Tag Archives: liberal democrat history group

New from the Liberal Democrat History Group

As well as publishing the quarterly Journal of Liberal History (which features one of the esteemed editors of Lib Dem Voice on its Editorial Board), the Liberal Democrat History Group also publishes a range of books and short booklets on aspects of Liberal history.

New out, just in time for Bournemouth conference, is the second edition of Mothers of Liberty: Women Who Built British Liberalism. This booklet contains the stories of the women who shaped British Liberalism – including Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Taylor Mill, the suffragist leader Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the first woman Liberal MP Margaret Wintringham, Violet Bonham Carter, Megan Lloyd George, Nancy Seear, Shirley Williams and many more. This second edition updates some of the entries, adds two entirely new ones and a table of all Liberal, SDP and Liberal Democrat women elected as MPs, and includes a foreword by Jo Swinson MP.

We have also published a new edition of our popular Liberal History: A concise history of the Liberal Party, SDP and Liberal Democrats. This has been revised and updated to include the 2015 and 2017 elections and their aftermath, including the election of Vince Cable as leader.

Starting with the earliest stirrings of Liberal thought during the civil wars of the seventeenth century, the booklet takes the reader through the coming together of Whigs, radicals and free-trade Peelites in 1859 to form the Liberal Party; the ascendancy of the Victorian Liberals under Gladstone; the New Liberalism of Asquith and Lloyd George and the party’s landslide election victory in 1906; dissension and eclipse; the long decades of decline until nadir in the 1950s; successive waves of Liberal revival under Grimond, Thorpe and Steel; the alliance with the SDP and merger in 1988; and the roller-coaster ride of the Liberal Democrats, from near-obliteration in 1989 to entry into government in 2010 to electoral disaster in 2015 and, now, the path to recovery.

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Jeremy Thorpe – ‘one of the bravest men in British politics’

On Monday night, the National Liberal Club was the august venue for the AGM of the Liberal Democrat History Group, followed by a talk by Ronald Porter entitled “Jeremy is innocent”.

The full title of the talk, which was presented personal views from Ronald Porter (who is an obituarist and food/wine writer for the Independent and other outlets) was:

The life and times of Jeremy (1929-2014) and Marion Thorpe (1926-2014) by Ronald Porter with some splendid help from Duncan Brack.

Michael Steed chaired the talk and Duncan Brack helped provide photographs for it.

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What makes Vince Cable angry?

Journal of Liberal History cover Sept 2016I know when my Journal of Liberal History arrives that it will contain interesting, well researched, evidence based assessments and accounts of Liberal Democrat, Liberal and SDP activities.

The Conference issue of this quarterly publication has just arrived and it looks at the record of the Liberal Democrats in coalition. Unlike last year’s Conference issue, which looked at the coalition as a whole, this takes a detailed look at individual policy areas. Economic policy, social security, health and social care, education, constitutional reform, home affairs and climate and energy come under the microscope.

Each policy area has 3 or 4 articles. First an analytical piece giving an overview of each area is then reviewed by a former minister or minsters and a more critical party member.  Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone, Norman Lamb, Chris Huhne, Sir Vince Cable, Paul Burstow, David Laws, Jenny Willott, Ed Davey, William Wallace and Norman Baker all contribute.

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The legacy of Roy Jenkins: History Group discussion meeting Monday 27th June

 

One of the very slight crumbs of comfort to be found in the referendum campaign was the way in which, in some parts of the country, members of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Green parties were able to campaign together positively for a ‘remain’ vote. The 1975 referendum on membership of the European Community saw a very similar experience – with profound results for British politics thereafter.

In the happier of the UK’s two referendums on Europe, Roy Jenkins, then Home Secretary in Harold Wilson’s Labour government, led the ‘in’ campaign alongside the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and the new Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher. Jenkins and his pro-European Labour colleagues enjoyed the good relations he developed with the Liberals, and this helped to lay the foundations for the formation of the Social Democratic Party, and its alliance with the Liberals, six years later – and, in 1988, to the merger of the two to form our own party, the Liberal Democrats.

With bitter-sweet timing, the next Liberal Democrat History Group speaker meeting, on Monday 27 June at 7.00pm, will discuss the legacy of Roy Jenkins for liberalism in Britain. These extend beyond Europe and the formation of the SDP and the Alliance.

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Looking for more women

Margaret WintringhamThe Liberal Democrat History Group faces a double bind when it comes to finding authors and topics for our articles, books and meetings cover the history of the Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties.

The superficial explanation is that our output is bound to be dominated by men because that is how political has been. Just look at the ranks of male party leaders, for example. And look at how nearly all the biographers of our party leaders have been men. So whether we’re looking at topics or authors, you might think we’re bound to be dominated by men for understandable reasons. No problem there. Move along please.

Except it there is rather more to it than this, for when you scratch under the service it is clear things do not have to be quite this way.

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Introducing the Liberal Democrat History Group

‘Santayana once said that those who won’t learn their history are condemned to repeat it. The Lib Dem History Group exists to make sure that we can so we don’t.’ (Paddy Ashdown)

Our party, the Liberal Democrats, is 27 years old. It came into being in March 1988, the product of a merger between the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP was itself only seven years old, being formed in 1981 mostly by former Labour politicians, but bringing into politics many people who had never been involved in any party. The Liberal Party, by contrast, was one of the oldest political parties in the world, tracing its roots back into the seventeenth century and the struggles for Parliamentary supremacy over the monarchy.

The Liberal Democrat History Group exists to promote the research and discussion of any topic connected with the history of the party and its predecessors, and of Liberalism more broadly. Our activities appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of British Liberal politics, whether party activists, academics or spare-time students of history.

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VIDEO: Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and Julian Glover on the Liberal Democrats, recession and The Guardian

You can now watch again in full one of the best fringe meetings from the party conference, which saw Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and the then Guardian editorial writer Julian Glover launch a new history of the party and its predecessors, Peace, Reform and Liberation.*

Julian Glover gave a very funny speech about his newspaper’s love/hate relationship with the party – “So there you have it, 150 years from The Guardian and the Manchester Guardian calling on the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats to be brave, radical; praising the party’s policies and then writing it off as irrelevant”.

Shirley Williams turned to the history of America and of the 1930s, drawing lessons for the current economic difficulties, including why American history has made her a supporter of coalition government in the UK.

Paddy Ashdown’s speech included a collection of his favourite liberal quotes and why the lessons contained in them are still highly relevant to contemporary liberal politicians, ending with this exhortation:

The thing that we have in our party title – liberal – goes back thousands of years. You should be proud of that. It should give us strength, and it should make us campaign even harder … Henry Gibson once said, ‘You do not go out to battle for freedom and truth wearing your best trousers’. Sometimes I think our party wears its best trousers too much. This is our heritage and it is also our message today – and we should be proud of it.

Here is the meeting in full to watch, and chances are it is much better than quite a few of those Christmas TV repeats you’ll otherwise find yourself watching…

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Lords Reform 1911-2011: watch the conference meeting

The 1911 Parliament Act, introduced in the wake of the rejection by the House of Lords of Lloyd George’s People’s Budget and the two general elections of 1910, was the first successful reform of the powers of the upper house and gave constitutional supremacy to the elected House of Commons.

One hundred years after the 1911 Parliament Act, the Liberal Democrat History Group’s fringe meeting at Sheffield Conference examined the development of Lords reform since and looked forward to the Coalition’s plans for the most far-reaching changes to the House of Lords since the Liberal governments reforms of 1911 ended the upper houses ability to block legislation:

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Conference preview: the four best fringe meetings

With the Liberal Democrat (federal party) spring conference coming up in Sheffield  on 11-13th March, I am going to be doing a series of posts previewing some of the main items up for debate, expanding on my previous whistlestop tour of the conference agenda.

First, however, is a look at the fringe meetings being held over the weekend. These meetings may not have the power to decide in the way that conference debates can, but they do often give a great chance to hear issues discussed in greater and more expert detail than the rather staccato main hall style of 3-5 minute speeches back to to back.

The highlights I’d pick out are:

Lords Reform 1911-2011: A century after the veto power of the Lords was broken in 1911, democracy has still been kept out of the Lords. The History Group’s fringe meeting will look at both past and present attempts to reform the Lords. Friday, 8pm, Jury Inn Suite 3. Event on Facebook here.

Vince Cable speakingVince Cable and Evan Harris in discussion over further and higher education: It is a smart move by the Social Liberal Forum to get two prominent people with very contrasting views together – and in a format that should shed more light than heat if Evan’s previous ‘in discussion’ with Nick Clegg is anything to go by. Saturday, 1pm, Mercure St Paul’s Hotel, City Suite A.

Breakthrough or breakdown? CentreForum looks at the electoral prospects for the party with Tim Farron (briefly, as the new Party President is continuing the Simon Hughes tradition of doing two fringes at the same time), Chris Huhne and academic polling expert Paul Whiteley. Saturday, 6:15pm, Mercure St Paul’s Hotel, City Suite A.

Who runs the internet? The Voice’s own fringe meeting with James Blessing, Evan Harris, Jim Killock and Mary Reid as trailed here. Saturday, 8pm, Mercure St Paul’s Hotel, Meeting 6.  Event on Facebook here.

These are of course only the four best fringe meetings in my own view – your own view, especially if you have different interests, may be different. So do check the full list of fringe meetings including in the Spring Conference agenda and directory embedded below.

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference Agenda and Directory 2011

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The 2010 general election in historical perspective

John Curtice, well-known psephologist and one of the relatively few political academics to take the trouble to study and understand the Liberal Democrats, has published his analysis of the 2010 election from a Lib Dem point of view.

Writing in the latest issue of the Journal of Liberal History, he looks at why the Liberal Democrat ‘surge’ eventually failed to deliver and why the party’s natural disappointment at the result may be masking what was in reality an impressive result – the second best, in terms of seats, since 1929, and the second best, in terms of votes, since 1923.

However, the …

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Support the Liberal Party’s 150th anniversary plaque appeal

On 6 June 1859, at Willis’s Rooms in King Street, St James, London, three groups of MPs – Radicals, Whigs and Peelites – met to formalise their parliamentary coalition to oust the Conservative government of Lord Derby and bring in a new administration under Lord Palmerston. Thus was born the first Liberal government, and the meeting in Willis’s Rooms marks the foundation of the Liberal Party.

To mark this 150th anniversary of the formation of the Liberal Party, and to commemorate the Willis’ Rooms meeting permanently, the Liberal Democrat History Group is arranging to erect a Westminster Council ‘heritage plaque’ on the current-day site, Almack House in King Street.

The cost will be approximately £1,000, so the Group is launching an appeal to meet the cost of th project.

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John Stuart Mill symposium – Saturday 14 November, LSE, London

One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1859, the great Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill published his most important and enduring work, On Liberty. Used today as the symbol of office of the President of the Liberal Democrats, On Liberty emphatically vindicated individual moral autonomy and celebrated the importance of originality and dissent. It set out the principle, still acknowledged as universal and valid today, that only the threat of harm to others can justify interfering with an individual’s liberty of action.

Mill himself was not only a philosopher, but also an economist, journalist, political writer, social reformer, and, briefly, …

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Podcast: The foundation of the Liberal Party

150th anniversary

One hundred and fifty years ago, on the 6 June 1859, at Willis Rooms in St James, Westminster, Radical, Peelite and Whig Members of Parliament met to formalise their Parliamentary coalition to oust the Conservative government and finally brought about the formation of the Liberal Party.

To commemorate the compact made at Willis Rooms in 1859 and the consequent founding of the Liberal Party, the Liberal Democrat History Group and the National Liberal Club organised a joint event at the Club on 20 July 2009. The evening was …

Play
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