From Sandals to Suits: Professionalisation, Coalition and the Liberal Democrats

Elizabeth Evans, Emma Sanderson-Nash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Liberal Democrats have traditionally been viewed as a ‘bottom-up’ party with a relatively high degree of influence open to grass-roots members and party activists. However, following the dramatic increase in the number of Liberal Democrat MPs at the 1997 election the party has increasingly tried to professionalise its operation, leading to a more top-down approach. This article argues that the professionalisation process has not only changed the dynamics within and between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary party, but has also paved the way for the party, more usually identified as being on the centre-left of British politics, to enter into coalition government with the Conservatives. Analysing changes to the federal conference structure and to policy-making processes, the article explores the ways in which the party has professionalised, both within the parliamentary party and at party headquarters, and assesses the potential impact that this may have upon the role of the party's grass roots.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-473
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number4
Early online date4 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2011


  • Liberal Democrats
  • professionalisation
  • coalition
  • party organisation


Dive into the research topics of 'From Sandals to Suits: Professionalisation, Coalition and the Liberal Democrats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this