Michael Meadowcroft

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Michael Meadowcroft
Michael Meadowcroft at Bournemouth 2009.jpg
1st Leader of refounded Liberal Party
In office
13 March 1989 – 2002
Preceded byparty refounded
Succeeded byMike Oborski
Member of Parliament
for Leeds West
In office
9 June 1983 – 11 June 1987
Preceded byJoseph Dean
Succeeded byJohn Battle
Leeds City Councillor
for Armley Ward
Armley & Castleton (1973-1980)
In office
1973–1983
Preceded byNew ward
Succeeded bySandy Melville
Leeds City Councillor
for Castleton Ward
In office
19681973
Preceded byWard created
Succeeded byWard abolished
Personal details
Born (1942-03-06) 6 March 1942 (age 79)
Halifax, West Yorkshire, England
Political party

Michael James Meadowcroft (born 6 March 1942) is a British author, politician and political affairs consultant. He served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds West from 1983 to 1987.

Early life[edit]

Meadowcroft was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire[1] but moved to Southport when young as a consequence of his railwayman grandfather's promotion from signalman at Sowerby Bridge station to St Luke's railway station.[2] He was educated at King George V Grammar School in Southport. In 1958, he left school to work as a bank clerk, and joined the Liberal Party. He became Chairman of the Merseyside Region of the National League of Young Liberals in 1961.

Early political career[edit]

Between 1962 and 1967, Meadowcroft worked for the Liberal Party and became the party's Local Government Officer.[3]

In 1968, he was elected as a Liberal member of Leeds City Council and served until 1983. Meadowcroft also led the Liberal Group on the council for a large part of his time as a city councillor. He also served as a member of West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council from 1973 to 1976 and again from 1981 to 1983.[4]

He held many roles within the party, including the chair of the Liberal Party Assembly committee responsible for organising the party's conferences. He also authored a number of influential pamphlets championing liberal philosophy and the principles of community politics.[5]

Member of Parliament[edit]

He stood unsuccessfully in Leeds West for the Liberals in the general elections of February 1974 and October 1974 before winning in 1983, defeating Labour MP Joseph Dean. This victory was a shock result and has been attributed to an early form of community politics, focusing on local problems.[6]

Before being elected, he had already been known as an opponent of the SDP–Liberal Alliance given differing policies between the two parties.[7] By the time of his election, the term "Meadowcroft Tendency" (a play on Labour's Militant Tendency) was being used for those in the Liberal Party who favoured alliances with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and civil rights groups above the SDP.[8] He wrote in an opinion piece in October 1986: "my seniors in the party suspect that some of my opinions are quite unorthodox: indeed, are positively heretical".[9]

In his maiden speech, he took a familiar stand on the subject of decentralisation of power: "Already there is too much central Government power in local government, as well as the power of individual Ministers to appoint to regional bodies, such as health and water authorities. The thought of Ministers directing more services is certainly alarming. The possession of power is always dangerous. Only by spreading power can we minimise its dangerous effects. The checks and balances of local elections each year within the life of a Parliament are the best deterrents to extreme action."[10]

In a reshuffle of July 1985, Meadowcroft was appointed the head of the Liberals' by-election unit.[11]

In 1986, he was the Liberal Party's spokesman on community relations and opposed the introduction of visas for Commonwealth migrants.[12]

Meadowcroft was amongst those in the Liberal Party who criticised leader David Steel's compromises with the SDP over defence policy and favoured nuclear disarmament.[13] He favoured a European defence policy, independent of both the United States and the Soviet Union, and without nuclear weapons.[14] After publishing a paper on defence, together with Archie Kirkwood and Simon Hughes, named Across the divide, shortly before the Liberal Assembly voted for an amendment to Steel's defence strategy that required a non-nuclear system, he was jeered by other Liberal MPs and Peers at the 1986 Assembly, and accused of violating collective responsibility for the Liberal front bench.[15] Meadowcroft said that they had been assured that the Alliance's joint report on defence would not be published around the same time as their paper and that this promise had not been kept.[15]

He later served as party spokesman on local government and on housing. In one of his final speeches, in 1987, he highlighted the problems of rising housing costs: "We should reduce the immense pressure on the south-east, where house prices, or more accurately, land prices spiral upwards, way ahead of inflation. It seems to me that it is no longer possible for young people, as first-time buyers, in the south-east to have the type of housing which we, in the north, would regard as adequate or desirable. That will not do."[16]

Meadowcroft was defeated in the 1987 general election by Labour candidate John Battle. Some suggested that his approach had been less suited to parliamentary than to municipal politics.[6]

Post-Parliamentary career[edit]

Meadowcroft was a trustee of the Community Development Trust 1986-96 and chaired the Electoral Reform Society 1989 to 1993. He is a member of the Society's governing council.[17]

Meadowcroft was on the team to discuss the Liberal Party's merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988.[18] He was the first of several Liberals to walk out of the negotiations, citing the commitment to NATO in the constitutional preamble for the merged party.[19] He argued for a "No" vote to the merger at the special Liberal Assembly in Blackpool,[20] but the vote went in favour of merger by 2099 votes to 385, with 23 abstentions.[21] He briefly stayed with the Social and Liberal Democrats (the name was later shortened to the 'Liberal Democrats') to support Alan Beith's candidacy for leader.[20] After Beith was defeated by Paddy Ashdown, he became a co-founder and the first leader of the continued Liberal Party, which attracted some liberals disillusioned with the political and financial problems of the Social and Liberal Democrats.[20]

Returning to local politics, he stood to be elected once again to Leeds City Council and contested Bramley ward in the 1990 and 1991 elections.

Meadowcroft stood against John Battle again in Leeds West in 1992 as the Liberal Party candidate. He finished in fourth place, behind Battle, Paul Bartlett of the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat candidate Viscount Morpeth.

On 5 October 2007, it was announced that Meadowcroft had joined the Liberal Democrats, citing the party's opposition to the Iraq War, its rejection of the identity cards policy and their commitment to a united Europe.[22] He defended the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement in 2010, saying that Labour had refused to negotiate with them, and that the deal with the Conservatives won concessions on electoral reform and civil liberties.[23]

Meadowcroft was one of the few senior Liberal Democrats to defend Bradford East MP David Ward, who was expelled from the party in 2017 over comments critical of Israel and Zionism: he described Ward's treatment as "shameful".[24]

Political philosophy and views[edit]

A biography by Mark Smulian described Meadowcroft as "the main, indeed very nearly the only, philosopher of applied Liberalism within the old Liberal Party from the late 1960s onwards".[20] He has published a large number of books and pamphlets on his views. He has regularly argued for the importance of political philosophy and that the members of the Liberal Democrats require more conviction in their beliefs.[25][26][27]

In a 1984 interview with the newspaper Leeds Student, Meadowcroft described himself as "an anarchist at heart, but constitutionalist by conviction".[28] His views on foreign policy at the time were described as "exceedingly radical" for a Liberal, as he opposed the deployment of troops to Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and membership of NATO.[28] In an earlier (1979) interview with a Christian magazine, Meadowcroft advocated a United Ireland.[29] Meadowcroft is a member of the world citizenship movement and supports a democratically-constituted world government.[30] He supports open borders in principle, but wrote of border controls in 2001, "their removal overnight in a single operation would provoke immigration to Britain at an artificially high level".[31]

Whilst a member of the post-1988 Liberal Party, he authored two editions of Focus on Freedom: the case for the Liberal Party, which explained the philosophy behind the party's manifesto. Political positions outlined in the book include support for the following:

Works[edit]

  • Meadowcroft, Michael (1972). Success in local government. London: Liberal Publication Department for the Unservile State Group.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (1976). The bluffer's guide to politics : research and reference for councillors and community activists. Manchester: North West Community Newspapers Ltd..
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (1979). Liberal values for a new decade. Liberal Publication Department.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael; Marquand, David (1981). Liberalism and social democracy. London: Liberal Publication Department.
  • Bee, Elizabeth; Meadowcroft, Michael (1998). Faugères : a guide to the appellation (1 ed.). Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (1 ed.). Southport: Liberal Party.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (2001). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF) (2 ed.). Southport: Liberal Party. ISBN 189841509-9.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (2001). New democracies : underpinned or undermined. John Stuart Mill Institute.
  • Bee, Elizabeth; Meadowcroft, Michael (2005). Faugères : a guide to the appellation (2 ed.). Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (2009). Diversity in danger : pluralism and policy development. Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (2010). The politics of electoral reform (1 ed.). Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Meadowcroft, Michael (2016). The politics of electoral reform (2 ed.). Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Bee, Elizabeth; MacFadyen, Ian; Meadowcroft, Michael, eds. (2015). The Leeds Yellow Book 2015 : essays on a Liberal future for Leeds. Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Bee, Elizabeth; MacFadyen, Ian; Meadowcroft, Michael, eds. (2018). The Leeds Yellow Book 2018 : essays on a Liberal future for Leeds. Leeds: Beecroft Publications.
  • Bee, Elizabeth; MacFadyen, Ian; Meadowcroft, Michael; Hussain, Kamran, eds. (2019). The Yorkshire Yellow Book 2019 : essays on a Liberal future for Yorkshire and the Humber. Leeds: Beecroft Publications.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Births registered in January, February and March 1942". Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  2. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "About Us". Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  3. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "Liberalism". Personal website.
  4. ^ Smulian, Mark (4 December 2008). "Michael Meadowcroft, (1942-)". www.liberalhistory.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012.
  5. ^ Smulian, Mark. "Biography of Michael Meadowcroft". Liberal Democrat History Group. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b Waller, Robert; Criddle, Bryon (7 May 2007). "Leeds West". The Almanac of British Politics. Taylor & Francis. p. 602. ISBN 9781135206765.
  7. ^ "Alliance plans joint approach to policy and publicity". Financial Times. 23 September 1982. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  8. ^ Webster, Philip (11 August 1983). "Steel warned of pressure to move party left". The Times (61608). UK. p. 24. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  9. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (13 October 1986). "My case for PR, in spite of all". The Times (62587). UK. p. 14. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  10. ^ "SECOND DAY HC Deb 23 June 1983 vol 44 cc181-257". Hansard.
  11. ^ "Beith is deputy in Liberal reshuffle". The Times (62193). UK. 18 July 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  12. ^ Wood, Alan; Hodges, Anthony; Haigh, Amanda (25 September 1986). "Law on discrimination 'would be reviewed'". The Times (62572). UK. p. 4. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  13. ^ Oakley, Robin (24 September 1986). "Steel defeat puts Alliance into disarray". The Times (62574). UK. p. 1. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  14. ^ Oakley, Robin (15 September 1986). "Owen wins support for stand". The Times (62563). UK. p. 16. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  15. ^ a b Wood, Alan; Hodges, Anthony; Haigh, Amanda (25 September 1986). "Angry MPs condemn disloyalty over defence". The Times (62572). UK. p. 4. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Housing HC Deb 28 April 1987 vol 115 cc177-225". Hansard.
  17. ^ "Meadowcroft". Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  18. ^ Cook, Chris (1989). A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88. The MacMillan Press Ltd. p. 193. ISBN 9780333448847.
  19. ^ Cook, Chris (1989). A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88. The MacMillan Press Ltd. p. 195. ISBN 9780333448847.
  20. ^ a b c d Smulian, Mark. "Michael Meadowcroft, 1942-". Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  21. ^ Cook, Chris (1989). A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88. The MacMillan Press Ltd. p. 198. ISBN 9780333448847.
  22. ^ Michael Meadowcroft (13 October 2007). "Opinion: Why I joined the Liberal Democrats". Lib Dem Voice. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  23. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (July 2010). "Liberal Democrats into office". Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  24. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (July 2017). "Climbing out of the abyss". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  25. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "Nearer the abyss". Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  26. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "THE RADICAL TRADITION IN LIBERALISM - LEADING THE DEBATE THEN AND NOW" (PDF). Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  27. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: A STRATEGY FOR A RELEVANT BASIS OF PHILOSOPHY AND POLITICAL VALUES – AND FOR REVIVING AND DEVELOPING THE PARTY" (PDF). Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  28. ^ a b "An Anarchist At Heart" (PDF). Leeds Student. 25 May 1984. p. 6. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  29. ^ "What is your view on constitutional reform?". Third Way: 8. April 1979.
  30. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael. "Citizen of the World". Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  31. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 26. ISBN 189841509-9.
  32. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. pp. 17–19. ISBN 189841509-9.
  33. ^ a b c Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 29. ISBN 189841509-9.
  34. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 28. ISBN 189841509-9.
  35. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 30. ISBN 189841509-9.
  36. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 25. ISBN 189841509-9.
  37. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 23. ISBN 189841509-9.
  38. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. pp. 42–43. ISBN 189841509-9.
  39. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 48. ISBN 189841509-9.
  40. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. pp. 48–50. ISBN 189841509-9.
  41. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 55. ISBN 189841509-9.
  42. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 60. ISBN 189841509-9.
  43. ^ Meadowcroft, Michael (1997). Focus on freedom: the case for the Liberal Party (PDF). Southport: Liberal Party. p. 66. ISBN 189841509-9.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Leeds West
19831987
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
President of the Liberal Party (1989)
1989–2005
Succeeded by