Liberal Democrat frontbench team

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Frontbench Teams since 1997
Ashdown Team (1997–1999)
Kennedy Team (1999–2006)
Campbell Team (2006–2007)
First Cable Team (2007)
Clegg Team (2007–2010)
General Election Cabinet (2015)
Farron Team (2015–2017)
Second Cable Team (2017–2019)
Swinson Team (2019)
Davey Team (2019–present)

The Liberal Democrats are a political party in the United Kingdom. While in opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats appoints a frontbench team of Members of Parliament (MPs), Peers, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and Members of the Senedd (MSs), to speak for the party on different issues. Their areas of responsibility broadly corresponded to those of Government ministers. The frontbench team is divided into departmental sub-units, the principal ones being the economy, foreign policy, and home affairs. Sometimes the frontbench team consists of more than just the principal positions.


Formerly, the Liberal Democrats frontbench team did not use the term 'Shadow Cabinet', with a number of frontbench spokespeople covering areas (e.g., Defence and Foreign Affairs) rather than directly shadowing specific Cabinet portfolios. Under Charles Kennedy's leadership, and with the increase in numbers of Liberal Democrat MPs after the 1997 general election, the senior members of the frontbench team began referring to themselves as a Shadow Cabinet. This was controversial, because in the two-party political system that dominated UK politics in the 20th century, the term 'Shadow Cabinet' referred to senior members of the frontbench team of the largest single opposition party in the House of Commons. This party, known as the Official Opposition, has constitutional status, although its Shadow Cabinet does not. Following Kennedy's decision to change the nomenclature, the UK Parliament's website used for a time the term 'Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet' in place of the old term 'Frontbench Team'.[1][2]

This is not without contention, and was disputed by the Conservative Party, who were then the Official Opposition. However, the official listing at the Parliament website is explicit in using the term 'Shadow Cabinet'.[3] In 2001, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said the following in the House of Commons:

The House of Commons is in the unique position of having two shadow Chancellors: one [Conservative Michael Howard] sits in Folkestone and the other [Liberal Democrat Matthew Taylor] in Truro. It is rather like the mediaeval papacy: two hon. Members claim to hold the position of shadow Chancellor. I shall organise a play-off during the year.[4]

Brown returned to this theme, comparing his frosty relationship with the official Shadow Chancellor George Osborne with his apparently warm relationship with Vince Cable (whom he referred to as "the Shadow Chancellor from Twickenham").[5]

The Official Opposition receives support for its official function which is denied to smaller opposition parties, although they, along with every parliamentary party, do receive Short Money. While the Opposition Leader and Chief Whips draw salaries, their counterparts in smaller opposition parties do not. The Official Opposition also has the exclusive use of facilities within Parliament.

Following the 2010 general election and the confirmation of Conservative leader David Cameron as Prime Minister on 11 May 2010, a coalition cabinet was formed that included Liberal Democrat ministers, including Liberal leader Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister and Lord President of the Council. Thus, the Liberal Democrats entered the Cabinet again for the first time since the 1940s.

Following the 2015 general election, the Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight seats in the House of Commons, falling into joint fourth place with the Democratic Unionist Party behind the Scottish National Party (SNP) for the first time. As a result of this, Parliament's website listed the SNP's frontbench team (in comparison with the Conservative Cabinet and Labour Shadow Cabinet) in lieu of the Liberal Democrat frontbench team.

Previous frontbench teams[edit]

Previous team key-members in summary:

Party Date Leader Economy Foreign affairs Home affairs
Liberal April 1966 Jo Grimond Richard Wainwright James Davidson Unknown
January 1967 Jeremy Thorpe
June 1970 John Pardoe Russell Johnston
1975 David Steel
May 1976 Jo Grimond
July 1976 David Steel Jeremy Thorpe
1977 Emlyn Hooson
May 1979 Richard Wainwright Russell Johnston
October 1981 Bill Pitt
June 1983
1985 David Penhaligon Alan Beith
January 1987
June 1987 Alan Beith Russell Johnston
March 1988 David Steel and
Robert Maclennan
Robert Maclennan
July 1988 Paddy Ashdown
July 1989 David Steel
July 1994 Malcolm Bruce Menzies Campbell Alan Beith
August 1999 Charles Kennedy Matthew Taylor Simon Hughes
June 2003 Vince Cable Mark Oaten
January 2006 Menzies Campbell
(acting: Jan – Mar 2006)
January 2006 Alistair Carmichael
March 2006 Michael Moore Nick Clegg
October 2007 Vince Cable
December 2007 Nick Clegg

(Deputy Prime Minister: May 2010 – May 2015)

Ed Davey Chris Huhne
May 2010 David Laws
(Chief Secretary to the Treasury)
Jeremy Browne
(Minister of State for Foreign Affairs)
The Lord McNally
(Minister of State for Justice)
May 2010 Danny Alexander
(Chief Secretary to the Treasury)
September 2012 Lynne Featherstone
(Under Secretary of State for International Development)
Jeremy Browne
(Minister of State for Home Affairs)
October 2013 Norman Baker
(Minister of State for Home Affairs)
November 2014 Menzies Campbell

Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Lynne Featherstone
(Minister of State for Home Affairs)
January 2015 Tim Farron
May 2015 Norman Lamb The Lord McNally
July 2015 Tim Farron The Baroness Kramer Tom Brake Alistair Carmichael
October 2016 The Lord Paddick
May 2017 Sir Vince Cable
June 2017 Jo Swinson Ed Davey
July 2017 Sir Vince Cable Vacant
Oct 2017 The Baroness Kramer
June 2019 Chuka Umunna
August 2019 Jo Swinson Ed Davey Chuka Umunna Christine Jardine
December 2019 Ed Davey
Angela Smith (Int. Dev.)
January 2020 Alistair Carmichael
August 2020 Ed Davey Christine Jardine Layla Moran Alistair Carmichael
July 2022 Sarah Olney

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Directory of MPs, Peers, Offices and Overseas Delegations". House of Commons Information Office. Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2006.
  2. ^ "Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Team". House of Commons Information Office. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2006.
  3. ^ "UK Parliament". House of Commons Information Office – libdems. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
  4. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Nov 2001 (pt 8)". The Stationery Office Ltd. 27 November 2001. Retrieved 4 September 2006.
  5. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 16 Oct 2003 (pt 2)". 16 October 2003. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011.

External links[edit]