New issue of Liberator free online

We’d intended to announce at York that Liberator will become a free online only publication in September.

Given the pandemic though, with potential readers stranded at home, we’re doing this a bit early with our 400th issue, which also marks Liberator’s 50th anniversary.

Go to: and you can download a pdf onto any device.

We will soon announce arrangements for those who’d like to sign up to be notified of when new issues come out.

Also now available on the website is our post-election review in Liberator 399.

Subscribers have been sent Liberator 400 by post and subject to how the present restrictions pan out we intend to produce Liberator 401 and 402 in print and then Liberator 403 will be online only. That was intended to coincide with the September conference but as that is in limbo we may have fortuitously picked the right time to go online only.

Liberator 400 includes:

RUNNERS AND RIDERSa look at Lib Dem leadership contenders

NEVER WASTE A CRISISBe very afraid, even when coronavirus is over, about what the government will seize the opportunity to do, says Tony Greaves

GET LIBERALISM DONEThe answers to the Liberal Democrats’ plight can all be found in the party’s constitutional preamble, if only it would act on them, says Adrian Sanders

BACK TO THE FUTURE – Leave voters were seduced by an imagined past, but that was no reason to ignore them, says Matthew Huntbach

AN EXERCISE IN INSANITYThe targeting strategy has delivered three poor general election results in a row. Time to ditch it, says Mick Taylor

RESPECT FOR CULTURE, OR RESPECT FOR WOMEN? – The UN shouldn’t congratulate itself on women’s rights until male leaders become role models, says Rebecca Tinsley

ANYONE BUT TRUMPJoe Biden could beat the worst president in American history and it’s time for Sanders supporters to unite behind him, says Martha Elliott

WHEN THE COUNTRY BURNS AWAY – Steve Yolland reports on the impact of Australia’s devastating fires on homes, farms and people and wonders if there is more to come

BRING DEMOCRACY TO EVERYDAY LIFE – The UK needs a democratic revolution, drawing in decades of liberal thought, says Bernard Greaves

OUT WITH THE OLD – The general election was bad for the Liberal Democrats but left them with a new source of winnable seats. Michael Steed crunches the numbers

There’s also as usual news and gossip in Radical Bulletin, reviews, letters and Lord Bonkers’ Diary.

The historical section marking 50 years includes a reproduced article from each decade – by Helen Tovey, Roger Cowe, Conrad Russell, Rebecca Tinsley and Simon Titley –  and looks back at Liberator over that time and at the associated Liberal Revue and Liberator Songbook

Back issues of Liberator from 2001 onwards are available free on our website.  See:

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  • I know nothing of Liberator’s finances so I don’t know why the decision has been made to stop hard copy publication. I can’t believe it has been 50 years – I’ve been a subscriber all that time! But let me warn the Collective: putting previously printed material on-line means a significant weakening of the relationship of reader to magazine. It is just too easy when something is on-line to think “I’ll read that later”, and then forget about it, or to read it in part and then forget about it. On-line information becomes part of an ill-digested stew of stories that most of us ingest every day, and when we do remember something we have read we often cannot recall where we read it or who wrote it. Nor is it easy to read articles on a screen that are long enough to actually get to grips with content in an intellectually challenging way (LDV guidance – limit your article to 500 words). Liberator on-line will sadly die after a few issues and that will be a tragedy because if there is one thing that the Party needs it is a forum for ideas to be published, and debated.

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Apr '20 - 8:14pm

    I’ve expressed my concerns on the Liberator Facebook site. I understand the reasons or at least some of them and it’s good that it will be produced as a pdf magazine and not just a website. But I do fear for the future. One problem is that there seem to be fewer and fewer people want to sit down and read proper articles rather than bits and bobs of bits and bytes. Or write them for that matter. I read some of the new issue of Liberator while taking a long hot bath this morning – including the brilliant piece by Bernard Greaves on democracy that I guess half the people who run the Liberal Democrats nowadays would not even understand. I don’t imagine I’ll be reading future copies in the bath!

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Apr '20 - 8:16pm

    There’s a Roll of Honour of everyone the present collective know about who has been involved with producing Liberator in the past 50 years. What a massive thanks we owe to all of them.

  • David Rogers 3rd Apr '20 - 11:58am

    I agree with most of the comments made above by the two Tonys; additionally here’s the message I sent to Liberator on 1st April:
    Dear Collective,
    Thanks for the excellent Issue 400, received this morning, and especially for the celebration of 50 years. I have been a subscriber for (I think) over 80% of that time.
    As well as the regular features and current articles, I particularly enjoyed the five ‘Historic’ pieces, not least that by the late Conrad Russell, whose description of what Blair was up to at the time warn us of the need for vigilance against potentially even more sinister Government power-grabs once the Covid-19 emergency is over.
    Checking my bank account later caused a wry smile – as I discovered that this year’s subscription by standing order was paid yesterday! However I am not seeking a partial refund, so consider it a donation towards any future costs of production in the new format from September. I shall look forward both to reading the pdf version, and to it reaching a new and larger audience. As Roger Cowe wrote in another of the ‘Historic’ articles: “For how can you be a Liberal if you don’t understand what Liberalism is about?”
    Kind regards,
    David Rogers OBE.
    (Former councillor in Brighton, Newhaven, and East Sussex, 1977-2013)

  • David Evans 3rd Apr '20 - 12:22pm

    A sad day for liberalism. The physical arrival of a magazine and the fact is has to be handled acts as a real trigger to read (back page first!); store and refer back to. Online an e-mail reminder arrives and then forgotten. pdfs are printed and then not stapled as a domestic stapler is not up to it, and binned etc.

    Overall, I think Tony and Tony are right. Liberator will almost certainly subside into being another obscure Lib Dem Blog, under read and under utilised, to add to the list like Flock together.

    I don’t know what the trend is with Liberator’s circulation figures, but if finances are the main problem, that can easily be overcome. I would urge the collective to contact all its subscribers to explore options and not just dump the decision on them as a fait accompli.


  • Ruth Bright 3rd Apr '20 - 12:48pm

    Very interesting what David says. I am venturing out about every three days and the joy of buying a physical newspaper in my local shop from an actual person is very great.

    Whatever happens with Liberator there must surely be special thanks to Mark Smulian – at the very heart of its detective work and journalism for 40 years

    Well done Mark with all the best from Ruth Bright/Clark (Liberator Collective 1986-89)

  • Richard Underhill. 3rd Apr '20 - 12:51pm

    David Rogers 3rd Apr ’20 – 11:58am
    Steve Richards has been doing a 3-part series about political parties splitting.
    Liberator might like the latest about the 1906 general election (when the Liberals were already in power after the Conservative government had collapsed). We have often heard what was achieved in Birmingham as clean water was supplied, paid for by the rates.
    As an MP he wanted to beleader againstGladstone but was a committed Imperialist and Liberal Unionist. Steve Richards did not mention seats won by Labour, of which in the NLC we were told of 57 (but not which ones).
    Steve Richards has also covered the Corn Laws, the SDP and the recent defections from Labour that became the Independent Group. I do not recall him being present when Tony Benn spoke at a dinner in the Lloyd George Room, saying, inter alia, that the Liberal Party merged “with the wrong end” of the Labour Party.

  • Mark Smulian 3rd Apr '20 - 2:47pm

    Thanks to everyone for their kind comments about Liberator. As we explained in this issue we decided to go online only in a planned way rather than have this forced on us.
    I’ll admit we did not foresee the possibility of two consecutive conferences (and so two stalls and two glee clubs) being cancelled which – if we still had print and distribution bills to meet – would have put us in a very difficult position.
    There are essentially two motives for this change. The first is that while some people like a physical printed product not enough do. Liberator does not reach as many people as it should and we can’t sell many more subscriptions as the footfall in the obscurely located exhibition halls used at conference is so low.
    It’s also become apparent to us that few under-40s are interested in print – it won’t be long before that is true of under 50s.
    The other reason is that eventually we will want to hand Liberator on and that will be hard if there is still a mountain of tedious admin that goes with maintaining and updating a subscription list, chasing renewals and processing and accounting for a lot of small financial transactions.
    Rest assured Liberator will still come out every two months. but on-line. We’re nor turning into a blog.

  • William Wallace 3rd Apr '20 - 9:09pm

    Mark: Even some of us ‘elderly’ LibDems read more on-line than we used to: it saves adding to the piles of paper around the house, and my new monitor makes things much easier to read. So keep at it – and if it helps to encourage more of the under-40s to read Liberator, that’s ideal.

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