The Liberal Democrats ("Lib Dems") are a politically liberal and social democratic political party based in the United Kingdom.

The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party, and the short lived Social Democratic Party, (the two parties had already been in an alliance for some years). At the time of the merger, in 1988, the party was named the Social and Liberal Democrats (SLD). It changed to the current name in October 1989.

Table of contents
1 Electoral results
2 Politics and Policies
3 Leaders of the Liberal Democrats, 1988-Present
4 Shadow Cabinet
5 External Link

Electoral results

In recent United Kingdom general elections they have emerged the third most popular party behind Labour and the Conservatives. In most elections, the Liberal Democrats (or their precursor alliance) have gained between 15%-25% of the national vote. At the most recent general election in 2001 the party gained 18.3% of the national vote, and 52 Liberal Democrats were elected to parliament. Owing to the operation of the first past the post electoral system, the number of MPs they gained was disproportionately small especially in the years in which their popular electoral support was greatest.

The Liberal Democrats have generally performed better in local elections, and are a more significant force in local government, with 27 councils under Liberal Democrat majority control, and Lib Dems in joint control of many others. They are coalition partners with Labour in the Scottish Parliament.

Politics and Policies

The Liberal Democrats (and the precursor Liberal party) have traditionally been seen as the centrist party of British politics, however with Tony Blair's re-positioning of the Labour Party to the centre. Many now view the Lib Dems as being the most left-wing of Britain's mainstream parties, they however often deny that they are either left or right wing.


The Liberal Democrats' constitution speaks of "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. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals". To this end:

  • They support greater civil liberties and more open government, including substantial reforms to increase parliamentary oversight of the executive.
  • They propose to abolish tuition fees for university students
  • They propose a substantial non-means tested increase in pensions
  • They propose an extra tax band for the highest earners to pay for this, with any surplus revenue being used to cut taxes on the lowest paid
  • They are in favour of full UK participation in the European Union and an early referendum on joining the Euro, which they support.
  • They are in favour of proportional representation for elections to both the House of Commons and a second chamber to replace the House of Lords, preferably by the STV system.

The most well-known Liberal Democrat policy for most of the 1990's was to increase the basic rate of income tax by 1 percentage point to fund key public services (especially education). This proposal was recently abandoned after Tony Blair's Labour government increased national insurance contributions, a policy with much the same effect.

Current party policies can be found on the party website:

They are currently led by Charles Kennedy. He replaced Paddy Ashdown, who had become leader in 1988. The party's first (interim) leaders were David Steel (who had been leader of the Liberals since 1976) and Robert Maclennan (who had become SDP leader in August 1987).

The Liberal Democrats are a member party of the Liberal International and their 11 MEP's form part of the ELDR group in the European Parliament.

See also:

Leaders of the Liberal Democrats, 1988-Present

Shadow Cabinet

The Liberal Democrat frontbench team used to be just called that. Under Charles Kennedy's leadership, and the increase of Lib Dem MPs, they now style themselves a
Shadow Cabinet.

(As of December 2003)

  • Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP, Leader
  • Rt Hon Baroness Williams of Crosby, Leader in the Lords
  • Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell CBE QC MP, Deputy Leader & Shadow Secretary for Foreign Affairs
  • Michael Moore MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Dr Vincent Cable MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • David Laws MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • Mark Oaten MP, Shadow Secretary for Home Affairs
  • Norman Baker MP, Shadow Secretary for the Environment
  • Andrew George MP, Shadow Spokesperson for Rural Affairs and Food
  • Edward Davey MP, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister
  • Simon Hughes MP, Spokesperson for London
  • John Thurso MP, Shadow Secretary for Transport and Scotland
  • Malcolm Bruce MP, Shadow Secretary for Trade and Industry
  • Phil Willis MP, Shadow Secretary for Eduction and Skills
  • Professor Steve Webb MP, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions
  • Paul Burstow MP, Shadow Secretary for Health
  • Tom Brake MP, Shadow Secretary for International Development
  • Matthew Taylor MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Party
  • Don Foster MP, Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media, and Sport
  • Paul Keetch MP, Shadow Secretary for Defence
  • Lembit Ípik MP, Shadow Secretary for Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Paul Tyler MP, Shadow Leader of the House
  • Andrew Stunnel MP, Chief Whip
  • Sandra Gidley MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Spokesperson for Older People
  • Lord Roper, Chief Whip in the Lords
  • Lord Dholakia, Party President
  • Lord Razzall, Chair of Campaigns and Communications Committee

External Link