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The Liberal Party was one of the two
major Major is a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. I ...
political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
in the United Kingdom with the opposing
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
in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and
free trade Free trade is a trade policy A commercial policy (also referred to as a trade policy or international trade policy) is a government's policy governing international trade International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and service ...
–supporting
Peelite The Peelites were a breakaway dissident political faction of the British Conservative Party from 1846 to 1859. Initially led by Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was twice Prime Minister of the Uni ...
s and the reformist Radicals in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under
William Gladstone William Ewart Gladstone (; 29 December 1809 – 19 May 1898) was a British statesman and Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an a ...
. Despite being divided over the issue of
Irish Home Rule The Irish Home Rule movement was a movement that campaigned for self-government (or "home rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state tha ...
, the party returned to government in 1905 and then won a landslide victory in the following year's general election. Under
prime ministers A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpar ...
Henry Campbell-Bannerman Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (7 September 183622 April 1908) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 and Liberal Party (UK)#Liberal leaders 1859–1988, Leader of the Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908. He al ...
(1905–1908) and
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
(1908–1916), the Liberal Party passed the welfare reforms that created a basic British
welfare state The welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equal o ...
. Although Asquith was the party's leader, its dominant figure was
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. The last ...

David Lloyd George
. Asquith was overwhelmed by the
wartime
wartime
role of
coalition The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal. The word coalition connotes a co ...
prime minister and Lloyd George replaced him as prime minister in late 1916, but Asquith remained as Liberal Party leader. The pair fought for years over control of the party, badly weakening it in the process. In ''The Oxford Companion to British History'', historian
Martin Pugh Martin John Pugh is a British guitarist who came to prominence after joining blues-rock band Steamhammer (band), Steamhammer in 1968, staying with that band through 5 years and 4 albums. The debut Steamhammer album, also known as ''Steamhammer ( ...
argues: The government of Lloyd George was dominated by the Conservative Party, which finally deposed him in 1922. By the end of the 1920s, 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 ...
had replaced the Liberals as the Conservatives' main rival. The Liberal Party went into decline after 1918 and by the 1950s won as few as six seats at general elections. Apart from notable
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 vacant between general elections. In most cases these ...
victories, its fortunes did not improve significantly until it formed the
SDP–Liberal Alliance The SDP–Liberal Alliance was a centrist Centrism is a political outlook or position that involves acceptance and/or support of a balance of social equality and a degree of social hierarchy, while opposing political changes which would res ...
with the newly formed
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 1981. 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 Alliance won over a quarter of the vote, but only 23 of the 650 seats it contested. At the 1987 general election, its share of the vote fell below 23% and the Liberals and Social Democratic Party merged in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats. A splinter group reconstituted the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, ...
in 1989. Prominent intellectuals associated with the Liberal Party include the philosopher
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as ...
, the economist
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) was an English economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in ma ...

John Maynard Keynes
and social planner
William Beveridge William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, (5 March 1879 – 16 March 1963) was a British economist and Liberal politician who was a progressive and social reformer. His 1942 report ''Social Insurance and Allied Services'' (known as the ...
.
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head o ...

Winston Churchill
authored ''Liberalism and the Social Problem'' (1909), praised by
Henry William Massingham Henry William Massingham (25 May 1860 – 27 August 1924) was an English journalist, editor of ''The Nation ''The Nation'' is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, covering progressive political ...
as "an impressive and convincing argument" and widely considered as the movement’s bible.


History


Origins

The Liberal Party grew out of the Whigs, who had their origins in an
aristocratic Aristocracy ( grc-gre, ἀριστοκρατία , from 'excellent', and , 'rule') is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class, the aristocrats. The term derives from the Greek ''aristokrat ...
faction in the reign of
Charles II
Charles II
and the early 19th century Radicals. The Whigs were in favour of reducing the power of the Crown and increasing the power of
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws and overseeing the ...
. Although their motives in this were originally to gain more power for themselves, the more idealistic Whigs gradually came to support an expansion of
democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polit ...

democracy
for its own sake. The great figures of reformist Whiggery were
Charles James Fox Charles James Fox (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806), styled ''The Honourable'' from 1762, was a prominent British British Whig Party, Whig statesman whose parliamentary career spanned 38 years of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. H ...
(died 1806) and his disciple and successor
Earl Grey Earl Grey is a title in the peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1806 for General Charles Grey, 1st Earl Grey, Charles Grey, 1st Baron Grey. In 1801, he was given the title Baron Grey of Howick in the County of Northumberland, and in ...
. After decades in opposition, the Whigs returned to power under Grey in 1830 and carried the First Reform Act in 1832. The Reform Act was the climax of Whiggism, but it also brought about the Whigs' demise. The admission of the
middle class The middle class is a class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a collection of individuals or objects * Class (philosophy), an ana ...
es to the franchise and to 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 unincorporat ...

House of Commons
led eventually to the development of a systematic middle class liberalism and the end of Whiggery, although for many years reforming aristocrats held senior positions in the party. In the years after Grey's retirement, the party was led first by
Lord Melbourne William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, (15 March 177924 November 1848), in some sources called Henry William Lamb, was a British Whig Party, British Whig politician who served as Home Secretary (1830–1834) and Prime Minister of the United Kingd ...

Lord Melbourne
, a fairly traditional Whig, and then by
Lord John Russell John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, (18 August 1792 – 28 May 1878), known by his courtesy title Courtesy (from the word ''courteis'', from the 12th century) is gentle politeness and courtly manners. In the Middle Ages In the his ...

Lord John Russell
, the son of a Duke but a crusading radical, and by
Lord Palmerston Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, (20 October 1784 – 18 October 1865) was a British statesman, who was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century. Palmerston dominated British foreign policy during the period ...

Lord Palmerston
, a renegade Irish
Tory A Tory () is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of Traditionalist conservatism, traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English cult ...
and essentially a
conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (sociology), taste, as well as the philosophy of art (its own area of philosophy that comes out of aest ...
, although capable of radical gestures. As early as 1839, Russell had adopted the name of "Liberals", but in reality his party was a loose coalition of Whigs in 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
and Radicals in the Commons. The leading Radicals were
John Bright John Bright (16 November 1811 – 27 March 1889) was a British Radicals (UK), Radical and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal statesman, one of the greatest orators of his generation and a promoter of free trade policies. A Quaker, Bright is most f ...

John Bright
and
Richard Cobden Richard Cobden (3 June 1804 – 2 April 1865) was an English Radicals (UK), Radical and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal politician, manufacturing, manufacturer, and a campaigner for free trade and peace. He was associated with the Anti-Corn Law League ...

Richard Cobden
, who represented the manufacturing towns which had gained representation under the Reform Act. They favoured social reform, personal liberty, reducing the powers of the Crown and the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a List of Christian denominations, Christian church which is the established church of England. The archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior clergy, cleric, although the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, mona ...
(many Liberals were
Nonconformists Nonconformity or nonconformism may refer to: Culture and society * Insubordination, the act of willfully disobeying an order of one's superior *Dissent, a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or entity ** O ...
), avoidance of war and foreign alliances (which were bad for business) and above all
free trade Free trade is a trade policy A commercial policy (also referred to as a trade policy or international trade policy) is a government's policy governing international trade International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and service ...
. For a century, free trade remained the one cause which could unite all Liberals. In 1841, the Liberals lost office to the
Conservatives Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to the traditional values or practices of the culture Culture () is an umbrella term w ...

Conservatives
under
Sir Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was a British Conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste (socio ...

Sir Robert Peel
, but their period in
opposition Opposition may refer to: Arts and media * Opposition (Altars EP), ''Opposition'' (Altars EP), 2011 EP by Christian metalcore band Altars * The Opposition (band), a London post-punk band * ''The Opposition with Jordan Klepper'', a late-night tele ...
was short because the Conservatives split over the repeal of the
Corn Laws The Corn Laws were tariff A tariff is a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or per ...
, a free trade issue; and a faction known as the
Peelite The Peelites were a breakaway dissident political faction of the British Conservative Party from 1846 to 1859. Initially led by Robert Peel Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, (5 February 1788 – 2 July 1850) was twice Prime Minister of the Uni ...
s (but not Peel himself, who died soon after) defected to the Liberal side. This allowed ministries led by Russell, Palmerston and the Peelite
Lord Aberdeen Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power (social and political), power over others, acting as a master, a chief, or a ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the Peerag ...
to hold office for most of the 1850s and 1860s. A leading Peelite was William Gladstone, who was a reforming
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state that ha ...
in most of these governments. The formal foundation of the Liberal Party is traditionally traced to 1859 and the formation of Palmerston's second government. However, the Whig-Radical amalgam could not become a true modern political party while it was dominated by aristocrats and it was not until the departure of the "Two Terrible Old Men", Russell and Palmerston, that Gladstone could become the first leader of the modern Liberal Party. This was brought about by Palmerston's death in 1865 and Russell's retirement in 1868. After a brief Conservative government (during which the
Second Reform Act 250px, Contemporary cartoon of Disraeli outpacing Gladstone (left) at The Derby, parodying the perceived victor in debates in a split Liberal-led Commons while Disraeli's fellow Conservative, House_of_Lords.html"_;"title="Lord_Derby_led_as_Prim ...
was passed by agreement between the parties), Gladstone won a huge victory at the 1868 election and formed the first Liberal government. The establishment of the party as a national membership organisation came with the foundation of the
National Liberal Federation The National Liberal Federation (1877–1936) was the union of all English and Welsh (but not Scottish) Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Associations. It held an annual conference which was regarded as being representative of the opinion of the party's ...
in 1877. The philosopher
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873), also cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as ...
was also a Liberal MP from 1865 to 1868.


Gladstone era

For the next thirty years Gladstone and Liberalism were synonymous. William Gladstone served as prime minister four times (1868–74, 1880–85, 1886, and 1892–94). His financial policies, based on the notion of balanced budgets, low taxes and ''
laissez-faire ''Laissez-faire'' ( ; from french: laissez faire , ) is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), d ...
'', were suited to a developing capitalist society, but they could not respond effectively as economic and social conditions changed. Called the "Grand Old Man" later in life, Gladstone was always a dynamic popular orator who appealed strongly to the
working class The working class (or labouring class) comprises those engaged in manual-labour occupations or industrial work, who are remunerated via waged or salaried contracts. Working-class occupations (see also "Designation of workers by collar colorCo ...
and to the lower middle class. Deeply religious, Gladstone brought a new moral tone to politics, with his evangelical sensibility and his opposition to aristocracy. His moralism often angered his upper-class opponents (including Queen Victoria), and his heavy-handed control split the Liberal Party. In foreign policy, Gladstone was in general against foreign entanglements, but he did not resist the realities of imperialism. For example, he ordered the occupation of
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...
by British forces in 1882. His goal was to create a European order based on co-operation rather than conflict and on mutual trust instead of rivalry and suspicion; the
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language ...

rule of law
was to supplant the reign of force and self-interest. This Gladstonian concept of a harmonious
Concert of Europe The Concert of Europe refers to a general consensus among the Great Powers of 19th Century Europe to maintain the European balance of power and the integrity of territorial boundaries. Never a consensus, and subject to disputes and jockeying fo ...
was opposed to and ultimately defeated by a Bismarckian system of manipulated alliances and antagonisms. As prime minister from 1868 to 1874, Gladstone headed a Liberal Party which was a coalition of Peelites like himself, Whigs and Radicals. He was now a spokesman for "peace, economy and reform". One major achievement was the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which provided England with an adequate system of elementary schools for the first time. He also secured the abolition of the purchase of commissions in the army and of religious tests for admission to Oxford and Cambridge; the introduction of the secret ballot in elections; the legalization of trade unions; and the reorganization of the judiciary in the Judicature Act. Regarding Ireland, the major Liberal achievements were land reform, where he ended centuries of landlord oppression, and the
disestablishment The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations Religious activities generally need some infrastructure to be conducted. F ...
of the (Anglican)
Church of Ireland The Church of Ireland ( ga, Eaglais na hÉireann, ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ul ...
through the
Irish Church Act 1869 The Irish Church Act 1869 (32 & 33 Vict. c. 42) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the Unite ...
. In the 1874 general election Gladstone was defeated by the Conservatives under
Benjamin Disraeli Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, (21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881), was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head of government is e ...

Benjamin Disraeli
during a sharp economic recession. He formally resigned as Liberal leader and was succeeded by the
Marquess of Hartington A marquess (; french: marquis, ) is a nobleman Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often be ...
, but he soon changed his mind and returned to active politics. He strongly disagreed with Disraeli's pro-
Ottoman Ottoman is the Turkish spelling of the Arabic masculine given name Uthman (name), Uthman (Arabic: عُثْمان ''‘uthmān''). It may refer to: Governments and dynasties * Ottoman Caliphate, an Islamic caliphate from 1517 to 1924 * Ottoman Empi ...
foreign policy and in 1880 he conducted the first outdoor mass-election campaign in Britain, known as the
Midlothian campaign 300px, Photograph taken at Catherine_and_daughter_ Dalmeny_House_of_the_campaign's_organizers_in_1879._Included_in_the_photograph_are_William_Ewart_Gladstone_and_his_wife_Catherine_Gladstone">Catherine_and_daughter_Mary_Gladstone">Mary,_as_well_as ...
. The Liberals won a large majority in the 1880 election. Hartington ceded his place and Gladstone resumed office.


Ireland and Home Rule

Among the consequences of the Third Reform Act (1884) was the giving of the vote to many Catholics in Ireland. In the 1885 general election the
Irish Parliamentary Party The Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP; commonly called the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party) was formed in 1874 by Isaac Butt Isaac Butt (6 September 1813 – 5 May 1879) was an Irish barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common ...
held the balance of power in the House of Commons, and demanded
Irish Home Rule The Irish Home Rule movement was a movement that campaigned for self-government (or "home rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state tha ...
as the price of support for a continued Gladstone ministry. Gladstone personally supported Home Rule, but a strong
Liberal Unionist The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party Liberal Party is a name for political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candida ...
faction led by
Joseph Chamberlain Joseph Chamberlain (8 July 1836 – 2 July 1914) was a British statesman who was first a radical Liberal Party (UK), Liberal, then, after opposing home rule for Ireland, a Liberal Unionist, and eventually served as a leading new Imperialism, imp ...

Joseph Chamberlain
, along with the last of the Whigs, Hartington, opposed it. The Irish Home Rule bill proposed to offer all owners of Irish land a chance to sell to the state at a price equal to 20 years' purchase of the rents and allowing tenants to purchase the land. Irish nationalist reaction was mixed, Unionist opinion was hostile, and the election addresses during the 1886 election revealed English radicals to be against the bill also. Among the Liberal rank and file, several Gladstonian candidates disowned the bill, reflecting fears at the constituency level that the interests of the working people were being sacrificed to finance a costly rescue operation for the landed élite. Further, Home Rule had not been promised in the Liberals' election manifesto, and so the impression was given that Gladstone was buying Irish support in a rather desperate manner to hold on to power. The result was a catastrophic split in the Liberal Party, and heavy defeat in the 1886 election at the hands of
Lord Salisbury Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (; 3 February 183022 August 1903) was a British statesman and Conservative Conservatism is a Political philosophy, political and social philosophy promoting traditional soci ...

Lord Salisbury
, who was supported by the breakaway
Liberal Unionist Party The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party. Led by Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, Lord Hartington (later the Duke of Devonshi ...
. There was a final weak Gladstone ministry in 1892, but it also was dependent on Irish support and failed to get Irish Home Rule through the House of Lords.


Newcastle Programme

Historically, the aristocracy was divided between Conservatives and Liberals. However, when Gladstone committed to home rule for Ireland, Britain's upper classes largely abandoned the Liberal party, giving the Conservatives a large permanent majority in the House of Lords. Following the Queen, High Society in London largely ostracized home rulers and Liberal clubs were badly split.
Joseph Chamberlain Joseph Chamberlain (8 July 1836 – 2 July 1914) was a British statesman who was first a radical Liberal Party (UK), Liberal, then, after opposing home rule for Ireland, a Liberal Unionist, and eventually served as a leading new Imperialism, imp ...

Joseph Chamberlain
took a major element of upper-class supporters out of the Party and into a third party called Liberal Unionism on the Irish issue. It collaborated with and eventually merged into the Conservative party. The Gladstonian liberals in 1891 adopted The Newcastle Programme that included home rule for Ireland, disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales, tighter controls on the sale of liquor, major extension of factory regulation and various democratic political reforms. The Programme had a strong appeal to the nonconformist middle-class Liberal element, which felt liberated by the departure of the aristocracy.


Relations with trade unions

A major long-term consequence of the Third Reform Act was the rise of
Lib-Lab The Liberal–Labour movement refers to the practice of local Liberal Party (UK), Liberal associations accepting and supporting candidates who were financially maintained by trade unions. These candidates stood for the Parliament of the United King ...
candidates, in the absence of any committed
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 ...
. The Act split all county constituencies (which were represented by multiple MPs) into single-member constituencies, roughly corresponding to population patterns. In areas with working class majorities, in particular coal-mining areas, Lib-Lab candidates were popular, and they received sponsorship and endorsement from
trade union A trade union (or a labor union 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 language native ...
s. In the first election after the Act was passed (1885), thirteen were elected, up from two in 1874. The Third Reform Act also facilitated the demise of the Whig old guard: in two-member constituencies, it was common to pair a Whig and a radical under the Liberal banner. After the Third Reform Act, fewer Whigs were selected as candidates.


Reform policies

A broad range of interventionist reforms were introduced by the 1892–1895 Liberal government. Amongst other measures, standards of accommodation and of teaching in schools were improved, factory inspection was made more stringent, and ministers used their powers to increase the wages and reduce the working hours of large numbers of male workers employed by the state. Historian Walter L. Arnstein concludes: :Notable as the Gladstonian reforms had been, they had almost all remained within the nineteenth-century Liberal tradition of gradually removing the religious, economic, and political barriers that prevented men of varied creeds and classes from exercising their individual talents in order to improve themselves and their society. As the third quarter of the century drew to a close, the essential bastions of Victorianism still held firm: respectability; a government of aristocrats and gentlemen now influenced not only by middle-class merchants and manufacturers but also by industrious working people; a prosperity that seemed to rest largely on the tenets of laissez-faire economics; and a Britannia that ruled the waves and many a dominion beyond.


After Gladstone

Gladstone finally retired in 1894. Gladstone's support for Home Rule deeply divided the party, and it lost its upper and upper-middle-class base, while keeping support among Protestant nonconformists and the Celtic fringe. Historian R. C. K. Ensor reports that after 1886, the main Liberal Party was deserted by practically the entire whig peerage and the great majority of the upper-class and upper-middle-class members. High prestige London clubs that had a Liberal base were deeply split. Ensor notes that, "London society, following the known views of the Queen, practically ostracized home rulers." The new Liberal leader was the ineffectual
Lord Rosebery Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian, (7 May 1847 – 21 May 1929) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from March 1894 to June 1895. Between the death of his father in 1851 and the death of his grandfa ...
. He led the party to a heavy defeat in the 1895 general election.


Liberal factions

The Liberal Party lacked a unified ideological base in 1906. It contained numerous contradictory and hostile factions, such as imperialists and supporters of the Boers; near-socialists and laissez-faire classical liberals; suffragettes and opponents of women's suffrage; antiwar elements and supporters of the military alliance with France. Nonconformists – Protestants outside the Anglican fold – were a powerful element, dedicated to opposing the established church in terms of education and taxation. However, the non-conformists were losing support amid society at large and played a lesser role in party affairs after 1900. The party, furthermore, also included Irish Catholics, and secularists from the labour movement. Many Conservatives (including Winston Churchill) had recently protested against high tariff moves by the Conservatives by switching to the anti-tariff Liberal camp, but it was unclear how many old Conservative traits they brought along, especially on military and naval issues. The middle-class business, professional and intellectual communities were generally strongholds, although some old aristocratic families played important roles as well. The working-class element was moving rapidly toward the newly emerging Labour Party. One uniting element was widespread agreement on the use of politics and Parliament as a device to upgrade and improve society and to reform politics. All Liberals were outraged when Conservatives used their majority in the House of Lords to block reform legislation. In the House of Lords, the Liberals had lost most of their members, who in the 1890s "became Conservative in all but name." The government could force the unwilling king to create new Liberal peers, and that threat did prove decisive in the battle for dominance of Commons over Lords in 1911.


Rise of New Liberalism

The late nineteenth century saw the emergence of New Liberalism within the Liberal Party, which advocated state intervention as a means of guaranteeing freedom and removing obstacles to it such as poverty and unemployment. The policies of the New Liberalism are now known as
social liberalism 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 ...
. The New Liberals included intellectuals like L. T. Hobhouse, and John A. Hobson. They saw individual liberty as something achievable only under favourable social and economic circumstances. In their view, the poverty, squalor, and ignorance in which many people lived made it impossible for freedom and individuality to flourish. New Liberals believed that these conditions could be ameliorated only through collective action coordinated by a strong, welfare-oriented, and interventionist state. After the historic 1906 victory, the Liberal Party introduced multiple reforms on range of issues, including
health insurance Health insurance or medical insurance (also known as medical aid in South Africa) is a type of insurance Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management Risk management is the identification, ev ...
, unemployment insurance, and pensions for elderly workers, thereby laying the groundwork for the future British
welfare state The welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equal o ...
. Some proposals failed, such as licensing fewer pubs, or rolling back Conservative educational policies. The People's Budget of 1909, championed by
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. The last ...

David Lloyd George
and fellow Liberal
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head o ...

Winston Churchill
, introduced unprecedented taxes on the wealthy in Britain and radical social welfare programmes to the country's policies. It was the first budget with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the public. It imposed increased taxes on luxuries, liquor, tobacco, high incomes, and land – taxation that fell heavily on the rich. The new money was to be made available for new welfare programmes as well as new battleships. In 1911 Lloyd George succeeded in putting through Parliament his National Insurance Act, making provision for sickness and invalidism, and this was followed by his Unemployment Insurance Act 1920, Unemployment Insurance Act. Historian Peter Weiler argues: Contrasting Old Liberalism with New Liberalism, David Lloyd George noted in a 1908 speech the following:


Liberal zenith

The Liberals languished in opposition for a decade while the coalition of Salisbury and Chamberlain held power. The 1890s were marred by infighting between the three principal successors to Gladstone, party leader William Vernon Harcourt (politician), William Harcourt, former prime minister Lord Rosebery, and Gladstone's personal secretary, John Morley. This intrigue finally led Harcourt and Morley to resign their positions in 1898 as they continued to be at loggerheads with Rosebery over Irish home rule and issues relating to imperialism. Replacing Harcourt as party leader was Sir
Henry Campbell-Bannerman Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (7 September 183622 April 1908) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908 and Liberal Party (UK)#Liberal leaders 1859–1988, Leader of the Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908. He al ...
. Harcourt's resignation briefly muted the turmoil in the party, but the beginning of the Second Boer War soon nearly broke the party apart, with Rosebery and a circle of supporters including important future Liberal figures H. H. Asquith, Edward Grey and Richard Burdon Haldane forming a clique dubbed the Liberal Imperialists that supported the government in the prosecution of the war. On the other side, more radical members of the party formed a Pro-Boer faction that denounced the conflict and called for an immediate end to hostilities. Quickly rising to prominence among the Pro-Boers was David Lloyd George, a relatively new MP and a master of rhetoric, who took advantage of having a national stage to speak out on a controversial issue to make his name in the party. Harcourt and Morley also sided with this group, though with slightly different aims. Campbell-Bannerman tried to keep these forces together at the head of a moderate Liberal rump, but in 1901 he delivered a speech on the government's "methods of barbarism" in South Africa that pulled him further to the left and nearly tore the party in two. The party was saved after Salisbury's retirement in 1902 when his successor, Arthur Balfour, pushed a series of unpopular initiatives such as the Education Act 1902 and Joseph Chamberlain called for a new system of protectionist tariffs. Campbell-Bannerman was able to rally the party around the traditional liberal platform of free trade and land reform and led them to 1906 United Kingdom general election, the greatest election victory in their history. This would prove the last time the Liberals won a majority in their own right. Although he presided over a large majority, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was overshadowed by his ministers, most notably
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
at the Exchequer, Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Edward Grey at the Foreign Office, Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane, Richard Burdon Haldane at the War Office and
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. The last ...

David Lloyd George
at the Board of Trade. Campbell-Bannerman retired in 1908 and died soon after. He was succeeded by Asquith, who stepped up the government's radicalism. Lloyd George succeeded Asquith at the Exchequer, and was in turn succeeded at the Board of Trade by
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head o ...

Winston Churchill
, a recent defector from the Conservatives. The 1906 general election also represented a shift to the left by the Liberal Party. According to Rosemary Rees, almost half of the Liberal MPs elected in 1906 were supportive of the 'New Liberalism' (which advocated government action to improve people's lives),) while claims were made that “five-sixths of the Liberal party are left wing.” Other historians, however, have questioned the extent to which the Liberal Party experienced a leftward shift; according to Robert C. Self however, only between 50 and 60 Liberal MPs out of the 400 in the parliamentary party after 1906 were Social Radicals, with a core of 20 to 30. Nevertheless, important junior offices were held in the cabinet by what Duncan Tanner has termed "genuine New Liberals, Centrist reformers, and Fabian collectivists," and much legislation was pushed through by the Liberals in government. This included the regulation of working hours, National Insurance and welfare. A political battle erupted over the People's Budget and resulted in the passage of an act ending the power 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
to block legislation. The cost was high, however, as the government was required by the king to call two general elections in 1910 to validate its position and ended up frittering away most of its large majority, being left once again dependent on the Irish Parliamentary Party, Irish Nationalists. As a result, Asquith was forced to introduce a new Third Home Rule Act, third Home Rule bill in 1912. Since the House of Lords no longer had the power to block the bill, the Unionist's Ulster Volunteers led by Sir Edward Carson, launched a campaign of opposition that included the threat of armed resistance in Northern Ireland, Ulster and the threat of mass resignation of their commissions by army officers in Ireland in 1914 (''see Curragh Incident''). In their resistance to Home Rule the Ulster Protestants had the full support of the Conservatives, whose leader, Bonar Law, was of Ulster Scots people, Ulster-Scots descent. The country seemed to be on the brink of civil war when the World War I, First World War broke out in August 1914. Historian George Dangerfield has argued that the multiplicity of crises in 1910 to 1914, before the war broke out, so weakened the Liberal coalition that it marked the ''Strange Death of Liberal England''. However, most historians date the collapse to the crisis of the First World War.


Decline

The Liberal Party might have survived a short war, but the totality of the Great War called for measures that the Party had long rejected. The result was the permanent destruction of the ability of the Liberal Party to lead a government. Historian Robert Blake, Baron Blake, Robert Blake explains the dilemma: Blake further notes that it was the Liberals, not the Conservatives who needed the moral outrage of Belgium to justify going to war, while the Conservatives called for intervention from the start of the crisis on the grounds of ''realpolitik'' and the balance of power. However, Lloyd George and Churchill were zealous supporters of the war, and gradually forced the old peace-orientated Liberals out. Asquith was blamed for the poor British performance in the first year. Since the Liberals ran the war without consulting the Conservatives, there were heavy partisan attacks. However, even Liberal commentators were dismayed by the lack of energy at the top. At the time, public opinion was intensely hostile, both in the media and in the street, against any young man in civilian garb and labeled as a slacker. The leading Liberal newspaper, the ''Manchester Guardian'' complained: Asquith's Liberal government was brought down in , due in particular to a Shell Crisis of 1915, crisis in inadequate artillery shell production and the protest resignation of John Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher, Admiral Fisher over the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign against Turkey. Reluctant to face doom in an election, Asquith formed a new coalition government on 25 May, with the majority of the new cabinet coming from his own Liberal party and the Conservative Party (UK), Unionist (Conservative) party, along with a token Labour representation. The new government lasted a year and a half, and was the last time Liberals controlled the government. The analysis of historian A. J. P. Taylor is that the British people were so deeply divided over numerous issues, But on all sides there was growing distrust of the Asquith government. There was no agreement whatsoever on wartime issues. The leaders of the two parties realized that embittered debates in Parliament would further undermine popular morale and so the House of Commons did not once discuss the war before May 1915. Taylor argues: The 1915 coalition fell apart at the end of 1916, when the Conservatives withdrew their support from Asquith and gave it instead to Lloyd George, who became prime minister at the head of a new coalition largely made up of Conservatives. Asquith and his followers moved to the opposition benches in Parliament and the Liberal Party was deeply split once again.


Lloyd George as a Liberal heading a Conservative coalition

Lloyd George remained a Liberal all his life, but he abandoned many standard Liberal principles in his crusade to win the war at all costs. He insisted on strong government controls over business as opposed to the ''
laissez-faire ''Laissez-faire'' ( ; from french: laissez faire , ) is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), d ...
'' attitudes of traditional Liberals. He insisted on conscription of young men into the Army, a position that deeply troubled his old colleagues. That brought him and a few like-minded Liberals into the new coalition on the ground long occupied by Conservatives. There was no more planning for world peace or liberal treatment of Germany, nor discomfit with aggressive and authoritarian measures of state power. More deadly to the future of the party, says historian Trevor Wilson, was its repudiation by ideological Liberals, who decided sadly that it no longer represented their principles. Finally the presence of the vigorous new Labour Party on the left gave a new home to voters disenchanted with the Liberal performance. The last majority Liberal Government in Britain was elected in 1906. The years preceding the First World War were marked by worker strikes and civil unrest and saw many violent confrontations between civilians and the police and armed forces. Other issues of the period included women's suffrage and the
Irish Home Rule The Irish Home Rule movement was a movement that campaigned for self-government (or "home rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state tha ...
movement. After the carnage of 1914–1918, the democratic reforms of the Representation of the People Act 1918 instantly tripled the number of people entitled to vote in Britain from seven to twenty-one million. The Labour Party benefited most from this huge change in the electorate, forming its First Labour Government (UK), first minority government in 1924. In the 1918 United Kingdom general election, 1918 general election, Lloyd George, hailed as "the Man Who Won the War", led his coalition into a khaki election. Lloyd George and the Conservative leader Bonar Law wrote a joint letter of support to candidates to indicate they were considered the official Coalition candidates—this "The Coalition Coupon, coupon", as it became known, was issued against many sitting Liberal MPs, often to devastating effect, though not against Asquith himself. The coalition won a massive victory as the Asquithian Liberals and Labour were decimated. Those remaining Liberal MPs who were opposed to the Coalition Government went into opposition under the parliamentary leadership of Donald Maclean (British politician), Sir Donald MacLean who also became Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition. Asquith, who had appointed MacLean, remained as overall Leader of the Liberal Party even though he lost his seat in 1918. Asquith returned to parliament in 1920 and resumed leadership. Between 1919 and 1923, the anti-Lloyd George Liberals were called Asquithian Liberals, Wee Free Liberals or Independent Liberal Party (UK, 1918), Independent Liberals. Lloyd George was increasingly under the influence of the rejuvenated Conservative party who numerically dominated the coalition. In 1922, the Conservative backbenchers Carlton Club meeting, rebelled against the continuation of the coalition, citing, in particular, Lloyd George's plan for war with Turkey in the Chanak Crisis, and his corrupt sale of honours. He resigned as prime minister and was succeeded by Bonar Law. At the 1922 United Kingdom general election, 1922 and 1923 United Kingdom general election, 1923 elections the Liberals won barely a third of the vote and only a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons as many radical voters abandoned the divided Liberals and went over to Labour. In 1922, Labour became the official opposition. A reunion of the two warring factions took place in 1923 when the new Conservative prime minister Stanley Baldwin committed his party to protective tariffs, causing the Liberals to reunite in support of free trade. The party gained ground in the 1923 United Kingdom general election, 1923 general election but made most of its gains from Conservatives whilst losing ground to Labour—a sign of the party's direction for many years to come. The party remained the third largest in the House of Commons, but the Conservatives had lost their majority. There was much speculation and fear about the prospect of a Labour government and comparatively little about a Liberal government, even though it could have plausibly presented an experienced team of ministers compared to Labour's almost complete lack of experience as well as offering a middle ground that could obtain support from both Conservatives and Labour in crucial Commons divisions. However, instead of trying to force the opportunity to form a Liberal government, Asquith decided instead to allow Labour the chance of office in the belief that they would prove incompetent and this would set the stage for a revival of Liberal fortunes at Labour's expense, but it was a fatal error. Labour was determined to destroy the Liberals and become the sole party of the left. Ramsay MacDonald was forced into a 1924 United Kingdom general election, snap election in 1924 and although his government was defeated he achieved his objective of virtually wiping the Liberals out as many more radical voters now moved to Labour whilst moderate middle-class Liberal voters concerned about socialism moved to the Conservatives. The Liberals were reduced to a mere forty seats in Parliament, only seven of which had been won against candidates from both parties and none of these formed a coherent area of Liberal survival. The party seemed finished, and during this period some Liberals, such as Churchill, went over to the Conservatives while others went over to Labour. Several Labour ministers of later generations, such as Michael Foot and Tony Benn, were the sons of Liberal MPs. Asquith died in 1928 and Lloyd George returned to the leadership and began a drive to produce coherent policies on many key issues of the day. In the 1929 United Kingdom general election, 1929 general election, he made a final bid to return the Liberals to the political mainstream, with an ambitious programme of state stimulation of the economy called ''We Can Conquer Unemployment!'', largely written for him by the Liberal economist
John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, ( ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) was an English economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in ma ...

John Maynard Keynes
. The Liberal Party stood in Northern Ireland for the first and only time in the 1929 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland, 1929 general election gaining 17% of the vote but won no seats. The Liberals gained ground, but once again it was at the Conservatives' expense whilst also losing seats to Labour. Indeed, the urban areas of the country suffering heavily from unemployment, which might have been expected to respond the most to the radical economic policies of the Liberals, instead gave the party its worst results. By contrast, most of the party's seats were won either due to the absence of a candidate from one of the other parties or in rural areas on the Celtic fringe, where local evidence suggests that economic ideas were at best peripheral to the electorate's concerns. The Liberals now found themselves with 59 members, holding the balance of power in a Parliament where Labour was the largest party but lacked an overall majority. Lloyd George offered a degree of support to the Labour government in the hope of winning concessions, including a degree of electoral reform to introduce the Instant-runoff voting, alternative vote, but this support was to prove bitterly divisive as the Liberals increasingly divided between those seeking to gain what Liberal goals they could achieve, those who preferred a Conservative government to a Labour one and vice versa.


Splits over the National Government

A group of Liberal MPs led by Sir John Simon opposed the Liberal Party's support for the minority Labour government. They preferred to reach an accommodation with the Conservatives. In 1931 MacDonald's Labour government fell apart in response to the Great Depression in the United Kingdom, Great Depression. Macdonald agreed to lead a National Government (United Kingdom), National Government of all parties, which passed a budget to deal with the financial crisis. When few Labour MPs backed the National government, it became clear that the Conservatives had the clear majority of government supporters. They then forced Macdonald to call a 1931 United Kingdom general election, general election. Lloyd George called for the party to leave the National government but Independent Liberals (UK, 1931), only a few MPs and candidates followed. The majority, led by Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel, Sir Herbert Samuel, decided to contest the elections as part of the government. The bulk of Liberal MPs supported the government, – the National Liberal Party (UK, 1931), Liberal Nationals (officially the "National Liberals" after 1947) led by Simon, also known as "Simonites", and the "Samuelites" or "official Liberals", led by Samuel who remained as the official party. Both groups secured about 34 MPs but proceeded to diverge even further after the election, with the Liberal Nationals remaining supporters of the government throughout its life. There were to be a succession of discussions about them rejoining the Liberals, but these usually foundered on the issues of free trade and continued support for the National Government. The one significant reunification came in 1946 when the Liberal and Liberal National party organisations in London merged. The official Liberals found themselves a tiny minority within a government committed to protectionism. Slowly they found this issue to be one they could not support. In early 1932 it was agreed to suspend the principle of Cabinet collective responsibility, collective responsibility to allow the Liberals to oppose the introduction of tariffs. Later in 1932 the Liberals resigned their ministerial posts over the introduction of the Ottawa Conference, Ottawa Agreement on Imperial Preference. However, they remained sitting on the government benches supporting it in Parliament, though in the country local Liberal activists bitterly opposed the government. Finally in late 1933 the Liberals crossed the floor of the House of Commons and went into complete opposition. By this point their number of MPs was severely depleted. In the 1935 United Kingdom general election, 1935 general election, just 17 Liberal MPs were elected, along with Lloyd George and three followers as Independent Liberals (UK, 1931), independent Liberals. Immediately after the election the two groups reunited, though Lloyd George declined to play much of a formal role in his old party. Over the next ten years there would be further defections as MPs deserted to either the Liberal Nationals or Labour. Yet there were a few recruits, such as Clement Davies, who had deserted to the National Liberals in 1931 but now returned to the party during World War II and who would lead it after the war.


Near extinction

Samuel had lost his seat in the 1935 United Kingdom general election, 1935 election and the leadership of the party fell to Archibald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso, Sir Archibald Sinclair. With many traditional domestic Liberal policies now regarded as irrelevant, he focused the party on opposition to both the rise of Fascism in Europe and the appeasement foreign policy of the British government, arguing that intervention was needed, in contrast to the Labour calls for pacifism. Despite the party's weaknesses, Sinclair gained a high profile as he sought to recall the Midlothian Campaign and once more revitalise the Liberals as the party of a strong foreign policy. In 1940, they joined Churchill's wartime coalition government, with Sinclair serving as Secretary of State for Air, the last British Liberal to hold Cabinet rank office for seventy years. However, it was a sign of the party's lack of importance that they were not included in the War Cabinet; some leading party members founded Radical Action, a group which called for liberal candidates to break the war-time electoral pact. At the 1945 United Kingdom general election, 1945 general election, Sinclair and many of his colleagues lost their seats to both Conservatives and Labour and the party returned just 12 MPs to Westminster, but this was just the beginning of the decline. In 1950 United Kingdom general election, 1950, the general election saw the Liberals return just nine MPs. Another 1951 United Kingdom general election, general election was called in 1951 and the Liberals were left with just six MPs and all but one of them were aided by the fact that the Conservatives refrained from fielding candidates in those constituencies. In 1957, this total fell to five when one of the Liberal MPs died and the subsequent by-election was lost to the Labour Party, which selected the former Liberal Deputy Leader Megan Lloyd George as its own candidate. The Liberal Party seemed close to extinction. During this low period, it was often joked that Liberal MPs could hold meetings in the back of one taxi.


Liberal revival

Through the 1950s and into the 1960s the Liberals survived only because a handful of constituencies in rural Scotland and Wales clung to their Liberal traditions, whilst in two English towns, Bolton and Huddersfield, local Liberals and Conservatives agreed to each contest only one of the town's two seats. Jo Grimond, for example, who became Liberal leader in 1956, was MP for the remote Orkney and Shetland (UK Parliament constituency), Orkney and Shetland islands. Under his leadership a Liberal revival began, marked by the 1962 Orpington by-election, Orpington by-election of March 1962 which was won by Eric Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury, Eric Lubbock. There, the Liberals won a seat in the London suburbs for the first time since 1935. The Liberals became the first of the major British political parties to advocate British membership of the European Economic Community. Grimond also sought an intellectual revival of the party, seeking to position it as a non-socialist radical alternative to the Conservative government of the day. In particular he canvassed the support of the young post-war university students and recent graduates, appealing to younger voters in a way that many of his recent predecessors had not, and asserting a new strand of Liberalism for the post-war world. The new middle-class suburban generation began to find the Liberals' policies attractive again. Under Grimond (who retired in 1967) and his successor, Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberals regained the status of a serious third force in British politics, polling up to 20% of the vote, but unable to break the duopoly of Labour and Conservative and win more than fourteen seats in the Commons. An additional problem was competition in the Liberal heartlands in Scotland and Wales from the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru who both grew as electoral forces from the 1960s onwards. Although Emlyn Hooson held on to the seat of Montgomeryshire, upon Clement Davies death in 1962, the party lost five Welsh seats between 1950 and 1966. In September 1966, the Welsh Liberal Party formed their own state party, moving the Liberal Party into a fully federal structure. In local elections, Liverpool remained a Liberal stronghold, with the party taking the plurality of seats on the 1973 United Kingdom local elections, elections to the new Liverpool Metropolitan Borough Council in 1973. On 26 July 1973, the party won two by-elections on the same day, in the 1973 Isle of Ely by-election, Isle of Ely (with Clement Freud), and 1973 Ripon by-election, Ripon (with David Austick). In the February 1974 United Kingdom general election, February 1974 general election, the Conservative government of Edward Heath won a plurality of votes cast, but the Labour Party gained a plurality of seats. The Conservatives were unable to form a government due to the Ulster Unionist Party, Ulster Unionist MPs refusing to support the Conservatives after the Northern Ireland Sunningdale Agreement. The Liberals obtained 6.1 million votes, the most it would ever achieve, and now held the balance of power in the Commons. Conservatives offered Thorpe the Home Office if he would join a coalition government with Heath. Thorpe was personally in favour of it, but the party insisted it would only agree pending a clear government commitment to introducing proportional representation (PR) and a change of prime minister. The former was unacceptable to Heath's cabinet and the latter to Heath personally, so the talks collapsed. Instead, a minority Labour government was formed under Harold Wilson but with no formal support from Thorpe. In the October 1974 United Kingdom general election, October 1974 general election, the Liberals total vote slipped back slightly (and declined in each of the next three) and the Labour government won a wafer-thin majority. Thorpe was subsequently forced to resign after allegations that he attempted to have his homosexual lover murdered by a hitman. The party's new leader, David Steel, negotiated the Lib-Lab pact with Wilson's successor as prime minister, James Callaghan. According to this pact, the Liberals would support the government in crucial votes in exchange for some influence over policy. The agreement lasted from 1977 to 1978, but proved mostly fruitless, for two reasons: the Liberals' key demand of PR was rejected by most Labour MPs, whilst the contacts between Liberal spokespersons and Labour ministers often proved detrimental, such as between finance spokesperson John Pardoe and
Chancellor of the Exchequer The chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the chancellor, is a senior minister of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realm A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state that ha ...
Denis Healey, who were mutually antagonistic.


Alliance, Liberal Democrats and reconstituted Liberal Party

The Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 United Kingdom general election, 1979 general election, placing the Labour Party back in opposition, which served to push the Liberals back into the margins. In 1981, defectors from a moderate faction of the Labour Party, led by former Cabinet ministers Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Shirley Williams, founded 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). The new party and the Liberals quickly formed the SDP–Liberal Alliance, which for a while polled as high as 50% in the opinion polls and appeared capable of winning the next general election. Indeed, Steel was so confident of an Alliance victory that he told the 1981 Liberal conference, "Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for government!". However, the Alliance was overtaken in the polls by the Tories in the aftermath of the Falkland Islands War and 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 Conservatives were re-elected by a landslide, with Labour once again forming the opposition. While the SDP–Liberal Alliance came close to Labour in terms of votes (a share of more than 25%), it only had 23 MPs compared to Labour's 209. The Alliance's support was spread out across the country, and was not concentrated in enough areas to translate into seats. In the 1987 general election, the Alliance's share of the votes fell slightly and it now had 22 MPs. In the election's aftermath Steel proposed a merger of the two parties. Most SDP members voted in favour of the merger, but SDP leader David Owen objected and continued to lead a "rump" SDP. In March 1988, the Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party merged to create the Social and Liberal Democrats, renamed the Liberal Democrats in October 1989. Over two-thirds of Liberal members joined the merged party, along with all sitting MPs. Steel and SDP leader Robert Maclennan, Baron Maclennan of Rogart, Robert Maclennan served briefly as interim leaders of the merged party. A group of Liberal opponents of the merger with the Social Democrats, including Michael Meadowcroft (the former Liberal MP for Leeds West) and Paul Wiggin (who served on Peterborough City Council as a Liberal), continued with a new party organisation under the name of the '
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, ...
'. Meadowcroft joined the Liberal Democrats in 2007, but the Liberal Party as reconstituted in 1989 Liberal Party (UK, 1989) election results, continues to hold council seats and field candidates in Westminster Parliamentary elections. None of the nineteen Liberal candidates in 2019 achieved 5% of the votes, resulting in all losing their deposits.


Ideology

During the 19th century, the Liberal Party was broadly in favour of what would today be called classical liberalism, supporting ''
laissez-faire ''Laissez-faire'' ( ; from french: laissez faire , ) is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), d ...
'' economic policies such as
free trade Free trade is a trade policy A commercial policy (also referred to as a trade policy or international trade policy) is a government's policy governing international trade International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and service ...
and minimal government interference in the economy (this doctrine was usually termed Gladstonian liberalism after the Victorian era Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone). The Liberal Party favoured social reform, personal liberty, reducing the powers of the Crown and the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a List of Christian denominations, Christian church which is the established church of England. The archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior clergy, cleric, although the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, mona ...
(many of them were Nonconformist (Protestantism), nonconformists) and an extension of the electoral Suffrage, franchise. Sir William Vernon Harcourt (politician), William Harcourt, a prominent Liberal politician in the Victorian era, said this about liberalism in 1872:
If there be any party which is more pledged than another to resist a policy of restrictive legislation, having for its object social coercion, that party is the Liberal party. (Cheers.) But liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right, (Hear, hear.) The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes; a Liberal Government tries, as far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do as he wishes. It has been the tradition of the Liberal party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the place where people can do more what they please than in any other country in the world. [...] It is this practice of allowing one set of people to dictate to another set of people what they shall do, what they shall think, what they shall drink, when they shall go to bed, what they shall buy, and where they shall buy it, what wages they shall get and how they shall spend them, against which the Liberal party have always protested.''The Times'' (31 December 1872), p. 5.
The political terms of "modern", "progressive" or "new" Liberalism began to appear in the mid to late 1880s and became increasingly common to denote the tendency in the Liberal Party to favour an increased role for the state as more important than the classical liberal stress on self-help and freedom of choice. By the early 20th century, the Liberals stance began to shift towards "New Liberalism", what would today be called
social liberalism 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 ...
, namely a belief in personal liberty with a support for government intervention to provide social welfare. This shift was best exemplified by the Liberal government of
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
and his Chancellor
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. The last ...

David Lloyd George
, whose Liberal reforms in the early 1900s created a basic
welfare state The welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity Equal o ...
. David Lloyd George adopted a programme at the 1929 United Kingdom general election, 1929 general election entitled ''We Can Conquer Unemployment!'', although by this stage the Liberals had declined to third-party status. The Liberals as expressed in the ''Liberal Yellow Book'' now regarded opposition to state intervention as being a characteristic of Right-wing politics, right-wing extremists. After nearly becoming extinct in the 1940s and the 1950s, the Liberal Party revived its fortunes somewhat under the leadership of Jo Grimond in the 1960s by positioning itself as a Radical center (politics), radical centrist, non-Socialism, socialist alternative to the Conservative and Labour Party governments of the time.


Religious alignment

Since 1660, Nonconformist (Protestantism), nonconformist Protestants have played a major role in English politics. Relatively few MPs were English Dissenters, Dissenters. However the Dissenters were a major voting bloc in many areas, such as the East Midlands. They were very well organised and highly motivated and largely won over the Whigs and Liberals to their cause. Down to the 1830s, Dissenters demanded removal of political and civil disabilities that applied to them (especially those in the Test and Corporation Acts). The Anglican establishment strongly resisted until 1828. Numerous reforms of voting rights, especially that of 1832, increased the political power of Dissenters. They demanded an end to compulsory church rates, in which local taxes went only to Anglican churches. They finally achieved the end of religious tests for university degrees in 1905. Gladstone brought the majority of Dissenters around to support for Home Rule for Ireland, putting the dissenting Protestants in league with the Irish Roman Catholics in an otherwise unlikely alliance. The Dissenters gave significant support to moralistic issues, such as temperance and sabbath enforcement. The nonconformist conscience, as it was called, was repeatedly called upon by Gladstone for support for his moralistic foreign policy. In election after election, Protestant ministers rallied their congregations to the Liberal ticket. In Scotland, the Presbyterians played a similar role to the Nonconformist Methodists, Baptists and other groups in England and Wales. By the 1820s, the different Nonconformists, including Wesleyan Methodist Church (Great Britain), Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists and Unitarians, had formed the Committee of Dissenting Deputies and agitated for repeal of the highly restrictive Test and Corporation Act 1661, Corporation Acts. These Acts excluded Nonconformists from holding civil or military office or attending Oxford or Cambridge, compelling them to set up their own Dissenting Academies privately.Iain MacAllister et al., "Yellow fever? The political geography of Liberal voting in Great Britain", ''Political Geography'' (2002) 21#4, pp. 421–447. The Tories (British political party), Tories tended to be in favour of these Acts and so the Nonconformist cause was linked closely to the Whigs, who advocated civil and religious liberty. After the Test and Corporation Acts were Sacramental Test Act 1828, repealed in 1828, all the Nonconformists elected to Parliament were Liberals. Nonconformists were angered by the Education Act 1902, which integrated Church of England denominational schools into the state system and provided for their support from taxes. John Clifford (minister), John Clifford formed the National Passive Resistance Committee and by 1906 over 170 Nonconformists had gone to prison for refusing to pay school taxes. They included 60 Primitive Methodists, 48 Baptists, 40 Congregationalists and 15 Wesleyan Methodists. The political strength of Dissent faded sharply after 1920 with the secularisation of British society in the 20th century. The rise of the Labour Party reduced the Liberal Party strongholds into the nonconformist and remote "Celtic Fringe", where the party survived by an emphasis on localism and historic religious identity, thereby neutralising much of the class pressure on behalf of the Labour movement. Meanwhile, the Anglican Church was a bastion of strength for the Conservative Party. On the Irish issue, the Anglicans strongly supported unionism. Increasingly after 1850, the Roman Catholic element in England and Scotland was composed of recent emigrants from Ireland who largely voted for the
Irish Parliamentary Party The Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP; commonly called the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party) was formed in 1874 by Isaac Butt Isaac Butt (6 September 1813 – 5 May 1879) was an Irish barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common ...
until its collapse in 1918.


Liberal leaders


Liberal Leaders in the House of Lords

* Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville (1859–1865) * John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1865–1868) * Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville (1868–1891) * John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1891–1894) * Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1894–1896) * John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley (1896–1902) * John Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1902–1905) * George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon (1905–1908) * Robert Offley Ashburton Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1908–1923) * Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1923–1924) * William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp (1924–1931) * Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading (1931–1936) * Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1936–1944) * Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel (1944–1955) * Philip Rea, 2nd Baron Rea (1955–1967) * Frank Byers, Baron Byers (1967–1984) * Nancy Seear, Baroness Seear (1984–1989)


Liberal Leaders in the House of Commons

* Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1859–1865) *
William Gladstone William Ewart Gladstone (; 29 December 1809 – 19 May 1898) was a British statesman and Liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an a ...
(1865–1875) * Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire (1875–1880) * William Gladstone (1880–1894) * William Harcourt (politician), Sir William Harcourt (1894–1898) * Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1899–1908) *
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
(1908–1916)


Leaders of the Liberal Party

*
H. H. Asquith Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the last prime minister to lead a majority Liberal government, and he pl ...
, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, 1925 (1916–1926) ** Donald Maclean (British politician), Donald Maclean, Acting Leader (1919–1920) *
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. The last ...

David Lloyd George
(1926–1931) * Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel, Sir Herbert Samuel (1931–1935) * Archibald Sinclair, 1st Viscount Thurso, Sir Archibald Sinclair (1935–1945) * Clement Davies (1945–1956) * Jo Grimond (1956–1967) * Jeremy Thorpe (1967–1976) * Jo Grimond, Interim Leader (1976) * David Steel (1976–1988)


Deputy Leaders of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons

* Herbert Samuel (1929–1931) * Archibald Sinclair (1931–1935) * Post vacant (1935–1940) * Percy Harris (1940–1945) * Post vacant (1945–1949) * Megan Lloyd George (1949–1951) * Post vacant (1951–1962) * Donald Wade (1962–1964) * Post vacant (1964–1979) * John Pardoe (1976–1979) * Post vacant (1979–1985) * Alan Beith (1985–1988)


Deputy Leaders of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords

* Eric Drummond, 16th Earl of Perth (1946–1951) * Walter Layton, 1st Baron Layton (1952–1955) * Post vacant (1955–1965) * Gladwyn Jebb, 1st Baron Gladwyn (1965–1988)


Liberal Party front bench team members

* Liberal Party Frontbench Team, 1945–1956, 1945–1956 * Liberal Party Frontbench Team, 1956–1967, 1956–1967 * Liberal Party Frontbench Team, 1967–1976, 1967–1976


Electoral performance

; Notes


See also

* :Liberal Party (UK) MPs * List of Liberal Party (UK) MPs * Liberalism in the United Kingdom * Liberal Democrats * List of United Kingdom Liberal Party Leaders * List of United Kingdom Whig and allied party leaders (1801–59) * Liberal Chief Whip, List of Liberal Chief Whips * President of the Liberal Party (UK), President of the Liberal Party * List of UK Liberal Party general election manifestos


Notes


Further reading

* Adelman, Paul. ''The decline of the Liberal Party 1910–1931'' (2nd ed. Routledge, 2014). * Bentley, Michael ''The Climax of Liberal Politics: British Liberalism in Theory and Practice, 1868–1918'' (1987). * * John Campbell (biographer), Campbell, John ''Lloyd George, The Goat in the Wilderness, 1922–31'' (1977). * Clarke, P. F. "The Electoral Position of the Liberal and Labour Parties, 1910–1914." ''English Historical Review'' 90.357 (1975): 828–836
in JSTOR
* Cook, Chris. ''A Short History of the Liberal Party, 1900–2001'' (6th edition). Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. . * Cregier, Don M. "The Murder of the British Liberal Party," ''The History Teacher'' Vol. 3, No. 4 (May, 1970), pp. 27–3
online edition
* Cross, Colin. ''The Liberals in Power, 1905–1914'' (1963). * Dangerfield, George. ''The Strange Death of Liberal England'' (1935
online free
* Dutton, David. ''A History of the Liberal Party Since 1900'' 2nd ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). * Fairlie, Henry. "Oratory in Political Life," ''History Today'' (Jan 1960) 10#1 pp 3–13. A survey of political oratory in Britain from 1730 to 1960. * Gilbert, Bentley Brinkerhoff. ''David Lloyd George: A Political Life: The Architect of Change 1863–1912'' (1987). ''David Lloyd George: A Political Life: Organizer of Victory, 1912–1916'' (1992). * Hammond, J. L. and M. R. D. Foot.
Gladstone and Liberalism
' (1952) * Häusermann, Silja, Georg Picot, and Dominik Geering. "Review article: Rethinking party politics and the welfare state–recent advances in the literature". ''British Journal of Political Science'' 43#1 (2013): 221–24
online
* Hazlehurst, Cameron. "Asquith as Prime Minister, 1908–1916," ''The English Historical Review'' 85#336 (1970), pp. 502–53
in JSTOR
* Jenkins, Roy. "From Gladstone to Asquith: The Late Victorian Pattern of Liberal Leadership," ''History Today'' (July 1964) 14#7 pp 445–452. * Jenkins, Roy. ''Asquith: portrait of a man and an era'' (1964). * Thompson, J. A. "The Historians and the Decline of the Liberal Party." ''Albion'' 22.1 (1990): 65–83. * Thomas Jones (civil servant), Jones, Thomas. ''Lloyd George'' (1951), short biography
online edition
* Laybourn, Keith. "The rise of Labour and the decline of Liberalism: the state of the debate." ''History'' 80.259 (1995): 207–226, historiography. * Lynch, Patricia. ''The Liberal Party in Rural England, 1885–1910: Radicalism and Community'' (2003). * MacAllister, Iain, et al., "Yellow fever? The political geography of Liberal voting in Great Britain," ''Political Geography'' (2002) 21#4 pp. 421–447. * Machin, G. I. T. "Gladstone and Nonconformity in the 1860s: The Formation of an Alliance." ''Historical Journal'' 17, no. 2 (1974): 347–64
online
* Mowat, Charles Loch. ''Britain between the Wars, 1918–1940'' (1955) 694 pp
online edition
* Packer, Ian. ''Liberal government and politics, 1905–15'' (Springer, 2006). * Parry, Jonathan. ''The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain''. Yale, 1993.. * Partridge, Michael ''Gladstone'' (2002
online
304 pp. * Pugh, Martin D. "Asquith, Bonar Law and the First Coalition." ''Historical Journal'' 17.4 (1974): 813–836. * Russell, A.K. ''Liberal Landslide : The General Election of 1906'' (David & Charles, 1973). * St. John, Ian. ''The Historiography of Gladstone and Disraeli'' (Anthem Press, 2016) 402 pp
excerpt
* Thorpe, Andrew. "Labour Leaders and the Liberals, 1906–1924", ''Cercles'' 21 (2011), pp. 39–54
online
* Weiler, Peter. ''The New Liberalism: Liberal Social Theory in Great Britain, 1889–1914'' (Routledge, 2016). * Wilson, Trevor. ''The Downfall of the Liberal Party: 1914–1935'' (1966).


Primary sources


''Liberal Magazine 1901''
in-depth coverage of 1900.
''Liberal Magazine 1900''
in-depth coverage of 1899. * Biographies and voting returns since 1880s. * Craig, Frederick Walter Scott, ed. (1975). ''British General Election Manifestos, 1900–74''. Springer.


External links


Liberal Democrat History Group

Catalogue
of the Liberal Party papers (mostly dating from after 1945) a


The Liberal Magazine Volume 2 1895

Liberal Magazine A Periodical for the Use of Liberal Speakers, Writers and Canvassers Volume 1 1893

Facts for Liberal Politicians By John Noble 1879
{{DEFAULTSORT:Liberal Party (Uk) Liberal Party (UK), Classical liberal parties Social liberal parties Defunct political parties in the United Kingdom Defunct liberal political parties, United Kingdom 1860s Political parties established in 1859 Political parties disestablished in 1988 1859 establishments in the United Kingdom 1988 disestablishments in the United Kingdom Centrist political parties in the United Kingdom Leeds Blue Plaques