Liberal Democrats (UK)
The Liberal Democrats (colloquially referred to as the Lib Dems) are a liberal political party in the United Kingdom, founded in 1988. Since the 1992 general election, with the exception of the 2015 general election, they have been the third-largest UK political party by the number of votes cast. They have 14 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 83 members of the House of Lords, four Members of the Scottish Parliament and one member in the Welsh Senedd. The party has over 2,500 local council seats. The party holds a twice-per-year Liberal Democrat Conference, at which party policy is formulated. In contrast to its main opponents' conference rules, the Lib Dems grant all members attending its Conference the right to speak in debates and vote on party policy, under a one member, one vote system. The party also allows its members to vote online. The party served as the junior party in a coalition government with the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2015; with Scottish Labour in the Scottish Executive from 1999 to 2007, and with Welsh Labour in the Welsh Government from 2000 to 2003 and from 2016 to 2021.
|Leader||Sir Ed Davey|
|Deputy Leader||Daisy Cooper|
|Lords Leader||Lord Newby|
|Chief Executive||Mike Dixon|
|Founded||3 March 1988|
|Headquarters||Liberal Democrat Headquarters|
1 Vincent Square
|Youth wing||Young Liberals|
|Women's wing||Liberal Democrat Women|
|Overseas wing||Lib Dems Abroad|
|LGBT wing||LGBT+ Liberal Democrats|
|Membership (2023)||90,000+: 13|
|Political position||Centre to centre-left|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|International affiliation||Liberal International|
|Northern Irish affiliation|
|Slogan||"For a Fair Deal"|
|Conference||Liberal Democrat Conference|
|Governing body||Federal Board|
|Devolved or semi-autonomous branches|
|House of Commons|
14 / 650
|House of Lords|
83 / 776
4 / 129
1 / 60
2 / 25
|Directly elected Mayors|
2 / 15
2,984 / 18,646
^Councillors of local authorities in England (including 25 aldermen of the City of London) and Scotland, principal councils in Wales and local councils in Northern Ireland.
In 1981, an electoral alliance was established between the Liberal Party, a group which descended from the 18th-century Whigs, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a splinter group from the Labour Party. In 1988, the parties merged as the Social and Liberal Democrats, adopting their present name just over a year later. Under the leadership of Paddy Ashdown and later Charles Kennedy, the party grew during the 1990s and 2000s, focusing its campaigns on specific seats and becoming the third-largest party in the House of Commons. In 2010, under Nick Clegg's leadership, the Liberal Democrats were junior partners in David Cameron's Conservative-led coalition government in which Clegg served as Deputy Prime Minister. Although it allowed them to implement some of their policies, the coalition badly damaged the party's electoral standing and they lost 48 of their 56 MPs at the 2015 general election, which relegated them to fourth-largest party in the House of Commons. Under the leaderships of Tim Farron, Vince Cable and Jo Swinson, the party was refocused as a pro-Europeanist party opposing Brexit. Since 2015, the party has failed to recapture its pre-coalition successes, and a poor performance in the 2019 general election saw Swinson lose her seat.
A centrist to centre-left political party, the Liberal Democrats ideologically draw upon both liberalism and social democracy. Different factions have dominated the party at different times, each with its own ideological bent, some leaning towards the centre-left and others the centre. The party calls for constitutional reform, including a change from the first-past-the-post voting system to proportional representation. Emphasising stronger protections for civil liberties, the party promotes social-liberal approaches to issues like LGBT rights, drug liberalisation, education policy and criminal justice. It favours a market-based economy supplemented with social welfare spending. The party is internationalist and pro-European, and supported the People's Vote for the continued UK membership of the European Union and greater European integration, having previously called for adoption of the euro currency. The Lib Dems have promoted further environmental protections and opposed British military ventures like the Iraq War.
The Liberal Democrats are historically strongest in northern Scotland, south-west London, south-west England and mid-Wales. Membership is primarily made up of professionals that belong within the middle-class (without the reliance on trade unions or collective bargaining) and the party's composition has a higher proportion of university educated members than the other major political parties of the United Kingdom. The party is a federation of the English, Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats. The party is in a partnership with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, while still organising there. Internationally, the party is a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, with its MEPs formerly affiliated to the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, until the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.