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The Liberal Party is a British political party that was founded in 1989 as a continuation of the original Liberal Party (founded in 1859) by former members who opposed its merger with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to form the Liberal Democrats. The party holds nine local council seats.
The original Liberal Party entered into an alliance with the Social Democratic Party in 1981 and merged with it in 1988 to form what became the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Party, founded in 1859, was descended from the Whigs, Radicals, Irish Independent Party and Peelites, while the SDP was a party created in 1981 by former Labour members, MPs and cabinet ministers, but which also gained defections from Conservatives.
A small minority of the Liberal Party, notably including the former Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Meadowcroft (the last elected president of the Liberal Party), unhappy with what they saw as authoritarian and economic interventionist policies that veered away from traditional Liberal policies, resolved to continue with the Liberal Party. They continued using the old party name and symbols, including the party anthem, The Land.
The continuing Liberal Party included several councillors and council groups from the pre-1988 party which had never joined the merged party and continued as Liberals (hence the disputed foundation date), but no MPs. Since then, the number of Liberal district councillors has gradually declined. However, as a result of a number of community-based politicians, defections and recruitment the party has an increased number of town and parish councillors together with representation on a number of political lobby groups and organisations who hold their own elections such as drainage boards.
Meadowcroft stepped down from the party presidency in 2002, and was replaced by Councillor Steve Radford. In 2007, Meadowcroft left the party and joined the Liberal Democrats. Radford stood down in 2009, and was replaced as president of the party by former councillor Rob Wheway, who served a year as leader. Radford was re-elected party president in 2010, and has been elected for further terms by members in ballot at assemblies and by electronic voting.
Party members take part in Liberal International (LI) activities through the Liberal International British Group.
Subsequently, the party supported the People's Pledge, a cross-party campaign calling for a referendum on UK membership of the EU.
In the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum campaign, the party let candidates express their own views, but both National Executive and many party members supported Leave. Following the referendum, the party argued that the country should leave the EU.
In the 2011 local council elections, eight Liberal councillors held their seats, three lost their seats and five new Liberal councillors were elected: a net gain of two. In the two years to the May 2013 local elections, the number of Liberal councillors rose from 16 to 21. In the 2013 elections the party won three seats, a gain of one.
Although the Liberal Party has retained many of its seats, it has not had a significant impact outside its strongholds of Ryedale and Liverpool.
In 2014, the Liberal Party held 21 council seats at county and district level and 15 seats at community level. The party has no representation in the UK Parliament or Scottish Parliament, nor did it ever have Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). At the 2001 UK general election the party's best local result was coming second behind Labour in Liverpool West Derby, pushing the Liberal Democrats into third place. However, it was unable to repeat this at the 2005 general election; it finished third behind the Liberal Democrats in the constituency, still beating the Conservative Party, and repeated this position at the 2010 general election. In the 2015 general election the Liberal Party came fourth narrowly holding its deposit, ahead of the Liberal Democrats (who came last) and the Green Party, but behind UKIP and the Conservative Party.
At the 2015 general election, the Liberal Party in Cornwall decided to not contest any seats and urged its supporters to vote for UKIP. At the 2017 general election, the party contested four seats and received 3,672. In the 2019 general election, the party contested nineteen seats and received 10,562 votes.
The Liberal Party has no members of the UK, Scottish, Welsh, London, Northern Ireland, or European Parliaments or Assemblies.
In 2015, the party had 14 councillors on parish, town and community councils in North Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Essex and Wales.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2018)
Totals include any in-year by-elections and defections, held/gain/loss are the changes since the start of the last municipal year. Figure from the BBC election results before 2003 lists Liberal Party seats amongst "Others" or "Independents".