Event alert: Survival and Revival, 1945–1979 (14th June)

In the politics of recent times, there has been only one miracle, that is the survival of the Liberal Party’. (Roger Fulford, The Liberal Case, 1959)

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Torrington by-election, when Mark Bonham Carter won the Devon seat, only to lose it again in the following year’s general election. So what? you may say – Liberals winning by-elections is surely nothing new.

But in 1958 it was. Torrington was the first by-election gain the party had managed for 29 years. By the early 1950s the party had become almost extinct – it had lost seats at the five previous elections, it could muster barely more than 100 parliamentary candidates, and in 1957 a by-election loss reduced its strength to just five MPs, its lowest figure ever.

Yet in the following 20 years the Liberal Party was to stage a stunning revival, winning parliamentary and local government seats, polling six million votes in 1974, holding the balance of power in Parliament on more than one occasion, and developing and putting into practice the theory of community politics. Torrington marked the turning point between the years of decline and those of revival.

The LSE Library, together with the Liberal Democrat History Group and the Richard Scurrah Wainwright Trust, have therefore chosen this fiftieth anniversary year to host a seminar: ‘Torrington ’58: Liberal Survival and Revival, 1945-1979’.

The seminar will take place on Saturday 14 June (10.30 – 16.45) in the London School of Economics. All are welcome; the registration fee is only £10, including refreshments.

The keynote address will be given by Lord Dholakia and Lord Wallace, on ‘Campaigning Liberals in the 1950s and 1960s’. Other sessions will include: Liberal campaigning: elections and by-elections; local government – grassroots survival; leaders and leadership; and collaboration – pacts and other parties. Speakers include Lord Kirkwood, Lord Greaves, Michael Meadowcroft and Martin Wainwright.

More details are available here on the LSE website.

To book your place contact: Archives Division, London School of Economics, 10 Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HD, 020 7955 7223, [email protected]

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