University 18 Yrs + | Parties and Voting
The UK Liberals/Alliance/Liberal
Although the Liberal vote
revived from 1959 and reached respectable levels in many suburban and rural
seats, given the electoral system, it hardly had any MPs before 1983.
These were almost entirely in Cornwall and
Devon, rural Wales and the Scottish Highlands and Borders, supplemented by
occasional by-elections gains such as Orpington in 1962 and the Isle of Ely in
When the Alliance was formed between the Liberals and the
Social Democrat Party, by a group of key ex-Labour figures, it was hoped that
the SDP would attract Labour votes and the Liberals Conservative votes.
Although the Alliance polled well across the country in 1983, the SDP never did
this and its successes depended on the personal attraction of their major
figures such as David Owen and Shirley Williams.
Nevertheless, when the two
parties merged in 1988 the Liberal Democrat Party had a stronger base than the
old Liberal Party and had also developed a strategy of winning local
councillors and using that platform to target Parliamentary constituencies.
Breaking through from 1997
The breakthrough for the party came in 1997 as a result of
the unpopularity of the Conservative Party and tactical voting.
During the election campaign the Observer
organised opinion polls in a number of seats, in which the Conservatives could
be defeated by the combined Labour and Liberal Democrat vote, showing which of
the two parties was the main challenger.
In every one of these constituencies the Conservatives were defeated by
tactical voting helping the party the opinion polls predicted could win,
whereas in some seats not covered in the story they held on.
The Liberal Democrats won 46 seats with
successes particularly in Scotland, SW London and Cornwall. As Labour became
less popular in 2005 and 2010 the Liberal Democrats won a few seats from them
in big city and industrial areas. This led to the formation of the Conservative/Liberal Coalition in 2010, although a disastrous U-turn on charging tuition fees (the Liberals had said they would scrap them in their manifesto) tainted their entire five years in office. The 2015 election saw huge defeats across the country and the resignation of then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The party is currently run by Tim Farron MP who is positioning the Liberal Democrats as the anti-Brexit and anti-Corbyn party.
Liberal Democrats - four types of seats
The Liberal Democrats now have four types of
- Those where a well-known local MP is well
entrenched and less likely to lose
- A group of Scottish seats which may behave
differently to England
- Marginals where there will be intense
competition with the Conservatives and squeezing the Labour vote will be
- A group of seats where they compete with Labour
but which may be difficult to hold and gain.