Michael Steed obituary in The Guardian

Last month Michael Meadowcroft wrote an obituary for Michael Steed in The Guardian, but it has only just appeared in the print edition where it occupies a whole page.

It focusses on his pioneering work as a psephologist, working with David Butler and John Curtice on, amongst other things, some new approaches to measuring election swings, and as a Lecturer in Government at Manchester University.

Amazingly he had been a member of the Liberals, followed by the Liberal Democrats, for 65 years. He was at various times a Parliamentary, European and Council candidate. I only got to know him a few years ago through the Social Liberal Forum, where his deep knowledge of liberalism and the Liberal Democrats influenced our thinking.

A prominent Liberal party activist, he was the vice-chair of the National League of Young Liberals during its radical phase in the 1960s, frequently at odds with the party leader at the time, Jeremy Thorpe. He consistently championed gay rights, called for a federal Europe and proposed constitutional reform, including regional government. Steed did not just snipe from the wings but took on key roles in the party, becoming a member of the party executive and serving as its president (1978-79) under an election system he had devised and which the party backed.

William Wallace wrote a beautiful tribute to him on Lib Dem Voice last month, and Michael Meadowcroft’s contribution stands alongside that.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Obituaries.


  • Leekliberal 6th Oct '23 - 6:24pm

    As an activist since 1981, I am second to on-one in my admiration for the contribution of Michael Meadowcroft to Liberal Democracy. I cannot but think that if he were still around, he would be baffled at the failure of our website to at least record the result of the Rutherglen by-election result last night. My party, who got a pitiful 3% of the vote, should ask ourselves why. In my view we have excluded ourselves from all except the blue wall Tory constituencies because of our failure to do the ‘vision thing’. A facet of this is the indefensible silence of our leadership even to mention the damage done to the UK by Brexit! We need to suggest how we can move forward to rebuild our relationship with the EU. This alone, won’t necessarily move us forward in Rutherglen but talking about what a Lib Dem Britain would look like would be a start.

  • Leek Liberal 6th Oct '23 - 6:37pm

    Whoops! My apologies. Lib Dem Voice did record the result early today but I still worry about the lack of vision expressed by our leadership.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Oct '23 - 9:13am

    Leek Liberal Double whoops. Michael Meadowcroft is still very much alive. I assume you meant Michael Steed

  • Chris Moore 7th Oct '23 - 3:53pm

    We ran a skeleton campaign, Leekliberal. This is implicit in our emphasis on targeting.

    We have a number of targets in Labour and Nationalist seats.

  • Chris Moore 7th Oct '23 - 3:55pm

    If we’d gone all out i Rutherglen, maybe we’d have scraped into double figures and wasted resources and energy better deployed elsewhere

  • Martin Pierce 8th Oct '23 - 8:42pm

    I love the reproduced election communication from the 1967 Brierley Hill by-election, where he signs off ‘Michael Steed M.A. (Cantab.)’ Can’t imagine too many people doing that now. He was a true great of both the party and the study of elections.

  • Mick Taylor 10th Oct '23 - 7:14am

    Michael Meadowcroft’s excellent obituary makes one mistake. Michael Steed DID enjoy an earlier electoral success in winning a seat in Todmorden Town Council’s Central ward, I think in 1983 and served a full 4 year term.

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