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Liberal Party in United Kingdom

Liberal Party (UK)

Introduction to Liberal Party

Liberal Party (UK), in Britain, political party, formed by the coalition of the Whigs and Radicals about 1830 and advocating reform on constitutional lines. Once a major political force, the party has undergone a decline in the 20th century. Causes supported by the Liberals have included free trade, popular education, state insurance, religious liberty, and an extensive franchise. The Nonconformists (Protestants not belonging to the Church of England), skilled workers, and humanitarians were the first supporters of the party. In the words of the British philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill, “a Liberal is one who looks forward for his principles of government; a Tory looks backward.”

The Liberals were in power, except for short intervals, from 1846 to 1866, and again, led by Prime Minister William Gladstone, from 1868 to 1874, from 1880 to 1885, and for part of 1886. Divided over Irish home rule, the party was then in opposition, except for three years, until 1905. With Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Herbert Henry Asquith as respective prime ministers, it held office from 1906 to 1915, when, in the midst of World War I, a coalition government was formed with the Conservative Party. Former secretary of war David Lloyd George, a Liberal, served as head of the wartime coalition from 1916 to 1922.

After 1920 the party lost strength, and the number of its supporters dwindled as it divided into the National Liberals and the Asquith Liberals. The party nevertheless helped to vote the Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, out of office in 1924, bringing in the first Labour administration, headed by James Ramsay MacDonald. During the next Baldwin administration, 1924 to 1929, Liberal representation was further reduced, despite the ostensible reunification of the factions. As head of the party, however, Lloyd George exercised considerable influence during the second Labour administration, which was elected in 1929, because neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party had a clear majority. In 1931 the Liberal Party again divided, into the Liberal and National Liberal parties. Between 1923 and 1935 Liberal seats in the House of Commons were reduced from 158 to 17.

The party participated in the coalition government in World War II (1939-1945) but won only 12 seats in the 1945 election. Despite moderate electoral gains in the early 1970s, it remained relatively unimportant, having been superseded by the Labour Party as the chief opposition to the Conservatives. In 1981 the Liberal Party entered into an electoral alliance with the newly established Social Democratic Party. In 1988 the Liberals and most of the Social Democrats merged to form a new party, the Social and Liberal Democrats; the party ran as the Liberal Democrats starting in 1992.” (1)


Notes and References

  • Information about Liberal Party in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  • Guide to Liberal Party

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    Schema Summary

    • Article Name: Liberal Party
    • Author: Danny W.
    • Description: Liberal Party (UK) Introduction to Liberal Party Liberal Party (UK), in Britain, political party, formed by the coalition [...]

    This entry was last updated: August 24, 2014


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