Liberal Democrats (UK)
The Liberal Democrats (commonly referred to as the Lib Dems) are a liberal political party in the United Kingdom. The party has 12 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 89 members of the House of Lords, four Members of the Scottish Parliament, one member in the Welsh Senedd and two members in the London Assembly. The party served as the junior party in a coalition government with the Conservative Party between 2010–2015, with Scottish Labour in the Scottish Executive from 1999 to 2007, and with Welsh Labour in the Welsh Government from 2016 to 2021.
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. 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 damaged the Lib Dems' electoral prospects and it suffered many losses 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, it refocused itself as a party opposing Brexit. Since 2015 the party has failed to recapture its pre-coalition successes under Ashdown and Kennedy 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 middle-class and more university educated than most UK parties. The party's partner in Northern Ireland is the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. 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.