Liberal Democrats

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A British political party that adopted this name in 1989. The party, which was formed in 1988, was formerly known as the Social and Liberal Democrats. The Social and Liberal Democrats were a merger of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Liberal Party. The SDP itself was established by four dissident members of the Labour Party (Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams, and William Rodgers), known as the ‘gang of four’. As a new centre party, the SDP under David Owen's leadership, formed an alliance with the Liberal Party. However, after a poor showing in the 1987 election, the SDP voted to merge with the Liberal Party, forming the Social and Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Robert Maclennan. David Owen attempted to revive a reduced SDP in 1988 but wound it up in 1990.

Paddy Ashdown (1941– ), leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 to 1999, managed to substantially increase the number of Liberal Democrat MPs in the 1997 election. Ashdown was succeeded as leader by Charles Kennedy (1959– ), under whom further gains were made in the 2001 and 2005 elections. However, Kennedy was forced to resign in 2006 after admitting a problem with alcoholism. He was succeeded by Sir Menzies Campbell (1941– ).

Subjects: World History.

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