List of entries |  Feedback 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Liberal Party

Party which developed in the mid-19C from the ranks of the Whigs (see *Tories and Whigs). The name was first applied to radical *Whigs as a term of abuse, suggesting a link with the liberation movements familiar in many countries after the *Napoleonic Wars. But by the late 1830s Lord John *Russell was using it of the Whigs as a whole. The Liberal principles which gradually developed, finding their fullest expression in the *Gladstone administrations, were against government controls (the agitation against the *Corn Laws being in effect a Liberal campaign), were strong in defence of the individual and his rights (the Don *Pacifico adventure was an exaggerated instance), and were in favour of what we would now call devolution (the issue of *Home Rule).

After being the natural opposition to the *Conservatives for nearly a century, the Liberals found themselves replaced in that role after World War I by the *Labour party. Since then Liberal influence has been greater than their small number of seats in the House of Commons would suggest, for their traditional principles, with the emphasis on the individual and on 'grass-roots' politics, acquired a radical appeal in the corporate decades of the mid-20C, when the Conservatives seemed to be dominated by business interests and the Labour party by the trade unions.

Under the leadership of Grimond, Thorpe and Steel a succession of sweeping by-election successes continued to raise hopes for an increased share of the poll in general elections. This did not materialize until the Liberal partnership with the SDP, which led to a large vote for the *Alliance in 1983. On 17 September 1987 the Liberals voted at their annual conference to dissolve the party and to merge with the SDP, ending a century and a half of Liberal history. But the new party inevitably seems a continuation of the old, for the name of the Social Liberal Democratic party was soon officially shortened to *Liberal Democrats.

A  B-BL  BO-BX  C-CH  CI-CX  D  E  F  G  H  IJK  L  M  NO  P  QR  S-SL  SM-SX  T  UV  WXYZ