INTRODUCTION

PEOPLE on the whole are very civil and obliging to Liberals nowadays --at least in public. How times have changed! When this writer was a small boy in the days of the last Liberal Government, quite nice, rosy Conservatives threatened to hang Ministers on lamp-posts, and there were Shelleyan Socialists who promised that at the coming revolution their first tumbril would be reserved, not for Tories, but for Liberals. In those days, Lloyd George used to tell a story of a man who saved a stranger from drowning at risk to his own life. Presented with a medal by the Mayor, the hero said diffidently, "I did only what any other Englishman would have done in my place. I first turned him over to make sure he wasn't Lloyd George, then I dragged him out of the water."

To-day, when there are only ten Liberal members of the House of Commons, almost every Conservative, and many Socialists, will display on very slight provocation what Mr. Herbert Morrison calls "his Liberal streak." There are two historic strands in Liberalism--the care for liberty, and the drive towards social justice. To combine the two, to achieve the one without sacrificing the other, is the object of a Liberal society. The Conservative suitor to-day approaches the Liberal as an ally in the struggle for Freedom. Labour woos him on his reformist side, saying, "We are the inheritors of the last Liberal Government. We are completing your grand design of Radical Reform. You cannot escape the law of political Evolution. A Liberal of 1910 must either be a Socialist in 1948 or become extinct." At this point, one hears the mellow voice of Lord Woolton calling, "Ah, my dear fellow, Codlin's the friend, not Short." Lord Woolton is at pains to present the Conservative Party of to-day as dedicated to preserving the Liberal heritage of Freedom. At Birmingham, in March 1947, for example, he said, "There is a great liberal sentiment in this country. There is now no major issue between Liberalism and Conservatism. They are both expressions of the same political philosophy, and those old battles that used to enliven political life in the days gone by, between Liberals and Tories, are now just ancient and meaningless feuds." After that, Codlin seems about to go off arm-in-arm with Little Nell, but is arrested by the Lord President of the Council genially declaring, "Short's your man. You know old Short. He won't let you down."

This solicitude is very pleasant, but the simple truth about the impenitent Liberal is that he has no desire to become absorbed by either Conservatism or Socialism. It may be sheer contrariness on his part, but

-7-

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The Liberal Party
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • List of Illustrations 5
  • Introduction 7
  • The Beginnings 11
  • The Golden Age 24
  • Modern Liberalism 31
  • The Party and the Present 42
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