Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems technically only date from 1988, but are the representative of one of Britain’s oldest traditions.

For much of its history the Liberals, who predated the Lib Dems, were the predominant opposition to the Conservatives.

The Liberals were surpassed by Labour in the early 1920s and then slowly collapsed as they lacked clear purpose. The party became relegated to a few fringe seats in isolated areas of rural Wales, Scotland and Cornwall.

The party began to make a comeback in the 1960s however, as it pioneered a new form of community focused ‘pavement politics’, and politics shifted from class to values.

In the 1980s the party formed an alliance with the Social Democratic Party, a centrist splinter of the Labour Party, later merging to form the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems are often seen as a rather left-leaning liberal party but under their current leader, Nick Clegg, have moved much more to the centre. The party is obviously very liberal on social issues.

The party is currently suffering a spate of serious unpopularity in the UK due to its entry into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. This decision, coupled with the party’s apparent u-turns on several of its 2010 policies, especially on the totemic issue of tuition fees for university students. It is in danger of losing all its seats in the European Parliament this year, though more likely it will hold 2 or 3.

The party is the most pro-European party in the UK. Clegg is a former member of staff for Britain’s former commissioner Leon Brittan, and a former MEP. He is multilingual, and has ancestry from all over Europe. This year the party has launched a heavily pro-European campaign, describing itself as the ‘Party of IN’.

The party is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, within which it has tended to view for the leadership of with the FDP, representing a left/right gap in ALDE. The party is fairly loyal to ALDE, with 96.3% of its votes cast with the group.