The two Davids: Steel versus Owen – Fringe Friday 17:30

The Journal of Liberal History is organising a fringe meeting on Friday at 17:30. Sir Graham Watson (Steel’s former Head of Office) and Roger Carroll (former SDP Communications Director) will discuss what went wrong in the relationship between the Liberal and SDP leaders that led to the failure and break-up of the Alliance. Chair: Christine Jardine MP.

The meeting coincides with the publication of the autumn issue of the Journal of Liberal History.

The contents of the latest Journal of Liberal History include:

Shirley Williams (27 July 1930 – 11 April 2021). Dick Newby recalls the life and political career of the much-missed Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby. A Labour MP 1964–79, Shirley was one of the Gang of Four who founded the SDP in 1981, the first SDP candidate to be elected to Parliament (in the Crosby by-election) and the President of the SDP throughout its lifetime. Appointed to the House of Lords in 1993, she led the Lib Dem peers from 2001 to 2004.

Bertha Bowness Fischer‘one of the most effective and most welcome workers’. The newest party award, to be conferred on a new member who has joined the party within the last year or two and who has shown outstanding energy and commitment to their new political home, is named after Bertha Bowness Fischer – but who was she? Kathryn Rix examines the career of the first woman of any party to be formally accepted into the agents’ profession.

Lloyd George, the Liberal Summer Schools and electoral politics in the 1920s. During the 1920s, even as the Liberal Party was declining into third place, Liberal thought underwent an astonishing renaissance. Aaron Jacob examines the role the Liberal Summer Schools played in this development, and the impact that the party’s early Keynesian ideas about economic management had on the Liberal electoral in the 1920s.

The Liberal rise in Richmond. Richmond-upon-Thames is now a Liberal Democrat stronghold, where the party has seen considerable success since the 1980s at local level and since the 1990s at the parliamentary level. But it wasn’t always like this. David Williams tells the story of how the Liberals grew their local government strength from nothing in the 1960s and 1970s, and Mark Egan provides an introduction setting it in the context of wider developments in the Liberal Party.

The Journal also includes reports of our meeting in January, on the rivalry between Liberal leaders Asquith and Lloyd George in the early twentieth century, with David Laws and Damian Collins MP; and our spring conference fringe, ‘Back from the dead: the Liberal Party in the 1950s’, with William Wallace and Mark Egan. We also carry book reviews of Tim Farron’s A Better Ambition: Confessions of a Faithful Liberal, Vernon Bogdanor’s Britain and Europe in a Troubled World, and the Dictionary of Labour Biography.

Subscribers should soon be receiving their copy of the issue. Anyone else can have purchase a copy via our website ( – and, if you take out an annual subscription now, you’ll get this issue together with the next year’s worth (four further issues).

The Liberal Democrat History Group will of course be present in the virtual exhibition at our online conference, so do feel free to come and chat to us. And you also find there the code for a 10 per cent discount on any of our range of books or booklets about Liberal history!

* Duncan Brack is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and chaired the FPC’s working group that wrote Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe.

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