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Michael Foot was speaking affectionately when in 1979 he quipped that David Steel had apparently gone from ‘rising hope to elder statesman’ without any intervening period whatsoever. But the remark also neatly captured a career which had seen ‘the Boy David’ enter the House of Commons aged only twenty-six, become leader of the Liberal Party in 1976 (at thirty-eight years old one of the youngest party leaders in British history) and then, within months of his election, lead his party into a controversial Lib–Lab Pact with James Callaghan’s Labour government. Taking the lead in demanding cooperation with the new Social Democratic Party, Steel helped the Alliance poll an unprecedented share of the vote for a third party in the 1983 election. Alongside David Owen of the SDP, he fought another memorable election four years later as one of the ‘two Davids’ and later became the major force behind the troubled birth of the Liberal Democrat Party. Based on extensive interviews and fresh archival research, this biography – with which Steel has cooperated – charts both the ‘rising hope’ and ‘elder statesman’ phases in Steel’s career, as well as his role as the first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and his political legacy in light of the post-2010 Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition.


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  • ISBN: 9781849544665
  • 21 August 2012
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