The Liberal Democrats (Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol in Welsh) are a political party in the UK. The party as it exists today was formed in 1988 following the merger of the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. The Liberals are descended from the Whig party whereas the SDP were an off-shoot of the Labour Party. The party is considered the 3rd party in the UK and is representative by a gold or yellow colour.

To quote the preamble to the federal constitution:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.
That's all well and good in theory, but how about in practise? The short version of their 2005 manifesto read as follows:
WE OPPOSE: Putting targets first
WE PROPOSE: Putting patients first

WE OPPOSE: Tuition fees & Top-up fees
WE PROPOSE: Scrapping student fees

WE OPPOSE: Compulsory I.D. Cards
WE PROPOSE: Spending the money on 10,000 more police

WE OPPOSE: Selling your home to pay for care
WE PROPOSE: Free personal care for the elderly

WE OPPOSE: Ignoring climate change
WE PROPOSE: Cleaner transport & cleaner energy

WE OPPOSE: £1.5 billion on the child trust fund
WE PROPOSE: £1.5 billion towards reducing class sizes

WE OPPOSE: Means-testing pensioners
WE PROPOSE: £100 extra per month starting with the over 75s

WE OPPOSE: Hidden tax increases
WE PROPOSE: Only one tax increase – on income above £100,000 per year

WE OPPOSE: Unfair Council Tax
WE PROPOSE: Local Income Tax, saving typical households £450 per year

WE OPPOSE: Bush & Blair On Iraq
WE PROPOSE: Never again


The main party is known as The Federal Party.

Also there are the:

  • The Liberal Democrats in England
  • The Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • The Welsh Liberal Democrats
The English party is sub-divided into:
  • Devon and Cornwall
  • East Midlands
  • East of England
  • London
  • North West
  • Northern
  • South Central
  • South East
  • West Midlands
  • Western Counties
  • Yorkshire and the Humber
Each of these organisations have their own constitution which usually simply references the federal constitution.

The regional parties exist to help local parties work together. Local parties are usually centred around a constituency but can cover multiple constituencies (For example, Bristol West and Bristol North West are currently considering becoming Bristol North). These also have their own constitutions and depending on their size can send a varying number of voting representatives to the federal conference.


The federal conference is the supreme decision making body of the federal party and takes place in spring and autumn every year. Regional parties also have an annual conference and local parties have an Annual General Meeting.

Each local party can send 2 voting representatives to conference if they have in excess of 30 members. If there are in excess of 51 members 3 representatives. Over 76 is 4 representatives. Then from in excess of 101 to 401 members there is an additional 1 representative per 50 members. Over 451 every 100 members entitles the party to an extra representative. So a party with 370 members will have 10 representatives.

Any member can attend conference but unless you are a named voting representative you will not be allowed to vote or talk in debates.

(Specified) Associated Organisations

These are treated as local parties and exist to bring together members of the party with similar interest. There exist SAOs for professions, such as scientists as well as LDYS for young people and students and DELGA for supporting LGBT people. To quote the federal constitution: The recognition by the Party of Associated Organisations, and the conferring by this Constitution of rights upon Specified Associated Organisations, shall not prejudice the independence of such organisations.

Prominent figures

The Right Honourable Sir Menzies Campbell, CBE, QC, MP. (Pronounced "Mingis" or "Ming" for short)
Deputy Leader
Dr (John) Vincent Cable, MP
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Michael Moore
Shadow Home Secretary
Nick Clegg
Shadow Defence Secretary
Nick Harvey
Shadow Leader of the House and Minister for the Cabinet Office
David Heath
Leader in the House of Lords
Lord McNally
Shadow Environment &Rural Affairs Secretary
Chris Huhne
Party President, Shadow Attorney General and Department for Constitutional Affairs
Simon Hughes
Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary
Susan Kramer
Shadow Health Secretary
Norman Lamb
Shadow Education and Skills Secretary
Sarah Teather
Shadow International Development Secretary
Lynne Featherstone
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Alistair Carmichael
Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions
David Laws
Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary
Don Foster
Shadow Welsh Secretary and Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
Lembit Öpik
Shadow Scottish Secretary
Jo Swinson
Shadow Treasury Secretary
Julia Goldsworthy
Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary
Andrew Stunell
Chief Whip in the Lords
Lord Shutt
Chief of Staff
Edward Davey
Chair of the Parliamentary Party
Paul Holmes
Chief Whip
Paul Burstow

Other organisations

The Liberal Democrats are affiliated with Liberal International, European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. In Northern Ireland the LibDems are active but do not field candidates, opting to aid the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Sources: The Federal Constitution of the Liberal Democrats, 2005 Manifesto of the Liberal Democrats, Wikipedia and my experience as an activist and executive member of LDYS.

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