Oxford University Liberal Democrats

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Oxford University Liberal Democrats
Founded 1913
Patrol Lord Tyler of Linkinhorne
President Lucasta Bath, Hertford
Home page http://www.oulibdems.co.uk

Oxford University Liberal Democrats (previously Oxford University Liberal Club and Oxford University Social Democrats) is the student branch of the Liberal Democrats for students at the University of Oxford. It is the official successor to both the Oxford University Liberal Club and the Oxford University Social Democrats, which voted to merge early in 1987, about a year in advance of the national parties.


The Oxford University Liberal Club was founded in 1913,[1] with the stated aim to "rally progressive members of the University to the support of Liberal principles".[2] Its foundation date makes it the oldest political society founded at an English university.[3] It was formed from a merger of two older Liberal societies at Oxford, the Russell Club, and the Palmerston Club, both of which dated to at least the 1870s, and had as their goals the promotion of liberal politics. Around in the early 1900s was also a society called the 'Liberal League', founded "in defence of free trade".[4]

Originally holding premises on the corner of Cornmarket Street and George Street, open for the majority of the day, the society was originally modelled after the usual gentlemen's clubs of the day, before the arrival of World War One and the general reduction in the student body of Oxford. The society faced further problems in the 1920s, as around half of its members defected and joined the newly established Labour Club, as well as the New Reform Club, a pro-Lloyd George group, reflecting the division of the national Liberal Party at the time.[5]

Revitalisation occurred with the coming to the fore of Harold Wilson, Treasurer in Hilary 1935, along with Frank Byers as President and Raymond Walton as Secretary. Efforts made to provide a stronger draw to the society - including the institution of a society newspaper and library - had membership treble to over 300.[6] Membership continued to grow during and after the war, with its peak hit under the Presidency of Jeremy Thorpe in 1950, of over 1000 members. By this point, the Liberal Club had become more of a social club, including drinking events, balls and parties, some of which are continued by the society in its modern form.[7]

Turbulence for the national party meant turbulence for the society itself, however, and the party's catastrophic collapse in the 1960s, combined with mergers throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, led to a smaller membership and a series of renamings and mergers for the society at large. After merging the Oxford University Liberal Club and the Oxford University Social Democrats in 1987, however, the society in its present structure was formed, with a smaller membership focussed more heavily on campaigning, but maintaining the social functions from its post-war heyday.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in numbers - after the 2015 general election, attendance at the society's weekly meetings more than trebled from an average of around 15 to an average of around 50.[8][9] In Michaelmas 2016, following the Labour Party leadership crisis, it was announced that for the first time in decades, OULD had surpassed the Labour Club in size of signups, event attendance, and overall subscription.[10]


Its members are active in local campaigns, especially in parliamentary elections. Towards the late 20th century, Oxford West and Abingdon was a Conservative – Liberal Democrat marginal. It returned Dr Evan Harris from 1997 until 2010, when he was defeated by Nicola Blackwood, a Conservative candidate. At the 2005 general election, there was an 11.2% swing towards the Lib Dems in Oxford East, which had traditionally been a safe Labour seat. The margin of victory for Andrew Smith in 2005 was 963 votes - a 90% decrease from 2001. However, at the 2010 general election, Andrew Smith achieved a 4.1% swing in his favour, holding the seat for Labour by a margin of 4,581 votes, and in 2015, the Liberal Democrats collapsed into fourth place, behind Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens.

Internal elections for its committee are held every term, electing a President-elect, a Treasurer every other term, a Secretary, and a series of junior officers who oversee social events, campaigning, and the main society meeting each week, 'Spirited Discussions'.

Social events[edit]

The society organises social events each term, and attracts well-known Liberal Democrat speakers to address its members. Recent visitors have included Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, Lynne Featherstone, Shirley Williams, and Lord McNally. The society also organises policy debates and forums with other political societies in Oxford. The main event each week is entitled 'Spirited Discussions', which involves the discussion of two motions of political and philosophical importance.


Some former members of the society and its predecessors have gone on to have notable careers, including:

Presidents of OULD[edit]

For a full list, see Former Presidents of Oxford University Liberal Club and Oxford University Liberal Democrats.


External links[edit]