Liberal Party (UK, 1989)

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This article is about the post 1989 Liberal Party. For the historical Liberal Party, see Liberal Party (UK).

The Liberal Party is a United Kingdom political party that was founded in 1989 by members of the original Liberal Party opposed to its merger with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to form the Liberal Democrats.

As of 2016 the Liberal Party held 10 council seats at county and district level and 15 seats at community level.[2] The party has no representation in the UK Parliament, nor Members of the European Parliament (MEP) or members of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

At the 2001 General Election, the party’s best result was coming second behind Labour in Liverpool West Derby, pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place. However, they were unable to repeat this at the 2005 and 2010General Elections, finishing third behind the Liberal Democrats in the constituency, but still beating the Conservatives. At the 2015 General Election, they came fourth, narrowly holding their deposit, ahead of the Liberal Democrats who came last and the Green Party but behind the UK Independence Party and the Conservative Party.

As of 2015 the party president is Steve Radford and the party chairman is Sir Henry Boyle. The party anthem is The Land.

The party states that it exists:

“To build a Liberal Society in which every citizen shall possess liberty, property and security and none shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Its chief care is for the rights and opportunities of the individual, and in all spheres it sets freedom first.”


The original Liberal Party entered into an alliance with the Social Democratic Party in 1981[3] and later merged with them in 1988–1989 to form the Liberal Democrats.[4] The Liberal Party, founded in 1859, were descended from the Whigs, Radicalsand Peelites, while the SDP were a party created in 1982 by former Labour members, MPs and cabinet ministers, but also gained defections from Conservatives.[5]

A small minority of the Liberal Party, notably including former Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Meadowcroft (the last elected president of the Liberal Party), unhappy with what they saw as authoritarian and economic interventionist policies that veered away from traditional Liberal policies, resolved to continue with the Liberal Party.

The continuing Liberal Party included several councillors and entire council groups from the pre-1988 party which had never submitted to the merged party and continued as Liberals (hence the disputed foundation date), but no MPs. Since then, the number of Liberal councillors has been broadly constant.

In 2002, Meadowcroft stepped down from the party presidency and was replaced by Councillor Steve Radford. In 2007, Meadowcroft left and joined the Liberal Democrats.[6] In 2009, Radford stood down and was replaced as president of the party by former councillor Rob Wheway. Wheway served a year as leader; Radford was re-elected party president in 2010. In June 2015, Fran Oborski announced that she has left the continuing Liberal Party and has joined the Liberal Democrats.[7][8]

Party members take part in Liberal International (LI) activities though the Liberal International British Group.


The party put up a full slate of candidates in the North West England region for the 2004 European Parliament elections, coming seventh with 4.6% of the vote (0.6% of the total British popular vote).

In the 2009 European Parliament election, the Liberal Party’s Steve Radford participated in the No2EU electoral alliance.[9]

Subsequently, the party supported the People’s Pledge, a cross-party campaign calling for a referendum on UK membership of the EU.

European Union[edit]

The Liberal Party’s constitution commits it to “build a United Europe”. The Liberal Party stated policy is that the European Union (EU) is in need of fundamental reform and identifies issues that are against UK national interests. The party would campaign for reforms to the advantage of the UK including consideration to withdraw from the EU; the Liberal Party is opposed to the adoption by the UK of the European currency, the euro. The party calls for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the constitutional basis of the EU.

Crime and justice[edit]

Courts to be given the additional power to initiate further investigation. Imprisonment for crimes against the person, or which put persons at risk of physical, psychological or emotional injury. The party supports the right to choose a trial by jury. The party opposes capital punishment, including the continued use of the death penalty overseas. The party believes magistrates and judges should reflect the values of British society and communities.

Young people[edit]

The party wishes to enable young adults to have responsibility and decision making at sixteen, including the right to vote, economic independence with a choice between work, further education, community service or a combination of all three. The party would provide grants for students which would also be extended to cover all types of training and for 16- to 17-year-olds to be able to claim housing benefits and income support, pending the introduction of a tax credit system.

Peaceful protest[edit]

The party supports peaceful protests; the collection of evidence for prosecution should be concentrated on groups or individuals that threaten the physical well-being of other people.


Repeal of legislation regarding non-prescription drugs and its replacement with a strategy of regulation, control and taxation with an increase in education and treatment services. The creation of an independent multi-agency co-ordinating body to oversee policy development; the dissemination of accurate information to minimise drug-related harm to individuals and communities. The aim is to close the criminal marketplace and cause a reduction in related crime and violence.


Reducing the voting age to 16; the introduction of proportional representationby means of the single transferable vote; a predominantly elected Senate to replace the House of Lords.


The party opposes hereditary power and would remove all remaining political power from the monarchy. The monarch would retain a purely ceremonial role and no longer be head of the Church of England.

Church of England[edit]

Church and state would be separated, creating a secular system. Bishops would no longer be members of the House of Lords.

Civil liberties[edit]

Establishment of a modern Bill of rights and a written Constitution.

Liberty and privacy[edit]

The party promotes individual liberty and privacy, including controls on the illegitimate use of surveillance cameras, and of commercial exploitation of recordings of individuals on private or public property. The party calls for respect of privacy by the press and media and opposes misuse of libel law by the rich and powerful. The party proposes to limit libel liability to those with editorial control with an aim to establish facts and get corrections printed and supports the use of legal aid by ordinary citizens to enforce privacy rights. The party opposes the introduction of compulsory identity cards.


The party believes that individual freedom ought to extend to the right to die and so supports voluntary euthanasia, taking inspiration from the Netherlands.

Foreign aid[edit]

Overseas aid to be limited to 0.7% of GNP.


The abandonment of the UK’s weapons of mass destruction and increase in conventional armed forces. The UK defence forces should be professional armed forces, supplemented by volunteer part-time reservists, and exist for the defence of the peoples of the UK. At the 2011 assembly the party issued the following motion: ‘Further, assembly deplores the redundancy notices issued to personnel in the Army and Royal Air Force on their return from active service. Assembly believes that the UK’s Armed Services have now been cut to a level which is below that which is consistent with the effective maintenance of national defence and international obligations. Assembly calls for an immediate cessation of the implementation of further defence cuts and, insofar as is possible, a return to pre-2010 levels of manpower, capability and funding as a first step, such increase in spending to be financed as a result of the immediate decommissioning of the UK’s nuclear weapons capability.’[11]

United Nations[edit]

The party supports the work of the United Nations, but considers that the UN needs reform. The party proposes reforms including the reconstitution of the General Assembly and establishment of a second Assembly elected by people rather than by governments, with powers to endorse, amend or reject decisions of the General Assembly. Removal of major powers’ right to veto. The Secretary General to be able to take urgent action to enforce the Geneva Conventions.

Electoral performance[edit]

In the 2011 local council elections, eight Liberal councillors held their seats, three lost their seats and five new Liberal councillors were elected: a net gain of two.[12] In the two years to the May 2013 local elections, the number of Liberal councillors rose from 16 to 21.[2] In the 2013 elections, the party won three seats, a gain of one.[13]

As of 2013 the party held three county council seats, 18 seats on city, borough and district councils and 14 seats on parish, town and community councils.

Although the Liberal Party has retained many of its seats, it has not had a significant impact outside its strongholds of Ryedale, Liverpool and Yorkshire.

As of 2014 the Liberal Party held 21 council seats at county and district level and 15 seats at community level.[2] The party has no representation in the UK Parliament, nor Members of the European (MEP) or Scottish Parliaments. At the 2001 UK general election the party’s best local result was coming second behind Labour in Liverpool West Derby, pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place. However, they were unable to repeat this at the 2005 general election, finishing third behind the Liberal Democrats in the constituency, but still beating the Conservatives; they repeated this position at the 2010 general election. In the 2015 general election they came fourth narrowly holding their deposit, ahead of the Liberal Democrats who came last and the Green Party but behind UK Independence Party and the Conservative Party.

Number of councillors[edit]

County District Parish Total Held Gain Loss
2003-04 5 22  ? 29 6 5 8
2004-05 5 23  ? 28 12 2 2
2005-06 2 23  ? 25 2 0 3
2006-07 2 24  ? 26 15 0 2
2007-08 2  ?  ? 14? 7 1 0
2008-09 2  ?  ? 14? 7 0 0
2009-10 2  ?  ? 15? 1 2 1
2010-11 2  ?  ? 14  ?  ? 1
2011-12 2  ?  ? 16 8 5 3
2012-13 2  ?  ? 21  ?  ?  ?
2013-14 3 18 15 35 2 3 0
2014-15 3 16 13 33 2 0 2

Totals include any in-year by-elections and defections, held/gain/loss are the changes since the start of the last municipal year. Figure from the BBC election results before 2003 lists Liberal Party seats amongst “Others” or “Independents”.

Elected members[edit]

As of 2014 the Liberal Party had no members of the UK, Scottish, or European Parliaments.

City/borough/district councillors[edit]

Town, parish and community councillors[edit]

As of 2015 the party had 14 councillors on parish, town and community councils in North Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire and Essex.[14]

2015 General Election[edit]

The Liberal Party courted controversy in the 2015 General Election when the party in Cornwall decided to not contest any seats and urged its supporters to vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party.

See also[edit]