- Format: eBook
- ISBN: 978-1-5261-2784-6
- Published Date: November 2023
This is the definitive account of the rise, fall and future prospects of the Liberal Democrats, the party that threatened to break the mould of British politics but suffered electoral calamity after entering government with the Conservatives.
Retracing the Lib Dems' path to government and subsequent near oblivion, the book explores the relationship between the party and the electorate in a post-coalition, post-Brexit, post-pandemic era. It offers a deep analysis of the electoral strategy that enabled growth and precipitated failure, explaining how and why the party got the coalition so wrong and plotting a potential future. Drawing on extensive survey data and original interviews with Lib Dem politicians and activists, the authors expertly capture the relationship between the party and voters, revealing the foundations of Liberal Democrat campaigning and performance in the search for credibility and viability.
The Liberal Democrats remain contradictory: a minor party with ambitions to upset the status quo, a party that depends on decisive leadership but relies on grassroots activism to remain relevant. This book helps unravel these apparent contradictions.
'Not all Liberal Democrats will agree with the frankness of the authors' assessment of the party's recent years, but all should pay close attention to their evidence-backed seven themes for future success.'
Mark Pack, President of the Liberal Democrats
'A fascinating, 360-degree portrait of Britain's "third party". The authors shine a harsh light on the Lib Dems' ongoing problems but also point to their still-considerable potential. Forensically analytical yet approachably written, the book is absolutely essential reading in the run-up to the next general election - and beyond.'
Tim Bale, author of The Conservative Party after Brexit
'This book contributes to the very small field of serious analyses of this important third force in British politics. Excellently researched and closely argued, it identifies dilemmas around identity, structure, agency and role, accounting for the party's ill-fated period in coalition government while framing the potential for a future Liberal Democrat revival.'
Laura McAllister, Professor of Public Policy and the Governance of Wales, Cardiff University
Introduction: structure, agency and an identity crisis
Part I: The road to government
1 Policy distinctiveness, popular leaders and 'winning here'
2 'Cowley Street, we have a problem': the false political and electoral dawn
Part II: The coalition years: from government to obscurity
3 Getting the coalition wrong
4 Where did all the Liberal Democrat voters go?
5 Losing locally and being left behind
Part III: The post-coalition story: fighting for survival
6 From life support to renewed hope
7 Political shocks and the coalition legacy: austerity, Brexit and leadership woes
8 The changing geography of the Liberal Democrat vote
9 Liberal Democrat campaigning at a crossroads: the big picture
Conclusion: the Liberal Democrats' identity crisis
David Cutts is Professor of Political Science at the University of Birmingham
Andrew Russell is Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool
Joshua Townsley is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics