The Southport Resolution are a set of triple-lock directives of the United Kingdom's Liberal Democratic political party, which sets out the convention that the leader of the party should follow if they choose to enter into a national-level political coalition with another political party. The directives were later adopted by the Conservative Party.
After the 1992 UK general Election, when then leader Paddy Ashdown's Liberal Democrats lost two seats in the UK Parliament, Ashdown became a notable proponent of co-operation between the Liberal Democrats and "New Labour". Ashdown had regular secret meetings with Tony Blair to discuss the possibility of a coalition government.
In 1997, after the election of the New Labour government led by Blair, the pair created a "Joint Cabinet Committee" (JCC), including senior Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians, to discuss the implementation of the two parties' shared priorities for constitutional reform. In Ashdown's later autobiography, he wrote that its remit was later expanded to include other issues on which Blair and Ashdown saw scope for co-operation between the two parties. Later commentary has said that during this period Ashdown lost touch with his party, and this common agenda ultimately lead to his resignation.
Blair and Ashdown also agreed to create the Jenkins Commission to conduct a public inquiry into the case for electoral reform. Chaired by Liberal Democrat peer Roy Jenkins, the commission recommended replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with a system of proportional representation for use in General Elections, in line with a key demand of Ashdown and his party. However, Blair remained unconvinced of the case for electoral reform, and the commission's recommendations have never been passed into law. The plan to bring Liberal Democrats into the government continued, according to Ashdown's published diaries, but foundered on opposition from senior Labour ministers, intimated by Ashdown later to be led by then Chancellor, and later Labour Party leader, Gordon Brown.
As a result, concerned Federal party members at their Spring convention in Southport in March 1998, passed a resolution which triple-locked the leader to engage with both the parliamentary and federal Liberal Democratic party, before a formal coalition could be agreed.
It is notable that Ashdown resigned as Liberal Democrat party leader in early 1999. His successor Charles Kennedy, deliberately allowed the JCC to slip into abeyance until it effectively stopped meeting.
The resolution passed states that:
|“||If any substantial proposal which could affect the party’s independence of political action....||”|
In the first part, for the proposal to pass, the leader must gain:
- A 75% majority of the Liberal Democratic Parliamentary party: both the MPs and the Lords
- A 75% of the Federal Party Executive, made up of 30 elected members
If both steps were not achieved, then in the second part the leader would call a special conference, where again the resolution would need 2/3 support to pass.
If this were not achieved, then the third part is a postal ballot of the whole Liberal Democratic party, where the resolution would again need 2/3 support to pass.
2010 UK General Election
||This section needs to be updated. (April 2015)|
In the run up to the 2010 UK General Election, the Southport Rules came further media investigation, as the likelihood of a hung parliament rose.
Following a featured report on the rules by journalist Michael Crick on behalf of BBC Newsnight on March 12, 2010, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne confirmed in interview that leader Nick Clegg would be tied by the Southport Rules, should a hung parliament exist post May 6.
- "Liberal Democrat Leadership: The Cases of Ashdown and Kennedy". Political Quarterly, Volume 78 Issue 1, Pages 78 - 88. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- "Coalition: Chris Huhne confirms - the Cyberlock applies". Liberal-Vision.org. 2010-04-13. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- "Liberal Democrat Southport Resolution". YouTube.com. 2010-03-12. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- "Chris Huhne confirms cyberlock convention". YouTube.com. 2010-03-12. Retrieved 2010-04-21.