Liberal Party (UK)

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The Liberal Party was one of the two major British political parties from the mid 19th century until the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s, and a third party of varying strength and importance up to 1988, when it merged with the Social Democratic Party (the SDP) to form a new party which would become known as the Liberal Democrats.

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Ideology

During the 19th century the Liberal Party was broadly in favour of what would today be called classical liberalism: supporting laissez-faire economic policies such as free trade and minimal government interference in the economy (this doctrine was usually termed 'Gladstonian Liberalism' after the Victorian Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone). The Liberal Party favoured social reform, personal liberty, reducing the powers of the Crown and the Church of England (many of them were Nonconformists) and an extension of the franchise (right to vote). Sir William Harcourt, a prominent Liberal politician in the Victorian era, said this about liberalism in 1872:

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