Tag Archives: national liberal club

Defence and Security: at the heart of liberal societies

In the midst of the pandemic, in summer 2020, the National Liberal Club (located just minutes from the Palace of Westminster) decided to support a group styled the Defence & Security Circle.

This initiative has seen the creation of a programme of regular 60 minute online talks, topical seminars and NATO funded outreach events that touch on some hard issues.

  • Having conversations about the national interest in the national interest.
  • Driven by contemporary issues such as facial recognition technology, cyber security, cultural change in the Armed Forces or “how spies think” the DSC has become a key location in London reaching local, national and international audiences.
  • Always free, often fearless and at times radical, we are proud of our liberal foundations.
  • Having a forum that allows liberal minded people to debate and consider key policy questions and strategic choices was important. Equally valued was a commitment to ensure that the voices promoted were inclusive: a majority of our speakers have been women and one in four contributors have been drawn from minority communities. Ideas matter.

The war in Ukraine reminds us all of the price to be paid when illiberal, toxic and undemocratic regimes feel emboldened to threaten or harm free societies. Peace, security and individual liberty are worthy values to protect and in need defend.

NATO trusted the DSC to run an innovative program to counter fake news and disinformation in December of last year. London, Edinburgh and Manchester – reaching 600 stakeholders.

As an “all party group” we value our origins in the broader liberal progressive tradition shared by so many in the LibDem family. Being non-partisan allows us to also have supporters and participants from across civil society – often those without the ability to be “political” due to their profession or areas of responsibility. It is a space for robust but respectful discourse.

Our next free talk (contact me via [email protected] for a seat) is Monday 4 April: Mark Galeotti (Russia expert, former FCO officer, author and commentator) on the “Weaponisation of Everything.”

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Sir John Curtice on the Lib Dem general election performance


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Jonathan Fryer has blogged about this week’s presentation at the National Liberal Club by Sir John Curtice entitled: “The 2019 Election: A Tale of Hope and Disappointment”.

Jonathan notes the following points about the drop-off of Lib Dem support during the election campaign itself:

Many commentators at the time also attributed the fall in LibDem support to (1) Jo Swinson’s call to Revoke Article 50, rather than pitching wholeheartedly for a second EU Referendum, and (2) her claim to be a potential PM in waiting, despite the modest number of LibDem MPs (albeit supplemented by both Labour and Conservative defections). However, Professor Curtice said polling, notably from YouGov, did not support that assumption. Instead, he highlighted three conclusions about the election result based on his research:

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Joyce Arram 1935-2018: Piecing together a Jigsaw of a Life devoted to Liberalism

Many will already have heard of the passing of Joyce Arram on 11 November 2018.

Joyce was the Deputy President of Lib Dem Lawyers. I had known Joyce since my days as the membership secretary of Liberal Lawyers in the early 1980s, when Bernard Budd QC was the Chair and Tim Clement Jones the organising secretary. Joyce subsequently became secretary of the Association for many years and was a lifelong Liberal.

Her devotion to the Liberal Party was shown by the many times she was a local government and parliamentary candidate as well as an attender at every party conference, where she would could invariably be found on the LibDem lawyers stand in the exhibition area.

Joyce is remembered as being part of seven female Liberal Candidates (the others were Christina Baron, Sarah Curtis, Penny Jessel, Margaret Snow, Delia Venables and Nesta Wyn Ellis) who protested in 1976 outside the National Liberal Club about the fact that women were not until then admitted to full membership following the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Her commitment to Liberal Democrat friends of Israel was shown in an obituary prepared by Lord (Monroe) Palmer LibDem.
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At the age of six, Joyce was evacuated to Wales during World War II and was devoted to her cottage in Carmarthenshire. Although from London, Joyce was always very supportive of Welsh culture, giving readings at the National Liberal club St David’s Day dinners. Joyce was a regular attender of the annual Lloyd George Society weekends in Llandrindod Wells. The Lord George society are holding a Joyce Arram Memorial lecture at the National Liberal Club on Monday, 25 November 2019 at 7 PM to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles, to consider the role played by David Lloyd George at the Paris Peace Conference and the consequences of the treaties. The speaker will be critical historian Alistair Cooke OBE, (Baron Lexden), and will be chaired by Baroness Sarah Ludford.

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How to book your place for the final Liberal Democrat Leadership Hustings

It’s been a pretty gruelling month for Ed Davey and Jo Swinson.

The hustings phase of the leadership campaign comes to an end on Wednesday 10th July.

The event takes place at the National Liberal Club on Whitehall Place at 6:30pm.

All members of the party are welcome to attend, but you need to tell the NLC first.

As well as questioning the candidates, it’s a great opportunity to nose around the NLC, a beautiful building replete with history.

From their official press release:

The final leadership election hustings of the campaign will take place this Wednesday evening at the National Liberal Club.

All members of the party are welcome to attend this event (regardless of whether they are members of the National Liberal Club).

Members are asked to arrive at 6pm to submit questions, the hustings itself will commence at 6.30pm and conclude by 8.30pm.

All members are welcome to attend, but as capacity is limited, members are requested to book in advance by emailing the Club office: [email protected]

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Gladstone Lecture and Dinner 2019

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The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, one of the party’s Associated Organisations, is having its annual Gladstone Lecture on Wednesday, June 12th, in the Lloyd George Room of the National Liberal Club.

The guest speaker is Revd. Canon Mark Oakley, Dean of St John’s College, Cambridge and former residentiary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral.

This year’s Gladstone Lecture is entitled “Poets, Prophets and Protestors: Liberty, Christianity and the Future.”  Mark is particularly interested in the interworking of politics, poetry and faith, and will explore these themes in his lecture.

The event begins with pre-lecture drinks at 6:30pm on June 12th, followed by the Gladstone Lecture at 7pm. Tickets for the lecture are £10 (with concessionary tickets available).

After the Gladstone Lecture, there will be a fund-raising dinner for the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum held in the Lady Violet Room at the National Liberal Club. Come meet Mark Oakley, the LDCF Executive and some of our Peers & MPs. Pre-drinks, Lecture and Dinner is priced at £100.

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National Liberal Club to trial relaxation of dress code

After two years as the National Liberal Club’s first woman Chairman, I am proud to be stepping down just as the Club has agreed to experiment with relaxing the strict dress code it has had since 1979.

During my time, we have taken many leaps forward as a home for liberalism: a 15% growth in membership, driven by large-scale Lib Dem recruitment; an array of transparency measures and governance reforms; and a swathe of exciting and stimulating events drawing on the liberal tradition from the world over. But I’m aware that we haven’t always lived up to our liberal mantra – as a club founded as an inclusive home for liberals – in having a strict dress code that was first introduced as a temporary measure 39 years ago.

At Wednesday’s Annual General Meeting, members voted by 49 votes to 36 to relax the dress code for a trial period this summer, so that men will no longer be forced to wear a jacket and tie. (Women continue to enjoy a much greater degree of latitude in their dress, provided it is smart – we trust our women members, and I hope we can trust our male members, without having to tell them what to wear in the 21st century.) There was a stormy debate, with sincere, passionate opinions aired on both sides – opinions which I respect, since they were expressed with sincerity. What is important is that members and their guests should have CHOICE: no one is obliged to abandon a jacket and tie, but they are at liberty to do so – except in the Dining Room – during that trial period.

When the club was founded by Gladstone in 1882, it had no dress code – apart from a stipulation that members should not turn up naked, or in their pyjamas! This continued for the next 97 years, and it was only in 1979 that the club introduced its first dress code. The club was going through a difficult time in the 1970s, having been defrauded and asset-stripped by its chief executive and being the subject of various police investigations. At the time, it was felt that the one thing the club could do to draw a line under the difficult times was to introduce a dress code. But the vibrant, confident liberal club today is not the vulnerable, scandal-ridden shadow it was 40 years ago, and I don’t think our reputation rests any longer on asking men to wear a piece of silk around their necks at all times. In an age when both the House of Commons and the House of Lords have dropped a necktie requirement, the club’s 1970s dress code seems ever more out of date.

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

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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Wikipedia “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History

Wikipedia will be holding an “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 24th August. All are welcome.

This edit-a-thon is a collaboration between the Club and the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia), to get better, more in-depth coverage of liberal issues and liberal history in the online encyclopaedia, updating and expanding articles.

Wikipedia is the seventh-most-visited website and the world, and is the first port-of-call for many basic background facts, so the National Liberal Club thought it would be helpful to offer its backing to improve coverage of liberal issues. The NLC will be making its library — full of rare material around liberal history — available for the event.

The NLC is particularly proud to be doing this, as it has long been the spiritual home of Liberals and Liberal Democrats. Founded by Gladstone in 1882, the club provides a sumptuous “home from home” for those interested in liberal politics and the liberal arts: you can read more about it here, on the club’s own Wikipedia page.

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National Liberal Club elects its first ever woman chairman

Word reaches us that the National Liberal Club has, for the first time ever, elected a woman take over its running. Janet Berridge is its new chairman.

We do have to wonder what took it so long, but we’re happy to see this development.

Janet said, on her election:

I am tremendously honoured to have been elected the new chairman of the National Liberal Club. Situated in the heart of London, the club appeals to a wide variety of professions and age groups and provides an environment to suit different interests and requirements. There is no such thing as a “typical club member” at the NLC – the diversity that has been nurtured over many years is reflected by its members. My aim in the coming years is to make sure that our club’s foundations are fit for the 21st century while maintaining its traditions and much-loved customs. By embracing the values of Liberalism espoused by the club’s founders and their successors, I am confident that this challenge can be met and achieved.

And a little bit about Janet and the history of the NLC from the club:

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Portrait of Charles Kennedy unveiled at National Liberal Club

Last night, Alan Beith unveiled a new portrait of Charles Kennedy at the National Liberal Club in London.

From the Herald:

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National Liberal Club Drops Joining Fee for Lib Dems

For 134 years, the National Liberal Club has supported the Liberal cause. It was founded by Gladstone in 1882 to act as a “home from home” for Liberal activists and supporters – and it still does so today.

Something we’re constantly trying to do – while preserving the Liberal heritage of an extraordinary building, steeped in colourful history – is to keep membership costs down. And while we’re aware that the up-front membership fee is necessarily quite hefty, it is less than half of that found in other comparable London clubs, which is something we manage to combine with offering some of the very best facilities.

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Forgotten Liberal heroes: Clarence Henry Willcock

Listen to Liberal Democrats make speeches and there are frequent references to historical figures, but drawn from a small cast. Just the quartet of John Stuart Mill, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, David Penhaligon corner almost all of the market, especially since Bob Maclennan stopped making speeches to party conference. Some of the forgotten figures deserve their obscurity but others do not. Charles James Fox’s defence of civil liberties against a dominating government during wartime or Earl Grey’s leading of the party back into power and major constitutional reform are good examples of mostly forgotten figures who could

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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 …

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