By 1914 the Liberal government had passed substantial welfare legislation but, unwilling to adopt a full socialist program, the Liberals began to lose support to the new Labour party. The party's stubborn adherence to the doctrine of free trade, arguments between the Lloyd George and Asquith factions of the party, long years of depression, the Irish problem, growing labor radicalism, and the rise of a working-class party all account for the rapid postwar decline of the Liberals.
During the 1920s they were still a strong element in Parliament, and several, notably Sir John Simon, were members of the National government of the 1930s. During the 30s, however, their parliamentary representation fell rapidly, and in no election between the end of World War II and the 1980s did they return more than a handful of candidates. In 1981 the Liberal party entered into an alliance with the newly formed Social Democratic party; together they won 22 seats in the House of Commons in 1987. In 1988 the parties merged to become the Social and Liberal Democratic party (now the Liberal Democrats).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.