Only months ago some serious commentators were suggesting that the LibDems were going to be annihilated at the next election. Today in his conference speech Paddy Ashdown referred to a Conservative who had noticed that the party had ‘refused to die’.
This comment about refusing to die was made by the Liberal Party leader, Clement Davies, when the party was at its lowest ebb with only 2.5% of the vote and six seats after the 1951 election. The party was also generally ignored by the press. Commentators then just talked of the two parties – Labour and Conservative – which between them attracted 96.8% of the votes and held all but 9 of the seats in the Commons.
The party refused to die in the 1950s, when it was a pale and anaemic shadow of its former self. By comparison today it is in rude health. Clement Davies would have dearly loved to be in Nick Clegg’s position with 57 MPs, a recent by-election victory and five cabinet ministers. He might even have welcomed the press attention!
Clement Davies is not widely remembered, but his comments of sixty years ago are still being echoed today.