The flame of British Liberalism burns steady and brighter: A timeline from 1945

A Gallup Poll in June 1945 showed the voting intention for the Liberal Party as 15%. (1). In this TL the Liberal vote in the July 1945 general election is just below this at 14.4% compared to 8.9% in OTL. The book The British Voter: An Atlas ànd Survey since 1885 by Michael Kinnear, London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1968, states that in the 1945 general election: "Twelve of the 14 areas which had Liberal votes exceeding 20% in 1945 also had below-average swings to Labour, while the remaining two had only average swings to Labour. (2) Possibly the Liberal Party acted in 1945 as a sort of safety-valve, which attracted Conservative protest voters who did wish to go all the way to Labour. "

I have assumed that compared to OTL the Liberal increase in vote is taken 60% from Labour and 40% from Conservative. So the Labour vote is down by 3.3% and the Conservative vote down by 2.2%. Therefore very marginal Labour seats in OTL with Liberal candidates, are Conservative in this TL.

There were 402 Liberal candidates standing in the general election compared to 306 in OTL. So the Liberal Party claimed that they could form a government if enough of their candidates were elected.

The number of seats in the House of Commons won by each party in the general election were as follows (OTL general election):
Labour: 385 (394)
Conservative and allies: 207 (211)
Liberal: 25 (12)
Independent Labour: 4 (4)
Communist: 2 (2)
Irish Nationalist: 2 (2)
Commonwealth: 1 (1)
Independents : 14 (14).
Total: 640 (640)
Compared to OTL the Liberal gains were twelve seats from Conservative and one from Labour. Conservative gains were eight seats from Labour.

The percentage votes were as follows:
Labour: 44.9 (48.2)
Conservative and allies: 37.5 (39.7)
Liberal: 14.4 (8.9)
Other parties and Independents: 3.2 (3.2).

I have taken the OTL figures for seats and votes from Kinnear cited above.

Compared with OTL the Liberals gained those constituencies in which they were within 10% of the winning candidate.

(1) See British Political Facts 1900-1967 , by David Butler and Jennie Freeman, London: Macmilan, 1968.

(2) "The areas are those defined in R.B. McCallum and A. Readman, The British General Election of 1945 ."
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The result of the general election was a moderately good one for the Liberal Party. Compared with 1945 they increased their number of MPs from 21 to 25, their first increase since 1929. Their percentage share of the total vote more than doubled from 6.5% to 14.4%, though that was partly because of the increase in Liberal candidates from 161 to 402. Their total vote increased from 1,422,116 to 3,614,911.

The most prominent Liberals - Sir Archibald Sinclair and William Beveridge - were re-elected in Caithness and Sutherland, and Berwick-on-Tweed respectively. Among the new members were Mark Bonham Carter in Barnstaple, and Jo Grimond, his brother-in-law, in Barnstaple, and Orkney and Shetland respectively; and John Foot who took Bodmin from the Tories. He was the brother of Michael Foot, the newly elected Labour member for Plymouth Devonport.

Compared with OTL, in addition to the Conservative ministers in the Caretaker government who were defeated, two more Conservative ministers lost their seats. They were Harry Crookshank, the Postmaster-General in Gainsborough, and Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Aircraft Production, in Bedfordshire Mid. However Walter Elliot, who was a minister in Conservative and Conservative dominated governments in the 1920s and 1930s, held on in Glasgow Kelvingrove. In OTL he lost to Labour.
A new pipisme timeline about the Liberals? Count me in 😀 I know next to nothing about the Liberal Party in the period from 1945 to the mid-70s so I’m looking forward to learning more about the people and policies.

I wonder how durable the electoral coalition which helped the party gain seats in TTL will be. Some Conservative voters who didn’t want to go all the way to Labour in 1945 may swing back to the conservatives in 1950.

Looking forward to reading more!
Sir Archibald Sinclair needed to appoint a new Liberal Chief Whip to replace Sir Percy Harris who had lost his Bethnal Green South West seat to Labour in the general election. He chose Wilfrid Roberts, MP for Cumberland North since 1945 and an Assistant Whip.

In the Bromley by-election on 14 November 1945 in which Harold Macmillan returned to the House of Commons, the Liberal vote increased 26.5% to 27.1%. The Liberal vote rose from 28.3% to 29.8% in the Bournemouth by-election on 15 November, and the Liberals kept second place.
The Liberals came second to Labour in the Bermondsey Rotherhithe by-election on 19 November 1946, and to the Conservatives in the Howdenshire [East Riding of Yorkshire] on 27 February 1947. In that election Harry Crookshank returned to the House of Commons. The Epsom by-election on 4 December 1947 saw the return of Alan Lennox-Boyd [Conservative] to Parliament.

Talks about re-union between the Liberal and Liberal National parties in 1946 did not get anywhere, though Henry Morris-Jones [Denbigh] crossed from Liberal to Liberal National. This compensated for the resignation of Tom Horabin [Cornwall North] from the Liberal Party in October 1946. He joined the Labour Party a year later. [1] Also Gwilym Lloyd-George [Pembrokeshire] lost the Liberal Whip in 1946 and by 1950 was no longer regarded as a Liberal. [2]

A general election was held on 23 February 1950. A major redistribution of seats meant that only 80 constituencies had unchanged boundaries. Though some were only minor, a large number were substantial. The 12 university seats were abolished, of which one was the Liberal held University of Wales. [3] There were 518 Liberal candidates standing in the general election. There were 475 in OTL.

[1] This was as in OTL as regards Horabin.

[2] As in OTL.

[3] All this was as in OTL.
There are some consequences from the improved Liberal performance in 1945.

First, Archibald Sinclair survives in Inverness and remains as leader and the party avoids having to go to Clement Davies who in OTL took on the leadership after Sinclair was narrowly defeated in the 1945 GE. Sinclair was in his mid-50s and could have easily led the party for another decade until Grimond or Bonham-Carter or perhaps Emlyn Hooson were ready to take over in the mid-50s.

Bonham Carter wins Barnstaple in 1945 - he's only 23 but then so was Charles Kennedy in OTL. The problem for Bonham Carter is Barnstaple was abolished under boundary changes before the 1950 election so he'd presumably have switched to North Devon (which in OTL would be contested by Thorpe in 1955 and won by him in 1959).

A few Liberal seats depended on local deals with the Conservatives - Donald Wade in Huddersfield West was one example. These might well have continued with Sinclair as Liberal leader given the friendship that existed between Sinclair and Churchill.

That begs the next question - what of 1950 and 1951? In OTL 1950, the Liberals lost three seats despite an almost unchanged vote as the Conservatives recovered from the 1965 debacle. The swing of roughly 3% was enough for Labour to see their majority slashed from 146 to 5. Given they are starting in this timeline from a lower level could we see Labour lose its majority entirely.

Could Sinclair and Churchill agree to more local "deals" to maximise the anti-Labour vote and is the logical outcome of this a minority Conservative Government supported by the Liberals? In the OTL 1950s, the Liberals were in many ways to the Right of the Conservatives and were the distinctive voice against the prevailing Butskellite ethos. Indeed, some of those who were in the Thatcherite vanguard in the 1950s cut their teeth in the Liberal Party of the 1950s (as indeed did broadcasters Robin Day and Ludovic Kennedy and both had ideas which now seem mainstream but for the time were in credibly advanced as to how political parties could use the media).

I started a thread on this a few years back though my POD was the death of Clement Davies in 1952 and an earlier Grimond revival but you might have other ideas:

The number of seats in the House of Commons won by each party in the general election was as follows (1945 general election):
Labour: 322 (385)
Conservative and allies: 284 (207)
Liberal: 17 (25)
Irish Nationalist: 2 (2)
(Commonwealth: 2, Communist: 1, ILP: 4, Independents: 14)
Total: 625 (640)
Because the Speaker was a Conservative the Labour Party had an overall majority of 20. This was regarded as enough for a five year term.

The percentage votes obtained by each party was as follows:
Labour : 42.6 (44.9)
Conservative and allies: 39.2 (37.5)
Liberal: 16.8 (14.4)
Others and Independents: 1.4 (3.2)
Total: 100 (100)
The number of votes for each party were as follows:
Labour: 12,284,614
Conservative and allies: 11,304,152
Liberal: 4,844,637
Others and independents: 403,721
Total: 28,837,124
I have assumed that in the 43 constituencies in which there were Liberal candidates in this TL but not OTL, the average increase in the total vote in each constituency was 2,000, which is 86,000 in total. The turnout was 83.9%.
Labour win a second term but the Liberals lose a third of their seats - who are the casualties?

A second Attlee term has been discussed on many other threads but what would it mean for the Liberals? Sinclair might be tempted to retire halfway through the Parliament leaving Grimond and perhaps Bonham-Carter (if he kept his seat) to fight for the succession. They might be facing a new Conservative leader as I think WSC would stand down after a second defeat in favour of Eden. That might mean the local deals would end but it would mark a clearer divide between Liberals and Conservatives.
The result of the election was disappointing for the Liberals. They lost eleven seats, but gained three, making a net loss of eight. Their losses were as follows:
Aberdeenshire West (formerly Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine) to Conservative
Bedfordshire Mid to Conservative
Buckrose (this constituency was abolished and replaced by Beverley and by Bridlington) to Conservative
Camborne (this constituency was abolished and replaced by Falmouth and Camborne) to Labour
Conway (formerly much of Caernarvon District of Boroughs) to Labour
Gainsborough to Conservative
Leominster to Conservative
Middlesbrough West to Labour
Pembrokeshire to Labour. Gwilym Lloyd-George stood as a Liberal and Conservative, and the Liberals did not put up a candidate
Penrith and the Border (a large part of this constituency was in Cumberland North) to Conservative
University of Wales - abolished with the other university seats.
The Liberal Chief Whip, Wilfrid Roberts in Penrith and the Border, was the most prominent of those who lost their seats.

The Liberal gains compared with the 1945 general election were Denbigh from Conservative, Western Isles from Labour, and the new constituency of Huddersfield West.

Among the Liberals elected in this TL, but not OTL, were the following:
William Beveridge - Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Mark Bonham-Carter- Devon North
Frank Byers - Dorset North
Dingle Foot - Cornwall North
John Foot - Bodmin
SIr Archibald Sinclair - Caithness and Sutherland.
Because the increase in the Liberal vote compared with OTL was more at the expense of the Conservatives than of Labour, eight very marginal Conservative constituencies in OTL went Labour in this TL. They were Bexley, Bromsgrove, Chislehurst, Glasgow Scotstoun, Peterborough, Shipley, Woolwich West. York. Among the Conservative candidates not elected was Edward Heath in Bexley.

Because the Colonial Secretary, Arthur Creech Jones, held his Shipley seat, Attlee did not replace him at the Colonial Office. So James Griffiths continued to be Minister of National Insurance, and Edith Summerskill, Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Food. Harry Crookshank, whose Howdenshire seat had been abolished, was elected Conservative MP for the new constituency of Beverley.

Sinclair appointed Clement Davies (Montgomeryshire) as Liberal Chief Whip in place of Wilfrid Roberts.
In the OTL 1950s, the Liberals were in many ways to the Right of the Conservatives and were the distinctive voice against the prevailing Butskellite ethos. Indeed, some of those who were in the Thatcherite vanguard in the 1950s cut their teeth in the Liberal Party of the 1950s

Could you please elaborate on this? I'm very keen to hear, as I may have use for just those very 1950s Liberals in my own timeline.
I wonder what impact a full second Labour term might have. Perhaps another five years will give them time to recover their reputation in terms of economic competence. Also more experience for the younger figures like Wilson etc.
Could you please elaborate on this? I'm very keen to hear, as I may have use for just those very 1950s Liberals in my own timeline.
I might have over-stated this a fraction but there was a strand of classical Gladstonian Liberalism which was prevalent in the post-war Liberal party and which would in time be part of the neo-liberal revival which would begin with the foundation of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank in 1955 which would in turn influence the Centre for Policy Studies and Margaret Thatcher and be part of the intellectual and philosophical foundations of Thatcherism.

One of the IEA's founders was Oliver Smedley along with Ralph Harris. Smedley was a free-trader and opposed to any form of protectionism and it led him to become strongly opposed to EEC membership for example. Smedley was a Liberal and stood twice against Rab Butler in Saffron Walden (1950 and 1951) and remained in the Party until 1962.

He was opposed to the economic doctrine of Keynes and the welfarism of Beveridge as was his friend, Alfred Suenson-Taylor, later Baron Grantchester who was treasurer of the London Liberal Party after the war and again remained a Liberal until the 1960s.

Alfred Suenson-Taylor was a backer of the Mont Pelerin Society, founded in 1947 and led initially by Friedrich Hayek, whose treatise "The Road to Serfdom" is considered the seminal work of neo-liberal economics.

Many of those who were supporters of Thatcherism and neoliberalism didn't see themselves as Conservatives but successors to 19th century classical Gladstonian liberalism - indeed Margaret Thatcher herself said on a number of occasions the Conservative Party she led was the successor not of the Conservative Party of the 19th Century but the free-trade Liberal party of Gladstone.
The ground floor of a @pipisme timeline? Yay! Usually I just see them when they’re two hundred pages in lol :)

UK pre-‘70s is not something I’ve studied too much and the board tends to go with a later POD than ‘45 for postwar UK timelines. So I’m very much in.
There was speculation in the press that Winston Churchill would resign as leader of the Conservative Party because Labour won a majority which would be enough for four or five years, though by-elections could whittle it away. However the Tories had a net gain of 77 seats compared with the 1945 general election. Churchill decided not to resign.

Liberals were indignant at the unfairness of the election result, in which they polled about a sixth of the vote but less than three percent of the MPs. The Liberal supporting newspapers the Manchester Guardian and the News Chronicle had editorials advocating a change to a proportional voting system. Churchill was believed to be sympathetic to voting reform, but the attitude of other Conservative MPs and Labour MPs ranged from lack of enthusiasm to outright hostility. A Liberal motion in the House of Commons in March 1950 which called for an inquiry in the voting system was overwhelming rejected.

At the Liberal Party Assembly in Scarborough from 29 to 30 September 1950, delegates strongly attacked the party standing aside in a number of constituencies in favourof Liberal and Conservative, and National Liberal candidates. Constituencies such as Pembrokeshire, which went Liberal in 1945, and Dumfriesshire, Galloway, Inverness, and Ross and Cromarty, which elected Liberals in the 1929 general election.

In by-elections in Leicester North-East, Oxford, Birmingham Handsworth, Bristol South-East, Bristol West, and Harrow West between September 1950 and April 1951, the Liberal percentage vote ranged from the mid teens to the low twenties, with an average increase of 2.9%. However the Liberals were still in third place in all these seats except for the safe Conservative seat of Bristol West where they took second place from Labour.
Attlee did not call a general election in October 1951. At the end of the debate in the House of Commons vote on the defence estimates, which proposed increased expenditure of £500 million, on 5 March 1952, 48 Labour MPs, led by Aneurin Bevan voted against.
The result of the Grantham by-election on 25 October 1951 caused by the death of Eric Smith (Conservative) on 13 August 1951, was as follows (1950 general election):
Joseph Godber (Conservative): 42.7% (41.3%)
Denis Kendall (Liberal) : 31.9% (n/a)
Labour candidate: 25.4% (31.1%
(Kendall - Independent: 27.6%)
Conservative majority: 10.8% (10.2%)
Kendall was Independent MP for Grantham from March 1942 to 1950. He gained the seat from the Tories in a by-election.

George Tomlinson, the Minister of Education and Labour MP for Farnworth died on 22 September 1952. Attlee made the following changes to his government:
Maurice Webb from Minister of Food (outside the cabinet) to Minister of Education in the cabinet. Edith Summerskill from Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Food to Minister of Food. Anthony Crosland was appointed to Summerskill's former job.

In the Cleveland by-election on 23 October 1952 caused by the death of George Willey (Labour) on 12 July 1952, the percentage votes for each party were as follows:
Denis Healey (Labour): 38.5 (47.9)
Conservative candidate: 36.4 (33.7)
Liberal candidate: 25.1 (18.4)
Labour majority: 2.1 (14.2)
There was a swing or 6.05% from Labour to Conservative. .

In the Farnworth by-election on 27 November 1952, the percentage votes were as follows:
Ernest Thornton (Labour); 43.8 (53.1)
Conservative candidate: 36,1 (27.6)
Liberal candidate: 20.1 (19.3)
Labour majority: 7.7 (25.5)
The swing from Labour to Conservative was 8.9%.

In his budget on 14 April 1953, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell, removed charges on spectacles and false teeth. He also increased personal allowance in respect of income tax, and raised the starting level of income tax.
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