Liberal Democrats
Overview
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 which supports constitutional and electoral reform
Electoral reform
Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:...

, progressive taxation, wealth taxation
Property tax
A property tax is an ad valorem levy on the value of property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located; it may be paid to a national government, a federated state or a municipality...

, human rights laws
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

, cultural liberalism
Cultural liberalism
Cultural liberalism is a liberal view of society that stresses the freedom of individuals from cultural norms. It is often expressed, in the words of Thoreau as the right to "march to the beat of a different drummer"...

, banking reform and civil liberties (the party president's book of office
Book of office
A book of office may refer either to a record of the conduct of affairs within an organization, particularly a religious organization like a church, or to a body of writing establishing the guiding philosophy of an organization like a political party....

 is John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

's 1859 On Liberty
On Liberty
On Liberty is a philosophical work by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. It was a radical work to the Victorian readers of the time because it supported individuals' moral and economic freedom from the state....

).

The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

. The two parties had formed the electoral SDP–Liberal Alliance for seven years before then, since the SDP's formation.
Encyclopedia
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 which supports constitutional and electoral reform
Electoral reform
Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:...

, progressive taxation, wealth taxation
Property tax
A property tax is an ad valorem levy on the value of property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located; it may be paid to a national government, a federated state or a municipality...

, human rights laws
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

, cultural liberalism
Cultural liberalism
Cultural liberalism is a liberal view of society that stresses the freedom of individuals from cultural norms. It is often expressed, in the words of Thoreau as the right to "march to the beat of a different drummer"...

, banking reform and civil liberties (the party president's book of office
Book of office
A book of office may refer either to a record of the conduct of affairs within an organization, particularly a religious organization like a church, or to a body of writing establishing the guiding philosophy of an organization like a political party....

 is John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

's 1859 On Liberty
On Liberty
On Liberty is a philosophical work by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. It was a radical work to the Victorian readers of the time because it supported individuals' moral and economic freedom from the state....

).

The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

. The two parties had formed the electoral SDP–Liberal Alliance for seven years before then, since the SDP's formation. The Liberals had been in existence for 129 years and in power under leaders such as Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

, Asquith
H. H. Asquith
Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, KG, PC, KC served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916...

 and Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

.

The Liberal Democrats have been led by Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 since 2007
Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007
The 2007 Liberal Democrats leadership election was held following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as leader on 15 October 2007, after 19 months as leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom. Vincent Cable, the deputy leader of the parliamentary...

. At the 2010 general election, 57 Liberal Democrat MPs
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 were elected, making them the third largest party in the House of Commons, behind the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 with 307 seats and Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 with 258. The Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservatives, with Clegg becoming Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

 and other Liberal Democrats taking up government positions
Cameron Ministry
David Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government after the resignation as Prime Minister of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010. Leading a coalition government formed by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the coalition...

.

Ideology

The opening line to the preamble of the Liberal Democrats constitution is as follows "The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity."

Former leader, Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy
Charles Peter Kennedy is a British Liberal Democrat politician, who led the Liberal Democrats from 9 August 1999 until 7 January 2006 and is currently a Member of Parliament for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency....

, said that the Lib Dems were neither to the left nor the right while his successor, Menzies Campbell
Menzies Campbell
Sir Walter Menzies "Ming" Campbell, CBE, QC, MP is a British Liberal Democrat politician and advocate, and a retired sprinter. He is the Member of Parliament for North East Fife, and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.Campbell held the British record...

, claimed that the party is on the centre-left
Centre-left
Centre-left is a political term that describes individuals, political parties or organisations such as think tanks whose ideology lies between the centre and the left on the left-right spectrum...

. In 2011, party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 said "But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal."

Social liberals within the party generally advocate greater government spending on the disadvantaged and higher taxes on the wealthy. The economic liberals shares with social liberals a belief in basic civil and political freedoms (negative freedoms
Negative liberty
Negative liberty is defined as freedom from interference by other people, and is set in contrast to positive liberty, which is defined as an individual's freedom from inhibitions of the social structure within the society such as classism, sexism or racism and is primarily concerned with the...

) and the need for a welfare state. However, while the solely social liberals argue that the state should provide social and economic rights to its citizens (positive freedoms
Positive liberty
Positive liberty is defined as having the power and resources to fulfill one's own potential ; as opposed to negative liberty, which is freedom from external restraint...

), economic liberals criticise the government's ability to increase freedom via too much regulation. Several economic liberal MPs contributed to the Orange Book in 2004. Economic liberals draw inspiration from thinkers such as William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

 and David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

.

Being an economic and social liberal within the party are not mutually exclusives. David Laws, one of the most economically liberal MPs in the party said in Parliament "I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind comments about Gladstonian Liberalism. I hope that this is not only Gladstonian Liberalism, but liberalism tinged with the social liberalism about which my party is so passionate.".

The social liberalism in the party stems from the start of the 20th Century when the Liberal party were bringing about many reforms, known as Liberal reforms
Liberal reforms
The Liberal welfare reforms were acts of social legislation passed by the British Liberal Party after the 1906 General Election. It has been argued that this legislation shows the emergence of the modern welfare state in the UK. They shifted their outlook from a laissez-faire system to a more...

 which are often viewed as the creation of the modern public welfare system in the UK. A major part of creating the liberal welfare reforms was done by David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

, who later went on to become Prime Minister. They may also often look to William Beveridge
William Beveridge
William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge KCB was a British economist and social reformer. He is best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945.Lord...

 who is credited with drafting further advancements of the welfare state and especially the National Health Service
National Health Service (England)
The National Health Service or NHS is the publicly funded healthcare system in England. It is both the largest and oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world. It is able to function in the way that it does because it is primarily funded through the general taxation system, similar to how...

 (NHS) and also social liberal economist John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

.

In a poll of Liberal Democrat members on 30 April 2011 64% classed themselves as social liberal with 35% counting themselves as economic liberals. Others high on the list were progressive with 65%, social democrat 34%, 45% centre left, 60% internationalist, 44% radical, 41% green.

The party was the first major party in the United Kingdom to formally endorse same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

.

Founding

The Liberal Democrats were formed on 2 March 1988 by a merger between the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

, which had formed a pact nearly seven years earlier as the SDP–Liberal Alliance. The Liberals descended from the Whigs
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

, Radicals
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

 and Peelites, while the SDP were a party created by former Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 members, MPs and cabinet ministers, but also gained defections from Conservatives.

Having declined to third party status after the rise of the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 from 1918 and especially during the 1920s, the Liberals were challenged for this position in the 1980s when a group of Labour MPs broke away and established the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP and the Liberals realised that there was no space for four political parties and entered into the SDP–Liberal Alliance so that they would not stand against each other in elections. The Alliance was led by David Steel
David Steel
David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood, KT, KBE, PC is a British Liberal Democrat politician who served as the Leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 until its merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats...

 (Liberal) and Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 (SDP); Jenkins was replaced by David Owen
David Owen
David Anthony Llewellyn Owen, Baron Owen CH PC FRCP is a British politician.Owen served as British Foreign Secretary from 1977 to 1979, the youngest person in over forty years to hold the post; he co-authored the failed Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenberg peace plans offered during the Bosnian War...

. The two parties had their own policies and emphases, but produced a joint manifesto for the 1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 and 1987
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

 general elections.

Following disappointing results in the 1987 election, Steel proposed to merge the two parties. Although opposed by Owen, it was supported by a majority of members of both parties, and they formally merged in March 1988, with Steel and Robert Maclennan (who had become SDP leader in August 1987) as joint interim leaders. The new party was initially named Social and Liberal Democrats (SLD) with the unofficial short form The Democrats being used from September 1987. The name was subsequently changed to Liberal Democrats in October 1989, which is frequently shortened to Lib Dems.

A new party logo, the Bird of Liberty, was adopted in 1989. This was famously dismissed by Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 prime minister at the time, as being "as dead as John Cleese's
John Cleese
John Marwood Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report...

 parrot".

The minority of the SDP who rejected the merger remained under Owen's leadership in a rump SDP
Social Democratic Party (UK, 1988)
A Social Democratic Party was formed in the United Kingdom in 1981 by a group of dissident Labour Party Members of Parliament : Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, who became known as the "Gang of Four"....

; the minority of the Liberal Party divided, with some retiring from politics immediately and others (led by former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft
Michael Meadowcroft
Michael James Meadowcroft is a politician and political affairs consultant in the United Kingdom.He was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Leeds West from 1983 to 1987, and founder of the "continuing" Liberal Party in 1989 following the party's merger with the Social Democratic Party to form the...

) creating a new 'Liberal Party'
Liberal Party (UK, 1989)
The Liberal Party is a United Kingdom political party. It was formed in 1989 by a group of individuals within the original Liberal Party who felt that the merger of the party with the Social Democratic Party, to form the Liberal Democrats, had ended the spirit of the Liberal Party, claiming that...

 that claimed to be the continuation of the Liberal Party which had just dissolved itself. Michael Meadowcroft eventually joined the Liberal Democrats in 2007 but some of his former followers continue still as the Liberal Party, most notably in a couple of electoral wards of the City of Liverpool.

Ashdown (1988–99)

The then-serving Liberal MP Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown
Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE, PC , usually known as Paddy Ashdown, is a British politician and diplomat....

 was elected leader in July 1988. At the 1989 European Elections, the party received only 6% of the vote, beaten to fourth place by the Green Party
Green Party of England and Wales
The Green Party of England and Wales is a political party in England and Wales which follows the traditions of Green politics and maintains a strong commitment to social progressivism. It is the largest Green party in the United Kingdom, containing within it various regional divisions including...

. They failed to gain a single Member of European Parliament at this election.

Over the next three years, the party recovered under Ashdown's leadership. They performed better at the 1990 local elections and in by-election
By-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

s—including at Eastbourne in 1990
Eastbourne by-election, 1990
The Eastbourne by-election, 1990 was a by-election held on 18 October 1990 for the British House of Commons constituency of Eastbourne in East Sussex....

, Ribble Valley
Ribble Valley by-election, 1991
The Ribble Valley by-election, in Lancashire, England, was called in 1991 following the elevation of United Kingdom MP David Waddington to the House of Lords....

 in 1991 and Kincardine & Deeside
Kincardine and Deeside by-election, 1991
The Kincardine and Deeside by-election was a parliamentary election held in Kincardine and Deeside, Scotland, on 7 November 1991, caused by the death of its Conservative Member of Parliament , Alick Buchanan-Smith on 29 August 1991....

 in 1991.

The Lib Dems did not reach the share of national votes in the 1990s that the Alliance had achieved in the 1980s. At their first election in 1992
United Kingdom general election, 1992
The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil...

 (which ended in a fourth successive Conservative win), they won 17.8% of the vote and twenty seats. They more than doubled their representation at the 1997 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

, when they gained 46 seats—through tactical voting
Tactical voting
In voting systems, tactical voting occurs, in elections with more than two viable candidates, when a voter supports a candidate other than his or her sincere preference in order to prevent an undesirable outcome.It has been shown by the Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem that any voting method which is...

 and concentrating resources in winnable seats.

In the 1994 European Elections, the party gained its first two Members of European Parliament.

Following the election of Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 as Labour leader in July 1994 after the death of his predecessor John Smith, Ashdown pursued co-operation between the two parties because he wanted to form a coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

 should the next general election end without any party having an overall majority. This Lib-Lab pact
Lib-Lab pact
In British politics, a Lib-Lab pact is a working arrangement between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party.There have been four such arrangements, and one alleged proposal, at the national level...

 failed to form because Labour's massive majority after the 1997 general election made it an irrelevance for Labour, and because Labour were not prepared to consider the introduction of proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 and other Lib Dem conditions.

Kennedy (1999–2006)

Ashdown retired as leader in 1999 and Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy
Charles Peter Kennedy is a British Liberal Democrat politician, who led the Liberal Democrats from 9 August 1999 until 7 January 2006 and is currently a Member of Parliament for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency....

 was elected as his replacement
Liberal Democrats leadership election, 1999
The 1999 Liberal Democrats leadership election was called following the resignation of Paddy Ashdown as leader. There were five candidates and all members of the party were balloted using the Alternative Vote preference system...

. The party improved on their 1997 results at the 2001 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

, increasing their seats to 52 and their vote share to 18.3%. They won support from former Labour and Conservative voters due to the Lib Dems' position on issues that appeal to those on the left and the right: opposition to the war in Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 and support for civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

, electoral reform
Electoral reform
Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:...

, and open government. Charles Kennedy expressed his goal to replace the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 as the official opposition; The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

awarded him the 'Parliamentarian of the Year' award in November 2004 for his position on the war. The party won seats from Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 in by-election
By-election
A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled elections....

s in Brent East
Brent East by-election, 2003
The Brent East by-election, 2003 was caused by the death on 18 June 2003 of the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Brent East, Paul Daisley, of the Labour Party....

 in 2003 and Leicester South
Leicester South by-election, 2004
A by-election was held in Leicester South on 15 July, the same day as the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election. It was won by Parmjit Singh Gill of the Liberal Democrats, over-turning a Labour majority of 13,243 votes at the 2001 General Election....

 in 2004, and narrowly missed taking others in Birmingham Hodge Hill and Hartlepool
Hartlepool by-election, 2004
On 23 July 2004, the Member of Parliament for Hartlepool, in England, Peter Mandelson , was nominated as the United Kingdom's new European Commissioner. On 8 September he accepted the office of Steward of the Manor of Northstead, thereby disqualifying himself from Parliament and causing a by-election...

.

At the 2005 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

, the Lib Dems gained their highest share of the vote since the SDP–Liberal Alliance (22.1%), receiving 62 seats. Many had anticipated that this election would be the Lib Dem's breakthrough at Westminster; party activists hoped to better the 25.4% support of the 1983 election, or to reach 100 MPs. 2005 could be considered a wasted opportunity for the party; but much of the apparent lack of success was a result of the Westminster first-past-the-post
First-past-the-post
First-past-the-post voting refers to an election won by the candidate with the most votes. The winning potato candidate does not necessarily receive an absolute majority of all votes cast.-Overview:...

 elections: the party got almost a quarter of the total votes nationally but only one-tenth of the seats in the Commons. Controversy attached itself to the campaign when it became known that Michael Brown had donated £2.4 million to the Liberal Democrats. Brown, who lived in Majorca, Spain at the time, was charged in June 2008 with fraud and money laundering and subsequently jumped bail and fled the country. In November 2008, he was convicted in his absence of thefts amounting to £36 million and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

One trend at the election was that Lib Dems replaced the Conservatives as Labour's main opponents in urban areas. Many gains came in previously Labour-held urban constituencies (e.g. Manchester Withington
Manchester Withington (UK Parliament constituency)
Manchester, Withington is a parliamentary constituency in the city of Manchester. It returns one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post system...

, Cardiff Central
Cardiff Central (UK Parliament constituency)
Cardiff Central is a borough constituency in the city of Cardiff. It returns one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post system....

, Birmingham Yardley), many of which had been held by the Conservatives in the 1980s, and they had over 100 second-place finishes behind Labour candidates. The British electoral system makes it hard for the Conservatives to form a government without winning some city seats out of its rural heartlands, such as the Lib Dem Bristol West constituency, where the Conservatives came third in 2005 after holding the seat until 1997.

In a statement on 5 January 2006, Charles Kennedy admitted to a long battle with alcoholism and announced a leadership election
Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2006
In the 2006 Liberal Democrats leadership election, Sir Menzies Campbell was elected to succeed Charles Kennedy as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom....

 in which he intended to stand for re-election, while Sir Menzies Campbell
Menzies Campbell
Sir Walter Menzies "Ming" Campbell, CBE, QC, MP is a British Liberal Democrat politician and advocate, and a retired sprinter. He is the Member of Parliament for North East Fife, and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.Campbell held the British record...

 took over as acting leader.

For several years there had been rumours alleging that Kennedy had problems with alcohol—the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Nick Robinson
Nick Robinson
Nicholas Anthony "Nick" Robinson is a British journalist and political editor for the BBC. Robinson was interested in politics from a young age, and went on to study a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree at Oxford University, where he was also President of the Oxford University Conservative...

 called it "Westminster's worst-kept secret". Kennedy had on previous occasions denied these rumours, although some suggested that he had deliberately misled the public and his party.

Campbell (2006–2007)

Kennedy initially planned to stand as a candidate, but he withdrew from the election citing a lack of support among Lib Dem MPs. Sir Menzies subsequently won the contest, defeating Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne
Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne, generally known as Chris Huhne is a British politician and cabinet minister, who is the current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire...

 and Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes
Simon Henry Ward Hughes is a British politician and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Until 2008 he was President of the Liberal Democrats...

, among others, in a very controversial race. Mark Oaten
Mark Oaten
Mark Oaten is a former British Liberal Democrat politician. He served as the Member of Parliament for Winchester from 1997 to 2010, and was his party's Home Affairs spokesperson from 2003 to 2006...

 withdrew from the contest because of revelations about visits to male prostitutes
Male prostitution
Male prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual acts for money. Compared to female sex workers, male sex workers have been far less studied by researchers, and while studies suggest that there are differences between the ways these two groups look at their work, more research is needed.Male...

. Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes
Simon Henry Ward Hughes is a British politician and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Until 2008 he was President of the Liberal Democrats...

 came under attack regarding his sexuality while Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne
Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne, generally known as Chris Huhne is a British politician and cabinet minister, who is the current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire...

 was accused live on The Daily Politics
The Daily Politics
The Daily Politics is a British television show launched by the BBC in 2003. Presented by Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn, the programme takes an in-depth and sometimes irreverent look at the daily goings on in Westminster and other areas across Britain and the world, and includes interviews with leading...

 of attempting to rig polls.

Despite the negative press over Kennedy's departure, the leaderless party won the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election
Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, 2006
The Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, in Dunfermline and West Fife, Scotland, was held on 9 February 2006 following the death of sitting Labour MP Rachel Squire on 6 January. The by-election was the first seat to change hands in the 2005 Parliament when Willie Rennie won the seat for the...

 over Labour in February 2006. This result was viewed as a particular blow for Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

, who lives in the constituency, represents the adjacent seat and featured in Labour's campaign. The party also came second place by 633 votes in the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election
Bromley and Chislehurst by-election, 2006
A by-election was held in the UK parliament constituency of Bromley and Chislehurst in London, following the death of Conservative Member of Parliament Eric Forth on 17 May 2006. The writ for the electing of a new member was issued on 6 June for a polling day of 29 June 2006, the same day as the...

, threatening the safe Conservative seat and pushing Labour into fourth place behind the United Kingdom Independence Party
United Kingdom Independence Party
The United Kingdom Independence Party is a eurosceptic and right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. Whilst its primary goal is the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, the party has expanded beyond its single-issue image to develop a more comprehensive party platform.UKIP...

. In July 2007, Sir Menzies announced that the party wished to cut the basic rate of income tax from 20 to 16p per pound—the lowest rate since 1916—and wanted to finance the cut using green taxes and other revenues, including making gains from UK properties owned by non-UK residents eligible for capital gains tax
Capital gains tax
A capital gains tax is a tax charged on capital gains, the profit realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset that was purchased at a lower price. The most common capital gains are realized from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals and property...

.

Opinion poll trends during Campbell's leadership showed support for the Lib Dems decline to less than 20%. Campbell resigned on 15 October 2007, and Vince Cable became acting leader until a leadership election
Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007
The 2007 Liberal Democrats leadership election was held following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as leader on 15 October 2007, after 19 months as leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom. Vincent Cable, the deputy leader of the parliamentary...

 could be held. Cable was praised during his tenure for his performances at Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister's Questions
Prime minister's questions is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom that takes place every Wednesday during which the prime minister spends half an hour answering questions from members of parliament...

 over the Northern Rock crisis, HMRC's loss of child benefit data
2007 UK child benefit data scandal
The loss of United Kingdom child benefit data was a data breach incident in October 2007, when two computer discs owned by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs containing data relating to child benefit went missing. The incident was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, on...

, and the 2007 Labour party donation scandal.

Clegg (2007–present)

On 18 December 2007, Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 won the leadership election, becoming the party's fourth leader. Clegg won the leadership with a majority of 511 votes (1.2%) over his opponent Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne
Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne, generally known as Chris Huhne is a British politician and cabinet minister, who is the current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire...

, in a poll of party members. Clegg is the Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Sheffield Hallam, and was an MEP
Member of the European Parliament
A Member of the European Parliament is a person who has been elected to the European Parliament. The name of MEPs differ in different languages, with terms such as europarliamentarian or eurodeputy being common in Romance language-speaking areas.When the European Parliament was first established,...

 for the East Midlands
East Midlands (European Parliament constituency)
East Midlands is a constituency of the European Parliament. For 2009 it elects 5 MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.- Boundaries :...

 from 1999 to 2004.

In his acceptance speech, Clegg declared that he was "a liberal by temperament, by instinct and by upbringing" and that he believes "Britain [is] a place of tolerance and pluralism". He claimed that his priorities were defending civil liberties; devolving the running of public services to parents, pupils and patients; and protecting the environment, and that he wanted to forge a "liberal alternative to the discredited policies of big government". He also proposed a target to double the number of Lib Dem MPs within two elections, and before the 2008 local elections
United Kingdom local elections, 2008
The 2008 United Kingdom local elections were held on 1 May 2008. These elections took place in 137 English Local Authorities and all Welsh Councils....

 confirmed that he was pleased with their performance in the polls: "the polls yesterday were at 20%, that's considerably higher than 13% just a few years ago. It's far, far higher than we've ever been at this point in the political cycle two or three years after a general election."

Shortly after election, Clegg reshuffled the party's frontbench team
Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team
The Liberal Democrats are the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom. While in opposition, the Liberal Democrat leader appointed a team of Members of Parliament and Peers to speak for the party on different issues. Their areas of responsibility broadly corresponded to those of...

, making Chris Huhne the replacement Home Affairs spokesperson, Ed Davey the Foreign Affairs spokesperson
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, commonly referred to as the Foreign Secretary, is a senior member of Her Majesty's Government heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and regarded as one of the Great Offices of State...

, and keeping Vince Cable as Shadow Chancellor
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

. His predecessors were also given roles: Campbell joined the all-party Commons foreign affairs select committee, and Kennedy campaigned nationwide on European issues, as president of the European Movement UK
European Movement UK
The European Movement UK is an independent pressure group in the United Kingdom which campaigns in support of greater European integration and for reform of the European Union. It is part of the European Movement International....

.

Political commentators have identified Clegg's leadership as promoting a shift to the radical centre in the Liberal Democrat Party, bringing a little more emphasis on to the economically liberal side of social liberalism

In March 2011 Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 made a speech to his party conference stating that he believed that his party belonged to the radical centre. Clegg also quoted John Meynard Keynes, William Beveridge
William Beveridge
William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge KCB was a British economist and social reformer. He is best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945.Lord...

, Jo Grimond, David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

 and John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

, implying that they may also have belonged to the radical centre. He pointed to liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 as an ideology of people, and therefore, one of the radical centre "For the left, an obsession with the state. For the right, a worship of the market. But as liberals, we place our faith in people. People with power and opportunity in their hands. Our opponents try to divide us with their outdated labels of left and right. But we are not on the left and we are not on the right. We have our own label: Liberal. We are liberals and we own the freehold to the centre ground of British politics. Our politics is the politics of the radical centre."

In coalition government (2010–present)

After Clegg's performance in the first of three general election debates on 15 April 2010, ComRes
ComRes
ComRes is a polling and research consultancy with British origins. The company has its registered company headquarters in London, United Kingdom and also has offices in Brussels, Edinburgh and Cardiff...

 reported that the Liberal Democrats polled 24% on the day. On 20 April, in a YouGov
YouGov
YouGov, formerly known as PollingPoint in the United States, is an international internet-based market research firm launched in the UK in May 2000 by Stephan Shakespeare, now Chief Executive Officer, and Nadhim Zahawi...

 poll, the Liberal Democrats were on 34%, 1 point above the Conservatives, with Labour in third place on 28%.

In the general election held on 6 May 2010, the Liberal Democrats' representation went down by 5 seats in the House of Commons, giving them 57 seats, despite increasing their share of the vote to 23%. Nevertheless, the election returned a hung parliament
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

 with no party having an absolute majority. Negotiations between the Lib Dems and the two main parties occurred in the following days. David Cameron
David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....

 became Prime Minister on 11 May after Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown
James Gordon Brown is a British Labour Party politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 until 2010. He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government from 1997 to 2007...

's resignation and the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government
Cameron Ministry
David Cameron is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after being invited by Queen Elizabeth II to form a new government after the resignation as Prime Minister of Gordon Brown on 11 May 2010. Leading a coalition government formed by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the coalition...

 with the Conservative Party, with Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

 and other Liberal Democrats in the cabinet. An academic study of the coalition found that 75% of the Liberal Democrat's manifesto pledges had gone into the Programme for Government, compared to 60% of Conservative manifesto pledges.

Since joining the coalition poll ratings for the party have fallen, particularly following the government's support for raising the cap on tuition fees with Liberal Democrat MPs voting 27 for, 21 against and 8 abstaining.

On 8 December 2010, the eve of a House of Commons vote on the raising of the UK's undergraduate tuition fee cap to £9,000, an opinion poll conducted by YouGov
YouGov
YouGov, formerly known as PollingPoint in the United States, is an international internet-based market research firm launched in the UK in May 2000 by Stephan Shakespeare, now Chief Executive Officer, and Nadhim Zahawi...

 recorded voting intention figures of Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 41%, Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 41%, Other Parties 11% and Liberal Democrats 8%, the lowest level of support recorded for the Liberal Democrats in any opinion poll since September 1990. However,in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, 2011
Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, 2011
The 2011 by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth was a by-election for the Parliament of the United Kingdom's House of Commons constituency of Oldham East and Saddleworth held on 13 January 2011...

 held on the 13th January 2011, the Liberal Democrats gained 31.9% of the vote, a 0.3% increase despite losing to Labour. It has been reported that 65% of the Lib Dem 2010 UK general election manifesto made it into the coalition agreement. In a by-election
Barnsley Central by-election, 2011
The Barnsley Central by-election was a by-election for the Parliament of the United Kingdom's House of Commons constituency of Barnsley Central which took place on 3 March 2011...

 in the South Yorkshire constituency of Barnsley in March 2011, the Liberal Democrats fell from a low 2nd place at the general election to 6th, coming behind the BNP, UKIP and an Independent candidate. Many party members and MPs pointed to the constituency being held by Labour since 1922 and the very poor turnout as reasons why they were not very successful. It has also been pointed out by party president Tim Farron
Tim Farron
Timothy James Farron is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He is currently Member of Parliament for the constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale...

 that previously both Labour and the Conservatives have had very similar results, as well as pointing to the optimism of the by-election result in Oldham being the best for a governing party since the Falklands War.

In the many council by-elections held on May 5, 2011, the Liberal Democrats suffered heavy defeats, particularly in the Midlands, North and Scotland. They also lost heavily in the Welsh assembly and Scottish Parliament, where several LibDem candidates lost their deposits. However, the party received 15% of the vote at a time when they were on 9-11% in most polls, which is a substantial difference.

According to the Guardian

"They lost control of Sheffield council – the city of Clegg's constituency – were ousted from Liverpool, Hull and Stockport, and lost every Manchester seat they stood in. Overall, they got their lowest share of the vote in three decades".
Clegg admitted that the party had taken "big knocks" due to a perception that the coalition government had returned to the Thatcherism
Thatcherism
Thatcherism describes the conviction politics, economic and social policy, and political style of the British Conservative politician Margaret Thatcher, who was leader of her party from 1975 to 1990...

 of the 1980s.

As part of the deal that formed the coalition, it was agreed to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote, in which the Conservatives would campaign for First Past the Post and the Liberal Democrats for Alternative Vote
Instant-runoff voting
Instant-runoff voting , also known as preferential voting, the alternative vote and ranked choice voting, is a voting system used to elect one winner. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their ballots are counted as one vote for their first choice candidate. If a candidate secures a...

. The referendum, held on 5 May 2011, resulted in First Past the Post being chosen over Alternative Vote by two-thirds of voters.

In May 2011, Nick Clegg revealed plans to make the House of Lords a mainly elected chamber, limiting the number of peers to 300, 80% of whom would be elected with a third of that 80% being elected every 5 years by Single transferable vote
Single transferable vote
The single transferable vote is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through preferential voting. Under STV, an elector's vote is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate, and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, any surplus or...

. The Lib Dem secretary of state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne
Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne, generally known as Chris Huhne is a British politician and cabinet minister, who is the current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire...

 also announced plans for halving UK carbon emissions by 2025 as part of the "Green Deal" in the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Backbench committees

In mid-2010, after the formation of the coalition, several backbench committees were created to effectively shadow government departments, in order for the party to keep a distinct and separate set of polices to that of the Conservatives. These committees work together with ministers in order to keep joined up policy and democratic policy making decisions. There must be one co-chair for each of the committees from each House. The list of committees and co chairs as of 29 March 2011 is detailed in the table below:
Committee Commons co-chair Lords co-chair(s)
Work and Pensions Jenny Willott
Jenny Willott
Jennifer Nancy Willott is a British politician and the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Cardiff Central since the 2005 general election. She is the first woman and the first Liberal Democrat to represent her seat....

Lord German
Education, Families and Young People Dan Rogerson
Dan Rogerson
Daniel John Rogerson is a Cornish Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for North Cornwall since the 2005 General election.-Early life:...

Baroness Walmsley
Constitutional and Political Reform
(including Cabinet & House Business)
Mark Williams
Mark Williams (politician)
Mark Fraser Williams is a British Welsh Liberal Democrat politician and the Member of Parliament for the Ceredigion constituency, a seat he gained from Plaid Cymru in 2005...

Lord Tyler

Lord Maclennan of Rogart (Cabinet Office)
Culture, Media and Sport Don Foster Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury
Energy and Climate Change Andrew George Lord Teverson
Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Lord Greaves
Transport Julian Huppert
Julian Huppert
Julian Leon Huppert is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom and Member of Parliament for Cambridge since 2010...

Lord Bradshaw
Communities and Local Government Annette Brooke
Annette Brooke
Annette Lesley Brooke is a British Liberal Democrat politician. She has been the Member of Parliament for Mid Dorset and North Poole since 2001.-Early life:...

Lord Tope
International Affairs (FCO, Defence & DfID) Martin Horwood
Martin Horwood
Martin Charles Horwood is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He is the Member of Parliament for the Cheltenham constituency. He is the founder and current Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal Peoples.-Early life:He was born in St. Paul’s, Cheltenham, in 1962. His parents...

Baroness Falkner
Lord Lee of Trafford (MoD)
Lord Chidgey (DFID)
Health and Social Care John Pugh
John Pugh
John David Pugh is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom. He is Member of Parliament for Southport...

Lord Alderdice

Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities
Tom Brake
Tom Brake
Thomas Anthony Brake, known as Tom Brake, British Liberal Democrat politician. He is the Member of Parliament for Carshalton and Wallington.-Early life:Tom Brake was born in Melton Mowbray, moving to France when he was eight...

Baroness Hamwee (Home Office)

Lord Thomas of Gresford (Justice)
Business, Innovation & Science Lorely Burt
Lorely Burt
Lorely Jane Burt is a British politician and the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Solihull.-Early life:She went to University College, Swansea, achieving a BSc in Economics...

Lord Razzall
Treasury Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams (politician)
Stephen Roy Williams is a British Liberal Democrat politician who was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Bristol West in the 2005 general election, being re-elected with an increased majority in May 2010...

Lord Newby
Wales Roger Williams
Roger Williams (UK politician)
Roger Hugh Williams is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire since the 2001 general election.-Early life:...

None
Scotland John Thurso Lord Maclennan of Rogart
Northern Ireland Stephen Lloyd
Stephen Lloyd
Stephen Anthony Christopher Lloyd is a British Liberal Democrat politician and business development consultant. He is the Member of Parliament for Eastbourne.-Biography:...

Lord Smith of Clifton

Electoral results

In United Kingdom general elections
United Kingdom general elections
This is a list of United Kingdom general elections since the first in 1802. The members of the 1801–1802 Parliament had been elected to the former Parliament of Great Britain and Parliament of Ireland, before being co-opted to serve in the first Parliament of the United Kingdom, so that Parliament...

, the Lib Dems succeeded the Liberal–SDP Alliance as the third most popular party, behind Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 and the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

. Their popularity initially declined from the levels attained by the Alliance, but their seat count has risen to its peak of 63 seats, a feat that has been credited to more intelligent targeting of vulnerable seats. The vote percentage for the Alliance in 1987 and the Lib Dems in 2005 is similar, yet the Lib Dems won 62 seats to the Alliance's 22.

The first-past-the-post
First-past-the-post
First-past-the-post voting refers to an election won by the candidate with the most votes. The winning potato candidate does not necessarily receive an absolute majority of all votes cast.-Overview:...

 electoral system used in UK General Elections is not suited to parties whose vote is evenly divided across the country, resulting in those parties achieving a lower proportion of seats in the Commons than their proportion of the popular vote (see table and graph). The Lib Dems and their Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and SDP
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

 predecessors have suffered especially, particularly in the 1980s when their electoral support was greatest while the disparity between the votes and the number of MPs returned to parliament was significantly large. The increase in their number of seats in 1997, 2001 and 2005 was attributed to the weakness of the Conservatives and the success of their election strategist Lord Rennard. Lib Dems state that they want 'three-party politics' in the Commons; the most realistic chance of power with first past the post is for the party to be the kingmakers in a hung parliament
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

. Party leaders often set out their terms for forming a coalition in such an event—Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 stated in 2008 that the policy for the 2010 general election is to reform elections, parties and Parliament in a "constitutional convention".
General election Name Share of votes Seats Share of seats Source
1983
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

SDP–Liberal Alliance 25.4% 23 3.5%
1987
United Kingdom general election, 1987
The United Kingdom general election of 1987 was held on 11 June 1987, to elect 650 members to the British House of Commons. The election was the third consecutive election victory for the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first Prime Minister since the 2nd...

SDP–Liberal Alliance 22.6% 22 3.4%
1992
United Kingdom general election, 1992
The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in 20th Century politics, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil...

Liberal Democrats 17.8% 20 3.1%
1997
United Kingdom general election, 1997
The United Kingdom general election, 1997 was held on 1 May 1997, more than five years after the previous election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party ended its 18 years in opposition under the leadership of Tony Blair, and won the general...

Liberal Democrats 16.7% 46 7.0%
2001
United Kingdom general election, 2001
The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 6 seats...

Liberal Democrats 18.3% 52 7.9%
2005
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

Liberal Democrats 22.1% 62 9.6%
2010 Liberal Democrats 23.0% 57 8.8%


The party has performed better in local elections as it won control of 31 councils. In the 2008 local elections
United Kingdom local elections, 2008
The 2008 United Kingdom local elections were held on 1 May 2008. These elections took place in 137 English Local Authorities and all Welsh Councils....

, they gained 25% of the vote, placing them ahead of Labour and increasing their control by 34 to more than 4,200 council seats—21% of the total number of seats.

European elections

The party has generally not performed as well in elections to the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

. In the 2004 local elections
United Kingdom local elections, 2004
The United Kingdom local elections of 2004 were held on 10 June, as part of the 2004 set of elections along with the European elections and the London mayoral and Assembly elections.-About the elections:...

, their share of the vote was 29% (placing them second, ahead of Labour) and 14.9% in the simultaneous European Parliament elections (putting them in fourth place behind UK Independence Party (UKIP)). The results of the 2009 European elections
European Parliament election, 2009 (United Kingdom)
The European Parliament election was the United Kingdom's component of the 2009 European Parliament election, the voting for which was held on Thursday 4 June 2009, coinciding with the 2009 local elections in England. Most of the results of the election were announced on Sunday 7 June, after...

 were similar with the party achieving a vote of 28% in the county council elections yet achieving only 13.7% in the Europeans despite the elections taking place on the same day. The 2009 elections did however see the party gain one seat from UKIP in the East Midlands region taking the number of representatives in the parliament up to 11.

In Europe, the party sits with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the current liberal/centrist political group of the European Parliament...

 (ALDE) political group, which favours further strengthening the EU. The group's leader for seven and a half years was the South West of England MEP Graham Watson
Graham Watson
Sir Graham Robert Watson is a European politician from the United Kingdom. He has served as a Member of the European Parliament for South West England since 1994 and was leader of the liberal group in Parliament for seven years between 2002 and 2009.-Early life:Graham Watson was born in Rothesay...

, who was also the first Liberal Democrat to be elected to the European parliament when he won the old Somerset and North Devon constituency in 1994. The group's current leader is the former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt is a Belgian politician who was the 47th Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008. He is currently a Member of the European Parliament and leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.- Early career :...

.
European election (UK) Name Share of votes Seats Share of seats Source
1984 SDP–Liberal Alliance 18.5% 0 0%
1989 Social and Liberal Democrats 6.2% 0 0%
1994 Liberal Democrats 16.1% 2 2.3%
1999 Liberal Democrats 12.7% 10 11.5%
2004 Liberal Democrats 14.9% 12 15.4%
2009
European Parliament election, 2009 (United Kingdom)
The European Parliament election was the United Kingdom's component of the 2009 European Parliament election, the voting for which was held on Thursday 4 June 2009, coinciding with the 2009 local elections in England. Most of the results of the election were announced on Sunday 7 June, after...

Liberal Democrats 13.7% 11 15.3%

Scottish Parliament elections

The first elections for the Scottish parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 were held in 1999 and resulted in the Liberal Democrats forming a coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

 with Labour from its establishment until 2007. The Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace
The Rt. Hon. James Robert Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, PC, QC , is a British politician, currently a life peer in the House of Lords and the Advocate General for Scotland...

 became Deputy First Minister
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
The Deputy First Minister of Scotland is the deputy to the First Minister of Scotland.The post is not recognised in statute , and its holder is simply an ordinary member of the Scottish Government...

, a role he continued until his retirement as party leader in 2005. The new leader of the party, Nicol Stephen
Nicol Stephen
Nicol Ross Stephen, Baron Stephen of Lower Deeside in the City of Aberdeen is a Scottish Liberal Democrat politician. He was the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeen South, and was leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 2005 to 2008...

, then took on the role of Deputy First Minister
Deputy First Minister of Scotland
The Deputy First Minister of Scotland is the deputy to the First Minister of Scotland.The post is not recognised in statute , and its holder is simply an ordinary member of the Scottish Government...

 until the election of 2007
Scottish Parliament election, 2007
The 2007 Scottish Parliament election was held on Thursday 3 May 2007 to elect members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the third general election to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999...



Since the parliament was established, the Lib Dems have maintained a consistent number of MSPs. From the 17 initially elected, they retained this number in 2003 and went down one to 16 in 2007. The current leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Scottish Liberal Democrats
The Scottish Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties within the federal Liberal Democrats; the others being the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats in England...

 is the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Willie Rennie
Willie Rennie
William Cowan Rennie MSP is a Scottish politician and current Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.After college, Rennie spent most of his early career as a Liberal Democrat campaigner and official before working as a public relations consultant in the private sector...

, who took up his role in 2011.

The party suffered heavy losses in the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, losing 11 seats. This is seen by many as a response to the unpopular Lib Dem/Conservative coalition in Westminster.
Scottish Parliament Elections Name Share of constituency votes Seats Share of regional votes Seats Total Seats Share of Seats
1999
Scottish Parliament election, 1999
The Scottish Parliament election, 1999 was the first general election of the Scottish Parliament, with voting taking place on 6 May 1999 to elect 129 members...

Liberal Democrats 14.15% 12 12.43% 5 17 13.2%
2003
Scottish Parliament election, 2003
The Scottish Parliament election, 2003, was the second general election of the Scottish Parliament. It was held on 1 May 2003 and it brought no change in terms of control of the Scottish Executive...

Liberal Democrats 15.3% 13 11.8% 4 17 13.2%
2007
Scottish Parliament election, 2007
The 2007 Scottish Parliament election was held on Thursday 3 May 2007 to elect members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the third general election to the devolved Scottish Parliament since it was created in 1999...

Liberal Democrats 16.2% 11 11.3% 5 16 12.6%
2011 Liberal Democrats 7.9% 2 5.2% 3 5 3.88%

Welsh Assembly elections

Elections to the newly created National Assembly for Wales
National Assembly for Wales
The National Assembly for Wales is a devolved assembly with power to make legislation in Wales. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs...

 also took place for the first time in 1999 and saw the Liberal Democrats take six seats in the inaugural Assembly, with Welsh Labour winning a plurality of seats in the assembly, but not enough to win an outright majority. In October 2000, following a series of close votes, the parties formed a coalition
Lib-Lab pact
In British politics, a Lib-Lab pact is a working arrangement between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party.There have been four such arrangements, and one alleged proposal, at the national level...

 that saw the Liberal Democrat leader in the assembly, Michael German, become the Deputy First Minister
Deputy First Minister for Wales
The Deputy First Minister for Wales can be the deputy leader of the Welsh Government, the devolved administration for Wales. The post was created October 2000 when Mike German of the Welsh Liberal Democrats was appointed Deputy First Minister as part of a coalition government with Welsh Labour...

. The deal lasted until the election of 2003, when Labour won enough seats to be able to govern outright.

The Party has polled consistently in all four elections to the National Assembly, returning six representatives in the first three elections and five in the 2011 Election, thereby establishing itself as the fourth party in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 behind Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru
' is a political party in Wales. It advocates the establishment of an independent Welsh state within the European Union. was formed in 1925 and won its first seat in 1966...

. The current leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Welsh Liberal Democrats
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties of the federal Liberal Democrats and operate within Wales, the others being the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats in England....

 is Kirsty Williams
Kirsty Williams
Victoria Kirsty Williams is a British politician. She is the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Member of the Welsh Assembly for Brecon and Radnorshire.-Early life:...

, the assembly member for Brecon & Radnorshire
Brecon and Radnorshire (Assembly constituency)
Brecon and Radnorshire is a constituency of the National Assembly for Wales. It elects one Assembly Member by the first past the post method of election...

, the Assembly's first female leader.
Welsh Assembly elections Name Share of constituency votes Seats Share of regional votes Seats Total Seats Share of Seats
1999
Welsh Assembly election, 1999
The first National Assembly for Wales elections were held on 6 May 1999. The overall turnout of voters was 46.3%. Although the Welsh Labour Party were the biggest party, they did not gain enough seats to form a majority government and instead entered into coalition with the Liberal Democrats...

Liberal Democrats 13.5% 3 12.50% 3 6 10%
2003
Welsh Assembly election, 2003
The National Assembly for Wales election, 2003 was the second general election to the National Assembly for Wales. It was held on 1 May 2003.The election was characterised by a resurgence for the Labour Party, whilst Plaid Cymru saw a reduction in support and the number of Assembly Members they...

Liberal Democrats 14.1% 3 12.7% 3 6 10%
2007 Liberal Democrats 14.8% 3 11.7% 3 6 10%
2011 Liberal Democrats 10.6% 1 8.0% 4 5 8.3%

Structure

The Liberal Democrats are a federal
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 party of the parties of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. The English and Scottish parties are further split into regions. The parliamentary parties of the House of Commons, the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

 and Welsh Assembly form semi-autonomous units within the party. The leaders in the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament are the leaders of the federal party and the Scottish Party; the leaders in the other two chambers, and the officers of all parliamentary parties, are elected from their own number. Co-ordination of all party activities across all federated groups is undertaken through the Federal Executive. Chaired by the party leader, its 30+ members includes representatives from each of the groups and democratically elected representatives.

The Lib Dems had around 65,000 members at the end of 2010 and in the first quarter of 2008, the party received £1.1 million in donations and have total borrowings and unused credit facilities of £1.1 million (the "total debt" figure reported by the Electoral Commission includes, for example, unused overdraft facilities). This compares to Labour's £3.1 million in donations and £17.8 million of borrowing/credit facilities, and the Conservatives' £5.7 million in donations and £12.1 million of borrowing/credit facilities.

Specified Associated Organisations (SAOs) review and input policies, representing groups including: ethnic minorities (EMLD), women (WLD), the LGBT community (Delga
Delga
LGBT+ Liberal Democrats is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender & sexuality minorities equality group of the Liberal Democrats. DELGA was the original name when the organisation was formed...

), youth and students (Liberal Youth), engineers and scientists (ALDES), parliamentary candidates (PCA) and local councillor
Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

s (ALDC). Others can become Associated Organisations (AOs) as pressure groups in the party, such as the Green Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats Online and the Liberal Democrat Disability Association. The National Union of Liberal Clubs (NULC) represents Liberal Social Clubs which encourages recreational institutions where the promotion of the party can take place.

Like the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

, the Lib Dems organise in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, though they do not contest elections in the province: they work with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is a liberal and nonsectarian political party in Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party overall, with eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and one in the House of Commons....

, de facto agreeing to support the Alliance in elections. There is a separate local party operating in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats
Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats is a local party of the Liberal Democrats that operates in Northern Ireland. Unlike its counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales, the Northern Ireland party is not a state party within the federal Liberal Democrats but a local party, similar to...

. Several individuals, including Alliance Party leader David Ford
David Ford
David Ford is a politician who is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Ford has been leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland since 2001 and has been Northern Ireland Minister of Justice since April 2010.- Early life :...

, hold membership of both parties. Alliance members of the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 take the Lib Dem whip
Whip (politics)
A whip is an official in a political party whose primary purpose is to ensure party discipline in a legislature. Whips are a party's "enforcers", who typically offer inducements and threaten punishments for party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party policy...

 on non-Northern Ireland issues, and the Alliance Party usually has a stall at Lib Dem party conference
Party conference
The terms party conference , political convention , and party congress usually refer to a general meeting of a political party. The conference is attended by certain delegates who represent the party membership...

s.

The party is a member of Liberal International
Liberal International
Liberal International is a political international federation for liberal parties. Its headquarters is located at 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD within the National Liberal Club. It was founded in Oxford in 1947, and has become the pre-eminent network for liberal parties and for the...

 and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party is a European political party mainly active in the European Union, composed of 56 national-level liberal and liberal-democratic parties from across Europe...

, and their 11 MEPs sit in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the current liberal/centrist political group of the European Parliament...

 (ALDE) group in the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

.

Membership figures

Year Membership (as of December 31)
2001 73,276
2002 71,636
2003 73,305
2004 72,721
2005 72,031
2006 68,743
2007 65,400
2008 59,810
2009 58,768
2010 65,038

Leaders

Entered office Left office Date of Birth
David Steel
David Steel
David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood, KT, KBE, PC is a British Liberal Democrat politician who served as the Leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 until its merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats...

 1
7 July 1987 16 July 1988 31 March 1938
Robert Maclennan 2 6 August 1987 16 July 1988 26 June 1936
Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown
Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, KBE, PC , usually known as Paddy Ashdown, is a British politician and diplomat....

16 July 1988 9 August 1999 27 February 1941
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy
Charles Peter Kennedy is a British Liberal Democrat politician, who led the Liberal Democrats from 9 August 1999 until 7 January 2006 and is currently a Member of Parliament for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency....

9 August 1999 7 January 2006 25 November 1959
Sir Menzies Campbell
Menzies Campbell
Sir Walter Menzies "Ming" Campbell, CBE, QC, MP is a British Liberal Democrat politician and advocate, and a retired sprinter. He is the Member of Parliament for North East Fife, and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.Campbell held the British record...

 3
2 March 2006 15 October 2007 22 May 1941
Vince Cable 4 15 October 2007 18 December 2007 9 May 1943
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

18 December 2007 Incumbent 7 January 1967
  • 1 Joint interim leader, as leader of the Liberal Party
    Liberal Party (UK)
    The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

     before the merger.
  • 2 Joint interim leader, as leader of the Social Democratic Party
    Social Democratic Party (UK)
    The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

     before the merger.
  • 3 Interim leader between the resignation of Charles Kennedy on 7 January 2006 and his own election on 2 March 2006.
  • 4 Interim leader between the resignation of Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007 and the election of Nick Clegg on 18 December 2007.

Deputy Leaders

  • Russell Johnston, 1988–1992
  • Alan Beith
    Alan Beith
    Sir Alan James Beith is a British Liberal Democrat politician and Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed.-Early life:Alan Beith was born in 1943 in Poynton, in Cheshire...

    , 1992–2003
  • Sir Menzies Campbell
    Menzies Campbell
    Sir Walter Menzies "Ming" Campbell, CBE, QC, MP is a British Liberal Democrat politician and advocate, and a retired sprinter. He is the Member of Parliament for North East Fife, and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2 March 2006 until 15 October 2007.Campbell held the British record...

    , 2003–2006
  • Vince Cable, 2006–2010
  • Simon Hughes
    Simon Hughes
    Simon Henry Ward Hughes is a British politician and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Until 2008 he was President of the Liberal Democrats...

    , 2010–present

Party Presidents

(Presidents are elected for a two-year term, starting on 1 January and ending on 31 December. They may serve a maximum of two terms.)
  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth
    Ian Wrigglesworth
    Sir Ian William Wrigglesworth is Deputy Chairman of the Government's Regional Growth Fund Advisory Panel which is Chaired by Lord Heseltine and appointed by the Government to consider bids. He is Chief Executive of a Gateshead based commercial property investment company and is Chairman of the...

    , 1988–1990
  • Charles Kennedy
    Charles Kennedy
    Charles Peter Kennedy is a British Liberal Democrat politician, who led the Liberal Democrats from 9 August 1999 until 7 January 2006 and is currently a Member of Parliament for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency....

    , 1991–1994
  • Robert Maclennan, 1995–1998
  • Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock
    Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock
    Diana Margaret Maddock, Baroness Maddock and Lady Beith is a Liberal Democrat politician.Maddock was educated at the University of Portsmouth and leader of the Liberal Democrats on Southampton City Council...

    , 1999–2000
  • Navnit Dholakia, Baron Dholakia
    Navnit Dholakia, Baron Dholakia
    Navnit Dholakia, Baron Dholakia OBE PC DL is a British Liberal Democrat politician and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. Lord Dholakia is one of the most senior Asian politicians in Britain.-Education:...

    , 2001–2004
  • Simon Hughes
    Simon Hughes
    Simon Henry Ward Hughes is a British politician and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Until 2008 he was President of the Liberal Democrats...

    , 2005–2008
  • Rosalind Scott, Baroness Scott of Needham Market
    Rosalind Scott, Baroness Scott of Needham Market
    Rosalind Carol "Ros" Scott, Baroness Scott of Needham Market is a British politician who is a member of the House of Lords. Baroness Scott was president of Liberal Democrats between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2010 and was succeeded by Tim Farron-Early life and education:The daughter of...

    , 2009–2010
  • Tim Farron
    Tim Farron
    Timothy James Farron is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He is currently Member of Parliament for the constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale...

    , 2011–present

Leaders in the European Parliament

  • Graham Watson
    Graham Watson
    Sir Graham Robert Watson is a European politician from the United Kingdom. He has served as a Member of the European Parliament for South West England since 1994 and was leader of the liberal group in Parliament for seven years between 2002 and 2009.-Early life:Graham Watson was born in Rothesay...

    , 1994–2002 (President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
    European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
    The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party is a European political party mainly active in the European Union, composed of 56 national-level liberal and liberal-democratic parties from across Europe...

    )
  • Diana Wallis
    Diana Wallis
    Diana Paulette Wallis is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is a Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber. Wallis was first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2004 and in 2009....

    , 2002–2004
  • Chris Davies
    Chris Davies
    Christopher Graham Davies is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom. He is a former Member of Parliament, and since 1999 he has been a Member of the European Parliament.- Biography :...

    , 2004–2006
  • Diana Wallis
    Diana Wallis
    Diana Paulette Wallis is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is a Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber. Wallis was first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2004 and in 2009....

    , 2006–2007 (Vice-President of the European Parliament
    European Parliament
    The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

    )
  • Andrew Duff
    Andrew Duff
    Andrew Duff OBE is a Liberal Democrat politician, president of the Union of European Federalists, and a Member of the European Parliament for the East of England region of the UK....

    , 2007–2009
  • Fiona Hall, 2009–present


The Liberal Democrats did not have representation in the European Parliament prior to 1994.

Members of the Cabinet

  • Nick Clegg
    Nick Clegg
    Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

     – Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Deputy Prime Minister
    Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
    The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

  • Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Chris Huhne
    Chris Huhne
    Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne, generally known as Chris Huhne is a British politician and cabinet minister, who is the current Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire...

     – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
    Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
    The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is a British government cabinet position currently held by Chris Huhne. The government department was created on 3 October 2008 when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown reshuffled his cabinet....

  • Michael Moore
    Michael Moore (UK politician)
    Michael Kevin Moore is a British Liberal Democrat politician, currently the Secretary of State for Scotland in the UK coalition government, and the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk....

     – Secretary of State for Scotland
    Secretary of State for Scotland
    The Secretary of State for Scotland is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office , a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns, but was...

  • Danny Alexander
    Danny Alexander
    Daniel Grian Alexander is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has been Chief Secretary to the Treasury since 2010. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey constituency since 2005....

     – Chief Secretary to the Treasury
    Chief Secretary to the Treasury
    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury is the third most senior ministerial position in HM Treasury, after the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer . In recent years, the office holder has usually been given a junior position in the British Cabinet...


Other Ministers

  • Lynne Featherstone
    Lynne Featherstone
    Lynne Choona Featherstone , is a British Liberal Democrat politician, and the Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green....

     – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities (Home Office
    Home Office
    The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security, and order. As such it is responsible for the police, UK Border Agency, and the Security Service . It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs,...

    )
  • Norman Baker
    Norman Baker
    Norman John Baker is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Lewes in East Sussex since 1997. Since May 2010 he has been Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport....

    – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Regional and Local Transport (Department for Transport
    Department for Transport
    In the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are not devolved...

    )
  • Andrew Stunell
    Andrew Stunell
    Robert Andrew Stunell, known as Andrew Stunell, OBE is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom. He is the Member of Parliament for Hazel Grove, and was first elected at the 1997 general election...

    – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Community Cohesion (Department for Communities and Local Government
    Department for Communities and Local Government
    The Department for Communities and Local Government is the UK Government department for communities and local government in England. It was established in May 2006 and is the successor to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, established in 2001...

    )
  • Steve Webb
    Steve Webb
    Steven John Webb, better known as Steve Webb , is an English Liberal Democrat politician. He is the Member of Parliament for Thornbury & Yate and the Minister of State for Pensions.-Background:...

    – Minister of State for Pensions (Department for Work and Pensions
    Department for Work and Pensions
    The Department for Work and Pensions is the largest government department in the United Kingdom, created on June 8, 2001 from the merger of the employment part of the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Social Security and headed by the Secretary of State for Work and...

    )
  • Paul Burstow
    Paul Burstow
    Paul Kenneth Burstow , British politician, is the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam. In May 2010 he was appointed Minister of State for the Department of Health.-Early life:...

    – Minister of State for Care Services (Department of Health
    Department of Health (United Kingdom)
    The Department of Health is a department of the United Kingdom government with responsibility for government policy for health and social care matters and for the National Health Service in England along with a few elements of the same matters which are not otherwise devolved to the Scottish,...

    )
  • Sarah Teather
    Sarah Teather
    Sarah Louise Teather is a British Liberal Democrat politician, Member of Parliament for Brent Central, Minister of State at the Department for Education, and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Guantanamo Bay....

    – Minister of State for Children and Families (Department for Education
    Department for Education
    The Department for Education is a department of the UK government responsible for issues affecting people in England up to the age of 19, including child protection and education....

    )
  • Edward Davey
    Edward Davey
    Edward Jonathan "Ed" Davey is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for Kingston and Surbiton since 1997, and in May 2010 was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills...

     – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations,Consumer and Postal Affairs (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is a ministerial department of the United Kingdom Government created on 5 June 2009 by the merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform .-Ministers:The BIS...

    )
  • The Rt Hon.Tom McNally, Baron McNallyPC– Minister of State in Justice, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (Ministry of Justice
    Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom)
    The Ministry of Justice is a ministerial department of the UK Government headed by the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, who is responsible for improvements to the justice system so that it better serves the public...

    )
  • Jeremy Browne
    Jeremy Browne
    Jeremy Richard Browne is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for Taunton Deane since 2005 and a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 2010.-Early life and education:...

    – Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

    , (responsibility for South East Asia/Far East, Caribbean, Central/South America, Australasia and Pacific, human rights, consular, migration, drugs and international crime, public diplomacy and the Olympics)
  • Nick Harvey
    Nick Harvey
    Nicholas Barton "Nick" Harvey is a British Liberal Democrat politician. He is the Member of Parliament for North Devon and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.-Early life and education:...

    Minister of State for the Armed Forces
    Minister of State for the Armed Forces
    The Minister of State for the Armed Forces is a middle-ranking ministerial position, subordinate only to the Secretary of State for Defence, at the Ministry of Defence in Her Majesty's Government....

     (Ministry of Defence
    Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
    The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

    )
  • Norman Lamb
    Norman Lamb
    Norman Peter Lamb is a British Liberal Democrat politician, and Chief Parliamentary and Political Adviser and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.He is the Member of Parliament for North Norfolk....

    – Chief Parliamentary and Political Adviser to the Deputy PM Parliamentary Private Secretary
    Parliamentary Private Secretary
    A Parliamentary Private Secretary is a role given to a United Kingdom Member of Parliament by a senior minister in government or shadow minister to act as their contact for the House of Commons; this role is junior to that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which is a ministerial post, salaried by...

     to the Deputy Prime Minister
  • David Heath– Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
  • The Rt Hon. Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness PC QC–Advocate General for Scotland
    Advocate General for Scotland
    Her Majesty's Advocate General for Scotland is one of the Law Officers of the Crown, whose duty it is to advise the Crown and UK Government on Scots law...


Commons Whips
  • Alistair Carmichael
    Alistair Carmichael
    Alexander Morrison "Alistair" Carmichael is a Liberal Democrat politician. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Scottish seat of Orkney and Shetland since the 2001 general election.-Early life:...

     – Deputy Chief Whip, Comptroller of the Household
    Comptroller of the Household
    The Comptroller of the Household is an ancient position in the English royal household, currently the second-ranking member of the Lord Steward's department, and often a cabinet member. He was an ex officio member of the Board of Green Cloth, until that body was abolished in the reform of the local...

    , Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
  • Mark Hunter
    Mark Hunter (politician)
    Mark James Hunter is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is the current Member of Parliament for Cheadle.-Education and background:...

    – Assistant Whip
  • Norman Lamb
    Norman Lamb
    Norman Peter Lamb is a British Liberal Democrat politician, and Chief Parliamentary and Political Adviser and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.He is the Member of Parliament for North Norfolk....

    – Assistant Whip

Lords Whips
  • The Rt Hon. David Shutt, Baron Shutt of Greetland
    David Shutt, Baron Shutt of Greetland
    David Trevor Shutt, Baron Shutt of Greetland, OBE, PC is a British Liberal Democrat politician, currently serving as Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard and Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords.-Career:...

     PC– Deputy Chief Whip, Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard
    Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard
    The Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard is a UK government post usually held by the Government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords...

  • Lindsay Northover, Baroness Northover
    Lindsay Northover, Baroness Northover
    Lindsay Patricia Northover, Baroness Northover is a Liberal Democrat British politician and currently a Government Whip in the House of Lords with responsibilities covering health, Law Officers, Ministry of Justice, Wales Office and for Women and Equalities and under the new coalition government,...

  • William Wallace, Baron Wallace of Saltaire
    William Wallace, Baron Wallace of Saltaire
    William John Lawrence Wallace, Baron Wallace of Saltaire is a British academic, writer, politician and Lord in Waiting.-Early life:...


See also

  • Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
    Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
    The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is a liberal and nonsectarian political party in Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party overall, with eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and one in the House of Commons....

  • Glee Club (British politics)
  • Liberal democracy
    Liberal democracy
    Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

  • Liberal Youth
  • Liberalism in the United Kingdom
    Liberalism in the United Kingdom
    This article gives an overview of liberalism in the United Kingdom. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme...

  • Liberalism worldwide
    Liberalism worldwide
    This article gives information on liberalism in diverse countries around the world. It is an overview of parties that adhere more or less to the ideas of political liberalism and is therefore a list of liberal parties around the world....

  • List of Liberal Democrat MPs
  • List of liberal theorists
  • List of UK Liberal Party general election manifestos
  • Lloyd George Society
    Lloyd George Society
    The Lloyd George Society is an organisation connected to, but not formally affiliated to, the United Kingdom political party the Liberal Democrats. It is named after David Lloyd George, the Welsh Liberal politician who was British prime minister from 1916-1922. The Society was founded in the late...

  • Politics of the United Kingdom
    Politics of the United Kingdom
    The politics of the United Kingdom takes place within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, in which the Monarch is the head of state and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government...

  • The Land
    The Land (song)
    The Land is a protest song, traditionally sung by the Georgist movement in the United Kingdom in pursuit and promotion of land value taxation. Until the late 1970s it was sung at the end of each year's Liberal Assembly and was the party anthem of the Liberal Party until that party merged with the...

    , song

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