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Liberal Democrats (UK)

The Liberal Democrats ("Lib Dems") are a politically liberal and social democratic political party based in the United Kingdom.

The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party, and the short lived Social Democratic Party, (the two parties had already been in an alliance for some years). At the time of the merger, in 1988, the party was named the Social and Liberal Democrats (SLD). It changed to the current name in October 1989.

Table of contents
1 Electoral results
2 Politics and Policies
3 Leaders of the Liberal Democrats, 1988-Present
4 Shadow Cabinet
5 External Link

Electoral results

In recent United Kingdom general elections they have emerged the third most popular party behind Labour and the Conservatives. In most elections, the Liberal Democrats (or their precursor alliance) have gained between 15%-25% of the national vote. At the most recent general election in 2001 the party gained 18.3% of the national vote, and 52 Liberal Democrats were elected to parliament. Owing to the operation of the first past the post electoral system, the number of MPs they gained was disproportionately small especially in the years in which their popular electoral support was greatest.

The Liberal Democrats have generally performed better in local elections, and are a more significant force in local government, with 27 councils under Liberal Democrat majority control, and Lib Dems in joint control of many others. They are coalition partners with Labour in the Scottish Parliament.

Politics and Policies

The Liberal Democrats (and the precursor Liberal party) have traditionally been seen as the centrist party of British politics, however with Tony Blair's re-positioning of the Labour Party to the centre. Many now view the Lib Dems as being the most left-wing of Britain's mainstream parties, they however often deny that they are either left or right wing.


The Liberal Democrats' constitution speaks of "a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals". To this end:

The most well-known Liberal Democrat policy for most of the 1990's was to increase the basic rate of income tax by 1 percentage point to fund key public services (especially education). This proposal was recently abandoned after Tony Blair's Labour government increased national insurance contributions, a policy with much the same effect.

Current party policies can be found on the party website:

They are currently led by Charles Kennedy. He replaced Paddy Ashdown, who had become leader in 1988. The party's first (interim) leaders were David Steel (who had been leader of the Liberals since 1976) and Robert Maclennan (who had become SDP leader in August 1987).

The Liberal Democrats are a member party of the Liberal International and their 11 MEP's form part of the ELDR group in the European Parliament.

See also:

Leaders of the Liberal Democrats, 1988-Present

Shadow Cabinet

The Liberal Democrat frontbench team used to be just called that. Under Charles Kennedy's leadership, and the increase of Lib Dem MPs, they now style themselves a
Shadow Cabinet.

(As of December 2003)

External Link