Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats

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Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats
Founded 1886 (as Cambridge University Liberal Club )
Home Page

Honorary officers

President The Rt Hon Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, Somerville College, Oxford
Vice-President The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, Robinson
Vice-President David Howarth, Clare
Vice-President The Rt Hon Simon Hughes, Selwyn
Vice-President Andrew Duff, St John's
Sister society Oxford University Liberal Democrats

Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats (CSLD) is the student branch of the Liberal Democrats for students at both Cambridge University and the Anglia Ruskin University campus in Cambridge.

It is the successor to the Cambridge University Liberal Club (known as CULC, founded in 1886), as well as the more short-lived Cambridge University Social Democrats (founded in 1981) which merged on the creation of the Lib Dems in 1988.


The society has long been active in Cambridge politics, with student members playing a role in electing David Howarth on a massive 15% swing in the 2005 election, when the student turnout was unusually and noticeably higher than that in the rest of the city, and then subsequently Julian Huppert as his successor in 2010.

The older of its founder societies, the CU Liberal Club, originally existed side-by-side with a discussion forum for radical Cambridge politics in the late 1880s, called 'The Rainbow Circle.' Alumni of this group relocated to London after their graduation, and helped found the Bloomsbury-based radical group of that same name in 1893.

Between 1886 and 1897, the club's founder Treasurer was Oscar Browning, a Fellow of King's and three-times Liberal candidate who was also Treasurer of the Cambridge Union. The society had varying fortunes as the Liberal Party waned in the mid-twentieth century.

The society today attracts numerous high-profile speakers – in recent months, Vince Cable, Menzies Campbell, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, and David Steel. During the United Kingdom general election, 2005 it helped organise a rally of 2,500 people with Charles Kennedy in Market Square.

Notable past speakers not normally associated with the Liberal Party have included Oscar Wilde (1889), Jerome K. Jerome (1912), W. H. Auden (1938), and Irish Prime Minister Seán Lemass (1961). A complete list of the society's past events from 1886 to the present is available here.

Changing names[edit]

The society was continuously called Cambridge University Liberal Club (CULC) from 1886 until 1988 (apart from in the years 1916-9, when it suspended its activities during World War I).

In 1981, Cambridge University Social Democrats (CUSD) was formed, as the Cambridge student branch of the SDP. With the Liberals and SDP in alliance nationally, CULC and CUSD remained independent organisations, but shared close links, hosted joint events, and put up joint slates of candidates in CSU elections.

In 1988, CULC and CUSD merged into one society, as the Liberals and SDP merged into the Liberal Democrats. They initially called themselves Cambridge University Social and Liberal Democrats throughout 1988, then Cambridge University Liberal Democrats throughout 1989–90, before finally settling early in 1991 for the present form Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats, when the society expanded to include the Cambridge campus of the city's new Anglia Polytechnic.

Recent Campaigns[edit]

Autumn 2015[edit]

The society ran a campaign against proposals by Cambridgeshire County Council to switch off streetlights in Cambridge after midnight back in Autumn 2015. The society pointed to the poor research on this proposal done by the Council, and also emphasised the dangers of switching off streetlights in areas where a large population of students would be active after the proposed switch off time. As Campaigns Officer during this period, Sophie Bell spoke out about the need to protect vulnerable people in the city, and the damage the switch off would cause. She stated on Facebook at the time that "The Council's proposal is downright irresponsible. Cuts need to be made, but this isn't a sleepy hamlet. This is a city with a population that is active past 12am."

The Society worked with the JCR at Trinity College, Cambridge to promote a petition calling for the lights to be left on. This petition reached over 2,500 signatures on CSLD also managed to secure funding from Cambridge University Students' Union for an apolitical campaign.

The campaign was a huge success, with the County Council amending their proposals and agreeing to keep the lights on until 3AM. The City Council could then find the rest of the money needed to keep the lights on until the morning.

Autumn 2016[edit]

At the beginning of October CSLD launched a campaign calling on the University of Cambridge to hire five more counsellors in the University Counselling Service (UCS) because the supply of appointments was not enough to meet the demands of students seeking help. They launched a petition at the Freshers' Fair and on which has already attracted the support of over 400 students, staff and parents.


As with many Cambridge political societies, CSLD and its predecessor parties CULC and CUSD were the first political organisation to involve many people who went on to political careers – some outside Liberal politics altogether. Notable alumni include:

Since the 1988 merger, the society's President has been Baroness Williams of Crosby, who was the SDP candidate in Cambridge in 1987. She had also been Patron of Cambridge University Social Democrats in 1987-8.

Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats run a subsidiary group, the Keynes Society, for alumni. Membership is free and lasts for life. All known alumni are mailed a quarterly newsletter, and invited to regular reunions as well as CSLD events and dinners.

Former Presidents and Chairs[edit]

See Former Presidents of Cambridge University Liberal Club and Chairs of Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats


  1. ^ "About us | Keynes Society". Retrieved 2013-06-02. 

External links[edit]