“The Liberal Party exists to create 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 Liberal Party first came together as a nationally organised and constituted political party in 1877, although in practical (but rather disorganised) terms it had been in existence long before then. It has its origins in the Whig Party and can thus trace its origins back to the seventeenth century.
The Liberal Party was frequently the principal party of Government in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These governments were radical, reformist and far sighted, they backed the masses against the classes, swept away vested interest and privilege, and secured increased rights and freedoms for the people.
The Liberal Governments of 1906 – 1914 laid the foundations of the welfare state; broke the power of the Lords to stand in the way of popularly elected governments; secured the future of the trade union movement; introduced old age pensions; ensured that those injured in workplace accidents were provided for, and introduced measures to improve working conditions for those in low paid ‘sweated’ industries.
These achievements are now over a century old, it is no good our continuing to cite them as evidence of our competence in Government or as a substantial reason why people should vote for use today, they do however, show that liberal philosophy, when applied to the practicalities of Government, provides real, radical and enduring solutions.
The Liberal Party declined in the 1920s, losing out principally to the Labour Party and its (then) fashionable new idea: Socialism. Committed liberals found new homes on the right of the Labour Party and the left of the Conservative Party, but the Liberal Party survived. It did so because the country needed a radical non-socialist alternative to the vested interests of the Conservatives.
The value of Liberalism and liberal philosophy was increasingly recognised in the 1950s and 60s and a ‘Liberal revival’ began.
In the 1980’s the Liberal Party became allied with Social Democrats who had broken from the Labour Party as a result of its increasing commitment to the bankrupt ideals of far left socialism.
Social democracy is a form of ‘Socialism Lite’ with which some Liberals felt they could live, if the prize was electoral success. The much heralded breakthrough never came.
In 1988 a large number of Liberals joined with the Social Democrats and formed what went on to become the ‘Liberal Democrats’. In doing so they jettisoned what they saw as cumbersome intellectual baggage, other Liberals saw this as fundamental liberal philosophy and resolved to continue with their commitment to The Liberal Party.
Many local Liberal Associations refused to submit to the newly formed party and resolved to continue as before. Hence the Liberal Party can trace an unbroken line of organisation and membership back to the origins of the party.