Welsh Liberal Democrats

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Welsh Liberal Democrats
Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru
Leader Kirsty Williams
Founded 3 March 1988 (1988-03-03)
Headquarters 38 The Parade
Roath
Cardiff, Wales
CF24 3AD
Youth wing Welsh Young Liberals
Ideology Liberalism
Social liberalism
Pro-Europeanism
British unionism
Political position Centre Centre Left
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
International affiliation Liberal International
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Gold
Welsh Assembly
1 / 60
European Parliament
0 / 4
Local government in Wales
62 / 1,264
Website
www.welshlibdems.wales

The Welsh Liberal Democrats (Welsh: Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru) is the state party of the federal Liberal Democrats that operates within Wales. The other two state parties are the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the English Liberal Democrats.

They are led by Kirsty Williams,[1] and hold 1 of 60 seats in the National Assembly for Wales (said seat being held by Williams herself),[2] but none of the 40 Welsh seats in the UK House of Commons and none of the four Welsh seats in the European Parliament.

Mark Williams, then-Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, was defeated at the 2017 general election in his Ceredigion constituency by Ben Lake of Plaid Cymru, whose majority of 104 made the seat one of the most marginal in the country. The result left the party without an MP in Wales; the party and its predecessors had continuously held parliamentary seats in Wales since the formation of the Liberal Party in 1859.[3]

Organisation[edit]

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats[edit]

Welsh Liberal Democrat Officers[edit]

  • President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats: Roger Williams
  • Deputy President: Mark Cole
  • Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats: Kirsty Williams
  • Deputy Leader:

Youth wing[edit]

The youth wing of the party is Welsh Young Liberals.

  • Chair: Callum Littlemore

Policy platform[edit]

The Welsh Liberal Democrats promote liberalism as their main ideology, as well as further devolved powers for the National Assembly for Wales.

Elected representatives[edit]

Assembly Members (AMs)
Assembly Member Constituency or Region First elected Spokespersons Notes
Kirsty Williams Brecon and Radnorshire 1999 Cabinet Secretary for Education

Members of the House of Lords[edit]

Peer Ennobled Notes
Lord German 2010 AM for South Wales East 1999 - 2010
Baroness Humphreys 2013 AM for North Wales 1999 - 2001
Baroness Randerson 2011 AM for Cardiff Central 1999 - 2011
Lord Roberts of Llandudno 2004
Lord Thomas of Gresford 1996
Baroness Walmsley 2000

History[edit]

Before 1945[edit]

The Liberal Council for Wales was founded by David Lloyd George in 1897. This makes the Welsh Liberals the oldest of the political parties in Wales. It was the first to establish a truly Welsh identity. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the Welsh Liberals were a home of radical Welsh nationalism. Through politicians such as T. E. ("Tom") Ellis and David Gee and the movement of Cymru Fydd (Wales to be [future]) Welsh nationalism was comparable at times to that occurring in Ireland. But in Wales the nationalist passion never spilled over into violence, and was also counterbalanced by the strong English Liberal capitalist base present within the party. In 1906 the Welsh Liberals reached their peak when 35 of Wales' 36 seats had MPs who took the Liberal whip. Until 1922 the Welsh Liberals dominated Welsh politics and also played a central role in British politics. William Harcourt, Reginald McKenna, David Alfred Thomas, 1st Viscount Rhondda, Sir Alfred Mond and David Lloyd George were just a few of the politicians who held central positions in the party and in the various Liberal-led governments from 1906-1922. The various splits within the Liberal Party from 1918 onwards, the rise of the Welsh Labour Party in South Wales, and the dominance of Lloyd George over the Welsh Liberal Party, all had their impact on Welsh Liberal fortunes. Despite this it was in Wales that the pre-war Liberals' support lasted longest in post-war British politics.

1945–1983[edit]

In 1945 the party had 7 MPs in Wales, mainly in the Welsh-speaking north, mid and west Wales seats. Two of these MPs (Gwilym Lloyd George (Pembrokeshire) and Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)) defected to the Conservative and Labour parties, respectively. Clement Davies, who held Montgomeryshire, became the post-war British Liberal leader. Davies died in 1962 and was succeeded by Emlyn Hooson, who then set about rebuilding the Welsh Liberal Party. When the last of the post-war Welsh Liberal MPs, Roderic Bowen (Cardiganshire), lost his seat in the 1966 general election Hooson, Lord Ogmore, Martin Thomas (Lord Thomas of Gresford), Roger Roberts (Lord Roberts of Llandudno) and Mary Murphy established the Welsh Liberal Party as a separate state party[clarification needed] within the Liberal Party's federal structure. After its establishment in September 1966 the Liberal Party in Wales had limited success and never really enjoyed a great Liberal revival like that which had occurred under Jo Grimond in Scotland. Geraint Howells' election in Cardiganshire in February 1974 re-established the Liberal presence in that seat. In 1979, however, the Welsh Liberals suffered from the Lib-Lab pact, and support for the failed devolution referendum resulted in a poor election for the Liberals: over half of their 28 candidates lost their deposit. More importantly Emlyn Hooson lost his Montgomeryshire seat, leaving the Welsh party once more with a single seat (Howells in Cardiganshire). Hooson was ennobled later that year and joined Howells once more at Westminster.

1983–1997[edit]

The arrival of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Wales gave the party an electoral boost, increased its representation on councils and helped retake the Montgomeryshire seat in 1983 (Alex Carlile) and win the Brecon and Radnor seat in a famous by-election in 1985 (Richard Livsey). In 1988 the SDP and most of the Liberals merged in Wales and after various names the three Welsh MPs insisted on the name being Welsh Liberal Democrats, which set a precedent for the rest of the Liberal Party. In 1992 Howells lost his seat and went to the Lords, Livsey lost Brecon and Radnor, which he would retake again five years later. This left Alex Carlile as the sole Liberal Democrat MP. In 1996 Carlile announced his resignation and he was in turn replaced by Lembit Öpik. When Carlile stood down it ended the direct link with the professional Liberal barrister MPs that had been existent in the Welsh Liberal party for its whole history. Carlile became Lord Carlile of Berriew in 1999. Followed in 2001 by Richard Livsey (of Talgarth) and Roger Roberts (of Llandudno) in 2004.

1997-2017[edit]

In the 1997 general election both Opik and Livsey won their seats. Both then went forward to support the successful 1997 Welsh Assembly referendum. They were joined in that campaign by other prominent figures in the Welsh party, including Michael German, Jenny Randerson, Peter Black, Roger Williams and Rob Humphreys. Except for Humphreys, they all soon gained electoral office, in either the Welsh Assembly or the Westminster Parliament. The Welsh Assembly elections in 1999 provided the party with six more elected representatives for Wales to join their two MPs, and three Welsh lords. At Westminster Roger Williams took over from Richard Livsey in Brecon and Radnor in 2001. In 2005 Mark Williams won the Ceredigion seat (formerly held by Geraint Howells); and Jenny Willott won the Cardiff Central seat, which was the first Liberal urban seat victory in Wales since 1935 and the first female Liberal MP in Wales since 1951. The four MPs were also the most since 1950 for the Liberal Party in Wales. It was Lembit Öpik who now headed the party at Westminster.

In 1998 Michael German was elected as leader of the Welsh party, and he led the new Assembly group. Between 2001 and 2003, the party were in a coalition with Welsh Labour Party in the National Assembly. In this Labour-led government Michael German was Deputy Minister whilst Jenny Randerson also held a ministerial post. Randerson's post made her the first female Liberal in the party's history to hold ministerial office. The Welsh Liberals achieved a breakthrough in local government in 2003, leading Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Wrexham councils, with cabinet members on many more Welsh councils. In the 2003 Welsh Assembly elections the party remained stuck on six AMs (Assembly Members). They remained on this figure in the 2007 elections but were reduced to five in the 2011 elections. In 2008 German stood down as leader and was replaced by Kirsty Williams (the AM for Brecon and Radnor) in a contest with Jenny Randerson (Cardiff Central). Both German and Randerson subsequently went to the House of Lords. Baroness Randerson become the first ever Welsh female Liberal peer to sit in the House of Lords. Her two predecessors Viscountess St Davids and the 2nd Viscountess Rhondda, who had been ennobled in the first half of the 20th century, had died before women were allowed to sit in the House of Lords. Michael German was replaced as the South Wales East Assembly member by his wife Veronica German. In May 2011, however, she failed to be re-elected in South Wales East.

In September 2012 Baroness Randerson was appointed as the unpaid Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office. This was the first time a Welsh Liberal Democrat had held ministerial office at Westminster since 1945. Randerson was also the first female politician from the Welsh Liberals ever to hold a UK ministerial office.

After 2017[edit]

Following the result of the 2017 UK general election, the Liberal Democrats were left without an MP in Wales, a situation which had not occurred since the founding of the Liberal Party in 1859.[4]

Electoral performance[edit]

UK House of Commons[edit]

This chart shows the electoral results of the Welsh Liberals, and later Liberal Democrats, from its first election in 1900. Total numbers of parliamentary seats, and vote percentages, are for Wales only.

Year  % of vote
in Wales
Number of Seats Government In Power
1900 58.5
27 / 34
Conservative & Liberal Unionist victory
1906 60.2
32 / 34
Liberal victory
January 1910 52.3
27 / 34
Liberal victory
December 1910 47.9
26 / 34
Liberal victory
1918 48.9
20 / 35
'Coalition' Conservative Hung Parliament
'Coalition' Liberal victory
(Welsh Liberal Prime Minister)
1922 34.2
10 / 35
Conservative victory
1923 35.4
11 / 35
Conservative Hung Parliament
1924 31.0
10 / 35
Conservative victory
1929 33.5
9 / 35
Labour hung parliament
1931 21.5
8 / 35
Conservative victory
1935 22.2
9 / 35
National Government (Conservative) victory
1945 14.9
6 / 35
Labour victory
1950 12.6
5 / 36
Labour victory
1951 7.6
3 / 36
Conservative victory
1955 7.3
3 / 36
Conservative victory
1959 5.3
2 / 36
Conservative victory
1964 7.3
2 / 36
Labour victory
1966 6.3
1 / 36
Labour victory
1970 6.8
1 / 36
Conservative victory
February 1974 16.0
2 / 36
Labour hung parliament
October 1974 15.5
2 / 36
Labour victory
1979 10.6
1 / 36
Conservative victory
1983 23.2
2 / 36
Conservative victory
1987 10.7
3 / 36
Conservative victory
1992 12.4
1 / 36
Conservative victory
1997 12.3
2 / 40
Labour victory
2001 13.8
2 / 40
Labour victory
2005 18.4
4 / 40
Labour victory
2010 20.1
3 / 40
Conservative hung parliament
Coalition with Liberal Democrats
2015 6.5
1 / 40
Conservative victory
2017 4.5
0 / 40
Conservative hung parliament

National Assembly for Wales[edit]

Year Percentage of vote Seats won Government
Constituency Regional Constituency Regional Total
1999 13.5% (137,857) 12.5% (128,008)
3 / 40
3 / 20
6 / 60
Coalition
2003 14.1% (120,250) 12.7% (108,013)
3 / 40
3 / 20
6 / 60
Opposition
2007 14.8% (144,450) 11.7% (114,500)
3 / 40
3 / 20
6 / 60
Opposition
2011 10.6% (100,259) 8.0% (76,349)
1 / 40
4 / 20
5 / 60
Opposition
2016 7.7% (78,165) 6.5% (65,504)
1 / 40
0 / 20
1 / 60
Coalition

The representation of Welsh Liberal Democrats in the 5th Assembly (2016–2021) falls below the threshold of three Assembly Members required to form a political group.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Liberal Democrats announce Shadow Cabinet". Liberal Democrats. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "Welsh Assembly elections 2016". BBC News. 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-05-06. 
  3. ^ "No Liberal MP in Wales for the first time since 1859". BBC. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  4. ^ "No Liberal MP in Wales for the first time since 1859". BBC. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  5. ^ "Assembly Guidance". www.assembly.wales. Retrieved 2016-05-06.