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Liberal Democrats 25 years and 106 MPs

May 6, 2013

This year marks twenty five years since the formation of the Liberal Democrats.  The party’s had something of a roller coaster journey since the merger of the old Liberal Party and the SDP.  The first two years could not have been more disastrous.  Three of the SDP’s five MPs refused to join, though most grass roots members transferred. While all of the seventeen Liberal MPs joined, some were less than enthusiastic about the new party.

The party even squabbled about its new name, with the membership vote for the short form of Democrats being overturned in favour of Liberal Democrats.  As a former member of the SDP I preferred Democrats at the time but quickly realised I was wrong.  “Lib Dems” has now become common political currency and it was important to make it clear we were the successors of Gladstone and Lloyd George.

The name confusion and the short lived competition of David Owen’s “continuing SDP” gave the new party such an awful set of election results in 1989 that it looked as though it might collapse before or be wiped out at the next general election.  As Paddy Ashdown often jokes, his new party was an “*” in opinion polls, with negligible support.  In Bristol West we came fourth in all bar one ward and I can remember attending a Clifton branch meeting where we discussed whether anyone could actually face going canvassing…I had to go out on my own.

But the 1990 local election results were better and in October David Bellotti won the Eastbourne by election, becoming the first MP elected as a Liberal Democrat.  Presumably someone told Mrs Thatcher that her “dead parrot” was not only alive but squawking loudly. Within weeks she had resigned.

Since Eastbourne the Liberal Democrats have elected another 105 MPs, in 84 constituencies.  In the 2010 general election the party got its highest ever absolute number of votes and vote share but only 57 MPs.  First past the post is part to blame but perhaps a better incumbency programme over the preceding twenty years would have given the party about 90 seats, given that several new ones were won at that election.

Aside from the psephology, the demographics are quite depressing for a liberal party. Only one of the 106 MPs has been from an ethnic minority.  Only seventeen have been women.  We do slightly better on sexuality.  I was the party’s first openly gay MP.  Stephen Gilbert joined me in 2010. But we are the only two to have been open with our constituents before our first election. Four others have been outed as gay or bi-sexual.  I’ve not done the precise arithmetic on social background but there is undoubtedly a strong tinge of middle class, privately educated and Oxbridge about many of my current and former Parliamentary colleagues.

Last Thursdays local elections were tough for the party.  But we’re in much better shape than  our first electoral outing in 1989.  There’s two years to go before the next general election.  The 2015 general election will be on the same boundaries as 2010, giving defending MPs a significant incumbency advantage.  But if we are to do better than previous elections in holding on to what we’ve got, as well as making gains, then the party needs to be more ruthless in its marshalling of support for sitting MPs or held constituencies.  We also must make sure that the 2015 Parliamentary party looks more like 21st century Britain.  Many more women, more non white and more of whatever gender, race, sexuality or disability who aren’t too posh to know the price of milk.

The origins of this post are my doodles and calculations that I tweeted on Easter Sunday.  I promised to write up the names and seats of the 106 MPs….sorry it’s taken so long but I’ve been busy electioneering!  This could easily lead to future articles on MP political origins (SDP, Lib, Lib Dem and others), length of service, reasons for defeat, where are they now, etc etc!

UPDATE FOR GENERAL ELECTION 2015

The party lost all bar eight of its MPs. None of the ten constituencies where the incumbent Lib Dem MP retired was retained by the new candidate, the first general election not to see any new faces in the Parliamentary party. The much reduced group has, for the first time, no women. There are no ethnic minorities and no gay MPs.

Here’s the full One Hundred and Six individuals elected as Liberal Democrats, in date order from our first victory:

1990

David Bellotti – Eastbourne by election. Defeated GE 1992.

1991

Mike Carr – Ribble Valley by election. Defeated GE 1992.

Nicol Stephen – Kincardine and Deeside by election. Defeated GE 1992.

1992 General Election

Russell Johnson – Inverness.  First elected 1964. Retired GE 1997 and constituency lost.

David Steel – Tweedale, Ettrick & Lauderdale. First elected 1965 by election. Retired GE 1997.

Robert MacLennan – Caithness and Sutherland. First elected 1966 for Labour, then 1983 SDP. Retired GE 2001.

Alan Beith – Berwick Upon Tweed. First elected 1973. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

David Alton – Liverpool Mossley Hill.  First elected 1979 by election. Retired GE 1997 & constituency abolished.

Simon Hughes – Southwark and Bermondsey.  First elected 1983 by election. Defeated 2015.

Paddy Ashdown – Yeovil.  First elected 1983. Retired GE 2001

Alex Carlile – Montgomery. First elected 1983.  Retired  GE 1997.

Charles Kennedy – Ross, Cromarty and Skye. First elected for SDP 1983. Defeated 2015.

Archie Kirkwood – Roxburgh and Berwickshire.  First elected 1983.  Retired GE 2005.

Malcolm Bruce – Gordon First elected 1983. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Jim Wallace – Orkney & Shetland – First elected 1983. Retired 2001.

Matthew Taylor – Truro & St Austell (1987 by election  – retired GE 2010)

Menzies Campbell – Fife North East. First elected 1987. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Ray Michie – Argyll & Bute  First elected 1983. Retired 2001.

Don Foster – Bath. Retired 2015 and constituency lost..

Nick Harvey – North Devon. Defeated 2015.

Nigel Jones – Cheltenham. Retired 2005

Liz Lynne – Rochdale.  Defeated 1997

Paul Tyler – North Cornwall.  Retired 2005 (Also Liberal MP for Bodmin Feb – Oct 1974)

1993

David Rendel – Newbury by election. Defeated 2005

Diana Maddock – Christchurch by election. Defeated 1997

1994

David Chidgey – Eastleigh by election.  Retired 2005

 1995

Chris Davies – Littleborough & Saddleworth by election.  Defeated GE 1997

 General Election 1997:

Mike Hancock – Portsmouth South (previously SDP 1984 – 1987) Defeated (as Independent) 2015.

Richard Livsey – Brecon and Radnor (previously Lib 1985 by election – defeated 1992) Retired 2001.

Ronnie Fearn – Southport (previously Lib 1987 – defeated 1992) Retired 2001.

Andrew George  – St Ives. Defeated 2015.

Colin Breed – Cornwall South East. Retired 2010 and constituency lost.

John Burnett – Devon West & Torridge. Retired  2005 and constituency lost.

Adrian Sanders – Torbay. Defeated 2015.

Jackie Ballard – Taunton. Defeated  2001.

David Heath – Somerton & Frome. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Brian Cotter – Weston Super Mare. Defeated 2005.

Steve Webb – Northavon. Defeated 2015.

Dr Peter Brand – Isle of Wight. Defeated 2001.

Mark Oaten –  Winchester. Retired 2010 and constituency lost.

Norman Baker – Lewes. Defeated 2015.

Vince Cable – Twickenham. Defeated 2015.

Dr Jenny Tonge – Richmond Park. Retired 2005

Edward Davey – Kingston & Surbiton. Defeated 2015.

Tom Brake – Carshalton & Wallington

Paul Burstow – Sutton & Cheam. Defeated 2015.

Bob Russell – Colchester. Defeated 2015.

Dr Evan Harris – Oxford West & Abingdon. Defeated 2010

Paul Keetch  – Hereford. Retired 2010 and constituency lost.

Andrew Stunell –  Hazel Grove. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Phil Willis –  Harrogate & Knaresborough. Retired 2010 and constituency lost

Richard Allen  – Sheffield Hallam. Retired 2005

Donald Gorrie – Edinburgh West. Retired 2001

Sir Robert Smith – West Aberdeenshire. Defeated 2015.

Lembit Opik  – Montgomery. Defeated 2010

Michael Moore – Tweedale, Ettrick & Lauderdale (Roxburgh and Berwickshire since 2005) Defeated 2015.

2000

Sandra Gidley – Romsey by election.  Defeated GE 2010

2001 General Election

Richard Younger-Ross – Teignbridge.  Defeated (at Newton Abbot) 2010

Annette Brooke – Mid Dorset and North Poole. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Sue Doughty – Guildford. Defeated 2005

Norman Lamb – North Norfolk

Matthew Green – Ludlow. Defeated 2005

Patsy Calton – Cheadle. Died 2005

Paul Holmes – Chesterfield. Defeated 2010

David Laws – Yeovil. Defeated 2015.

Dr John Pugh –  Southport

Roger Williams – Brecon & Radnor. Defeated 2015.

Alistair Carmichael – Orkney & Shetland

John Thurso – Caithness & Sutherland. Defeated 2015.

Alan Reid – Argyll & Bute. Defeated 2015.

John Barrett – Edinburgh West. Retired 2010

2003

Sarah Teather – Brent East by election. Seat abolished GE 2010. Elected Brent Central. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

2004

Parmjit Singh Gill – Leicester South by election. Defeated GE 2005.

2005 General Election

Lorely Burt – Solihull. Defeated 2015.

Tim Farron –  Westmoreland & Lonsdale

Julia Goldsworthy – Falmouth & Camborne. Defeated (at Camborne and Redruth) 2010

Jeremy Browne – Taunton. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Stephen Williams – Bristol West. Defeated, 2015.

Lynne Featherstone – Hornsey & Wood Green. Defeated 2015.

John Hemming – Birmingham Yardley. Defeated 2015.

David Howarth – Cambridge.  Retired 2010

Greg Mulholland – Leeds North West

John Leech – Manchester Withington. Defeated 2015.

Paul Rowen – Rochdale. Defeated 2010

Jenny Willott – Cardiff Central. Defeated 2015.

Jo Swinson – East Dumbartonshire. Defeated 2015.

Danny Alexander – Inverness, Badenoch & Strathspey. Defeated 2015.

Mark Williams – Ceredigion

Dan Rogerson – Cornwall North. Defeated 2015.

Martin Horwood – Cheltenham. Defeated 2015.

Chris Huhne – Eastleigh.  Resigned 2013.

Susan Kramer – Richmond Park. Defeated 2010

Nick Clegg – Sheffield Hallam.

2005

Mark Hunter – Cheadle by election. Defeated 2015.

2006

Willie Rennie – Dunfermline & West Fife by election.  Defeated GE 2010

2010 General Election

Stephen Gilbert – St Austell & Newquay. Defeated 2015.

Duncan Hames – Chippenham. Defeated 2015.

Tessa Munt – Wells. Defeated 2015.

Stephen Lloyd – Eastbourne. Defeated 2015.

Simon Wright – Norwich South. Defeated 2015.

David Ward – Bradford East. Defeated 2015.

Gordon Birtwhistle – Burnley. Defeated 2015.

Ian Swales – Redcar. Retired 2015 and constituency lost.

Julian Huppert – Cambridge. Defeated 2015.

Mike Crockart  – Edinburgh West. Defeated 2015.

2013

Mike Thornton – Eastleigh by election. Defeated GE 2015.

Defectors (not ever elected as Liberal Democrats have been Emma Nicholson (Con, Devon West 1995, retired 1997), Peter Thurnham (Con, Bolton North East 1996, retired 1997), Paul Marsden (Lab, Shrewsbury & Atcham 2001, re-joined Lab pre GE 2005) and Brian Sedgemore (Lab, Hackney South and Shoreditch 2005 and retired GE 2005).

8 Comments leave one →
  1. deborah sutherland permalink
    May 7, 2013 8:08 am

    Thank yoou for the list a stroll down memory lane for hardened byelection goupies like me. I have a friend who knew how the continuing SDP actally imploded. It’s An interesting story.

  2. Chris Millman permalink
    May 7, 2013 9:46 am

    Well, that was The Rise. Now for The Fall…

  3. May 7, 2013 10:25 am

    Here’s to when we come back – get our good message across before the election not afterwards and savvy up to the dirty manipulations of other Parties UKIP and the Green in particular.

  4. Richard Church permalink
    May 7, 2013 10:52 am

    You’ve forgotten Archie Kirkwood. Liberal and Lib Dem MP for the seat next to David Steel’s from 1983 to 2001 when it was merged with Michael Moore’s. Now Lord Kirkwood of somewhere.

  5. May 7, 2013 8:42 pm

    Richard – good spot! Archie was included in my handwritten notes and the number of 106 is correct. I accidentally skipped him when typing up this article.

  6. Sadie Smith permalink
    June 7, 2013 10:22 am

    Good memories of election results and of a holiday in Argyll when Ray’s little posters were still up – on barns!

  7. June 4, 2015 6:26 pm

    Stephen…………You are wrong about being able to start a party called “Democrats” because I tried it & “The Democratic Party” is a reserved word & must be accompanied by another word like “The Reid Democratic Party” or the ” Liberal Democratic” Party consult the
    Electoral Commission & you will find that I am right…………………
    as a “Democrat” I’m sure that I would have gained more than my 190 votes in 2005
    for the “Save Bristol North Baths Party” You were a good MP & you can hold your head up high for all your achievements not least banning smoking in pubs………….You have saved
    countless lives & even I have given up 2 years ago.
    All the Best,
    Doug

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