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* The Liberal Democrats (commonly referred to as the Lib Dems) are a
liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a Liberal Party Arts, entertainment and media *''El Liberal'', a Spanish newspaper published betw ...
political party in the United Kingdom The Electoral Commission (United Kingdom), Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties lists the details of Political party, political parties registered to fight elections in the United Kingdom, including their registered name. Unde ...
. The party has 13
Members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) ...
in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
, 89 members of the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, four
Members of the Scottish Parliament Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP; gd, Ball Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, BPA; sco, Memmer o the Scots Pairliament, MSP) is the title given to any one of the 129 individuals elected to serve in the Scottish Parliament The Scottish Parliame ...
, one member in the Welsh
Senedd The Senedd (; ), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English language, English and () in Welsh language, Welsh, is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes ...

Senedd
and two members in the
London Assembly The London Assembly is a 25-member elected body, part of the Greater London Authority The Greater London Authority (GLA), colloquially known by the metonym "City Hall", is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved Regions of England, r ...
. The party served as the junior party in a
coalition government A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election An election is a ...
with the
Conservative Party Conservative Party may refer to: Europe Current *Croatian Conservative Party, *Conservative Party (Czech Republic) *Conservative People's Party (Denmark) *Conservative Party of Georgia *Conservative Party (Norway) *Conservative Party (UK) Histor ...

Conservative Party
between 2010–2015, with
Scottish Labour Scottish Labour ( gd, Pàrtaidh Làbarach na h-Alba, sco, Scots Labour; officially the Scottish Labour Party) is a social democratic Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated wi ...
in the
Scottish Executive sco, Scots Govrenment , image = Scottish Government Logo.svg , image_size = 275px , date_established = , country = Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Sc ...
from 1999 to 2007, and with
Welsh Labour Welsh Labour ( cy, Llafur Cymru) is the branch of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as ...
in the
Welsh Government The Welsh Government ( cy, Llywodraeth Cymru) is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved government of Wales. The government consists of ministers, who attend cabinet meetings, and Minister (government), deputy ministers who do not, and als ...
from 2016 to 2021. In 1981, an
electoral alliance An electoral alliance (also known as a bipartisan electoral agreement, electoral pact electoral agreement, electoral coalition or electoral bloc) is an association of political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates ...
was established between the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties around the world. The meaning of ''liberal'' varies around the world, ranging from liberal conservatism on the right to social liberalism on the left. __TOC__ Active liberal parties This is a li ...
, a group which descended from the 18th-century Whigs, and the
Social Democratic Party The name Social Democratic Party or Social Democrats has been used by many Political party, political parties in various countries around the world. Such parties are most commonly aligned to social democracy as their Ideologies of parties, pol ...
(SDP), a splinter group from the
Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
. In 1988, the parties merged as the Social and Liberal Democrats, adopting their present name just over a year later. Under the leadership of
Paddy Ashdown Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, (27 February 194122 December 2018), better known as Paddy Ashdown, was a British politician and diplomat who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats Leadership, both as a re ...

Paddy Ashdown
and later
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
, the party grew during the 1990s and 2000s, focusing its campaigns on specific seats and becoming the third-largest party in the House of Commons. Under
Nick Clegg Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British media executive and former politician who has been VicePresident for Global Affairs and Communications at Meta Platforms since 2018, having previously served as Deputy Prime ...

Nick Clegg
's leadership, the Liberal Democrats were junior partners in
David Cameron David William Donald Cameron (born 9 October 1966) is a British politician, businessman, Lobbying, lobbyist, and author who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2016. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Memb ...
's Conservative-led coalition government in which Clegg served as Deputy Prime Minister. Although it allowed them to implement some of their policies, the coalition damaged the Lib Dems' electoral prospects and they suffered many losses at the
2015 general election This national electoral calendar for 2015 lists the national/Federation, federal direct elections that were held in 2015 in all List of sovereign states, sovereign states and their Dependent territory, dependent territories. By-elections are e ...
, which relegated them to fourth-largest party in the House of Commons. Under the leaderships of
Tim Farron Timothy James Farron (born 27 May 1970) is a British politician who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2015 to 2017 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2017. He has also served as Member ...
,
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
and
Jo Swinson Joanne Kate Swinson (born 5 February 1980) is a former British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 22 July to 13 December 2019. She was the first woman and the youngest person to hold ...

Jo Swinson
, they refocused itself as a pro-Europeanist party opposing
Brexit Brexit (; a portmanteau of "British exit") was the Withdrawal from the European Union, withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) at 23:00 31 January 2020 Green ...

Brexit
. Since 2015 the party has failed to recapture its pre-coalition successes and a poor performance in the 2019 general election saw Swinson lose her seat. A
centrist Centrism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, su ...
to
centre-left Centre-left politics (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of gramma ...
political party, the Liberal Democrats ideologically draw upon both liberalism and
social democracy Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognit ...
. Different factions have dominated the party at different times, each with its own ideological bent, some leaning towards the centre-left and others the centre. The party calls for constitutional reform, including a change from the
first-past-the-post voting In a first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP; sometimes called choose-one voting for single-member districts, in contrast to ranked voting, ranked-choice voting), voter ...
system to
proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

proportional representation
. Emphasising stronger protections for
civil liberties Civil liberties are guarantees and freedoms that governments commit not to abridge, either by constitution, legislation Legislation is the process or product of enrolled bill, enrolling, enactment of a bill, enacting, or promulgation, promulgat ...
, the party promotes
social-liberal Social liberalism (german: Sozialliberalismus, es, socioliberalismo) also known as New liberalism in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Brita ...
approaches to issues like
LGBT rights Rights affecting lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity or sexual behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, or a ...
,
drug liberalisation Drug liberalization is the process of decriminalizing or legalizing the use or sale of drugs. Variations of drug liberalization include: drug legalization, drug relegalization and drug decriminalization. Policies The 1988 United Nations Conventi ...
,
education policy Education policy consists of the principles and policy decisions that influence the field of education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), values, morals, beliefs, hab ...
and
criminal justice Criminal justice is the delivery of justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields ...
. It favours a
market-based economy A market economy is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A syste ...
supplemented with
social welfare Welfare (or commonly, social welfare) is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and ...
spending. The party is internationalist and
pro-European Pro-Europeanism, sometimes called European Unionism, is a political position that favours European integration and membership of the European Union (EU).Krisztina Arató, Petr Kaniok (editors). ''Euroscepticism and European Integration''. Politi ...
, and supported the
People's Vote People's Vote was a United Kingdom campaign group that unsuccessfully campaigned for a Proposed referendum on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, second referendum following the UK's Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016. The grou ...

People's Vote
for the continued UK membership of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
and greater
European integration European integration is the process of industrial, economic integration, economic, political, legal, social and cultural Regional integration, integration of states wholly or partially in Europe or nearby. European integration has primarily ...
, having previously called for adoption of the
euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro
currency. The Lib Dems have promoted further environmental protections and opposed British military ventures like the
Iraq War The Iraq WarThe conflict is also known as the Second Gulf War or the Third Gulf War by those who consider the Iran–Iraq War the first Gulf War. The war was also called the Second Iraq War referring to the Gulf War as the first Iraq war. The p ...
. The Liberal Democrats are historically strongest in northern Scotland, south-west London, south-west England and mid-Wales. Membership is primarily middle-class and more university educated than most UK parties. The party's
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...
,
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
,
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...
,
Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, spoken in Wales ** Patagonian Welsh, a dialect of Wels ...
and
Northern Irish Northern Irish people is a demonym for all people born in Northern Ireland or people who are entitled to reside in Northern Ireland without any restriction on their period of residence. Most Northern Irish people either identify as Northern Ir ...
branches are semi-autonomous. The party is in a partnership with the
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI; ga, Páirtí Comhghuaillíochta Thuaisceart Éireann) is a liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by count ...
, while still organising there. Internationally, the party is a member of the
Liberal International Liberal International (LI) is the political international A political international is a transnational organization of political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections ...
and the
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party) is a European political party composed of 60 national-level liberal parties from across Europe, mainly active in the European Union. The ALDE Party is affiliated with the Lib ...
, with its MEPs formerly affiliated to the
Renew Europe Renew Europe (Renew) is a Liberalism, liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament founded for the ninth European Parliament term. The group is the successor to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, Allia ...
group in the European Parliament, until the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.


History


Origins (1977–1983)

The
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties around the world. The meaning of ''liberal'' varies around the world, ranging from liberal conservatism on the right to social liberalism on the left. __TOC__ Active liberal parties This is a li ...
had existed in different forms for over 300 years. During the 19th and early 20th century, it had been one of the United Kingdom's two dominant political parties, along with the
Conservative Party Conservative Party may refer to: Europe Current *Croatian Conservative Party, *Conservative Party (Czech Republic) *Conservative People's Party (Denmark) *Conservative Party of Georgia *Conservative Party (Norway) *Conservative Party (UK) Histor ...

Conservative Party
. Following
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, it was pushed into third place by the
Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
and underwent a gradual decline throughout the rest of the 20th century. In the 1970s, the Liberal leader
David Steel David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood, (born 31 March 1938) is a British politician. Elected as Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency An electora ...
began contemplating how an alliance with other parties could return it to political power. In 1977, he formed a pact with Labour Prime Minister
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, (; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdo ...

James Callaghan
to back Callaghan's government in a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote Voting is a method for a group, such as a meeting or an Constituenc ...
. This angered many Liberals and damaged them electorally. In the 1979 general election, the Liberals lost three seats in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
; the Conservatives, led by
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013), was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is either ...

Margaret Thatcher
, won the election. Within Labour, many centrists were uncomfortable with the growing influence of the
hard left Hard left is a term used—often pejoratively—to refer to political movements and ideas outside the mainstream centre-left Centre-left politics (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (al ...
, who were calling for the UK to leave the
European Economic Community The European Economic Community (EEC) was a regional organization and Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece ...

European Economic Community
and unilaterally disarm as a
nuclear power Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nuclear physics is the field of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), ...
. In January 1981, four senior Labour MPs— Bill Rodgers,
Shirley Williams Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, (' Catlin; 27 July 1930 – 11 April 2021) was a British politician and academic. Originally a Labour Party (UK), Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), she served in the L ...
,
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission from 1977 to 1981. At various times a Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), ...
, and
David Owen David Anthony Llewellyn Owen, Baron Owen, (born 2 July 1938) is a British politician and physician who served as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs The secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development aff ...

David Owen
, known as the "
Gang of Four The Gang of Four () was a Maoist Maoism, officially called Mao Zedong Thought () by the Chinese Communist Party ) , anthem = "The Internationale" , seats1_title = National People's Congress (13th National People's Congre ...
"—issued the
Limehouse DeclarationThe Limehouse Declaration was a statement issued on 25 January 1981 by four senior British Labour politicians, all MPs or former MPs and Cabinet Ministers: Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams. It became known as the Lime ...
in which they announced their split from Labour. This led to the formal launch of the
Social Democratic Party The name Social Democratic Party or Social Democrats has been used by many Political party, political parties in various countries around the world. Such parties are most commonly aligned to social democracy as their Ideologies of parties, pol ...
(SDP) in March. One of its first decisions was to negotiate an electoral arrangement with the Liberals, facilitated between Jenkins, who was the first SDP leader, and Steel. The new alliance initially did well in opinion polls. The SDP and Liberals agreed to contest alternating parliamentary by-elections; between 1981 and 1982, the SDP came close in
Warrington (God giveth the increase) , image_skyline = Warrington Town Hall.jpg , imagesize = 280px , image_caption = Warrington Town Hall , image_flag = , flag_size = , image_seal = , seal_siz ...
and won Crosby and Glasgow Hillhead. At the
1983 general election The following elections occurred in the year 1983. Africa * 1983 Cameroonian parliamentary election * 1983 Equatorial Guinean legislative election * 1983 Kenyan general election * 1983 Malagasy parliamentary election * 1983 Malawian general elect ...
, the Liberals gained five additional seats although the SDP lost many that they had previously inherited from Labour. After the 1983 election, Owen replaced Jenkins as head of the SDP. Several gains were made in subsequent by-elections: the SDP won in
Portsmouth South Portsmouth South is a constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, ...
and
Greenwich Greenwich ( , , , or ) is a town in South London, south-east London, England, located in the Historic county of England, historic county of Kent and the Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county of Greater London. It is situated east ...
and the Liberals in Brecon and Radnor and
Ryedale Ryedale is a non-metropolitan district Non-metropolitan districts, or colloquially "shire districts", are a type of local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government distri ...
.


Foundation and early years (1987–1992)

Both parties lost seats in the 1987 general election. In the wake of this, Steel called for the SDP and Liberals to merge into a single party. At the grassroots, various local constituency groups had already ''de facto'' merged. In the SDP, Jenkins, Rodgers, Williams, and the MP
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
supported the idea; Owen and the MPs
Rosie Barnes Rosemary Susan Barnes, Order of the British Empire, OBE (''née'' Allen; born 16 May 1946) is an English charity organiser and former politician. She became nationally known when she won a by-election in 1987 for the Social Democratic Party (UK), ...
and John Cartwright opposed it. The SDP's membership was balloted on the idea: after it produced 57.4% in favour of the merger, Owen resigned as leader, to be replaced by Bob Maclennan. A Liberal conference in September found delegates providing a landslide majority for the merger. Formal negotiations launched that month and in December it produced a draft constitution for the new party. In 1988, Liberal and SDP meetings both produced majorities for the merger; finally, the memberships of both parties were balloted and both produced support for unification. Those in both parties opposed to unification split to form their own breakaway groups. The Social and Liberal Democrats were formally launched on 3 March 1988. Steel and Maclennan initially became joint interim leaders. At the start, it claimed 19 MPs, 3,500 local councillors, and 100,000 members. In its first leadership election,
Paddy Ashdown Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, (27 February 194122 December 2018), better known as Paddy Ashdown, was a British politician and diplomat who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats Leadership, both as a re ...

Paddy Ashdown
defeated
Alan Beith Alan James Beith, Baron Beith, (born 20 April 1943), is a British politician who represented Berwick-upon-Tweed (UK Parliament constituency), Berwick-upon-Tweed as its Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) from 1973 to ...

Alan Beith
. Ashdown saw the Liberal Democrats as a radical, reforming force, putting forward policies for introducing home rule for Scotland and Wales, proportional representation, transforming the House of Lords into an elected Senate, and advancing environmental protections. At the September 1988 conference it adopted the short form name "the Democrats" and in October 1989 changed its name to "Liberal Democrats". The bird of liberty was adopted as its logo. In 1989, its election results were poor: it lost 190 seats in the May 1989 local elections and secured only 6.4% of the vote in the 1989 European Parliament elections, beaten to third position by the
Green Party of England and Wales The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW; cy, Plaid Werdd Cymru a Lloegr, often simply the Green Party or Greens) is a green Green is the between and on the . It is evoked by light which has a of roughly 495570 . In systems, ...
. This was the worst election result for an established third party since the 1950s. Its prospects were buoyed after it won the
1990 Eastbourne by-election The Eastbourne by-election, 1990 was a by-election A by-election (also spelled bye-election), also known as a special election in the United States and the Philippines, or a bypoll (India), is an election used to fill an office that has become v ...
, followed by-election victories in
Ribble Valley Ribble Valley is a local government district The districts of England (also known as local authority districts or local government districts to distinguish from unofficial city districts) are a level of subnational division of England used ...
and
Kincardine and Deeside Kincardine and Deeside was formerly (1975–96) a local government district in the Grampian Grampian ( gd, Roinn a' Mhonaidh) was one of nine former Local government in Scotland, local government Regions and districts of Scotland, regions of ...
. In the 1991 local elections it secured a net gain of 520 seats. In the 1992 general election, it secured 17.8% of the vote and 20 seats in the House of Commons: 9 of these were in Scotland and 5 in Southwest England.


Consolidation and growth (1992–1999)

Between 1992 and 1997, the party underwent a period of consolidation, particularly on local councils. In the 1994 local elections, it came second, pushing the Conservatives into third place. In the 1994 European Parliament elections, it gained two
Members of the European Parliament A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is a person who has been elected to serve as a popular representative in the European Parliament The European Parliament (EP) is one of three legislative branches of the European Union ...
(MEPs). In 1993, the party was damaged by allegations of racism on the Liberal Democrat-controlled council in Tower Hamlets; it faced additional problems as its distinctive centrist niche was threatened by the rise of
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. On his resig ...

Tony Blair
and
New Labour New Labour is a period in the history of the British Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua ...
, a project which pushed Labour to the centre. At the
1997 general election1997 general election may refer to: * 1997 Canadian federal election * 1997 Irish general election * 1997 Singaporean general election * 1997 United Kingdom general election {{Disambiguation ...
, it fielded 639 candidates, securing 46 MPs, the greatest number that the Liberals had had since 1929. These were concentrated in Southwest England, Southwest London, and areas of Scotland. Although Blair's Labour won a landslide victory in 1997 and did not require a coalition government, Blair was interested in cooperation with the Lib Dems. In July 1997 he invited Ashdown and other senior Lib Dems to join a Cabinet Committee on constitutional affairs. Privately, Blair offered the Liberal Democrats a coalition but later backed down amid fears that it would split his own Cabinet. The joint Committee launched the Independent Commission on the Voting System in December; its report, published in October 1998, proposed the change from the
first past the post In a first-past-the-post electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are o ...
electoral system to an alternative vote top-up system. This was not the Lib Dems preferred option—they wanted full
proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

proportional representation
—although Ashdown hailed it as "a historic step forward". Many Lib Dems were concerned by Ashdown's growing closeness with Labour; aware of this, he stepped down as party leader in 1999. Before he did so, the party took part in the 1999 elections for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In both, the Lib Dems came fourth and became Labour's junior coalition partners.


Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell (1999–2007)

The MP
Simon Hughes Sir Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a former British politician. He is now the London South Bank University, Chancellor of London South Bank University, an External Adviser to The Open University, and UK Strategic Adviser to Talgo ...
was initially seen as Ashdown's most likely successor, but was defeated in the contest by
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
. To reduce the impact of more leftist members who tended to dominate at conferences, Kennedy proposed that all members—rather than just conference delegates—should vote for the party's federal executive and federal policy committees. In 2001, Kennedy suspended the Joint Cabinet Committee with Labour. The media characterised him as "Inaction Man" and accused him of lacking a clear identity and political purpose; later criticism also focused on his alcoholism. In the 2001 general election, the party fielded 639 candidates and made a net gain of 6, bringing its total of seats to 52. Following the
11 September 2001 attacks The September 11 attacks, also commonly referred to as 9/11, were a series of four coordinated Terrorism, terrorist attacks by the militant Islamism, Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, S ...
in the United States and the launch of the U.S.-led
War on Terror#REDIRECT War on terror The War on Terror, also known as the Global War on Terrorism and U.S. War on Terror, is an international military campaign launched by the Federal government of the United States, United States government after the Septe ...
, the Liberal Democrat MPs backed the government's decision to participate in the
United States invasion of Afghanistan In late 2001, the United States, supported by its close allies, invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government. The invasion's public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda, which had executed the September 11 attacks, and to deny it a safe b ...
. The party was more critical of Blair's decision to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; Kennedy joined the
large anti-war march
large anti-war march
in London. With the Conservatives backing the Labour government's decision to go to war, the Lib Dems were the only major party opposing it. In following years, Lib Dem MPs increasingly voted against the Labour government on a range of issues. Much of this Lib Dem opposition to the government came from their members in the House of Lords. In the 2003 local elections, the party secured about 30% of the vote, its highest ever result. In 2004, '' The Orange Book'' anthology was published. Written largely by centre-right economists in the party, it sparked discussions about Liberal Democrat philosophy and brought criticism from the party's social-liberal wing. In the 2005 general election, the Lib Dems secured 62 seats, the most the Liberals had had since 1923. Kennedy however faced growing calls to resign over his alcoholism; in January 2006 he did so. In March,
Menzies Campbell Walter Menzies Campbell, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, (; born 22 May 1941), often known as Ming Campbell, is a British Liberal Democrat politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected ...
succeeded him as party leader. Campbell was not popular with voters and faced a resurgent Conservative Party under
David Cameron David William Donald Cameron (born 9 October 1966) is a British politician, businessman, Lobbying, lobbyist, and author who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2016. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Memb ...
; in the May 2007 local elections the party experienced a net loss of nearly 250 seats. In that year's Scottish Parliament election, the
Scottish National Party The Scottish National Party (SNP; sco, Scots National Pairty, gd, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba ) is a Scottish nationalist Scottish nationalism promotes the idea that the Scottish people form a cohesive nation and Scottish national iden ...
(SNP) secured the largest vote and the Lib Dem/Labour coalition ended. Campbell was frustrated at the constant media focus on the fact that he was in his late sixties; in October he resigned and
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
became acting leader.


Nick Clegg and coalition with the Conservatives (2007–2015)

In December 2007,
Nick Clegg Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British media executive and former politician who has been VicePresident for Global Affairs and Communications at Meta Platforms since 2018, having previously served as Deputy Prime ...

Nick Clegg
narrowly beat
Chris Huhne Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne (born 2 July 1954) is a British energy and climate change consultant and former journalist and politician who was the Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Eastleigh (UK Parliament const ...
to take the party's leadership. Clegg's reshuffle of the leadership team was seen by many as a shift to the right; under Clegg, the party moved away from the social democratic focus it displayed previously. It rebranded itself as a party that would cut rather than raise taxes and dropped its hard pro-EU position. In the 2008 local elections it gained 34 seats, beating Labour in terms of vote share. The following year, the party was damaged by the expenses scandal as several Lib Dem MPs and peers were found to have misused their expenses; Campbell for example was revealed to have claimed nearly £10,000 in expenses for luxury home furnishings. In the build-up to the
2010 general election2010 general election may refer to: * 2010 Anguillan general election * 2010 Australian federal election * 2010 Bougainvillean general election * 2010 Brazilian general election * 2010 Burmese general election * 2010 Cook Islands general election * ...
, Clegg took part in the UK's first televised party leaders debate; he was generally considered to have performed well, with pundits referring to an ensuing "Cleggmania". In the election, the Lib Dems secured 23% of the vote and 57 seats; the Conservatives were the largest party but lacked a majority. The Conservatives and Lib Dems formed a coalition government, with Clegg becoming Deputy Prime Minister. Four other Lib Dems—Cable, Huhne, Danny Alexander, and David Laws—entered the coalition Cabinet. Of the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, only two refused to support the Conservative Coalition agreement, with former party leader
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
and
Manchester Withington Manchester Withington is a constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or elect ...
MP John Leech both rebelling against. Many Lib Dems opposed the move, with some favouring a coalition deal with Labour. As part of the coalition agreement, the Conservatives agreed to Lib Dem demands to introduce elected health boards, put forward a Fixed Term Parliament Bill, and end income tax for those earning less than £10,000 a year. The Conservatives also agreed to shelve their plans to replace the
Human Rights Act 1998 The Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42) is an Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most ...
with a proposed British Bill of Rights. The Conservatives refused to agree to Lib Dem demands for a referendum on proportional representation, instead offering a referendum on a switch from first-past-the-post to the Alternative Vote system. The coalition introduced an emergency budget to attack the fiscal deficit. After joining the coalition poll ratings for the party fell, particularly following the government's support for raising the cap on
tuition fees Tuition payments, usually known as tuition in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English languag ...
with Liberal Democrat MPs voting 27 for, 21 against and 8 abstaining. The Liberal Democrats had made opposing tuition fees a major message of their campaign, with all of the party's MPs, including
Nick Clegg Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British media executive and former politician who has been VicePresident for Global Affairs and Communications at Meta Platforms since 2018, having previously served as Deputy Prime ...

Nick Clegg
, signing the
Vote for Students pledge The National Union of Students (United Kingdom), National Union of Students (NUS) "Vote for Students" pledge is a Oath, pledge to vote against Tuition fees in the United Kingdom, tuition fee increases that was signed by over 1000 candidates standing ...
to oppose any increase in student tuition fees prior to the 2010 general election. Clegg later made a formal apology for breaking this promise in September 2012. Shortly after the 2015 general election, Liberal Democrat leadership contender Norman Lamb conceded that Clegg's broken pledge on university tuition had proven costly. In the 2011 United Kingdom local elections, May 2011 local elections and the elections for the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, the Liberal Democrats suffered heavy defeats. Clegg admitted that the party had taken "big knocks" due to a perception that the coalition government had returned to the Thatcherism of the 1980s. As part of the deal that formed the coalition, it was agreed to hold a 2011 United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, referendum on the Alternative Vote, in which the Conservatives would campaign for First-past-the-post voting, First Past the Post and the Liberal Democrats for Instant-runoff voting, Alternative Vote. The referendum, held on 5 May 2011, resulted in First Past the Post being chosen over Alternative Vote by approximately two-thirds of voters. In May 2011, Clegg revealed plans to make the House of Lords a mainly elected chamber, limiting the number of Peerage of the United Kingdom, peers to 300, 80% of whom would be elected with a third of that 80% being elected every 5 years by single transferable vote. In August 2012, Clegg announced that attempts to reform the House of Lords would be abandoned due to opposition for the proposals by Backbencher, backbench Conservative MPs. Claiming the coalition agreement had been broken, Clegg stated that Liberal Democrat MPs would no longer support changes to the House of Commons boundaries for the 2015 general election. The Lib Dem Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Chris Huhne Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne (born 2 July 1954) is a British energy and climate change consultant and former journalist and politician who was the Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Eastleigh (UK Parliament const ...
in 2011 announced plans for halving UK carbon emissions by 2025 as part of the "Green Deal" which was in the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto. The Lib Dems lost over 300 councillors 2012 United Kingdom local elections, in the 2012 local elections, leaving them with fewer than 3000 for the first time in the party's history. In June 2012 it was reported that membership of the party had fallen by around 20% since joining the coalition. In February 2013, the party won a 2013 Eastleigh by-election, by-election in Eastleigh, the Hampshire constituency that had previously been held by the former minister,
Chris Huhne Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne (born 2 July 1954) is a British energy and climate change consultant and former journalist and politician who was the Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Eastleigh (UK Parliament const ...
. The party's candidate, Mike Thornton (politician), Mike Thornton, had been a local councillor for the party, and held the seat. In eighteen other by-elections held throughout the 2010–15 Parliament, the party lost its Deposit (politics)#United Kingdom, deposit in 11; in the 2014 Rochester and Strood by-election, Rochester and Strood by-election held on 20 November 2014, it came fifth polling 349 votes or 0.9% of the total votes cast, the worst result in the history of the party. In 2013 United Kingdom local elections, the 2013 local elections, the Liberal Democrats lost over 100 hundred seats council seats. In 2014 United Kingdom local elections, the 2014 local elections, the Liberal Democrats lost another 307 council seats and ten of their eleven seats in the European Parliament in the 2014 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2014 European elections. In the
2015 general election This national electoral calendar for 2015 lists the national/Federation, federal direct elections that were held in 2015 in all List of sovereign states, sovereign states and their Dependent territory, dependent territories. By-elections are e ...
, the party lost 48 seats in the House of Commons, leaving them with only eight MPs. Prominent Liberal Democrat MPs who lost their seats included former leader
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
, former deputy leaders
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
and
Simon Hughes Sir Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a former British politician. He is now the London South Bank University, Chancellor of London South Bank University, an External Adviser to The Open University, and UK Strategic Adviser to Talgo ...
, and several cabinet ministers. The party held onto just eight constituencies. The Conservatives won an outright majority. Clegg then announced his resignation as party leader. The party lost over 400 council seats in 2015 United Kingdom local elections, the 2015 local elections.


Opposing Brexit (2015–2019)

Membership of the Liberal Democrats rose from 45,000 to 61,000 as the party prepared to hold its 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2015 party leadership ballot. On 16 July 2015,
Tim Farron Timothy James Farron (born 27 May 1970) is a British politician who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2015 to 2017 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2017. He has also served as Member ...
was elected to the leadership of the party with 56.5% of the vote, beating opponent Norman Lamb. In the 2016 United Kingdom local elections, May 2016 local elections, the Liberal Democrats gained a small number of council seats, though they lost ground in the Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament, Welsh Assembly. The party campaigned for a Remain vote in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union in June 2016. After the Leave vote, the Liberal Democrats sought to mobilise the 48% who voted Remain, and the party's membership rose again, reaching 80,000 by September. The 2017 United Kingdom local elections, 2017 local election results saw a loss of about 40 council seats. In the 2017 United Kingdom general election, 2017 general election, during which the party advocated continued membership of the European Single Market and a Proposed referendum on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, referendum on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the Liberal Democrats' vote share dropped 0.5% to 7.4%, its lowest percentage ever, but produced a net gain of four seats. Farron then resigned; in July 2017
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
was 2017 Liberal Democrats leadership election, elected leader unopposed. He called for a second referendum on the UK's relationship with the European Union. In December 2018, the MP for Eastbourne (UK Parliament constituency), Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd, resigned the Liberal Democrat Whip, saying that his party's position on
Brexit Brexit (; a portmanteau of "British exit") was the Withdrawal from the European Union, withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) at 23:00 31 January 2020 Green ...

Brexit
was inconsistent with his pledge to his constituency that he would "respect the result" of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Although Lloyd remained a Liberal Democrat member, this took the number of sitting Liberal Democrat MPs down to 11. The party gained 76 councillors in 2018 United Kingdom local elections, the 2018 local elections and 704 councillors in the 2019 United Kingdom local elections, 2019 local elections. In the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2019 European Parliament election the party ran with an anti-Brexit message seeking the support of those who wish the UK to remain in the EU, using the slogan "Bollocks to Brexit" which attracted considerable media attention. In that election, the party gained 20% of the popular vote and returned 16 MEPs. In May, Cable stood down as leader, triggering a 2019 Liberal Democrats leadership election, leadership election. Between June and October 2019, the total number of MPs rose from 11 to 21, following eight defections from other parties, one 2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, by-election win, and Lloyd retaking the whip. The defections were mainly former MPs of Change UK, with Chuka Umunna and Sarah Wollaston joining directly from the party, whereas Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, and Angela Smith (South Yorkshire politician), Angela Smith joined after subsequently being part of The Independents (UK), The Independents. The remaining defectors were three of the 2019 suspension of rebel Conservative MPs, 21 rebel Conservative MPs who had the whip withdrawn for voting against the government on a piece of legislation which would prevent a no-deal Brexit, no-deal scenario on 31 October 2019: Antoinette Sandbach, Sam Gyimah, and Phillip Lee (politician), Phillip Lee. The latter physically crossed the floor during the debate on the legislation, effectively removing the majority of the first Johnson government. Heading into the 2019 general election, the party polled well, with one poll showing the party with 20% (within 4% of Labour) as late as 28 October. Nonetheless, during the campaign period the party's fortunes dwindled, and leader
Jo Swinson Joanne Kate Swinson (born 5 February 1980) is a former British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 22 July to 13 December 2019. She was the first woman and the youngest person to hold ...

Jo Swinson
received negative reviews. In the election, the Liberal Democrats lost ten seats from the previous parliament and one from the previous election, returning 11 MPs. Of the nine new MPs who joined between June and October 2019, the eight who contested their seats in the 2019 general election all lost their seats. However, the party did gain 4.2% in the vote, rising to 11.6%. Swinson herself narrowly lost her East Dunbartonshire (UK parliament constituency), East Dunbartonshire constituency to the
Scottish National Party The Scottish National Party (SNP; sco, Scots National Pairty, gd, Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba ) is a Scottish nationalist Scottish nationalism promotes the idea that the Scottish people form a cohesive nation and Scottish national iden ...
's Amy Callaghan, and Swinson was forced to resign as leader the next day as the Liberal Democrat Constitution, which mandates that the leader must also serve as an MP, meant she was disqualified from holding the party leadership. Deputy Leader Ed Davey and Party President Sal Brinton then jointly assumed the positions of acting co-leaders of the party. Brinton was at the end of the year (31 December 2019) replaced by Mark Pack as Party President and acting co-leader while Mike Dixon remains the party CEO.


Ed Davey (2020–present)

As of 2020, the party has 89 peers in the House of Lords. The Lib Dems' federal board set out a timetable in January 2020 which stated that a new party leader would be elected in July 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, outbreak of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom in the late winter and spring which saw many politicians infected, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the party's board initially pushed the leadership election back to May 2021. The decision was reversed in May 2020 to hold the 2020 Liberal Democrats leadership election, leadership election in July 2020. On 27 August 2020, Ed Davey was elected as leader of the party, by a margin of almost 18,000 votes. On 13 September 2020, Daisy Cooper was announced as the party's new Deputy Leader. In September 2020, it was revealed by the party's new campaigning chief that the Liberal Democrats had starting planning a four-year drive to woo "soft Conservatism, conservatives". Daisy Cooper said the party could find a route forward by appealing to voters that had always thought of themselves as conservatives but who opposed the current direction of the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson. When Davey was asked by Andrew Marr about the party's stance on rejoining the EU, he said "We are not a rejoin party, but we are a very pro-European party." This caused anger to some Lib Dem members and a few days after Davey wrote a blog post clarifying his position. He stressed the Liberal Democrats were "committed to the UK being members of the European Union again" and insisted that members may have "misinterpreted" what he said on ''The Andrew Marr Show'' and that once he was able to clarify "people were completely relaxed". Under Davey, the Liberal Democrats seized the traditional Conservative Party (UK), Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham (UK Parliament constituency), Chesham and Amersham in a 2021 Chesham and Amersham by-election, by-election in which Sarah Green (politician), Sarah Green overturned a 16,000 majority in June 2021 and then repeated a similar feat in North Shropshire (UK Parliament constituency), North Shropshire in December 2021 where Helen Morgan (politician), Helen Morgan overturned a 23,000 majority.


Ideology

The Liberal Democrats have an ideology that draws on both the liberal and social democratic traditions. The party is primarily Social liberalism, social liberal, supporting redistribution but sceptical of increasing the power of the state, emphasising the link between equality and liberty. The party supports investment and progressive taxation, but also promotes civil liberties and a less centralised economy. This distinguishes the party from many liberal parties elsewhere in Europe that are instead dominated by classical liberalism. By comparison, the Liberal Democrats support a mixed economy and have sometimes opposed privatisation. The party spans the Centrism, centre and
centre-left Centre-left politics (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial codification of gramma ...
, and has emphasised each aspect at different times. The public have traditionally viewed the party as centre-left, though during the Cameron–Clegg coalition they were seen as centrist. On economic issues, the party has usually been positioned between the Conservative Party (UK), Conservatives and the
Labour Party Labour Party or Labor Party may refer to: Angola *MPLA, known for some years as "Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party" Antigua and Barbuda *Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party Argentina *Labour Party (Argentina) Armenia ...
, though typically closer to the Labour Party. There is a degree of ideological diversity among members of the Liberal Democrats, with a wide range of opinions on most subjects. A key ideological influence on the Liberal Democrats is Leonard Hobhouse, and there is substantial overlap between the party's platform and the form of social democracy advocated by Anthony Crosland in ''The Future of Socialism''. The party's egalitarianism is based on the concept of Equal opportunity, equality of opportunity and have been sceptical of Affirmative action, positive discrimination, including in their process for selecting political candidates. The party has frequently debated the introduction of all-women shortlists in selection, but not implemented them. The Liberal Democrats support a range of constitutional reforms, including by advocating a decentralised federal structure for the United Kingdom, including devolving power to the regions of England. The party supported devolution to Scotland and Wales enacted by the Labour government under
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. On his resig ...

Tony Blair
. The party has consistently supported electoral reform to produce more proportional results. On social issues, the party is liberal and progressive. It has consistently supported LGBT rights and drug reform. The party is internationalist and pro-European. They have consistently supported policies of European integration, including long-term advocacy of the United Kingdom and the euro, United Kingdom adopting the euro, though they have opposed the establishing of a European army. Both before and after the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, the party has advocated for the United Kingdom's continued membership of the European Union. The party support liberal interventionism. They supported the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021), war in Afghanistan, later opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq due to its lack of support from the United Nations. The party has also faced internal division over the issue of the Nuclear weapons of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom's nuclear weapons. The party has a number of factions representing different strains of liberal thought. Although the social liberals, represented by the Social Liberal Forum (often abbreviated to the SLF), are the majority, factions that advocate for more Economic liberalism, economically liberal positions include Liberal Reform (often abbreviated to LR) and the "Orange Bookers", named after ''The Orange Book, The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism''; ''The Orange Book'' is most often associated with former deputy prime minister
Nick Clegg Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British media executive and former politician who has been VicePresident for Global Affairs and Communications at Meta Platforms since 2018, having previously served as Deputy Prime ...

Nick Clegg
, who contributed to it, along with former Liberal Democrat leader
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
and incumbent leader Ed Davey. Additionally, there is the centre-left Beveridge Group, inspired by William Beveridge. The Beveridge Group has been associated with both social liberals and social democrats within the party, including former Liberal Democrat leader
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
.


Policy platform


Constitutional reform

The Liberal Democrats support institutional reform in the United Kingdom, including the decentralisation of state power, reform of Parliament, and electoral reform. At its 1993 conference, the party put forward plans for the introduction of Fixed-term election, fixed term parliaments, something it would later secure in the coalition government of 2010–2015. Also in 1993, it proposed state funding for political parties. The Liberal Democrats have long included a commitment to proportional representation in their manifestos. According to the ''New Statesman'', this is the "one policy with which the Liberal Democrats are identified in the minds of the public." The Lib Dems calls for devolution or home rule for Scotland and Wales were enacted by Blair's Labour government in the late 1990s. The 1993 conference also called for the introduction of a bill of rights into the British constitution. Its 2001 manifesto included a commitment to lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. According to a 1999 survey, two-thirds of party members supported retaining the monarchy. In the 1990s, there was an anti-royalist contingent within the party; in 1993, the party conference announced support for removing the Royal prerogative in the United Kingdom, royal prerogative, and the 2000 conference backed calls for the monarch to be removed as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Supreme Governor of the Church of England. At its 2003 conference, the party's Youth and Student League put forward a motion calling for the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of an elected head of state. The 2000 party conference produced a call for the Act of Settlement 1701, 1701 Act of Settlement to be reformed so as to allow the heir to the throne to marry a Roman Catholic, while the party's 2001 manifesto called for the disestablishment of the Church of England.


Economic and social welfare policy

The 1999 membership survey found that most favoured free markets and individual responsibility; they were nevertheless split on whether or not they regarded private enterprise as the best way to solve economic problems. Most were against either further privatisation or further nationalisation, although they were overwhelmingly favourable to increasing taxation and government spending. The membership was also heavily against additional restrictions on trade unions. Liberal Democrat policy has generally been favourable to social welfare spending. During the 2000s, the party made pledges for major investment into health, education, and public services. In 1995, the party announced a plan to put £2 billion into education, including nursery places for under fives, while its 2005 manifesto included a commitment to use £1.5 billion to decrease class sizes in schools. In the 2000s, the party also pledged to abolish tuition fees for university students, and in the build-up to the 2010 general election, Clegg pledged that under a Lib Dem government this would be achieved over six years. In 2004, it pledged to add £25 a week to the state pension for people over the age of 75. In 2003, it outlined plans for devolving control of schools to local councils. In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, it stated that such increases in education spending would be funded through higher taxes. These included a 50% tax on those earning over £100,000 a year, and raising the Income tax in the United Kingdom, basic rate of income tax by one penny in the pound. In 2003, the party's conference approved plans for a local income tax of 3.5 pence in the pound that would replace Council Tax, council tax; the party believed that this would result in 70% of the population paying less tax. In 2006, the party abandoned its plans for a 50% tax on the highest earners, and also put forward plans to cut income tax but balance the books by increasing tax on air travel and introducing a carbon tax. Under Clegg, the party emphasised lowering taxes rather than raising them; it stated that a 4 pence reduction in the basic rate tax could be permitted by finding £20 billion savings in Whitehall. This measure was opposed by the left of the party. Amid the 2008 recession, Clegg called for £20 billion cuts to state spending, to be funded by measures like reducing the number of people eligible for tax credits and scrapping road building schemes. In its 2010 manifesto, it pledged to end income taxes for those earning under £10,000 a year, something it introduced through the Cameron coalition government. Also in 2010, it stated that it would halve the national deficit over the course of four years. It had also specified that it would oppose any increases in VAT, although when in coalition announced an increase in VAT to 20%.


Foreign policy and the European Union

The Liberal Democrats supported the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021), war in Afghanistan in 2001. The party was the only of Britain's three major parties to oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The party's leadership stressed that this was not because the party was intrinsically anti-war, but because the invasion did not have support from the United Nations. In the wake of the invasion, the party's 2005 manifesto included a pledge that the UK would never again support a military occupation deemed illegal under international law.
Menzies Campbell Walter Menzies Campbell, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, (; born 22 May 1941), often known as Ming Campbell, is a British Liberal Democrat politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected ...
demanded the suspension of all future arms exports to Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Summer Rains. The Liberal Democrats called for a full Public inquiry, judicial inquiry into Britain's involvement in Central Intelligence Agency, CIA black sites and extraordinary rendition since the 11 September 11 attacks, September attacks. They also called on the UK government to suspend UK arms export, arms sales to Saudi Arabia and condemned the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, Saudi-led coalition's attacks Human rights violations during the Yemeni Civil War (2015–present), targeting civilians in Yemen. In February 2019, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, an advisory opinion stating that the UK must transfer the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius as they were Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute, not legally separated from the latter in 1965. Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael stated: "The ICJ has very clearly instructed the UK to return the island chain to Mauritian control. The government's refusal to do so is arrogant and jeopardises our credibility on a world stage." Whiteley et al. noted that "like the Liberals before them, [the Liberal Democrats] have taken a strong positive position on internationalism", including the need for international cooperation, aid for the developing world, and European integration. In this they have always been more internationalist and pro-Europeanist than either Labour or the Conservatives. From its foundation, the Liberal Democrats were committed to the UK's membership of the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the wester ...

European Union
. In 1993, it called for the UK to take a lead in seeking a timetable for the adoption of a pan-European currency, and also called for the formation of an autonomous European central bank. A 1999 survey of party members found they overwhelmingly backed European integration, and two thirds wanted the UK to adopt the
euro The euro (currency symbol, symbol: euro sign, €; ISO 4217, code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the Member state of the European Union, member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area ...

euro
currency. In its 1999 manifesto for the European Parliamentary elections, it called for completing the European single market, holding a referendum on the adoption of the euro currency, establishing an EU constitution, expanding the EU into Central and Eastern Europe, and encouraging an EU-wide clampdown on pollution and international crime. This attitude had been inherited from the Liberal Party which had originally proposing membership into the predecessor European Coal and Steel Community. However, the Liberal Democrats oppose the Federalisation of the European Union, European federalism espoused by their counterparts. Despite its pro-European stance, the party has included Euroscepticism, Eurosceptics such as the MP Nick Harvey. The 1999 membership survey found that 37% wanted the UK to remain in the EU but to have the latter's powers reduced while 5% of members wanted the UK to leave the EU altogether. Cook argued that whereas the Lib Dems were once "the most pro-European of all British parties", by 2008 it had "a vocal Eurosceptic element" who were opposed to the British ratification of the EU's Treaty of Lisbon, Lisbon Treaty without a referendum. Under Clegg, the party backed away from its hardline pro-EU position. In June 2016, following the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, United Kingdom European Union membership referendum in which 51.9% voted in favour of leaving the European Union,
Tim Farron Timothy James Farron (born 27 May 1970) is a British politician who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2015 to 2017 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2017. He has also served as Member ...
said that if Liberal Democrats were to be elected in the next parliamentary election, they would not follow through with triggering s:Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union/Title VI: Final Provisions#Article 50, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and Withdrawal from the European Union, leaving the EU ("Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements") but would instead keep UK part of the EU. Following this promise, the Liberal Democrats claim that their membership has increased by 10,000 since the referendum; at one point, the growth in the party was the equivalent of one person joining per minute. Campaigning for a second referendum regarding the exact goals of Brexit negotiation was one of the party's flagship policies in the 2017 United Kingdom general election, 2017 general election and the 2019 general election.


Environmentalism

The Liberal Democrats have strongly advocated for environmental protection and have typically taken more radical stances on environmental issues than either Labour or the Conservatives. In 1993, the party put forward proposals for an EU tax on energy use and CO2 emissions. That year, it also proposed that GDP should be redefined to take into account pollution and the depletion of natural resources. At its 2009 conference, the party introduced a commitment for Lib Dem controlled councils to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. Other policies included: * Designate an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas with appropriate management by 2020. * Encourage the uptake of water metering, including introducing metering in all defined water-stressed areas by 2025, coupled with the development of national social tariffs to protect low income households. * Complete the coastal path, introduce a fuller Right to Roam and a new designation of National Nature Parks to protect up to a million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.


Human rights and individual liberty

The Liberal Democrats place greater emphasis on human rights and individual freedoms than the Conservatives or Labour. Conversely, the political scientist John Meadowcroft expressed the view that "the Liberal Democrats are a supposedly liberal party that does not believe in liberty." Commenting on the 1999 membership survey, Whiteley et al. noted that the majority of members took "a distinctly right of centre view" on many, although not all, moral and legal issues. Its 1997 manifesto committed the party to lowering the age of consent for same-sex couples to 16, bringing it in line with that for mixed-sex couples. At its 2000 conference, party delegates backed calls for the government to provide legal recognition for same-sex relationships. In the 1999 membership survey, 57% believed that the government should discourage the growth of one-parent families. That same survey found just over half of the party membership expressing pro-choice views regarding abortion access. At its 1997 conference, the party's delegates voted in favour of establishing a Royal Commission to examine the possibility of decriminalising voluntary euthanasia. At its 1994 conference, party delegates voted to end criminal prosecutions for cannabis possession, although the party's 23 MPs voted against the measure. The 1999 membership survey suggested a tougher stance on many law and order issues, with over half wanting longer sentencing and no option of parole for those serving life sentences. The 2004 party congress approved a ban on smoking in public places. In March 2016, the Liberal Democrats became the first major political party in the UK to support the legalisation of cannabis. The party supports cannabis sale and possession to be legal for all UK adults aged 18-years-old and over, the set up of specialist licensed stores to sell cannabis, the legalisation of home cultivation of cannabis for personal use, small scale cannabis clubs to be licensed, and a new regulator to oversee the market.


Organisation and structure

The Liberal Democrats are a Federation, federal party of the parties of England, Scotland, and Wales. The English and Scottish parties are further split into regions. The parliamentary parties of the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorpor ...

House of Commons
, the
House of Lords The House of Lords, formally The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the of the . Membership is by , or . Like the , it meets in the . ar ...

House of Lords
, the Scottish Parliament and the
Senedd The Senedd (; ), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English language, English and () in Welsh language, Welsh, is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes ...

Senedd
form semi-autonomous units within the party. The leaders in the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament are the leaders of the federal party and the Scottish Party; the leaders in the other two chambers, and the officers of all parliamentary parties, are elected from their own number. Co-ordination of all party activities across all federated groups is undertaken through the Federal Board. Chaired by the party leader, its 30+ members includes representatives from each of the groups and democratically elected representatives. In the first quarter of 2008, the party received GDP, £1.1 million in donations and have total borrowings and unused credit facilities of £1.1 million (the "total debt" figure reported by the Electoral Commission includes, for example, unused overdraft facilities). This compares to Labour's £3.1 million in donations and £17.8 million of borrowing/credit facilities, and the Conservatives' £5.7 million in donations and £12.1 million of borrowing/credit facilities. Specified Associated Organisations (SAOs) review and input policies, representing groups including: ethnic minorities (LDCRE), women (WLD), the LGBT community (LGBT+ Liberal Democrats), youth and students (Young Liberals (United Kingdom), Young Liberals), engineers and scientists (ALDES), parliamentary candidates (PCA) and local councillors (ALDC). Others can become Associated Organisations (AOs) as campaigning or representative groups in the party, such as the Green Liberal Democrats (GLD), the Liberal Democrat European Group (LDEG) and the Liberal Democrat Disability Association. There are many other groups that are not formally affiliated to the party, including Social Liberal Forum (SLF) and Liberal Reform. Like the Conservatives, the Lib Dems organise in Northern Ireland. Although they do not contest elections in the province, they work with the
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI; ga, Páirtí Comhghuaillíochta Thuaisceart Éireann) is a liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by count ...
, described as its sister party and ''de facto'' agreeing to support the Alliance in elections. There is a separate local party operating in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats. It is also a sister party of the Liberal Party of Gibraltar and contests the South-West England constituency at European Parliamentary elections on a Ticket (election), joint ticket with them taking place six on the Party-list proportional representation, party list. The party is a member of
Liberal International Liberal International (LI) is the political international A political international is a transnational organization of political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections ...
and the
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party) is a European political party composed of 60 national-level liberal parties from across Europe, mainly active in the European Union. The ALDE Party is affiliated with the Lib ...
. Their 16 MEPs sat in the
Renew Europe Renew Europe (Renew) is a Liberalism, liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament founded for the ninth European Parliament term. The group is the successor to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, Allia ...
group in the European Parliament until Brexit, Britain left the European Union. The party colour is Amber (color), amber, but it is referred to as yellow in the party's style guide. The party anthem is the old Liberal Party (UK), Liberal's "The Land (song), The Land" while its slogan is "Build a Brighter Future". The party headquarters are at 8–10 Great George Street London SW1P 3AE.


Support

In the 2005 general election, the party was endorsed by ''The Independent''. Cook noted that in the build-up to the 2010 election, most mainstream press—which was aligned with either the Conservatives or Labour—was "voraciously hostile" to the Lib Dems. In that election, it nevertheless attracted the endorsement of ''The Guardian'' and ''The Observer''.


Finances

Whereas Labour gained funding through its links to trade unions and the Conservatives through big business, the Liberal Democrats have relied on funds raised by the subscriptions and donations provided by its members. The party had some major donors, such as Lord Jacobs, who gave it around £1 million over the course of twenty years until he resigned in 2008. In some years, it struggled to cover its costs; in 2008 for instance it made a loss of £670,000.


Membership

In its early years, the caricature of Liberal Democrat members was that of "sandal-wearing, bearded eccentrics obsessed by the minutiae of electoral reform". Based on their 1999 survey of Liberal Democrat members, Whiteley noted that although party members shared many of the same attitudes as the party's voters, there were also "striking differences", namely in that members were "older, more middle-class and better educated" than the voters. Their survey found that party membership was 54% male; and was dominated by middle-class people, with working-class individuals comprising only 5% of members (in contrast to 30% of Labour and 19% of Conservative members at that time). The average age was 59, and 58% of members were aged 56 or over. A third were retired, and a third in full-time employment. A majority worked, or had previously worked, in the non-profit sector. 42% possessed a degree, which was higher than among Labour (30%) and Conservative (19%) members at that time. 65% of members considered themselves religious, with 70% of those being Anglicanism, Anglican, 15% Methodism, Methodist, and 11% Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholic. As of 1999, 43% of members had previously belonged to the Liberal Party, 14% to the Social Democratic Party, and 42% had joined with no previous political affiliation. 21% of members had joined because of their social contacts, such as friends, family, and colleagues, who were already members. Around 40% of members stated that they joined because they agreed with the party's principles; a further 16% said they joined because of its policies. The majority of members were largely inactive in party activities, with only 22% of those polled indicating that they were willing to attend party meetings. The senior ranks of the party had long been heavily male-dominated; after the 1997 general election, for instance, only three of its 46 MPs were women. Reinforcing its "male, middle-class image", after the 2010 election, 40% of Liberal Democrat MPs were privately educated. However, following the 2019 general election, seven of its then eleven MPs were female, and the Chesham and Amersham by-election, 2021 increased the share to eight out of twelve MPs. Membership fluctuated between 1988 and 2000 between a low of 69,000 in 2000 and a peak of 101,768 in 1994. Membership increased sharply after the confirmation on 18 April 2017 of the 2017 United Kingdom general election, 8 June 2017 general election, surpassing 100,000 on 24 April 2017 and reached an all-time high in June 2019 following the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2019 European elections, increasing further after their win in the 2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, Brecon and Radnorshire by-election which reduced the working majority of the First Johnson ministry, Conservative government to just one seat. As of 2019, the party has a minimum of 17,102 registered supporters which are not included in the membership figure of at least 120,000 members.


Voters

The 1997 British Election Study Survey found that the average Liberal Democrat voter was aged 47, with 52% between the ages of 18 and 45. 16% of Lib Dem voters at that time possessed a degree. 23% were working class or blue collar workers, a much higher percentage than was found among the party's membership. The survey found that Liberal Democrat voters shared many attitudes with the members; these voters overwhelmingly desired proportional representation and 63% backed EU membership. Where the voters differed from the members was on the issue of foreign aid; over half of members wanted to increase the UK's foreign aid budget, whereas only a third of Liberal Democrat voters agreed. Analysing voting patterns from the 1990s, Whiteley et al. argued that highly educated people were more likely than average to vote Liberal Democrat, that older people were less likely than average to vote Liberal Democrat, and that class, gender, or ethnicity had no impact on the tendency to vote for the party.


Electoral results

From the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democrats inherited a strong base in Wales and Scotland. In 2010, Cook noted that the party's safe seats "do not fit a very homogenous pattern", being scattered amidst rural, middle-class suburban, and inner city areas. A key feature of the party's electoral strategy has been foregrounding community politics. Examining the survey evidence, Whiteley et al. argued that the strength of grassroots party activism in a particular area had a big impact on the vote share that the Liberal Democrats received there.


General elections

Throughout its history, the first past the post system has prevented the Liberal Democrats from receiving a share of parliamentary seats that reflects their share of the vote. In the 1992 general election, the Lib Dems succeeded the SDP–Liberal Alliance as the third most popular party, behind Labour and the Conservatives. Their popularity never rose to the levels attained by the Alliance, but in later years their seat count rose far above the Alliance's peak, a feat that has been credited to more intelligent targeting of vulnerable seats. The vote percentage for the Alliance in 1987 and the Lib Dems in 2005 is similar, yet the Lib Dems won 62 seats to the Alliance's 22. This was because in 1987, the Alliance vote was fairly evenly spread throughout the country, whereas in 2005 the Liberal Democrat vote was concentrated in particular areas, allowing them to win nearly three times as many parliamentary seats as in 1987 despite getting a slightly lower share of the overall vote. The first-past-the-post electoral system used in UK general elections is not suited to parties whose vote is evenly divided across the country, resulting in those parties achieving a lower proportion of seats in the Commons than their proportion of the popular vote (see table and graph). The Lib Dems and their Liberal and SDP predecessors have suffered especially, particularly in the 1980s when their electoral support was greatest while the disparity between the votes and the number of MPs returned to parliament was significantly large. The increase in their number of seats in 1997, 2001 and 2005 was attributed to the weakness of the Conservatives and the success of their election strategist Chris Rennard, Baron Rennard, Chris Rennard. Lib Dems state that they want 'three-party politics' in the Commons; the most realistic chance of power with first past the post is for the party to be "the kingmakers" in a hung parliament. Party leaders often set out their terms for forming a coalition in such an event—Nick Clegg stated in 2008 that the policy for the 2010 general election was to reform elections, parties and Parliament in a "constitutional convention".


Local elections

The party had control of 31 councils in 2008, having held 29 councils prior to the 2008 election. In the 2008 local elections they gained 25% of the vote, placing them ahead of Labour and increasing their control by 34 to more than 4,200 council seats—21% of the total number of seats. In 2011 United Kingdom local elections, council elections held in May 2011, the Liberal Democrats suffered heavy defeats in the Midlands and North of England. They also lost heavily in the Welsh assembly and Scottish Parliament. In 2012 United Kingdom local elections, local elections held in May 2012, the Lib Dems lost more than 300 councillors, leaving them with fewer than 3000 for the first time in the party's history. In the 2013 United Kingdom local elections, 2013 local elections, they lost more councillors. In the 2014 United Kingdom local elections, 2014 local elections they lost over 300 councillors and the control of two local governments. In the 2016 United Kingdom local elections, 2016 local elections, the number of Liberal Democrat councillors increased for the first time since they went into coalition in 2010. The party won 43 seats and increased its vote share by 4%. A number of former MPs who lost their seats in 2015 won council seats in 2016, including former Manchester Withington (UK Parliament constituency), Manchester Withington MP John Leech who won 53% of the vote in a traditionally safe Labour seat. Leech's win was the first gain for any party in Manchester other than Labour for the first time in six years, and provided the city's majority Labour administration with its first opposition for two years. Cheadle (UK Parliament constituency), Cheadle's former MP Mark Hunter (politician), Mark Hunter also won a seat on Stockport Council. As of 2020, the party has 2,534 councilors. In the 2021 United Kingdom local elections, 2021 elections the BBC reported that in England's 143 councils up for election the party won 588 seats (an increase of 8) and won 7 councils (an increase of 1), holding Cheltenham, Eastleigh, Mole Valley, Three Rivers, Watford and Winchester and gaining St. Albans. In the
London Assembly The London Assembly is a 25-member elected body, part of the Greater London Authority The Greater London Authority (GLA), colloquially known by the metonym "City Hall", is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved Regions of England, r ...
2 seats were won (an increase of 1).


European elections

As a
pro-European Pro-Europeanism, sometimes called European Unionism, is a political position that favours European integration and membership of the European Union (EU).Krisztina Arató, Petr Kaniok (editors). ''Euroscepticism and European Integration''. Politi ...
party, the Liberal Democrats tended to fare badly at European Parliament elections. In the 2004 local elections their share of the vote was 29% (placing them second, ahead of Labour) and 14.9% in the simultaneous 2004 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, European Parliament elections (putting them in fourth place behind the UK Independence Party). The results of the 2009 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2009 European elections were similar with the party achieving a vote of 28% in the county council elections yet achieving only 13.7% in the Europeans despite the elections taking place on the same day. The 2009 elections did however see the party gain one seat from UKIP in the East Midlands region taking the number of representatives in the parliament up to 11. In 2014 the party lost ten seats, leaving them with one MEP. Campaigning on a pro-Remain platform with the slogan "Bollocks to Brexit", the party achieved their best ever results in the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2019 election, taking 19.6% of the vote and winning 16 seats. In the European Parliament from 2004 to 2019, the party sat with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Political groups of the European Parliament, political group, which favoured further strengthening
European integration European integration is the process of industrial, economic integration, economic, political, legal, social and cultural Regional integration, integration of states wholly or partially in Europe or nearby. European integration has primarily ...
. The group's leader for seven and a half years was the South West England (European Parliament constituency), South West England MEP Graham Watson, who was also the first Liberal Democrat to be elected to the European Parliament when he won the old Somerset and North Devon (European Parliament constituency), Somerset and North Devon constituency in 1994. The group's current leader is the former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt. Following the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom, 2019 European elections, the Liberal Democrats joined
Renew Europe Renew Europe (Renew) is a Liberalism, liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament founded for the ninth European Parliament term. The group is the successor to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, Allia ...
, the successor group to the ALDE group.


Scottish Parliament elections

The first elections for the Scottish parliament were held in 1999 and resulted in the Liberal Democrats forming a coalition government with Labour from its establishment until 2007. The Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, Jim Wallace became Deputy First Minister, a role he continued until his retirement as party leader in 2005. The new leader of the party, Nicol Stephen, then took on the role of Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Deputy First Minister until the election of 2007 Scottish Parliament election, 2007. For the first three Scottish Parliament elections, the Lib Dems maintained a consistent number of MSPs. From the 17 elected in 1999, they retained this number in 2003 and went down one to 16 in 2007. However, this fell to only five seats after the 2011 election as a result of the widespread unpopularity of their #coalition, coalition with the Conservative party at the UK level. The MSP for North East Fife (Scottish Parliament constituency), North East Fife, Willie Rennie, took up the role of leader in May 2011. He resigned following a poor result for his party in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election and was succeeded by Alex Cole-Hamilton.


Senedd elections

The first elections to the newly created National Assembly for Wales (now
Senedd The Senedd (; ), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English language, English and () in Welsh language, Welsh, is the Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes ...

Senedd
) were in 1999; the Liberal Democrats took six seats in the inaugural Assembly;
Welsh Labour Welsh Labour ( cy, Llafur Cymru) is the branch of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as ...
won a Plurality (voting), plurality of seats, but without an overall majority. In October 2000, following a series of close votes, the parties formed a Lib-Lab Pact, coalition, with the Liberal Democrat leader in the assembly, Mike German, Baron German, Michael German, becoming the Deputy First Minister for Wales, Deputy First Minister. The deal lasted until the 2003 election, when Labour won enough seats to be able to govern outright. The party had polled consistently in the first four elections to the National Assembly, returning six representatives in the first three elections and five in the 2011 National Assembly for Wales election, 2011 election, thereby establishing itself as the fourth party in Wales behind Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, but fell to just one seat in 2016. Between 2008 and 2016, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats was Kirsty Williams, the Assembly Member (now Member of the Senedd (MS)) for Brecon and Radnorshire (Senedd Cymru constituency), Brecon and Radnorshire, the Assembly's first female party leader.


Federal Conference


Leadership


Leaders

* 1 Joint interim leader, as leader of the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties around the world. The meaning of ''liberal'' varies around the world, ranging from liberal conservatism on the right to social liberalism on the left. __TOC__ Active liberal parties This is a li ...
before the merger * 2 Joint interim leader, as leader of the
Social Democratic Party The name Social Democratic Party or Social Democrats has been used by many Political party, political parties in various countries around the world. Such parties are most commonly aligned to social democracy as their Ideologies of parties, pol ...
before the merger * 3 Acting leader between the resignation of Charles Kennedy on 7 January 2006 and his own election on 2 March 2006 * 4 Acting leader between the resignation of Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007 and the election of Nick Clegg on 18 December 2007 * 5 Interim leader following the resignation with immediate effect of Nick Clegg on 8 May 2015, and in the absence of any Deputy Leader, as President of the Party * 6 Joint interim leaders following the disqualification of Jo Swinson as leader upon losing her seat on 13 December 2019, Davey as Deputy Leader and Brinton as President of the Party; Pack replaced Brinton as Party President (and so joint interim leader) at midnight on 31 December/1 January


Deputy Leaders

* Russell Johnston, 1988–1992 *
Alan Beith Alan James Beith, Baron Beith, (born 20 April 1943), is a British politician who represented Berwick-upon-Tweed (UK Parliament constituency), Berwick-upon-Tweed as its Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) from 1973 to ...

Alan Beith
, 1992–2003 *
Menzies Campbell Walter Menzies Campbell, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, (; born 22 May 1941), often known as Ming Campbell, is a British Liberal Democrat politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected ...
, 2003–2006 *
Vince Cable Sir John Vincent Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) for Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency), Twic ...

Vince Cable
, 2006–2010 *
Simon Hughes Sir Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a former British politician. He is now the London South Bank University, Chancellor of London South Bank University, an External Adviser to The Open University, and UK Strategic Adviser to Talgo ...
, 2010–2014 * Malcolm Bruce, 2014–2015 * Vacant, 2015–2017 *
Jo Swinson Joanne Kate Swinson (born 5 February 1980) is a former British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 22 July to 13 December 2019. She was the first woman and the youngest person to hold ...

Jo Swinson
, 2017–2019 * Vacant, 2019 (July–September) * Ed Davey, 2019–2020 * Vacant, 2020 (August–September) * Daisy Cooper, 2020–present


Party Presidents

Presidents chair the Federal Board (Liberal Democrats), Federal Board. They are elected for a two-year term, starting on 1 January and ending on 31 December. They may serve a maximum of two terms. * Ian Wrigglesworth, 1988–1990 *
Charles Kennedy Charles Peter Kennedy (25 November 1959 – 1 June 2015) was a British Liberal Democrats (UK), Liberal Democrat politician who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999 to 2006 Liberal Democrats ...

Charles Kennedy
MP, 1991–1994 * Bob Maclennan, Baron Maclennan of Rogart, Robert Maclennan MP, 1995–1998 * Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock, Diana Maddock, 1999–2000 * Navnit Dholakia, Baron Dholakia, Navnit Dholakia, 2001–2004 *
Simon Hughes Sir Simon Henry Ward Hughes (born 17 May 1951) is a former British politician. He is now the London South Bank University, Chancellor of London South Bank University, an External Adviser to The Open University, and UK Strategic Adviser to Talgo ...
MP, 2005–2008 * Rosalind Scott, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Rosalind Scott, 2009–2010 *
Tim Farron Timothy James Farron (born 27 May 1970) is a British politician who served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2015 to 2017 Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2017. He has also served as Member ...
MP, 2011–2014 * Sal Brinton, 2015–2019 * Mark Pack, 2020–present


Leaders in the House of Lords


Leaders in the European Parliament

* Graham Watson, 1994–2002 (President of the
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party) is a European political party composed of 60 national-level liberal parties from across Europe, mainly active in the European Union. The ALDE Party is affiliated with the Lib ...
) * Diana Wallis, 2002–2004 * Chris Davies (Liberal Democrat politician), Chris Davies, 2004–2006 * Diana Wallis, 2006–2007 (Vice-President of the European Parliament) * Andrew Duff, 2007–2009 * Fiona Hall (politician), Fiona Hall, 2009–2014 * Catherine Bearder, 2014–2019 * Caroline Voaden, 2019–2020 The Liberal Democrats did not have representation in the European Parliament prior to 1994.


Chairs of the English Liberal Democrats

*Paul Farthing (1994–1999) *Dawn Davidson (2000–2003) *Stan Collins (2004–2006) *Brian Orrell (2007–2009) *Jonathan Davies (2010–2011) *Peter Ellis (2012–2014) *Steve Jarvis (2015–2016) *Liz Leffman (2017–2018) *Tahir Maher (2019) * Gerald Vernon-Jackson (2020) *Alison Rouse (2021–present)


Leaders of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

* Malcolm Bruce (3 March 1988 – 18 April 1992) * Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, Jim Wallace (18 April 1992 – 23 June 2005) * Nicol Stephen (27 June 2005 – 2 July 2008) * Tavish Scott (26 August 2008 – 7 May 2011) * Willie Rennie (17 May 2011 – 20 August 2021) * Alex Cole-Hamilton (20 August 2021 – present)


Leaders of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

* Richard Livsey (1988–1992) * Alex Carlile, Baron Carlile of Berriew, Alex Carlile (1992–1997) * Richard Livsey, Baron Livsey of Talgarth, Richard Livsey (1997–2001) * Lembit Öpik (2001–2007) * Mike German, Baron German, Mike German (2007–2008) * Kirsty Williams (2008–2016) * Mark Williams (politician), Mark Williams (2016–2017) * Kirsty Williams (Acting, 2017) * Jane Dodds (2017–present)


Current MPs

Eleven Liberal Democrat Member of parliament, Members of Parliament (MPs) were elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom at the 2019 general election. Green was elected at the 2021 Chesham and Amersham by-election and Morgan was elected in the 2021 North Shropshire by-election, bringing the current total to 13.


Reception

In 2006, Whiteley et al. noted that the Liberal Democrats were "a major force in contemporary British politics". Although throughout its history, the party had been relegated to third party status, they argued that it had the capability of breaking through to become one of the country's main two parties if proportional representation (or something like it) was introduced, or if either the Conservatives or Labour were severely weakened by splitting in two.


See also

* Glee Club (British politics) * Liberal Democrat Federal Conference (UK) * Liberal Left (UK) * Liberal Reform * Liberalism by country * Liberalism in the United Kingdom * List of Liberal Democrat MPs * List of liberal theorists * List of UK Liberal Party general election manifestos * Lloyd George Society * Politics of the United Kingdom


Notes


References


Sources

* * * * * * *


External links

* *
Liberal Democrats Flock Together


Party sub-organisations


Liberal Democrats Associated Organisations

Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors

Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists

Green Liberal Democrats

Humanist & Secularist Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats for Prison Reform


Historical information


An archive of Liberal/SDP/Liberal Democrats electoral manifestos from 1900–present
{{Authority control Liberal Democrats (UK), 1988 establishments in the United Kingdom Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party member parties Centre-left parties in the United Kingdom Centrist political parties in the United Kingdom Liberal International Liberal parties in the United Kingdom Political organisations based in London Political parties established in 1988 Social liberal parties