Coalitions and Liberal Parties

As I said on Monday I’ve just finished reading A Short History of the Liberal party 1900-1988.

One thing that has become clear is how bad coalitions were for the Liberal party. Of course we aren’t the Liberal Party, we’re the Liberal Democrats. Totally different. But a quick recap is sobering:

1915-1922 Coalition under Asquith and Lloyd George saw us go from 270 seats in 1910 election to 36 seats in 1922. Having split into Liberals and Coalitions Liberals.

The 1931 election elected 72 Liberals (split into Liberals and National Liberals). The National Liberals were in coalitions with the Tories (and Labour for some of it), and by the end of the crisis in 1945 we were down to 12 seats.

In case you think it is just a Tory thing, don’t forget in 1974 we had 13 seats, and the Lib-Lab pact cost us 2 seats net. (over 15%!)

Mind you it has to be said that this does knock the idea that coalitions are unstable on the head: both coalitions lasted over the length of a modern parliament. Didn’t do us much good electorally though.

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3 Comments

Filed under coalition, Conservatives, liberal history, politics

3 responses to “Coalitions and Liberal Parties

  1. Jon

    So does that suggest coalitions are bad or that party splits are bad? Personally I'd have started by asking whether splitting into, say, Liberal and National Liberals doesn't have a rather more drastic effect that what one of the splinters then goes on to do.In other words, it's not clear at all how bad coalitions are. At least to me – you'll be aware of rather more from reading a book than me just reading your post.

  2. Splits are bad, especially if the splits compete in a single district (in some places they made agreements for one NatLib and one Lib per 2-member seat). Coalitions can be bad, can be good.But, given all the previous ones took place under FPTP/Block Voting, and next time we're hoping for AV, harder to say.It could be good, could be bad, but ultimately it won't matter, the results will mean a better voting system and many other LD policies entrenched as general principles.

  3. JonTo be fair it is probably the lack of direction arising from the splits that did it, but being in government provides tensions that being in opposition doesn't. If we don't split I'm optimistic for the future.Another difference between then and now is that we had been in power on our own in 1906, and that was in political living memory. Splits seem more attractive when power is a possibility and the party probably thought it would recover quickly. Many years on we may be more willing to work together!I hope AV will make the difference we hope.

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