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Oxford University Liberal Democrats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Oxford University Liberal Democrats
Oxford Uni Lib Dems Logo.png
Formation1913; 106 years ago (1913) (as OULC)
Honorary President
Lord Tyler, Exeter
Oliver Besley, Jesus
Senior Member
Steve Goddard
Parent organisation
Young Liberals
Formerly called
Oxford University Liberal Club
Oxford University Social Democrats

Oxford University Liberal Democrats is the student branch of the Liberal Democrats for students at the University of Oxford, with the purpose to support, develop, improve and promote the policies and candidates of the Liberal Democrats and liberal values within Oxford and the University.

It is affiliated with the federal Young Liberals, and is involved in activism and campaigning alongside YL. The former President of OULD, Finn Conway is also currently Chair of Young Liberals.

It is the official successor to both the Oxford University Liberal Club and the Oxford University Social Democrats, which voted to merge early in 1987, about a year in advance of the national parties.


The Oxford University Liberal Club was founded in 1913,[1] with the stated aim to "rally progressive members of the University to the support of Liberal principles".[2] Its foundation date makes it the oldest political society founded at an English university.[3] It was formed from a merger of two older Liberal societies at Oxford, the Russell Club, and the Palmerston Club, both of which dated to at least the 1870s, and had as their goals the promotion of liberal politics. Around in the early 1900s was also a society called the 'Liberal League', founded "in defence of free trade".[4]

Originally holding premises on the corner of Cornmarket Street and George Street, open for the majority of the day, the society was modelled after the usual gentlemen's clubs of the day, before the arrival of World War One and the general reduction in the student body of Oxford. The society faced further problems in the 1920s, as around half of its members defected and joined the newly established Labour Club, as well as the New Reform Club, a pro-Lloyd George group, reflecting the division of the national Liberal Party at the time.[4]

Revitalisation occurred with the coming to the fore of Harold Wilson, Treasurer in Hilary 1935, along with Frank Byers as President and Raymond Walton as Secretary. Efforts made to provide a stronger draw to the society - including the institution of a society newspaper and library - had membership treble to over 300.[4] Membership continued to grow during and after the war, with its peak hit under the Presidency of Jeremy Thorpe in 1950, of over 1000 members. By this point, the Liberal Club had become more of a social club, including drinking events, balls and parties, some of which are continued by the society in its modern form.[5]

Turbulence for the national party meant turbulence for the society itself, however, and the party's catastrophic collapse in the 1960s, combined with mergers throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, led to a smaller membership and a series of renamings and mergers for the society at large. After merging the Oxford University Liberal Club and the Oxford University Social Democrats in 1987, however, the society in its present structure was formed, with a smaller membership focussed more heavily on campaigning, but maintaining the social functions from its post-war heyday.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in numbers - after the 2015 general election, attendance at the society's weekly meetings more than trebled from an average of around 15 to an average of around 50, with further increases after the 2017 general election to over 100.[6][7] In Michaelmas 2016, following the Labour Party leadership crisis, it was announced that for the first time in decades, OULD had surpassed the Labour Club in size of signups, event attendance, and overall subscription.[8]

Organisation and constitution

The society is run by a committee as established under the society's Constitution, with elections taking place at the end of each term. The constitution may be changed by a majority at the Termly General Meeting or an Extraordinary General Meeting, called by Senior Officers or seven members of the society, with any member being able to submit amendments. At the Termly General Meeting the President and Treasurer must both submit reports on the state of the society and its accounts.

The committee is elected each term and is made up of a President, President-elect, Treasurer, Secretary as well as a number of Junior Officers and General Committee members who oversee social events, campaigning, and the main society meeting each week, 'Spirited Discussions'. The President-elect is elected a term in advance of their term as President, the Treasurer is elected for two terms, and all other Officers and General Committee members are elected at the end of a term to serve in the next term. There are also a number of appointed committee roles, such as the LGBT+ Officer, the Women's Officer, the Social Backgrounds Officer, the Ethnic Minorities Officer, the IT Officer, the Charities Officer, the Editor and the Returning and Deputy Returning Officers.

The society has a Honorary President, currently former Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and MP for North Cornwall Lord Tyler, who regularly speaks at the society and hosts an annual tour of the Palace of Westminster. There is also a Senior Member, as constitutionally required by the Proctors, who is usually a member of academic staff who oversees the Society, signs off on the accounts and has a role within the internal disputes and disciplinary procedures.

For a full list of Former Presidents, see Former Presidents of Oxford University Liberal Club and Oxford University Liberal Democrats.



Its members are active in local campaigns, especially in parliamentary elections. Towards the late 20th century, Oxford West and Abingdon was a Conservative – Liberal Democrat marginal. It returned Dr Evan Harris from 1997 until 2010, when he was defeated by Nicola Blackwood, a Conservative candidate. However, in the 2017 election the constituency was won by Layla Moran, thereby swinging it back to the Liberal Democrats. In neighboring Oxford East, traditionally a safe Labour seat, there was an 11.2% swing towards the Lib Dems in 2005 general election. The margin of victory for Andrew Smith in 2005 was 963 votes - a 90% decrease from 2001. However, at the 2010 general election, Andrew Smith achieved a 4.1% swing in his favour, holding the seat for Labour by a margin of 4,581 votes, and in 2015, the Liberal Democrats collapsed into fourth place, behind Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens.

Liberal Democrats and Young Liberals

While formal affiliation does not exist, the society is associated with the Liberal Democrats and its youth wing the Young Liberals, and both past and present members of the society have been elected into roles within the federal Young Liberals.


Spirited discussions

The main event of the society is 'Spirited Discussions', which is a weekly debate and involves the discussion of two pre-announced motions of political and philosophical importance alongside drinking spirits.

Speaker events

The society organises regular speaker events with current and former liberal politicians, recent visitors have included Lord Tyler, Tom Brake MP, Paddy Ashdown, Konstantin Kuhle, Martin Horwood and Tessa Munt.


The society usually hosts several dinner events, the most regular being a Termly Dinner at the end of each term, which is sometimes a formal dinner with guest speaker and sometimes an informal dinner with just society members. The society also hosts an annual Alumni Dinner, where former members of the University are invited and acts as a major fundraising event for the society.

Social events

The society organises regular non-drinking events such as "Cold Takes", which involves casual discussions while eating icecream from G&D's, and "Punting Liberally" which involves Punting.


The society has a thriving alumni & friends association called the Ashdown Club (link) that hosts frequent events including an annual dinner. The association connects old members and new friends of the society including many of those listed below.

Some former members of the society and its predecessors have gone on to have notable careers, including:

See also


  1. ^ Bloch, M., 'Jeremy Thorpe', London, 2014
  2. ^ Bentley, M., 'The Liberal Mind 1914-29', 174, Cambridge, 2007
  3. ^ "Kissing Your Sister: A History of the Oxford University Liberal Club and its Successors (1913–1993)". 28 October 2009. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b c "History of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats".
  5. ^ "Oxford University Liberal Democrats - Events".
  6. ^ "Oxford University Liberal Democrats".
  7. ^ "Oxford Uni Lib Dems (@OxUniLibDems) - Twitter".
  8. ^ Oxford Uni Lib Dems [@OxUniLibDems] (5 October 2016). "Over 90 new signups to OULD on Day 1 of Freshers' Fair (more than Labour), and 8 new full @LibDems party members. A great day!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links

This page was last edited on 23 September 2019, at 07:33
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