Liberal Democrats

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Liberal Democrats. British political party founded in 1988 from the merging of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Liberal Party, following the disappointing performance of the two parties' alliance at the 1987 general election. The tortuous and mismanaged negotiations, the failure to agree on a party name, and the existence of a rump ‘continuing SDP’ led by David Owen ensured that the early years of the party were dogged by low opinion poll ratings and bad local, European, and by-election results. The 6.4 per cent vote achieved at the 1989 European election was worse than any Liberal showing since 1959.

The increasing popularity of party leader Paddy Ashdown (especially following television performances during the Gulf War) enabled the Liberal Democrats to recoup much of the support that had been lost. At the general election of 1997 the party fought on a promise to raise income tax by a penny to be spent on education, and did well, returning 46 MPs. They obtained an element of proportional representation in the system for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, where they joined Labour in a governing pact. In 2001, led by Charles Kennedy, they increased their Westminster numbers to 52 and raised their numbers to 62 in 2005.

Christopher N. Lanigan

Liberal Democrats

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Liberal Democrats (LD) (officially Social and Liberal Democrats) British political party formed in March 1988 by the merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Its first leader (1988–99) was Paddy Ashdown. In the 1998 elections, it returned 20 MPs. The smallest of the three main political parties, it vigorously campaigned for proportional representation (PR). In the 1997 and 2001 general elections, they returned 46 MPs and 52 MPs respectively. Charles Kennedy succeeded Ashdown in 1999.

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Liberal Democrats

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