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Young Liberals (United Kingdom)

Young Liberals is the youth and student group of the Liberal Democrats, a political party in the United Kingdom. Members of the Liberal Democrats under the age of 26 are automatically members of the Young Liberals, whilst those aged 26–30 can opt to join in addition to their party membership.

Young Liberals
Chairperson Thomas Gravatt (Acting)
Vice-Chairperson Elizabeth Barnard & Jack Worrall
Founded 1993 (as LDYS)
Headquarters 8–10 Great George Street,
London SW1P 3AE
Ideology Liberalism (British)
Social liberalism[1]
Social justice[2]
Economic liberalism
Mother party Liberal Democrats
International affiliation International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth (IFLRY)
European affiliation European Liberal Youth (LYMEC)

Social liberalism, social justice, internationalism and pro-Europeanism are important components of the group's political philosophy. It is financially supported by the party and has offices at the Liberal Democrats' London headquarters.

The constitution of the Liberal Democrats requires an affiliated youth and student wing. Accordingly, Young Liberals is a Specified Associated Organisation (SAO) of the party. It is granted voting rights on important Liberal Democrat committees.

Young Liberals hosts its own annual conference and training weekend, known as Activate, and holds fringe events at the Liberal Democrats' Spring and Autumn Conferences. It also organises a range of other activities relevant to young people, on issues such as housing, employment and education.

Young Liberals is affiliated to both the International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth (IFLRY) and European Liberal Youth. Its predecessors include the National League of Young Liberals (NLYL), founded in 1903 and the Union of Liberal Students (ULS), founded in 1920.


Liberal Democrats and Young LiberalsEdit

The Liberal Democrat's constitution grants Young Liberals at least one position on local party executives as well as one position on federal committees such as the Federal Board and Federal International Relations Committee. In addition, the Young Liberals also hold a number of voting representatives at the Federal Conference of the Liberal Democrat party based on the number of members, and in most local parties. This privilege is extended to the separate Welsh Conferences, Conferences of English regions and to the Liberal Democrats' English Council (the confederal body through which the regional parties of England make joint decisions).[6]

History and structureEdit

Liberal Democrat mergersEdit

The organisation was formerly known as Liberal Democrat Youth and Students (LDYS). Spring 2008 saw LDYS renamed as Liberal Youth, at an event hosted by the then Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.[7] Liberal Youth is the successor organisation to all the youth and student wings of the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, including the Union of Liberal Students, the National League of Young Liberals, (the Liberal party's youth wings), the Young Social Democrats and Students for Social Democracy (the youth and student wings of the Social Democratic Party).

The Liberal Party and the SDP each had separate student and youth wings until their merger in 1988; these merged in England to form the Student Liberal Democrats and the Young Liberal Democrats of England. In Scotland, there was a separate Scottish Young Liberal Democrats (which also included students of all ages). Liberal Democrat Youth and Students was itself created in 1993 from a merger of the Student Liberal Democrats and the Young Liberal Democrats of England who had shared many resources in the run-up. The merger talks were overseen by a committee which included Sarah Gurling, who later married the late Charles Kennedy. LDYS reorganised into a federal structure in 2002 and then admitted Scottish Young Liberal Democrats as its Scottish federal unit later that year - forming a single GB-wide organisation for the first time since the combined ULS-NLYL committees of the 1970s.

Federal organisationEdit

Young Liberals is the main party, organised in Great Britain on a federal basis, compromising of Welsh Young Liberals in Wales, Scottish Young Liberals in Scotland and English Young Liberals in England. The Convenor of each of these groups organises the regional activity of Young Liberals.


The federal organisation of Young Liberals organises liaisons with Liberal Democrats and affiliated organisations. The Federal Executive (current positions: Chair, Vice-Chair, Events Officer, Campaigns Officer, Communications Officer, Finance Officer, International Officer, Policy Officer, Membership Development Officer, Welfare & Access Officer and Non Portfolio Officer,[8]) operates alongside committees for Conferences, Policy and International affairs. These committees, barring ex officio members such as representatives from state organisations and delegates from the executive, are elected by the Young Liberals membership via an all-member ballot, terms beginning on 1 November and are responsible to Conference. The English, Scottish and Welsh representatives are elected by the memberships of the state organisations - English Young Liberals, Scottish Young Liberals and Welsh Young Liberals.[9]

Role Name
Chair Thomas Gravatt (Acting)
Co-Vice Chair Elizabeth Barnard & Jack Worrall
Finance Officer Finn Conway
Communications Officer Hermione Peace
Campaigns Officer Charlie Murphy
Membership Development Officer Nathan Isaacson
Events Officer Huw James
Policy Officer Tara Copeland (Acting)
International Officer Ben Whitlock
Welfare & Accessibility Officer Victoria Scott
Non-Portfolio Officer Patrick Crosby
English Young Liberals Chair Ems Simpson
Welsh Young Liberals Chair Callum James Littlemore
Scottish Young Liberals Co-Chair Calum Paterson & Christopher Wilson


Outside of universities, Young Liberals eschews a formal, hierarchical branch structure, instead encouraging members to organise themselves and to use their local Liberal Democrat Party for financial affairs.[10] Active members communicate with their local Youth Chair, who liaises with the parent party's representatives and with the federal Young Liberals executive. In this way the activities of young and student members remain formally independent from but closely engaged with the Liberal Democrats.

Young Liberals has had an active branch in Northern Ireland since 2010, under the name of Liberal Youth Northern Ireland, which operates as the youth branch of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats. Since 2014 it has become an official branch of Young Liberals, though for administrative purposes it is a branch of the English Young Liberals rather than a separate state branch. Liberal Youth Northern Ireland maintains a close working relationship with Alliance Youth, the youth wing of the Alliance Party.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Green Book – new directions for Liberals in government, Mike Tuffrey, 5 March 2013, Liberal Democrat Voice
  2. ^ A challenge to Community Politics, Iain Roberts, 13 June 2011, Liberal Democrat Voice
  3. ^ How Lib Dem members describe their political identity: ‘liberal’, ‘progressive’ and ‘social liberal’ top the bill, Stephen Tall, 30 April 2011, Liberal Democrat Voice
  4. ^ (17 April 2018). "Brexit". 
  5. ^ Elgot, Jessica (28 May 2017). "Tim Farron: Lib Dems' pro-European strategy will be proved right". the Guardian. 
  6. ^ "The Constitutions of the Liberal Democrats" (pdf). Retrieved 25 December 2016. 
  7. ^ "Nick Clegg launches Liberal Youth" (Press release). Liberal Democrat Voice. 25 March 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Meet The Exec". Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  9. ^ "The Federal Constitution – Liberal Youth" (pdf). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  10. ^ Archived 30 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine.