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Discrete CollectionsPolitics, economics and social science collections
TitleLiberal Party
Extent363 boxes, 3 outsize boxes
Admin Biographical HistoryThe Liberal Party, the successor to the Whig Party, was formed on 6 June 1859, when Whigs, Peelites and Radicals met at Willis's Rooms in St. James Street, London, to unite in opposition to the Conservatives. It became a major political force, holding power for a large proportion of the next sixty years. Following World War One, however, it was supplanted by the Labour Party and remained on the sidelines until the leadership of Jo Grimond (1956-1967), when the party generated a revived reputation as an intellectually credible left-of-centre group. From the early 1960s on, the party enjoyed spectacular by-election successes; fuelled by these performances, an increasing number of Liberal candidates was fielded. Under Jeremy Thorpe the party made substantial progress in the 1974 general election, returning almost 20 percent of the popular vote, and under Thorpe's successor as party leader, David Steel (1976-88), the Liberals retained their position as a significant national force in British politics. In return for supporting the minority Labour government of James Callaghan, Steel was able to extract a number of concessions, including an agreement to consult the Liberals on legislation prior to its presentation in Parliament. This "Lib-Lab" pact floundered in 1978, and the Liberals fared poorly in the general election of 1979, but their strategic importance was enhanced by the emergence of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1981. An Alliance (as their cooperation became known) was forged between the two parties in time for the 1983 general election, in which they won 25 percent of the popular vote. Following a disappointing result in the 1987 general election, a majority in both parties voted for a formal merger, and the Social and Liberal Democratic Party, known from 1989 as the Liberal Democratic Party, was formed. Those Liberals who opposed the merger re-launched the Liberal Party in 1989. The structure of the Liberal Party was decentralised; the local parties controlled the process of candidate selection, and also afforded their members a direct vote in the election of the party leader. The day-to-day business of the party was directed by the National Executive Committee.
Description[This collection is currently being catalogued. This is involving: adding more detail to the existing catalogue; some rearrangement to make it easier for users to locate items; adding previously uncatalogued material to the collection. In addition, the papers of the Liberal Democrats (LD) and Young Liberals (YOUNG LIBERALS) are also being catalogued.]

Papers include:

Annual Assemblies: The main event of the Party's year where the guidelines of policy were drawn, officers were elected, representatives of the constituent associations and groups reviewed progress and discussed plans for the future. The annual Statement of Accounts was received, and resolutions were submitted by constituency associations, the Council or the Executive, or both, and by recognised units of the Party, to be debated and voted on**:
- Final agendas for conferences, 1912-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/8/3)
- Resolutions adopted at conference, 1961-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/8/4)
- [For The Guardian report on the Liberal Assembly, 1961 and 1965-74, see COLL MISC 1190]

Party Council: met every three months, expressed the views of Liberals on current political questions as they arose and was responsible for raising and administering funds from subscriptions, donations and bequests, for the maintenance of Headquarters' offices and staff, and for publicity and propaganda**
- Minutes, 1958-79 (LIBERAL PARTY/2)
- Working papers, 1972-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/3)

National Executive Committee: usually met monthly, responsible for implementing recommendations from the Assembly and Council**.
- Minutes, 1954-87, and working papers, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1979-July 1985; 1986-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/1)
- [For NEC minutes and papers, September-November 1985 see LIBERAL PARTY/2/24.]
- Steering Group minutes and working papers, 1977-80 (LIBERAL PARTY/1) [A Steering Group was established in 1977 (replacing the Officers' Committee) to consider matters in detail before presenting recommendations etc. to the NEC for decision.]

Constitutions, 1936-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/5/10)

Annual reports and accounts, 1934-87 (LIBERAL PARTY/6)

Liberal News (the Liberal Party's weekly newspaper): 1946-87, incomplete especially for its earlier years (LIBERAL PARTY/26)

Speakers' notes and handbooks (booklets summarising Liberal Party views and policies on leading topics): 1929-87 (incomplete) (in LIBERAL PARTY/15)
- A good set of these booklets, 1924-1950, is available in JOSEPHY/16*
- Several are also in the Library's print collection (see the Library catalogue)

Election Agent's handbooks (booklets giving practical information on how to conduct election campaigns): 1950s-60s (in LIBERAL/PARTY/15)

Other printed material published by the Liberal Party includes:
- New Directions: series of discussion pamphlets, 1961-66 (temporarily in LIBERAL PARTY/ADDENDA section)

Printed material related to the Liberal Party (but not published by the Party), includes:
- New Outlook journal: containing news and views from a Liberal perspective, 1962-84 (temporarily in LIBERAL PARTY/ADDENDA section; another set, for 1961-84, is available among the Library's print collections - JN1129.L45 - Offsite store reserve journals)

** Information from "This is your party" pamphlet (1960)
Related MaterialSee also:
Coll Misc 1201: Thor (association for local Liberal organisers)
Coll Misc 1202: Democrats Action Group for Gaining Electoral Reform (DAGGER)

See the Library's print catalogue for other Liberal Party pamphlets and other printed papers. Includes earlier material such as, "The General Election, 1880: a selection of Liberal literature (speeches, pamphlets, etc.), issued prior to the Election." Also series such as:
- Liberal Focus pamphlets, 1968-76
- Liberal Publication Department: Study Papers, [1976-78]
- Strategy 2000 pamphlets, 1970s
- Towards a New Political Agenda pamphlets, 1970s
- Liberal Party Health Panel Papers, 1980s
- Liberty 2000 pamphlets, 1985
- Alliance pamphlets, 1985-86
- Liberal Challenge pamphlets, [1985-87]
Access StatusOpen
Copyright TypeCopyright is held by the depositor
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