The Renewal of Liberalism: Liberalism without Liberals

  • John Campbell


The history of the Liberal Party between the wars is in most respects a melancholy record. The party declined from strength to insignificance in twenty years: a governing party of 260 M.P.s when the armistice was signed in 1918, it had dwindled by the declaration of war in 1939 to a mere parliamentary pressure group of eighteen members. It may be that the social upheaval of 1914–18 and the extension of the suffrage to the mass electorate spelled inevitably the doom of the Gladstonian Liberal Party and the rise of Labour in its place. Nevertheless, its own internal divisions gratuitously hastened the party’s fall: the Asquith-Lloyd George split kept the party divided in the crucial years 1918–24 when Labour, to its own surprise, advanced to government; while the further three-way split — Samuel-Simon-Lloyd George — in 1931 shattered it finally at the very moment when Labour’s debâcle might have offered it fresh hope. The story is one of discord, bitter recrimination, and, at first sight, total failure. Yet the Liberals possessed two tremendous assets: first, the restless genius of Lloyd George, still in the 1920s, for all his faults, the dominating and most potent personality in politics; and second, the intellectual services of a group of radical economists of whom the most notable was Maynard Keynes.


Industrial Relation Summer School Labour Party Liberal Party National Investment 
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Copyright information

© John Campbell 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Campbell

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