The Liberal Democrats From hope to despair to where?


By David Cutts, Andrew Russell and Joshua Harry Townsley

Manchester University Press
21 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, a party desperate for its own identity but reliant on others to reach its potential. This book helps unravel these apparent contradictions.

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