Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats

Unfinished business

By Frances Babbage and Matt Cole

Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats


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  • eBook
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8899-5
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: February 2013
  • BIC Category: Politics, Politics & government, Political parties, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Society & social sciences / Liberalism & centre democratic ideologies, Society & social sciences / Political parties


Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats: Unfinished Business now available in paperback, offers new research on familiar themes involving loyalties of politics, faith and locality.

Richard Wainwright was a Liberal MP for seventeen years during the Party's recovery, but his life tells us about much more than this. Wainwright grew up in prosperity, but learned from voluntary work about poverty; he refused to fight in World War Two, but saw war at its cruellest; he joined the Liberal Party when most had given up on it, but gave his fortune to it; lost a by-election but caused the only Labour loss in Harold Wilson's landslide of 1966. He then played a key role in the fall of Jeremy Thorpe, the Lib-Lab Pact and the formation of the SDP-Liberal Alliance and the Liberal Democrats; he represented a unique Yorkshire constituency which reflected his pride and hope for society; and though he gave his life to the battle to be in the Commons, he refused a seat in the Lords.

Richard Wainwright's story is central to the story of the Liberal Party and sheds light on the reasons for its survival and the state of its prospects. At the same time this book is a parable of politics for anyone who wants to represent an apparently lost cause, who wants to motivate people who have been neglected, and who wants to follow their convictions at the highest level.


... Cole examines how Wainwright cultivated the local press and re-energised his constituency's Liberal clubs as part of his bid to enter parliament.

The result is an occasionally curious but often revealing study of Liberal politics in the middle and late twentieth century.

Biography of this high quality reminds us that it is often the middle-ranking political outsider, rather than the party big-wig in London that can provide the best insight into a grassroots organisation.

Cole has written a gem of biography, exploring the forgotten nooks and crannies of a political figure who played a pivotal role in the survival and subsequent revival of the Liberal party in the North of England.


Part One: Before Parliament
1. Early life
2. Cambridge
3. Wainwright's War
Part Two: Outside Parliamen
4. Liberal Clubs
5. Wainwright's Faith
6. The Press
7. The Party in the country
Part Three: In Parliamen
8. Colne Valley
9. Campaigning
10. The LPP
11. Wainwright & Thorpe
12. The Lib-Lab Pact
13. The Alliance
14. Merger and the Liberal Democrats


Matt Cole is Lecturer in Politics for the Hansard Society and Head of Modern History at King Edward VI College in Stourbridge.

Richard Wainwright, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats

By Frances Babbage, Matt Cole

Paperback £16.99 / $29.95

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