The Liberal Democratic Party of the United Islands was formed in January/February 2004 as a merger between the two governing coalition parties, the Liberal Party of the United Islands and the Democratic Party of Georgeland. The party currently holds 137 seats in the Georgeland House of Commons and 40 members of the Georgeland Senate. The party is currently the Opposition party in Georgeland's federal parliament, though it previously governed Georgeland from the party's foundation until July 2007. It is the governing party in the states of Capitalia and Long Island. It forms the Official Opposition in all five remaining states - Bradmarch, Delmago Island, East Mainland, Scoita and West Mainland
The seeds for the LDP's creation were sewn in 1987, when the Democrats joined to form a government with the Labor Party. However, at that time both parties had distinctly different politics, with Labour being a political arm of the trade unions and the Democrats embracing "New Politics" and social democracy. As the coalition continued into the 1990s, the bonds between the parties grew stronger and the line became increasingly blurred.
In 1999, following the Labour split, the coalition disintegrated and the Democrats formed a new coalition with the Liberals, the new party created by deposed Prime Minister Campbell Rhodes. This coalition won the election, and Rhodes again became Prime Minister, with Democrats leader Andrea Perkins again Deputy Prime Minister, also taking on the portfolio of Foreign Minister.
Around 2001, talk of a merger became more prevalent. Perkins was known to oppose a merger between the two parties but many of her colleagues supported it. In December 2002 Perkins resigned to become Ambassador to Astoria, although she later returned to politics. New leader Warren Barker supported the merger and it became a serious commitment. After a series of talks, a vote taken by the rank-and-file members of both parties in late 2003 gave assent to the merger. At the joint party room meeting in February 2004 Rhodes was elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Barker was elected Deputy Leader. The merger was also conducted by the state parties.
The party has become infamous for bitter infighting, due in part to the number of different factions represented. The LDP contains former members of four different parties, all of which form distinct sub-party groupings. In 2005, dumped former minister and Georgeland Party leader Christine Hinkle, one of the key figures in the LDP and a Liberal party founder, launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Rhodes and declared she would sit as a crossbencher, although she retained her party membership and declared she would return to the government if and when the Prime Minister resigns. The media and the Opposition have painted the LDP as a 'loose confederation of warring tribes' and Conservatives have made significant capital out of describing the LDP government as a disunited, 'delapidated' party. This infighting placed pressure on Rhodes' leadership, with many anticipating his resignation is imminent before 2006. In July 2005, Rhodes announced he would step down, though he denied his leadership was under pressure. He was succeeded by Zoë Parker, who was elected by all members of the LDP nation-wide.
Parker was defeated at the election and resigned as LDP leader, but not as Prime Minister. Michael Boyle assumed temporary leadership of the party. Robin Sales was chosen to lead the party, though he was not a member of the House of Commons. No rank-and-file vote was taken, as Sales was one of only two candidates, the other being Andrea Perkins. Sales assumed Parker's vacant Commons seat a month later to become Leader of the Opposition.
Increasing dissatisfaction with Sales' leadership led to a mid-term leadership spill in October 2009, at which Sales was unable to muster enough support to continue as leader. Lawrence Porter was subsequently chosen as the new party leader.
The party has a federal executive, consisting of a President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer, all of whom are elected by party members and take office at the beginning of each annual party conference. The Presidents of each of the state branches are also members of the federal executive, as are five appointed by the executive and five directly elected. The party's Leader and Deputy Leader in both Houses of Parliament are also on the federal executive. The party's President serves as its senior official and the Secretary it's organisational chief. The present LDP National President is Elizabeth Patterson; the two Vice Presidents are Janice Read (Senior) and Adam Fifield (Junior). The federal Secretary is Martin Wilkins.
The party's federal leader is seen as the party's overall head, despite the presence of a party President and executive. Until 2005, the federal leader was elected by the party room; that is, all the party's federal MPs and Senators, as was the deputy leader. The party also has a leader and deputy in the Senate; these are appointed by the party leader.
A rules change adopted at the party's 2005 conference altered this system. From then, the party leader will be chosen by the party's rank-and-file, from two candidates chosen by the party room. The party's deputy leader will merely be appointed by the leader.
The party's federal leader is currently Robin Sales, who is Leader of the Opposition. The party's deputy leader has been Lawrence Porter since July 2007. The party's leader in the Senate is Janet Hunt, and the deputy Senate leader is Mark Duffy.
The LDP has a youth wing, the Young Liberal Democrats, who have an organisation mirroring that of the federal party. All members of the party under the age of 30 are entitled to join this youth wing, though membership is separate. The current National President of the Young Liberal Democrats is Joel Macnamara.
The LDP is broadly a Liberal and Social Democratic party. However, party policy tends to be heavily debated and influenced by the large number of factions. On economic policy, the LDP tends to favour state regulation, but this is shifting to a more right-wing laissez-faire viewpoint. The LDP has been at the forefront of ground-breaking social legislation, including legalising same-sex marriage, working to overhaul drug laws and legalising euthanasia. Not all LDP members agree with this radical social agenda, and the party has recently dropped several of its social policies and reformed them in a more centrist mould. The party has also become increasingly liberal in economic terms. The party is a member of Liberal International.
Unlike it's forebear the Labour party, there are no formal or institutionalised factions within the Liberal Democrats. However, since the party's creation, a number of distinct groups have formed, based largely, but not entirely, on matters of ideology. These groups include:
- Socialist Liberal Democrats or the Broad Left. This group consists mostly of former members of the Labour Left who defected from Labour in 1999 or later. The Broad Left support traditional democratic socialist principles including free education, environmentalism and a leftist economic outlook. Though it is no longer formalised, the Broad Left retains strong links with the Trade Union movement. Party leader Lawrence Porter and front bencher Clare Price are regarded as factional leaders in the Broad Left. Other Notable Socialist Liberal Democrats include Felicity Porthrop, former Scoitan leader Lisa Foster and factional heavy Francisco Dini.
- Ex-Democrats are the former members of the Democratic Party of Georgeland. Many if not all of them supported Andrea Perkins in the 2005 and 2007 leadership elections. The ex-Democrats are typically leftist in outlook but with a more compromising approach to policy than the other factions. Notable ex-Democrats include deputy leader Robbie Jones, who informally leads the grouping, Michael Gannett and Michael Boyle.
- Centrist Liberal Democrats are, for the most part, former members of the Georgeland Party absorbed into the United Islands Liberal Party and subsequently into the LDP. The Centrists are the furthest to the right of the LDP's factional groupings, and support traditional economic liberalism and social conservatism to a greater extent than the other factions. The Centrist LDP are led by Xavier McLaren, though McLaren is said to be exercising less influence since going into Opposition. Shadow Treasurer Adam St. John is an influential member of this faction, as was Christine Hinkle before her defection to the Georgeland Alliance.
- Moderate Liberal Democrats comprise the majority of the former Labour Right and Liberal Party, and are the largest of the factions. Moderate Liberal Democrats are the largest faction and thus have the most input into policy. Moderate Liberal Democrats are more centrist than the Broad Left but still have a broadly social democratic policy base. Former leader Robin Sales is a recognised leader of this faction, sometimes still referred to as the 'Right'. Former Defence minister Keith Briggs and former Mayor of Santa Christina) Geraldine McLean are also members, along with Deborah Rhodes and Senate leader Janet Hunt.
- Campbell Rhodes 2004-2005
- Zoe Parker 2005-2007
- Michael Boyle 2007 (interim only)
- Robin Sales 2007-2009
- Lawrence Porter 2009-
Federal Deputy Leaders
- Warren Barker 2004
- Zoe Parker 2004-2005
- Tom McCully 2005-2007
- Michael Boyle 2007
- Lawrence Porter 2007-2009
- Robbie Jones 2009-
- Bradmarch: Shannon DeVere (Leader of the Opposition)
- Capitalia: Ian Brandenberg (Leader of the Opposition)
- Delmago Island: Andrew McKay
- East Mainland: Sebastian Dorido (Chief Minister of East Mainland )
- Long Island: Victoria Englehart (Chief Minister of Long Island)
- Scoita: Neil Connors (Chief Minister of Scoita )
- West Mainland: Tim Parker (Leader of the Opposition)
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