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

The members of the cabinet on 30 June 2003 were as follows:
Prime Minister: Alan Johnson
Lord Chancellor: Lord Irvine of Lairg
Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords: Lord Williams of Mostyn
Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons: Jack Straw
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Vince Cable
Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary: Robin Cook
Home Secretary: David Blunkett
Culture, Media and Sport Secretary: Tessa Jowell
Defence Secretary: Alistair Darling
Education and Science Secretary: Dawn Primarolo
Energy Secretary: Ed Miliband
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary: Hilary Armstrong
Health and Comnunity Care Secretary: Clare Short
Housing and Local Government Secretary: Alun Michael
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: David Miliband
Northern Ireland Secretary: Charles Kennedy
Overseas Development Secretary: Ann Clwyd
Scotland Secretary: Brian Wilson
Ttade and Industry Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Transport Secretary: Margaret Beckett
Chiet Secretary to the Treasury: Ed Balls
Wales Secretary: Kim Howell
Women and Equalities Secretary: Maria Fyfe
Work and Pensions Secretary: Harriet Harman.
There were 15 men and 9 women in the cabinet.

Selected junior ministers:
Attorney-General: Sir Paul Boateng
Solicitor-General: Sir Mike O' Brien
Paymaster-General: Valerie Amos, Baroness Amos
Financial Secretary to the Treasury: Chris Mullin
Economic Secretary to the Treasury; Chris Huhne
Minister of State Foreign Office: Douglas Alexander
Minister of State Department of Energy: John McDonnell
Minister of State Department ot Health and Community Care: Andy Burnham.
 
The general election for the Northern Ireland Assembly was held on Thursday 14 May 2001. Voting was by the Single Transferable Vote for 108 seats, six for each of the 18 Westminster constituencies. The number of seats won by each party were as follows (February 1997 election):
SDLP: 27 (26)
UUP: 25 (26)
DUP: 24 (17)
Sinn Fein: 20 (16)
Alliance: 8 (6)
Northern Ireland Women's Coalition: 1 (2)
Progressive Unionist: 1 (2)
UK Unionist: 1 (4)
Independent: 1 (n/a)
(Independent Unionist: 3 )
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Total: 108 (102)
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John Hume (SDLP) became First Minister and David Trimble (UUP) Deputy First Minister,

Lord Williams of Mostyn, the Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Lords, died on 20 September 2003. Alan Johnson appointed Baroness Amos, the Paymaster-General in his place, and Lord Macdonald of Tradeston (Gus Macdomald) Paymaster-General.
 
Good to see the SDLP still out in front of Sinn Fein. I wonder what having a republican as First Minister will mean?
 
Good to see the SDLP still out in front of Sinn Fein. I wonder what having a republican as First Minister will mean?
I think there will be little difference from having a Unionist as First Minister. In the Assembly there were 51 unionists and 47 republicans, with Alliance, the Women's Coalition, and Independent on neither the unionist or republican side.
 
On 6 September 2004, the Prime Minister, Alan Johnson, announced at a media conference outside 10 Downing, that there would be a general election, with polling day on Thursday 7 October. The number of constituencies was reduced from 659 to 646, because the number in Scotland was down from 72 to 59. This
would mostly affected Labour, because they had a majority of Scottish seats. Shirley Williams announced her resignation as Labour MP for Stevenage. She was created a life peer in the Dissolution Honours, with the title Baroness Williams of Stevenage. Opinion polls showed an average Conservative lead over Labour of 9.8%.

As Big Ben struck ten on the night of 7 October, at the start of the election results programme on BBC 1, David Dimbleby announced the result of the exit poll. This was a poll of over 20,000 people in 120 constituencies. This forecast Conservative 294 seats, Labour 276 seats, and Liberal 46 seats. He and his fellow presenters stressed that this was an exit poll and not the actual result of the general election.
 
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The first result declared was Sunderland South, where the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Mullin, was re-elected. The first Conservative gain from Labour was Watford. The first Liberal seat declared was Edinburgh West. As the results came during the night and the following day, there was a steady stream of Conservative gains from Labour. John McDonnell, Minister of State, Department of
Energy, lost Hampstead and Highgate to Conservative, and George Galloway was
defeated in Leeds North West by the Liberal candidate. When all the results had been declared the number of seats for each party in the House of Commons was as follows (after 1999 general election):
Conservative: 289 (234)
Labour: 279 (346)
Liberal : 48 (49)
DUP: 9 (5)
SNP: 5 (4)
Sinn Fein: 5 (4)
Plaid Cymru: 4 (5)
SDLP: 3 (3)
UUP: 1 (6)
Health Concern: 1 (1)
Independent: 1 (1)
Speaker: 1 (1)
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Total: 646 (659)
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Comparee with the October 1999 general election, Labour gained Crosby, and Morecambe and Lunesdale from Conservative. The Liberals gained Lewes from Conservative, and Aberdeen South, Edinburgh South, Falmouth and Camborne, Leeds North West, and Rochdale from Labour, and Ceredigion from Plaid Cymru. But lost Carshalton and Wallington, Hereford, Newbury, Somerton and Frome, South West Surrey, Taunton, and Torbay to Conservative. SNP gained Dundee East, and Na-h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) from Labour, but lost Angus to Conservative.
 
The percentage votes for each party were as follows (1999 general election):
Conservative: 36.9 (34.1)
Labour: 31.5 (34.1)
Liberal: 22.6 (23.5)
SNP: 1.7 (1.6)
Plaid Cymru: 0.7 (0.7)
Others: 6.6 (5.8).
The national swing from Labour to Conservative to Labour was 2.8%. The turnout was 78.5% (80.4%)

There was much comment on the unfairness of the electoral system which produced a Conservative lead over Labour of 5.4% in votes, but only ten in seats. Also that the Liberals were greatly under represented, but they had been since 1924.
 
With neither the Conservative nor Labour Party having an overall majority in the House of Commons, the Liberal Party was key to which party would form the next government. Conservatives and Liberals combined had 337 seate, while Labour and Liberals tpgether had 327 seats, enough for an overall Commons majority.

Shadow Conservative cabinet ministers went on television and radio, and argued strongly that because the Conaervative Party was the largest in seats and votes it should form the next government. During the election campaign the Liberal leader, David Pehhaligon, said that in the event of a hung parliament, the party which came first in seats and votes should have the first choice to form a government. That was now the Conservative Party.

In the afternoon of Friday 8 October, David Penhaligon, speaking outside Liberal Party headquarters in London, announced that he would enter into negotiations with the Conservatives first. That evening the negotiating teams of the two parties met for the first time. The four members of the Liberal team were Alan Beith, David Laws, Michael Moore and Jenny Willott. Laws was the Liberal Treasury spokesperson. He was the main editor of the controversial The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism , which proposed economic liberal proposals

The Liberal and Labour negotiating teams met on Saturday morning 9 October. The Liberal team comprised John Barrett, Andrew George, Nick Harvey, and Steve Webb. On Saturday afternoon, the Tories offered the Liberals legislation in the first sessuon of the new parliament, to replace First Past the Post for elections to the House of Commons with the Additional Member System, as used in elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. This was the best offer the Liberals could expect on changing to a proportional electoral system, and was eagerly accepted by them.
 
During the negotiations between the Labour and Liberal teams, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Robin Cook, offered legislation for a multi choice referendum on the electoral system. However the Liberals preferred the Tory offer of a bill to replace FPTP by the Additional Member System.

On Monday morning 11 October 2004, the Liberals agreed to give support to a Conservative government. But whether this support would be in the form of a coalition or a confidence and supply agreement, had still to be decided.
 
For both parties there were advantages and disadvantages in each option. For the Tories coalition with the Liberals would mean fewer Conservative ministers, but the Liberals would be part of the government and could not oppose government policy. But confidence and supply meant that the Liberals could vote against government bills. John Major, the Conservative leader, decided to offer coalition to the Liberals

For the Liberals, coalition with the Tories would mean Liberal ministers in and outside the cabinet. They would have a share in government decision making. But they would .lose their freedom to vote against government bills, which they would have with confidence and supply. Also in the October 1982 general election, with the Liberals having been in coalition with the Conservatives since April 1978, the number of Liberal MPs fell from 16 to 10, and they were afraid that going into coalition with the Tories would again be electorally harmful.

Liberal MPs met in the House of Commons at 3 pm in the afternoon of 11 October. After what have been described as 'heated discussions', they voted by 31 votes to enter into coalition, to 17 votes for confidence and supply. Shortly after 5pm, Alan Johnson resigned as Prime Minister. About an hour later, John Major accepted the Queen's offer to form a government.
 
Here is the cabinet appointed on 11 and 12 October 2004. All ministers were Conservative unless Liberal (Lib):
Prime Minister: John Major
Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council : David Penhaligon (Lib)
Lord Chancellor: Lord Kingsland
Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons: Francis Maude
Chamcellor of the Exchequer: Kenneth Clarke
Foreign Secretary : Malcolm Rifkind
Home Secretary: Michael Howard
Business and Enterprise Secretary: David Laws (Lib)
Culture, Media and Sport Secretary: John Whittingdale
Defence Secretary: Michael Portillo
Education and Skills Secretary: David Willetts
Energy Secretary: Ed Davey (Lib)
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary: John Wakeham
Health and Community Care Secretary: Stephen Dorrell
Housing and Local Government Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities: Jenny Willott (Lib)
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Lords: Baron Strathclyde
Northern Ireland Secretary: Michael Ancram
Overseas Development Secretary: Menzies Campbell (Lib)
Scotland Secretary: Malcolm Bruce (Lib)
Transport Secretary: Chris Grayling
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Oliver Letwin
Wales Secretary: William Hague
Work and Pensions Secretary: Peter Lilley.
There were seventeen Conservative and six Liberal ministers in the cabinet. The Department of Business and Enterprise replaced the Department of Trade and Industry.
 
Among the junior ministers in the coalition government were the following (Conservative unless marked as Lib):
Attorney-General: Dominic Grieve
Solicitor-General: Oliver Heald
Financial Secretary to the Treasury: Stephen Williams (Lib)
Economic Secretary to the Treasury: John Maples
Paymaster-General and Minister for the Cabinet Office: David Liddington
Deputy Leader of the House of Commons: Andrew Stunnell (Lib)
Minister of State Foreign Office: Andrew Mitchell
Minister of State Home Office: Annette Brooke.
Among the Liberal ministers outside the cabinet were the following:
Minister of Defence Department of Defence: Michael Moore
Minister of State Department of Education and Skills: Paul Holmes
Minister of State Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Andrew George.
 
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More Liberal junior ministers:
Minister of State Department of Work and Pensions: Steve Webb
Joint Government Chief Whip: Don Foster.
There were 19 Liberals junior ministers, including Whips, in the government.

There were 337 Conservative and Liberal MPs, and 303 MPs of other parties, excluding Sinn Fein who do not take their seats in the House of Commons. So there was a government majority of 34. A significant minority of Conservative and Liberal were against the formation of the coalition. Prominent Eurosceptics such as Ian Duncan Smith and John Redwood were not in the government. At the special conference of the Liberal Party on Sunday 17 October 2004, 179 of the over 1,500 delegates voted against the coalition.
 
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The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2005 provided that future general elections would be held on the first Thursday in October, five years after the previous general election. Therefore the next general election would take place on 1 October 2009. However a general election would take place before the end of the five year term, under the following conditions:
1) The government is defeated on a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, unless a new government is formed within fourteen days of the vote which has the confidence of the Commons.

2) Two-thirds of the total membership of the Commons, including vacant seats, votes for a dissolution. There were then 646 MPs, so two-thirds would be 431. It was much like the 2011 Fixed Term Parliament Act in OTL. (1)

The Additional Member System (Elections to the House of Commons) Bill was published on 18 January 2005. Under its provisions the number of MPs would be increased to 650, of which 450 MPs would be elected in single member constituencies, and 200 MPs by proportional representation by party lists in 25 regional constituencies with eight members for each constituency. There would be 18 regional constituencies in England, four in Scotland, two in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

(1) See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_term_Parliaments_Act_2011.
 
I have decided to increase the proposed number of regional constituencies in the Additional Member System etc Bill from 25 to 40, with five members for each constituency. There would be 18 regional comstituencies in England, four in Scotland, two in Wales, and Northern Ireland would be one constituency.

There was opposition to the bill across the political spectrum. Even the Liberals had little enthusiasm for it. Although the Conservative Party officially supported it, many backbenchers and party activists opposed it or had reservations about it.

The number of single member constituencies would fall from 646 to 450, that is a reduction of just over 30%.. In England it would be from 533 to 371, in Scotland from 59 to 41, in Wales from 36 to 25, and in Northern Ireland from 18 to 13.

In Northern Ireland the bill was opposed by all the political parties, except the Alliance Party. Although the number of MPs from the province would stay the same at 18, the loss of five single member constituencies would mean that the parties would lose out, although there would be a new five member regional constituency.
Belfast West held by Sinn Fein would be abolished, or considerably enlarged, and Foyle held by the SDLP would be abolished. It was projected that the regional constituency would elect two DUP, two Sinn Fein and one SDLP.

In Cornwall, one of the new constituencies would cross the county border into Devon, to which there was much opposition, The new single member constituencies would be larger in area than the existing constituencies. Though that would make little difference in cities, it would make a significant difference in rural areas.

The second reading debate in the House of Commons took place on Tuesday 8 February 2005. In his speech winding up the debate, the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, said that if the House gave the bill a second reading the government would table an amendment in Committee to increase the number of single member constituencies and reduce the number of regional constituencies. In the vote at the end of the debate, the bill was given a second reading by 235 votes to 216 votes, a majority of 19. The bill then went to be considered clause by clause by a Committee of the Whole House.
 
During the Comnittee stage of the Additional Member System etc Bill, the government tabled the following amendment:
The number of MPs elected in single member constituencies would be 520, and by proportional representation party lists in regional constituencies would be 130. There would be 26 regional constituencies each electing five members. England would have twenty rwgional constituencies, Scotland three, Wales two, and Northern Ireland would be one regional constituency.

Each regional constituency would comprise an average of 25 single member constituencies. Based on 25 constituencies, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would have more than their entitlement, and England less. The number of single member cpnstituencies woyld be reduced from 646 to 520, England from 533 to 436, Northern Ireland from 18 to 14, Scotland from 59 to 44, and Wales from 36 to 26. The total number of MPs would be increased ftom 646 to 650, in England from 533 to 536 and in Northern Ireland from 18 to 19. Scotland and Wales would be unchanged at 59 and 36 respectively.

The new single member constituencies would be larger in area than the existing constituemcies, and their electorates would be about a fifth bigger. But still smaller in area and population than originally in the bill.
The Home Secretary , Michael Howard, said that all those in Cornwall would be contained fully im that county.

The House of Commons passed the amendment by a majority of 45 votes. The bill passed through all its stages in the Commons and the Lords, and received the Royal Assent in June 2005.
 
A general election for the Welsh assembly was held on 3 May 2001. The number of seats won by each party were as follows:
Labour: 25
Plaid Cymru: 18
Conservative: 11
Liberal: 6
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Total: 40
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Labour and Liberal agreed to enter into coalition. Rhodri Morgan (Labour) became First Minister, and Michael German (Liberal) Deputy First Minister.
 
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The number of seats won by each party in the general election for the Welsh Assembly on 5 May 2005, were as follows :
Labour: 31
Plaid Cymru: 13
Conservative: 10
Liberal: 6
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Total: 40
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Rhodri Morgan continued in office as First Minister, but now at the head of a Labour only government.

A general election for the Scottish Parliament was held on 4 May 2006. The number of seats won by each party were as follows (May 2002 general election):
Labour: 52 (29)
SNP: 42 (49)
Conservative: 16 (20)
Liberal: 14 (15)
Green: 2 (6)
Scottish Socialist: 2 (7)
Independent: 1 (2)
(Scottish Senior Citizen: 2)
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Total: 129 (129)
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Cathy Jamieson became First Minister at the head of a Labour/ Liberal coalition government, with Nicol Stephen (Liberal) as Deputy First Minister. She was the first woman to be First Minister or Prime Minister in the UK.
 
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