The uneven path of British Liberalism

From Jo Grimond to Brexit, second edition

By Tudor Jones

The uneven path of British Liberalism


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4300-6
  • Pages: 464
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: September 2019
  • BIC Category: Political parties, Liberalism & centre democratic ideologies, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties, POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / European, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Humanities / Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000, Society & social sciences / Political parties, Society & social sciences / Liberalism & centre democratic ideologies, British Politics, Politics & government


This book charts the development of political thought within the British Liberal Party and its successor, the Liberal Democrats. Beginning with Jo Grimond's rise to the leadership in 1956, it follows the Liberal resurgence in the second half of the twentieth century through to the major setbacks of the 2015 general election and the 2016 referendum on UK membership of the European Union. Drawing on interviews with leading politicians and political thinkers, the book examines Liberal ideas against the background of key historical events and controversies, including the period of coalition government with the Conservatives.


'Well-researched, thorough and balanced.'
Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

'Tudor Jones has written a meticulously detailed and scholarly account of the revival of the Liberal Party since the dog days of the 1950s, and of the tribulations of the Liberal Democrats since the merger with the SDP in the 1980s. The uneven path of British Liberalism will prove the standard work on the subject, and it is of particular relevance at a time when the Liberal Democrats seem on the brink of a revival. It is a contribution of great importance to recent political history.'
Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, King's College London

'Since the mid-1950s, when observers first discerned a revival in its fortunes, the electoral history of the British Liberal Party and its successor, the Liberal Democrats, has been characterised by a bewildering series of upturns and reversals. This uneven path has been accompanied by an ongoing internal debate - partisans might reject the suggestion of a dispute - over the party's underlying philosophy and purpose. Much of this relates to Liberalism's uneasy coalition of social and economic traditions and the extent to which they can be combined within the same political movement. Showing an impressive knowledge and understanding of the relevant literature, Tudor Jones expertly leads the reader through Liberalism's ideological history over the last sixty years. His work is timely. With the Liberal Democrats again reclaiming a significant role in British politics, this book is one which students and practitioners of Liberalism will want to read.'
David Dutton, Ramsay Muir Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of Liverpool

'Jones deftly interleaves a well-informed description of the party's internal philosophical debates with a clear account of its political fortunes, both good and not so good, between 1945 and 2017. The new chapters on the coalition and its immediate aftermath are notably fair and balanced, providing a valuable resource not only for historians but also for journalists and indeed anyone eager to get beyond partisan views of that still controversial period.'
David Howarth, Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Cambridge and MP for Cambridge from 2005-10


1 Survival of a creed, 1954-56
2 The advent of Grimond: the creed revived, 1956-59
3 Of progress, realignment and disappointed hopes, 1959-67
4 The rise of community politics in uncertain times, 1967-76
5 Liberalism in a cul-de-sac, 1976-79
6 Liberalism within the Alliance: denting the mould, 1979-88
7 Liberals, Owen and the social market economy, 1983-88
8 Recovery after a painful infancy, 1988-97
9 Ashdown's unfinished project, 1997-99
10 Advance and debate, 1999-2005
11 Crisis, consolidation and reaffirmation, 2005-7
12 Into uncharted post-1945 territory: coalition government, 2010-15
13 Electoral collapse, 2015 and the future of British Liberalism


Tudor Jones is Honorary Research Fellow in the History of Political Thought at Coventry University

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