The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The former Liberal party

Category: Politics

The Liberal party of Great Britain existed since 1832, though it was finally organized in 1877. The history of this party is closely associated with the Whig party, which emerged in 1679. Initially the Whigs voiced the interests of the financial and the trading bourgeoisie. The party was opposed to the policy of Charles II who tried to restore the absolute powers of monarchy after the bourgeois revolution (1640 — 60). The Whig leaders headed by the Earl of Shaftesbury and his followers in the Green Ribbon club attempted to exclude Charles’s Catholic brother, later James II, from succession to the throne. As a result, they became associated with the cause of the opponents of the regime and the defence of the liberties of the subject and parliament against the threat of monarchical absolutism. The term ‘Whig’, from ‘whiggamore (cattle-drover), began as a term of abuse used by opponents. In the nineteenth century the Whigs served as a nucleus in the formation of the Liberal party. The middle and petty bourgeois intellectuals formed the social basis of the party.

Before the First World War it was second only to the Conservatives in political and social influence. Quite often did the Liberals hold office. However, due to the intensification of class struggle and a split among the Liberals the party’s influence declined. Having suffered several defeats at the parliamentary elections in the twenties the party could not restore its former prestige. To a great degree the newly formed Labour party won the votes of the former Liberal supporters.

The results of the general elections of 1979 and 1983 indicated a marked growth of influence of the Liberals, though in 1987 they suffered a setback. They formed an alliance with the Social Democratic party which emerged in 1981 as a result of a split in the Labour party. In 1988 the Liberals and Social Democrats formed a united party under the name the Social-Liberal Democratic party or just the Democrats. This event highlighted the formation of a new political party in Great Britain which claimed to have a membership of about one hundred thousand supporters. The party was set to take a centrist stand in the political spectrum of Great Britain. Its political platform remains vague reflecting a diversity of views of the members of the two former parties. In the political system of Great Britain the Democrats hope to fill the gap which exists between the Conservatives and Labourites.

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