect on the vote is a matter for conjecture.
The Conservatives' unpopularity because of the Poll Tax, allied to a LibDem resurgence, meant this was one of the most significant by-election defeats. This defeat is credited as the final straw for the Poll Tax. It was later replaced by the Council Tax.
"1 The party’s full title was the Social and Liberal Democrats “but on 16 October 1989, following a membership
ballot, the party announced that it was henceforth to be known as the Liberal Democrats (although for formal,
legal purposes, it retained its full title)” [Butler and Butler, p169]"
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-03872.pdf [footnote, pp2]
The modern Liberal Party is formed by those disgruntled with proposals to form a Social Democratic party.
The ringleaders of the SDP were Shirley Williams, Dr David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Bill Rodgers.
Liberal party President Steve Radford called the SDP "socialism light".
[In telephone interview with Jez Hemming on December 6, 2008.]
Whilst the party squabbled over its name, it was beaten into fourth place in the Euro elections by the Green Party.
Because of the first past the post system, neither party returned any MEPs.
The Social and Liberal Democrats came into being on this date and ex-SAS officer Jeremy "Paddy" Ashdown is installed as leader of the new party on July 28 in the same year.
Ashdown is cast as an all-action man of the people.
Thatcher wins election and SDP Liberal Alliance share of vote falls.
"The 1986 Liberal Assembly was the scene of a particularly damaging spat between the leaderships and the 1987 election campaign was not lacking in tension. The lampooning of the relationship between Owen and Steel by the satirical programme 'Spitting Image' also did not help.
The Alliances vote share dropped to 22.6 per cent in the 1987 general election, and the Liberal leader David Steel immediately proposed a merger of the two parties. David Owen opposed merger, but lost the SDP's ballot on the opening of negotiations, and resigned, to be replaced by Robert Maclennan."
Despite the Alliance's strong showing of 25.4% of the popular vote (nearly 7.8m votes) they only win 23 seats. It is the best showing for a third political party since 1929. Labour, by contrast gain 27.6% of the popular vote (nearly 8.5m votes) and win 209 seats.
Roy Jenkins resigns as SDP leader and deputy leader Dr David Owen takes over.
Former president of the European Commission Roy Jenkins is voted in as the SDP boss. He leads the new SDP Liberal Alliance with David Steel.
David Owen, Shirley Williams, Bill Rodgers and Roy Jenkins, four Labour MPs known as the 'Gang of Four', start a new Social Democratic Party. They are disgruntled with Labour's militant tendency.
An alliance with the Liberal Party followed and the new Alliance soon boasted 30 MPs.
Despite a 13.8% share of the national vote, boundary changes and the first past the post system ensure the Liberals win only 11 parliamentary seats.
Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives win with a healthy majority of 43 seats.
Party activists disappointed that David Steel failed to extract concessions on electoral reform when he had influence.
David Steel (pictured) takes over as leader after a ballot of all party members - the first time a leader of a major UK political party had been decided this way.
Almost immediately he joined Labour PM James Callaghan in what was dubbed the 'Lib/Lab Pact'.
Thorpe resigns over his alleged involvement in the plot to shoot his alleged former gay lover Norman Scott.
Thorpe was later tried and acquitted of conspiracy charges.
John Jeremy Thorpe is installed as party leader.
Thorpe continues and extends the Liberal march into local politics and a new department is set up specifically targeting local government.
Joe Grimond (pictured) takes over as leader and stays at the helm until 1967, when Jeremy Thorpe takes over.
Grimond helps the party move its shift from national to local politics, trying to attract grassroots voters on the doorstep with issues that affect them locally.
The Liberal Party gains a paltry 12 seats in the General Election, Sinclair is defeated and Clement Davies (pictured) is put in temporary charge of the party.
Over the next 30 years the number of seats would drop to as low as six as Liberalism suffered from the rise of the Labour party.
Sir Archibald Sinclair takes over from Samuel as Leader in 1935 and eventually joins Churchill's government in 1940, serving as Secretary of State for Air, in wartime.
Under Sir Herbert Samuel (pictured), the Liberals gain a mere 21 seats in the General Election.
The Liberals split three ways. Lloyd George, resigning the party leadership, led a small group, mostly comprising members of his family, which was firmly opposed to the coalition. The new leader, Sir Herbert Samuel, backed the coalition on condition that it remained true to free trade. A third faction, led by Sir John Simon, promised unconditional support for the coalition. The 1931 election saw the new National Government returned with a huge majority, but it was a Conservative administration in all but name. The Samuelite ministers left the government in 1932 once tariffs were introduced and joined the Lloyd George group in opposition in 1933. The Simonites were reconstituted as a new political party, eventually known as the National Liberals. In a repetition of the defection of the Liberal Unionists in the 1880s, Simon and his colleagues were gradually absorbed into the Conservative Party, disappearing completely in the 1960s.
The Liberals were thrashed into third place in the General Election, gaining only 40 seats in Parliament.
Conservative Stanley Baldwin (pictured) becomes PM.
Lloyd George's Coalition Liberals split from those loyal to Asquith in a precursor of future party splintering. The Only Welsh PM and the last Liberal PM, guided the country to victory in WWI, in coalition with the Conservatives, and championed the vote for women.
He resigned on October 19 1922 amid claims of peerages being sold.
Asquith's reign was notable for the introduction of old age pensions, unemployment exchanges and enacted the Parliament Act, which restricted the Lords to only vetoing bills twice and instituted a maximum five-year tenure for Governments. He also introduced higher taxes on wealthy landowners, on which subject he fought two, successful, mid-term general elections.
His tenure came to an end on December 7, 1916, after the British suffered disastrous campaigns in Gallipoli and the Somme during WWI.
Campbell- Bannerman was the first leader of the Government to actually take the title of Prime Minister, although that was effectively what his predecessors were. Prior to his tenure, leaders were First Lord of The Treasury and also invariably Leader of the House of Commons.
Cambell-Bannerman resigned due to ill health on April 7, 1908 and dies 15 days later.
Otherwise known as Archibald Philip Primrose, he resigned a little over a year later on June 22, 1895.
His fourth term ends in ill-health on March 2, 1894.
Gladstone's third term expires on July 20, 1886, after the Liberals' uneasy coalition with Irish unionists ends.
Gladstone's Corrupt Practices Act extended voting rights for a further six million men and introduced curbs on MP's expenses.
Tenure ends on June 9, 1885, after being defeated on a Home Rule bill for Ireland.
Gladstone's first term of office ends on February 17, 1874.