Leader of the Liberal Party (UK)

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The Liberal Party was formally established in 1859 and existed until merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to create the Liberal Democrats.

Leadership selection 1859–1969[edit]

Before the adoption of the 1969 constitution of the party, the party was led by the prime minister or the most recent politically active prime minister from the party. In the absence of one of these, the leaders in the House of Lords and House of Commons were of equal status and jointly led the party.

When a new leader was required, with the party in government, the monarch selected him by appointing someone as Prime Minister. However in 1916 David Lloyd George, with the support of a minority of the Liberal MPs, formed a coalition government. H. H. Asquith, the former Prime Minister, remained as Liberal Party leader. Asquith retained the leadership until his health failed in 1926, including periods when he was not in Parliament or was a peer. He was the last leader of the whole party under the original arrangements for leadership.

When no overall party leader was a member of a House and a new leader was required in opposition, a leader emerged and was approved by party members in that House. From 1919 the Chairman of the Liberal Parliamentary Party, elected by MPs, functioned as the leader in the House of Commons. This required all the leaders after Asquith to retain their seat, to continue as leader. After 1926 the leader in the House of Commons was clearly pre-eminent over the leader in the House of Lords.

In 1931 Lloyd George was leader in the House of Commons, but he was ill when negotiations led to the formation of the National Government. Sir Herbert Samuel, who had been the deputy leader, was effectively the leader of the mainstream party from the time when he entered the government. This was made formal after the 1931 election.

Leadership selection 1969–1988[edit]

Under the original provisions of the 1969 party constitution, the MPs elected one of their number to be Leader of the Liberal Party. This was the same system as that used for the last MP only contested leadership election in 1967, when Jeremy Thorpe became leader after a vote split between three candidates of 6-3-3.

As the number of Liberal MPs was very small (between 6 and 14 in the period the MPs retained the sole power of election) party members argued for a wider franchise. Before the leadership election of 1976, all members were given a vote in an electoral college based on allocating electoral votes to constituency associations (which were then divided proportionately to the votes of the members of the association). The candidates were required to be members of the House of Commons, nominated by a quarter of the MPs. The electoral college system was only used once, when David Steel was elected leader.

Lists of Liberal Party Leaders[edit]

Leaders of the Liberal Party[edit]

Name Portrait Constituency/Title Took Office Left Office Prime Minister
Henry John Temple,
3rd Viscount Palmerston
[1]
Palmerston.jpg Tiverton 12 June 1859 18 October 1865 himself
John Russell,
1st Earl Russell
Lord john russell.jpg 1st Earl Russell 29 October 1865 3 December 1868 himself 1865–66
Earl of Derby 1866–68
Benjamin Disraeli 1868
William Ewart Gladstone Gladstone.jpg Greenwich 3 December 1868 3 February 1875 himself 1868–74
Benjamin Disraeli 1874–80
VACANT[2]
Leader of Lords 2nd Earl Granville
Leader of Commons Marquess of Hartington
3 February 1875 23 April 1880
William Ewart Gladstone Gladstone.jpg Midlothian 23 April 1880 2 March 1894 himself 1880–85
Marquess of Salisbury 1885–86
himself 1886
Marquess of Salisbury 1886–92
himself 1892–94
Archibald Primrose,
5th Earl of Rosebery
Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery - 1890s.jpg 5th Earl of Rosebery 5 March 1894 6 October 1896 himself 1894–95
Marquess of Salisbury 1895–1902
VACANT[3]
Leader of Lords 1st Earl of Kimberley 1895–1902; 5th Earl Spencer 1902–05
Leader of Commons William Vernon Harcourt 1896–98; Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 1898–1905
6 October 1896 3 December 1905
Arthur Balfour 1902–05
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman Henry Campbell-Bannerman photo.jpg Stirling Burghs 5 December 1905 3 April 1908 himself
Herbert Henry Asquith H H Asquith 1908.jpg East Fife 5 April 1908 25 November 1918 himself 1908–16
David Lloyd George 1916–22
Sir Donald Maclean[4]
(interim leader)
Donald Maclean MP.jpg Peebles and South Midlothian 3 February 1919 12 February 1920
Herbert Henry Asquith H H Asquith 1908.jpg Paisley (1920–1924);
1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith (1925–1926)
12 February 1920 15 October 1926
Andrew Bonar Law 1922–23
Stanley Baldwin 1923–24
Ramsay MacDonald 1924
Stanley Baldwin 1924–29
Leaders of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons[5]
David Lloyd George[6] David Lloyd George.jpg Caernarvon Boroughs 2 December 1924 7 October 1931
Ramsay MacDonald 1929–35
Sir Herbert Samuel[7] Gws samuel 01.jpg Darwen 4 November 1931 25 October 1935
Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt[8] The Air Ministry, 1939-1945. CH10270.jpg Caithness and Sutherland 26 November 1935 15 June 1945 Stanley Baldwin 1935–37
Neville Chamberlain 1937–40
Winston Churchill 1940–45
Clement Davies Montgomery 2 August 1945 5 November 1956 Clement Attlee 1945–51
Winston Churchill 1951–55
Anthony Eden 1955–57
Jo Grimond Orkney and Shetland 5 November 1956 17 January 1967
Harold Macmillan 1957–63
Alec Douglas-Home 1963–64
Harold Wilson 1964–70
Jeremy Thorpe North Devon 18 January 1967 1969
Leaders of the Liberal Party elected under the 1969 Constitution[9]
Jeremy Thorpe North Devon 1969 10 May 1976
Edward Heath 1970–74
Harold Wilson 1974–76
Jo Grimond[10]
(interim leader)
Orkney and Shetland 12 May 1976 7 July 1976 James Callaghan 1976–79
David Steel[11] DavidSteel1987 cropped.jpg Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (1967–1983);
Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (1983–1988)
7 July 1976 3 March 1988
Margaret Thatcher 1979–90

Leaders of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons[edit]

Name Constituency Took Office Left Office
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston[1] Tiverton 12 June 1859 18 October 1865
William Ewart Gladstone Greenwich 29 October 1865 3 February 1875
Spencer Compton Cavendish, Marquess of
Hartington
Radnor 3 February 1875 23 April 1880
William Ewart Gladstone Midlothian 23 April 1880 2 March 1894
Sir William Vernon Harcourt Derby (1894–1895);
West Monmouthshire (1895–1898)
5 March 1894 14 December 1898
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman Stirling Burghs 6 February 1899 3 April 1908
H. H. Asquith[12] East Fife 5 April 1908 25 November 1918
Sir Donald Maclean[4] Peebles and South Midlothian 3 February 1919 12 February 1920
H. H. Asquith[13] Paisley 12 February 1920 9 October 1924
David Lloyd George[6] Caernarvon Boroughs 2 December 1924 7 October 1931
Sir Herbert Samuel[7] Darwen 4 November 1931 25 October 1935
Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt[8] Caithness and Sutherland 26 November 1935 15 June 1945
Clement Davies Montgomery 2 August 1945 5 November 1956
Jo Grimond Orkney and Shetland 5 November 1956 17 January 1967
Jeremy Thorpe North Devon 18 January 1967 10 May 1976
Jo Grimond[10] Orkney and Shetland 12 May 1976 7 July 1976
David Steel[11] Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (1967–1983);
Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (1983–1988)
7 July 1976 3 March 1988

Leaders of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords[edit]

Name Took Office Left Office
The Earl Granville 1859 1865
The Earl Russell 1865 1868
The Earl Granville 1868 1891
The Earl of Kimberley 1891 1894
The Earl of Rosebery 1894 1896
The Earl of Kimberley 1896 1902
The Earl Spencer 1902 1905
The Marquess of Ripon 1905 1908
The Earl of Crewe
(The Marquess of Crewe from 1911)
1908 1923
The Viscount Grey of Fallodon 1923 1924
The Earl Beauchamp 1924 1931
The Marquess of Reading 1931 1935
The Marquess of Crewe 1936 1944
The Viscount Samuel 1944 1955
The Lord Rea 1955 1967
The Lord Byers 1967 1984
The Baroness Seear 1984 1988

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Palmerston was appointed Prime Minister a few days after the meeting at Willis's Rooms on 6 June 1859, which formally created the Liberal Party. He was an Irish peer and a member of the House of Commons. He died in office.
  2. ^ Gladstone retired from the leadership in 1875, when the party was in opposition. The overall leadership of the party then became vacant until Gladstone was again appointed Prime Minister.
  3. ^ Rosebery resigned the leadership when the party was in opposition. The overall leadership of the party became vacant until the formation of the next Liberal government in 1905.
  4. ^ a b Maclean was elected Chairman of the Liberal Parliamentary Party. In the absence from Parliament of Asquith, who had lost his seat in the 1918 general election, he acted as leader of the Liberal MPs opposed to the Lloyd George coalition. Although this was a smaller group than the Parliamentary Labour Party, Maclean also performed the functions of Leader of the Opposition.
  5. ^ Asquith resigned the leadership when the party was in opposition. The overall leadership of the party became vacant until the adoption of the 1969 party constitution.
  6. ^ a b Lloyd George was elected Chairman of the Liberal Parliamentary Party. In the absence from Parliament of Asquith he acted as leader of the Liberal MPs. When Asquith became a peer in 1925, Lloyd George became leader in the House of Commons. When Asquith retired then from 14 October 1926, Lloyd George became the leading figure in the party.
  7. ^ a b Samuel deputised for the ill Lloyd George during the summer of 1931 and took office in the National Government on 24 August 1931. Following Lloyd George's move to complete opposition to the National Government in October, Samuel effectively acted as party leader. However he did not receive the formal title until after the 1931 general election. He lost his seat in the 1935 general election.
  8. ^ a b Sinclair lost his seat in the 1945 general election.
  9. ^ Thorpe was the first Leader of the Liberal Party under the 1969 constitution.
  10. ^ a b Grimond was appointed interim leader by the parliamentary party, between the resignation of Thorpe and the election of Steel.
  11. ^ a b Steel was the last party leader. He became one of the joint interim leaders of the Liberal Democrats on the merger in 1988.
  12. ^ Asquith became Prime Minister on 5 April although British Political Facts considers him to be leader from 30 April 1908. He lost his seat in the United Kingdom general election, 1918.
  13. ^ Asquith was elected in a by-election and sat until he lost his seat in the United Kingdom general election, 1924.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • David Butler and Gareth Butler, Twentieth-Century British Political Facts 1900–2000 (8th edition). Macmillan, 2000. ISBN 0-333-77222-9.
  • John Campbell, Lloyd George: The Goat in the Wilderness 1922–1931. Jonathan Cape, 1977. ISBN 0-224-01296-7.
  • Chris Cook, A Short History of the Liberal Party, 1900–2001 (6th edition). Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. ISBN 0-333-91838-X.
  • Roy Douglas, History of the Liberal Party 1895–1970. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1971. ISBN 0-283-48477-2.
  • Roy Jenkins, Asquith. Collins, (paperback edition) 1988. ISBN 0-00-217358-1.
  • Roy Jenkins, Gladstone. Macmillan, 1995. ISBN 0-333-60216-1.
  • Jonathan Parry, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain. Yale, 1993.ISBN 0-300-06718-6.

External links[edit]

Liberal, Social Democrat and Liberal Democrat leadership elections

Liberals: 1967 | 1976                         SDP: 1982

Liberal Democrats: 1988 | 1999 | 2006 | 2007