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The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party developed from an alliance of Whigs and complimentary trade- supporting Peelites and the reformist Radicals in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone.

Under prime ministers Henry Campbell-Bannerman (19051908) and H. H. Asquith (19081916), the Liberal Party passed the welfare reforms that produced a fundamental British welfare state. Although Asquith was the party’s leader, its dominant figure was David Lloyd George. Asquith was overwhelmed by the wartime role of coalition prime minister and Lloyd George changed him as prime minister in late 1916, however Asquith remained as Liberal Party leader.

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In The Oxford Buddy to British History, historian Martin Pugh argues: Lloyd George made a greater effect on British public life than any other 20th-century leader, thanks to his pre-war introduction of Britain’s social welfare system (specifically medical insurance coverage, unemployment insurance coverage, and old-age pensions, largely spent for by taxes on high earnings and on the land).

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The government of Lloyd George was dominated by the Conservative Party, which finally deposed him in 1922. By the end of the 1920s, the Labour Party had changed the Liberals as the Conservatives’ primary competitor. The Liberal Party entered into decline after 1918 and by the 1950s won no more than six seats at general elections.

At the 1983 general election, the Alliance won over a quarter of the vote, however only 23 of the 650 seats it contested. At the 1987 general election, its share of the vote fell below 23% and the Liberals and Social Democratic Party merged in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats.

Prominent intellectuals connected with the Liberal Party consist of the philosopher John Stuart Mill, the economist John Maynard Keynes and social organizer William Beveridge. The Liberal Party grew out of the Whigs, who had their origins in an aristocratic faction in the reign of Charles II and the early 19th century Radicals.

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Although their motives in this were initially to gain more power for themselves, the more idealistic Whigs slowly came to support an expansion of democracy for its own sake. The fantastic figures of reformist Whiggery were Charles James Fox (died 1806) and his disciple and successor Earl Grey. After decades in opposition, the Whigs went back to power under Grey in 1830 and carried the First Reform Act in 1832.

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The admission of the middle classes to the franchise and to the Home of Commons led ultimately to the development of a systematic middle class liberalism and completion of Whiggery, although for many years reforming aristocrats held senior positions in the party. In the years after Grey’s retirement, the party was led first by Lord Melbourne, a fairly standard Whig, and after that by Lord John Russell, the kid of a Duke however a crusading radical, and by Lord Palmerston, a renegade Irish Tory and essentially a conservative, although efficient in extreme gestures.

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The leading Radicals were John Bright and Richard Cobden, who represented the manufacturing towns which had acquired representation under the Reform Act. They favoured social reform, personal liberty, minimizing the powers of the Crown and the Church of England (many Liberals were Nonconformists), avoidance of war and foreign alliances (which were bad for company) and above all complimentary trade.

In 1841, the Liberals lost office to the Conservatives under Sir Robert Peel, however their duration in opposition was short due to the fact that the Conservatives split over the repeal of the Corn Laws, an open market problem; and a faction called the Peelites (however not Peel himself, who died right after) defected to the Liberal side.

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A leading Peelite was William Ewart Gladstone, who was a reforming Chancellor of the Exchequer in most of these governments. The official foundation of the Liberal Party is generally traced to 1859 and the development of Palmerston’s 2nd government. Nevertheless, the Whig-Radical amalgam might not end up being a true contemporary political party while it was dominated by aristocrats and it was not till the departure of the “Two Dreadful Old Guy”, Russell and Palmerston, that Gladstone might end up being the first leader of the contemporary Liberal Party.

After a brief Conservative government (throughout which the Second Reform Act was gone by agreement in between the parties), Gladstone won a big triumph at the 1868 election and formed the first Liberal government. The facility of the party as a national membership organisation came with the foundation of the National Liberal Federation in 1877.

For the next thirty years Gladstone and Liberalism were associated. William Ewart Gladstone served as prime minister four times (186874, 188085, 1886, and 189294). His financial policies, based on the notion of well balanced spending plans, low taxes and, were suited to an establishing capitalist society, however they might not respond effectively as economic and social conditions altered.

Deeply spiritual, Gladstone brought a brand-new ethical tone to politics, with his evangelical perceptiveness and his opposition to aristocracy. His moralism frequently angered his upper-class opponents (consisting of Queen Victoria), and his heavy-handed control split the Liberal Party. In foreign policy, Gladstone remained in general against foreign entanglements, however he did not withstand the realities of imperialism.

His objective was to create a European order based on co-operation rather than dispute and on shared trust rather of competition and suspicion; the rule of law was to supplant the reign of force and self-interest. This Gladstonian concept of an unified Performance of Europe was opposed to and eventually beat by a Bismarckian system of controlled alliances and antagonisms.