Liberal history online

Like many other party organisations, the Liberal Democrat History Group is moving activities online during the lockdown. So this article brings news of two events you may be interested in, and a summary of the latest issue of the Journal of Liberal History.

General Election 2019: Disappointment for the Liberal Democrats

Our next discussion meeting will take place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 8th July. We’ll be taking a look at the Liberal Democrats’ 2019 election campaign and its outcome in historical perspective. 

The party entered the campaign buoyed by its best opinion poll ratings in a decade, a second place showing in the European Parliament elections, impressive local election results in England and high-profile defections from the other parties. The party had a dynamic, young new leader in Jo Swinson and a simple, clear message: stop Brexit. But the Liberal Democrat campaign gained little traction and the results were hugely disappointing.

Lib Dem Voice readers are welcome to discuss the election with one of the country’s leading psephologists, Professor Sir John Curtice (Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde), and James Gurling (former Chair, Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee). It will be chaired by Wendy Chamberlain MP.

The meeting will be hosted online on Zoom and also broadcast to the History Group’s Facebook page. You must register in advance to participate via Zoom (and be able to ask questions); to register, click here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Participation via Zoom is limited to the first 100 registering – and as I write, there aren’t that many spaces left!

Old heroes for a new leader

During every Liberal Democrat leadership election since 1999, we’ve asked the candidates to write a short article about their favourite historical figure or figures – those that they felt had influenced their own political beliefs most, and why they had proved important and relevant. We placed no restrictions on their choices: they could choose anyone they wanted, whether a Liberal or not.

We’re doing that again this year, and the articles will be published in the summer issue of the Journal of Liberal History, due out in late July. 

And we’re also organising an online hustings, in association with party HQ. The candidates will present their heroes and then answer questions from an interview panel. The hustings will be recorded, and will be available to view on the party website (I don’t know exactly when yet).

The purpose of the exercise is not just to give the candidates a chance to talk about interesting characters but to identify what they feel was important about them, why they were inspiring and why they made a difference. We hope the process will reveal something about what motivates the candidates, what helped to form their political views in the first place, and what values and characteristics they think are important – all a little different from your standard hustings!

Journal of Liberal History

The latest issue of the Journal of Liberal History (issue 106, spring 2020) was published a few weeks ago. 

The contents include John Major’s address at Paddy Ashdown’s memorial last September, articles on ‘Asquith’s return to parliament at the 1920 Paisley by-election’ – Hugh Gault analyses the by-election which returned the Liberal leader to the Commons; ‘Robert Maclennan (Lord Maclennan of Rogart)’ – Michael Meadowcroft looks back at the life and career of the third leader of the SDP; and ‘Northampton and the democratic radical tradition’ – Tim Hughes analyses the relationship between Chartism and radical Liberals in Northampton in the 1860s and 1870s.

Also included is the report of our meeting in February on the 1979 general election, with David Steel and John Curtice, and book reviews of Tudor Jones, The Uneven Path of British Liberalism, reviewed by William Wallace; Sandy Waugh, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, reviewed by Malcom Baines; Phyllis Weliver, Mary Gladstone and the Victorian Salon, reviewed by Roger Swift; and Ian Ivatt, The Financial Affairs of David Lloyd George, reviewed by Vernon Bogdanor.

You can see more information about the Journal of Liberal History and the Liberal Democrat History Group on our website; www.liberalhistory.org.uk.

* Duncan Brack is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and chaired the FPC’s working group that wrote Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe.

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