If, as is inevitably the case, a political party’s success is measured primarily by its performance in General Elections, then the first decade of the twenty-first century was a period of only modest progress for the Liberal Democrats. In the election of 2001, the party secured 52 seats from 18.3 per cent of the popular vote, while, in 2010, the corresponding figures were 57 seats and 23 per cent of the vote. Yet such statistics conceal a fundamental transformation in the party’s position, taking it from informal and essentially powerless co-operation with a centre-left Labour Party to full partnership in a coalition government led by a centre-right Conservative Party. It was a development that few could have envisaged as the new century opened.
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