Revealed: the Lib-Con pact election poster

Liberals and Conservatives united together in a British general election to fight for freedom and vanquish Big State corporatism:

Over half a century ago, mind.

***


Disclaimer: this poster, photographed by me, is from the Bodleian Library’s modern political papers archive – copyright is believed to reside still with the party. Could Cowley Street please contact me if they wish this image to be removed.

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38 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Jan '10 - 11:50am

    Interesting. Do you know which year exactly?

  • Sorry, Stephen. Wouldn’t any copyright be owned by the Liberal Party, not by Cowley Street and the Liberal Democrats?

  • Liberal/ Conservative and look what it did for us. Nick if you read this a pact with anybody would be bad enough but with those b*****ds would finish the party, I certainly don’t know anybody in my 45 years of Liberalism who would tolerate that pact.

  • At the risk of repeating myself, I say again that you may be naively missing the big chance, if you stood alongside the conservatives now you could help destroy forever the labour party and in a very short time (compared to how long you have been waiting for power) become the official oposition. Be realistic, it’s the only way you are going to get close to power in the existing electorial system, and that is not going to change whilst the 2 big parties just keep swopping seats.

  • Andrew Chamberlain 10th Jan '10 - 1:13pm

    Was this from 1945? I hadn’t realised there was a pact back then. Did Jo Grimond not stand against a Tory incumbent in that election? Surely whatever arrangement was made wasn’t nationwide?

    I thought this sort of thing was produced by the Tories in the 50s in an attempt to wipe the Liberals out. I didn’t realise the Liberals were at it too. No wonder their vote collapsed in most of the country. Was it part of a deal to keep hold of a handful of seats in the likes of Huddersfield?

  • Copyright? They are just generic words from the English language.
    You are allowed to reproduce as ‘fair use’ for reference/discussion purposes anyway.
    The typeface font and typographical style as a poster image may well be copyright.
    But who would want to repeat those words in that exact font and style in 2010?

  • libertarian 10th Jan '10 - 3:08pm

    A match made in heaven seeing as the LibDems abandoned Liberalism years ago the Tories couldn’t spell freedom and both parties are big state, big government obsessed

  • The reference to freedom suggests this is from 1950 or 1951 – maybe Huddersfield, Bolton, Colne Valley, Greenock, or one of the other places in which Liberals and Conservatives worked together. Or else, as Niklas Smith suggests, it may have been a Tory poster produced during the same period as part of their last ‘love-bombing’ campaign.

    Of course, the most extensive cooperation between Liberals and Tories happened in 1931 – but neither party talked about freedom very much in that election.

  • Simon Titley 10th Jan '10 - 4:08pm

    What does the imprint at the bottom of the poster say? That might provide a clue.

    According to the Wikipedia page about Donald Wade (Liberal MP for Huddersfield West from 1950 to 1964 as a result of a local pact) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Wade,_Baron_Wade):

    “In 1958, a movement promoted by Edward Martell grew for a formal alliance of Conservatives and Liberals in an “Anti-Socialist Front”. The Liberal Party Executive rejected the idea, whereupon Martell demanded a statement from Wade and from Arthur Holt, MP for Bolton East, who had been elected as a result of a similar pact.”

    Might this poster have been produced by Martell? Martell seems to have been completely bonkers:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Martell_(politician)

  • I think Niklas Smith’s explanation is likely to be closest. To paraphrase FWS Craig, the Liberal National Organisation was formed in 1931 by Sir John Simon and was joined by MPs who wanted to give full support to the National Government. In 1947 Lord Woolton, on behalf of the Conservative Party, and Lord Teviot on behalf of the Liberal National Organisation recommended jointly that the two parties should come together in constituencies and form combined associations. Thus it was that in a number of constituencies the MP sat as a National Liberal and Conservative (or Conservative and National Liberal), but was in all practical respects indistinguishable from a Conservative. It was not until 1968 that the National Liberal Council and the National Liberal Organisation were wound up.
    A good example of how this all worked in practice is provided by the scene of the Liberal Party’s first post-war by-election triumph. G. Lambert was originally elected as a Liberal (for South Molton) in 1891 and sat as such until he became a National Liberal in 1931. His son, also G. Lambert, succeeded him in 1945 and sat as a National Liberal. Between 1931 and 1950 the only opposition was provided by the Labour Party; in 1950 there was also a Liberal Party candidate who came second, but such was the demoralisation of that election that we did not put up a candidate again in Torrington in 1951 or 1955. G. Lambert was elevated to the peerage in 1958 and the National Liberal and Conservative Association put up Anthony Royle, later Conservative MP for Richmond-on- Thames, and a revived Liberal Association put up Mark Bonham-Carter. The seat was regained, but for the Conservative Party rather than for any pretend organisation including Liberals, in 1959. My guess, therefore, is that the poster in question was issued by the National Liberal and Conservative Party for use in constituencies where a Liberal Party candidate was standing again after an absence of some years.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jan '10 - 6:09pm

    As noted, the National Liberal Party continued in existence for years, formally right up until the end of the 1960s. It seemed to have the same sort of relationship with the Conservative Party that the Co-Operative Party has with the Labour Party i.e. it was an extra label but seemed to mean nothing in practice so one wondered why they bothered.

    However, it was not a “splinter group”, as Niklas Smith suggests, it was a large part of the old Liberal Party. Remember too that a big chunk of the 19th century Liberal Party had already gone over to the Conservatives as the Liberal Unionists.

    Party labels and competition were a bit more flexible in those days, the Liberal Party itself being a federation of local associations rather than an organisation with a central membership list (which it only acquired on merging with the SDP). So there was a long period when it wasn’t always clear what sort of “Liberal” a candidate might be. The continuing formal existence of the National Liberals suggests the Conservatives still thought there was some value in having that tag and using it to attract a traditional Liberal vote. Also, as already noted, there were in places pacts between the Conservatives and the remaining independent Liberal Party.

    This does remind us that the Conservative Party is in some way the legitimate heir to the 19th century Liberal Party, and that the Liberal Party that survived was the descendant of its more left-wing elements, although the division does not always seem to have been on as strict left-right lines as one might suppose.

    I was astonished by Martin Land’s comments, but it reminds me of one of the reasons why after the merger I did not join the new Liberal Party, although a number of people I knew well did. Their argument that they were the continuation of the old Liberal Party was a lie – the Social and Liberal Democrats were its legal successor – and I did not feel I could join an organisation based on that blatant lie. I am sorry that they lied so successfully that many people seem to have believed them, but the SLD was partly to blame because those at the top tried to use the technique that worked with the SDP – “brand new party” and it flopped miserably. I remember advising at the time that this was a mistake, and they should instead have used an image which made clear it was a merger of the two parties, plus also the constitutional mechanism of keeping alive the “Liberal” and “SDP” brands (as the National Liberal brand was kept alive in the Conservative Party) to prevent what actually happened – the appearance of there being a fraction into several parties rather than a largely harmonious merger with just a few dissenters.

  • Ray Love
    Posted 10th January 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
    Liberal/ Conservative and look what it did for us. Nick if you read this a pact with anybody would be bad enough but with those b*****ds would finish the party, I certainly don’t know anybody in my 45 years of Liberalism who would tolerate that pact.
    Ray I would say about 40% would agree with a Lib/Con pact.

    If we agree that the Labour party in the early 1900s when it started up took most of the Liberal party with it, since the war the Liberal party has nothing to offer these Lib/Labour voters anything to return to the Liberal party, until the SDP broke away from the Labour party. I think the Liberal party are wrong attacking the Tory party, as the number of Tories that would switch is very small, but there is a large number of Labour voters that would feel at home in the Liberal party.
    I do not think a pact with any party helps the smaller one, and if the Tory party do have the most seats after the next election I would let them carry on, and then the Labour party would split in half. This would be the time to bring in about half of their party, which would be their present SDP type voters.
    A number of people that had voted Tory, and will not be happy with their cuts etc would also come over. so by 2013 you could find the Lib/Dems becoming the largest party.

  • Tony Greaves 10th Jan '10 - 9:37pm

    I have never seen this poster before (i’ts certainly more than “50 years” old) – the question is – as Simon asks – what does the imprint read?

    There’s lots more here (in the comments) I would like to comment on but first of all we need to track down this extraordinary poster. It does contain one important clue* but just tell us what the imprint says!

    Tony Greaves

    *The word LIBERAL in red.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '10 - 9:52am

    David


    If we agree that the Labour party in the early 1900s when it started up took most of the Liberal party with it, since the war the Liberal party has nothing to offer these Lib/Labour voters anything to return to the Liberal party, until the SDP broke away from the Labour party.

    I don’t agree with that at all. The Labour Party did not take most of the Liberal Party with it. Rather, as I have noted, big chunks of the Liberal Party went in with the Conservatives. The result is that whereas in most of the rest of Europe, Liberal parties became pro-business free-market parties, here the Conservative Party took on that role.

    So what was left of the Liberal Party took on an interesting critical role, critical of both the big-business ideology of the Conservative Party, and the state socialism and arrogant attitude of the Labour Party. Far from having “nothing to offer” Lib/Labour voters, it had a great deal. It had a particular appeal to those who were not in the sort of industrial/trade-union communities which were Labour’s heartland, but who were done down by the Conservatives being, as the Conservatives ever were and are now, the party whose only real interest was the very rich.

    I do not think the SDP brought anything of value to the Liberal Party. Well, OK, a few decent activists who hadn’t come across what the Liberals really were so joined the SDP instead, and who survived the boom and bust of the SDP and merger. That’s it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '10 - 9:55am


    I think the Liberal party are wrong attacking the Tory party, as the number of Tories that would switch is very small, but there is a large number of Labour voters that would feel at home in the Liberal party.

    More nonsense from Dave. The Tory vote right now is quite weak. A lot of it is people who just want to get rid of Labour and think they have to vote Tory to do so. We don’t have to be too attacking – being positive is better, but the idea that there’s no-one much currently thinking of voting Tory who wouldn’t switch to LibDem is rubbish.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    Posted 11th January 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink
    I think the Liberal party are wrong attacking the Tory party, as the number of Tories that would switch is very small, but there is a large number of Labour voters that would feel at home in the Liberal party.
    More nonsense from Dave. The Tory vote right now is quite weak. A lot of it is people who just want to get rid of Labour and think they have to vote Tory to do so. We don’t have to be too attacking – being positive is better, but the idea that there’s no-one much currently thinking of voting Tory who wouldn’t switch to LibDem is rubbish.

    If it is rubbish why is the only movement in the polls between the Lab and LibDem %. The Tory one is 40% on nearly ever poll.

  • • Matthew Huntbach
    Posted 11th January 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink
    I don’t agree with that at all. The Labour Party did not take most of the Liberal Party with it. Rather, as I have noted, big chunks of the Liberal Party went in with the Conservatives.

    Many left wing Liberals, who felt little loyalty to their now divided party (Asquith, Lloyd-George) ‘drifted towards Labour’ (M. Pugh).
    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/Revision:The_Labour_Party_1918-45

    So what was left of the Liberal Party took on an interesting critical role, critical of both the big-business ideology of the Conservative Party, and the state socialism and arrogant attitude of the Labour Party. Far from having “nothing to offer” Lib/Labour voters, it had a great deal. It had a particular appeal to those who were not in the sort of industrial/trade-union communities which were Labour’s heartland, but who were done down by the Conservatives being, as the Conservatives ever were and are now, the party whose only real interest was the very rich.

    I think you will find in the elections before joining up with the SDP the Liberal % in elections was only 6% to about 12%, if they had anything to offer the Labour supporters, then a large number would have come over.

    I do not think the SDP brought anything of value to the Liberal Party. Well, OK, a few decent activists who hadn’t come across what the Liberals really were so joined the SDP instead, and who survived the boom and bust of the SDP and merger. That’s it.

    I think what the SDP brought over was different way of thinking, which gives the Lib/Dem appeal that it has today.

  • James Robertson 11th Jan '10 - 3:27pm

    I know that in Glasgow in the early 1960s, Conservatives and Liberals formed a “progressive alliance” to stand against Labour candidates. I don’t know if there were similar arrangements in other parts of the country at that time.

  • Seth Thevoz 11th Jan '10 - 7:50pm

    If it’s from the Bodleian, it will presumably be from the Conservative party archive, which is stored there.

    The whole ‘Liberals and Conservatives working together as equal partners’ idea is a myth. The Conservatives did indeed maintain the National Liberal Party as a ‘kept’ party from 1931 to 1968, but from the 1940s to the 1960s this was only part of a wider plan to woo Liberal voters. A crucial turning point was 1950 and 1951, when both other parties worked out they each had c.48% of the vote, and how the Liberal Party’s 2.5% of the vote divided between them could be the crucial tipping point of an election. As such, both Labour and the Tories laid claim to be ‘the true inheritors of the old liberalism’ (as Lady Megan Lloyd George put it for Labour). But the Tories tended to go even further, with their local candidates using Liberal colours in their literature, and being adopted as National Liberal, National Liberal and Conservative, National Conservative and Liberal, National, etc. (This used to prompt many complaints from Violet Bonham Carter!)

    Frankly, it was never anything more than a sales pitch from the Tories, and once elected, these MPs were considered to be Conservatives – as Tony Hill says above, when Mark Bonham Carter won the Torrington by-election for the Liberals in 1958, it was actually a gain from the National Liberals; and plenty of West Country seats were two-way contests between the Liberals and the National Liberals.

    Though I’m not sure I agree with Tony that the poster was necessarily from a seat where the Liberals were standing. Given the Liberals couldn’t afford to contest many seats in the 1950s and 1960s, it was quite normal for both parties to chase Liberal voters in seats without a Liberal candidate, and indeed a favourite Gallup question for Liberal voters was “If there is no Liberal candidate in your area, who would you vote for?”

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '10 - 11:27pm

    David

    I think you will find in the elections before joining up with the SDP the Liberal % in elections was only 6% to about 12%, if they had anything to offer the Labour supporters, then a large number would have come over.

    I think what the SDP brought over was different way of thinking, which gives the Lib/Dem appeal that it has today.

    Well, I joined the Liberal Party a few years before the SDP was founded, and was an active member throughout the Liberal-SDP era, and what I write here was from my own recollection of the time. On what basis do you write, David?

    The Liberal Party national share of the vote was in fact 19.3% in the February 1974 general election, so, David, considerably higher than the 6-12% you say it always was. Perhaps you should check your facts first. Even in 1979, generally considered a bad year for the Liberals, it was 13.8%. The rise to 25.8% for the Liberal/SDP vote in 1983 is, I suggest, in line with the rise of the Liberal Party vote seen after the previous Conservative government. It fell to 22.6% in 1987, so not very much above what the Liberal Party achieved on its own 13 years earlier, and the Liberal Democrat vote in the 1992 general election was 17.8%, so below that achieved by the Liberal Party in both 1974 elections.

    It seems to me that 1974 was the key point at which the Liberal Party established it was not a historical relic and earlier signs of revival really were something that was growing. Actually, David, contrary to what you say, a big part of that Liberal vote in 1974 was former Labour voters – in much of southern and rurakl England in particular, the Liberals replaced Labour as the main opposition party to the Conservatives. The evidence, even looking just at election figures and long term trends, suggests the SDP didn’t add much.

    What was actually happening during most of the Liberal-SDP era was that Liberal activists on the ground were doing most of the work winning the votes, but the SDP were getting the credit in the national press, which had a quite horrendous bias in reporting all this. The SDP was top heavy with people who wanted to be politicians, its local activists were often extremely naive people who didn’t know how to play the third party game, messed up big time if they were let loose, and had to be shown by the Liberals how to do it. I remember in particular at that time the huge discrepancy between the number of people applying to be PPC in constituencies allocated to the SDP and constituencies allocated to the Liberals, but this discrepancy was reversed when it came to activists doing the work and getting elected as local councillors. So it was clear the SDP consisted of people who wanted to be MPs but didn’t want to put the donkey work in.

    Is that the “different way of thinking” you meant, David?

  • James Crawshaw 12th Jan '10 - 11:20am

    Ref; Ray Love’s comment … stop playing hard to get, I am sure the Tories would just love to have you at any of their events and campaigning alongside them – especially given you are such an asset.

  • Graem Peters 14th Jan '10 - 5:32pm

    This poster is one of a series of 3 posters that was produced by Conservative Central Office for the 1950 General Election campaign. The words ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ both wewre produced in orange. The example above seems to have suffered from some discoluration.

    I do not know how effective these posters were in persuading Liberal voters of the time that there was a close relationship between the two parties however they seem to have been quit successful in fooling modern day politicoes one here.

  • Graem Peters 14th Jan '10 - 5:40pm

    The other two posters say

    1)

    LIBERALS!

    Don’t “devalue”
    your strength
    USE IT!
    Unite with
    Conservatives

    For Britain’s Survival

    and 2)

    UNITY IN WAR
    brought
    Victory

    UNITY NOW
    means
    National Recovery

  • If it is rubbish why is the only movement in the polls between the Lab and LibDem %. The Tory one is 40% on nearly ever poll.

    What leads you to assume it’s the same 40%?

  • Tom Thomson 12th Mar '10 - 5:39pm

    Matthew

    people who wanted to be MPs but didn’t want to put the donkey work in

    As well as those I encountered some SDP (or ex-SDP, depending on when) types who wanted to be local (county or district) councillors but wanted neither to put the donkey work in nor to attend many council meetings if elected.

  • For those interested the University of Kent library in Canterbury has a full collection of Liberal Party leaflets & posters from 1900 – 1930.
    My personal favourite is the “Tariff Reform Means Happier Dukes” poster, complete with top-hatted, monocled, spats-wearing Duke dancing for joy. Be nice to be able to buy reprints.

  • Amazing. I totally agree with Matthew Huntbach for once!!!

  • While we’re on the subject, how about re-issuing the “Keep Britain Colourful” poster from the 1970s?

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