|Founded||1886 (as Cambridge University Liberal Club)|
|President||Dr Julian Huppert FRSC, Jesus|
|Vice-President||The Rt Hon Nick Clegg, Robinson|
|Vice-President||Andrew Duff OBE, St John's|
|Vice-President||Prof David Howarth, Clare|
|Vice-President||The Rt Hon Sir Simon Hughes, Selwyn|
|Senior Treasurer||Prof Eugenio Biagini, Sidney Sussex|
|Sister society||Oxford University Liberal Democrats|
It is the successor to the Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats, which in turn was formed from the merger of Cambridge University Liberal Club (known as CULC, founded in 1886), and Cambridge University Social Democrats (founded in 1981) upon the creation of the Lib Dems in 1988.
The society has long been active in Cambridge politics, with student members playing a role in electing David Howarth on a massive 15% swing in the 2005 election, when the student turnout was unusually and noticeably higher than that in the rest of the city, and then subsequently Julian Huppert as his successor in 2010.
The older of its founder societies, the CU Liberal Club, originally existed side-by-side with a discussion forum for radical Cambridge politics in the late 1880s, called 'The Rainbow Circle.' Alumni of this group relocated to London after their graduation, and helped found the Bloomsbury-based radical group of that same name in 1894.
Between 1886 and 1897, the club's founder Treasurer was Oscar Browning, a Fellow of King's and three-times Liberal candidate who was also Treasurer of the Cambridge Union. The society had varying fortunes as the Liberal Party waned in the mid-twentieth century.
The society today attracts numerous high-profile speakers – in recent years, Vince Cable, Menzies Campbell, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, and David Steel. During the 2005 United Kingdom general election it helped organise a rally of 2,500 people with Charles Kennedy in Market Square.
Notable past speakers not normally associated with the Liberal Party have included Oscar Wilde (1889), Jerome K. Jerome (1912), W. H. Auden (1938), and Irish Prime Minister Seán Lemass (1961). A complete list of the society's past events from 1886 to the present is available here.
The society was continuously called Cambridge University Liberal Club (CULC) from 1886 until 1988 (apart from in the years 1916-9, when it suspended its activities during World War I).
In 1981, Cambridge University Social Democrats (CUSD) was formed, as the Cambridge student branch of the SDP. With the Liberals and SDP in alliance nationally, CULC and CUSD remained independent organisations, but shared close links, hosted joint events, and put up joint slates of candidates in CSU elections.
In 1988, CULC and CUSD merged into one society, as the Liberals and SDP merged into the Liberal Democrats. They initially called themselves Cambridge University Social and Liberal Democrats throughout 1988, then Cambridge University Liberal Democrats throughout 1989–90, before finally settling early in 1991 for Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats, when the society expanded to include the Cambridge campus of the city's new Anglia Polytechnic (now Anglia Ruskin University). In 2017 the name was changed again to Cambridge University Liberal Association upon the creation of a Young Liberals branch catering to young people in the city who are not members of the University of Cambridge.
In Autumn 2015 the society ran a campaign against proposals by Cambridgeshire County Council to switch off streetlights in Cambridge after midnight. Working with the JCR at Trinity College and the Cambridge University Students' Union, the campaign was successful. A year later, focus switched to mental health provision within the university, with the society calling for the hiring of more counsellors in the University Counselling Service.
The society actively campaigns in elections at every level. In May 2017 the society helped secure the election of Liberal Democrats to the main student divisions of Cambridgeshire County Council. They also organised regular campaign events for the general election later that year, but were less successful. In that vote the incumbent Labour MP Daniel Zeichner increased his majority to nearly 30,000 with the Liberal Democrats down 5.6 points.
In the 2018 City Council elections the Association was integrated into a successful city-wide campaign where the local party gained two seats in student wards.
As with many Cambridge political societies, CULA and its predecessors were the first political organisations to involve many people who went on to political careers – some outside Liberal politics altogether. Notable alumni include:
- Harold Abrahams, CULC member, 100m Gold Medallist, 1924 Paris Olympics
- Kenneth Adam CULC President 1929–30, Controller of BBC Television 1957–61
- Martin Bell, CULC Publicity Officer in 1960 and later a BBC journalist and Independent MP 1997–2001
- Roderic Bowen, CULC member, Liberal MP for Cardigan, 1945–1966
- Sal Brinton, CULC member, businesswoman, Lib Dem peer, and party President 2015–2019
- Oscar Browning, CULC founder member and Treasurer 1886–96, historian
- Vince Cable, elected CULC President in 1964 (but resigned before serving), Lib Dem MP for Twickenham since 1997, Secretary of State for Business 2010-2015, former Chief Economist of Shell Oil, Leader of the Liberal Democrats since 2017
- Robert Chote, CU Social Democrats President in 1988, economist, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies 2002–10, Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility since 2010
- Greg Clark, CU Social Democrats President in 1987, Conservative MP since 2005, Minister for Decentralisation and Planning 2010–present
- Peter Cook, CULC member, satirist
- Chris Davies, CULC member, MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth 1995–1997, MEP for North West England, 1999-2014 and 2019-; former Leader of the Lib Dem group in the European Parliament
- Clement Davies, CULC member, Leader of the Liberal Party 1945–1956
- Andrew Duff, CULC member, Lib Dem MEP for the East of England, 1999-2014
- Ernest Evans, CULC President 1908-9, Liberal MP 1921-3 & 1924–43, judge
- Lord Ezra, CULC Newsletter Editor 1937-8, former chairman of the National Coal Board
- Hugh Foot, CULC President 1927-8, Governor of Jamaica 1951-7 and Cyprus 1957–60
- Emlyn Garner Evans, CULC President 1933-4, Liberal and Liberal National MP 1950-1959
- Chris Grayling, CU Social Democrats Standing Committee member in 1983, Conservative MP since 2001; Transport Minister since 2016
- Sir Percy Harris, CULC member, Liberal MP 1916–1918 & 1922–1945; Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party 1933–1945
- Toby Harris, CULC member, Labour member of the GLA 2000-2004
- Arthur Hobhouse, CULC Secretary in 1906, founder of the National Parks
- Dennis Holme Robertson, CULC President 1910-11, economist
- David Howarth, CULC committee member 1979–81, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge 2005–2010
- Simon Hughes, CULC member, Lib Dem MP for Bermondsey 1983-2015 and party President 2005-2009
- Julian Huppert, CSLD Chair in 1998, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge 2010-2015
- Henry Jackson, CULC founder member and President 1897-9, classicist
- John Maynard Keynes, CULC President in 1905 and Economist
- Mervyn King, CULC Treasurer in 1968, Governor of the Bank of England
- David Lea, Baron Lea of Crondall, CULC President in 1960, Trades Union Congress official and Labour peer
- Oliver Letwin, CULC member, Conservative MP for Dorset West since 1997 and former Shadow Chancellor
- Selwyn Lloyd, CULC President 1926, Conservative Chancellor 1960-2 and Foreign Secretary 1955–60, Speaker of the House of Commons 1971-76
- Donald MacAlister, CULC President 1901-2 & 1906, physician and academic
- C. F. G. Masterman, CULC committee member, Liberal MP 1906–18, 1923–4
- Arnold McNair, CULC Secretary in 1907, first President of the European Court of Human Rights 1959–65
- Edwin Samuel Montagu, CULC President in 1902, Liberal MP 1906–22, cabinet minister 1915–22
- Matthew Parris, CULC member and college secretary for Clare, later a Conservative MP 1979–86 and journalist
- Benjamin Ramm, CSLD Chair in 2004, founding editor of The Liberal, 2004–12
- Michael Ramsey, elected (but did not serve as) CULC Chair in 1926, later Archbishop of Canterbury
- Andrew Rawnsley, CU Social Democrats Newsletter columnist, journalist
- Dennis Robertson, CULC President 1910-1, economist
- Leslie Runciman, 2nd Viscount Runciman of Doxford, CULC President 1921-2, shipbuilder
- Bertrand Russell, CULC Secretary in 1892, mathematician and philosopher
- Nancy Seear, Baroness Seear, CULC member, Liberal peer
- Henry Sinclair, 2nd Baron Pentland CULC President 1928-9, "fourth way" spiritualist
- John Tresidder Sheppard, CULC President 1907-8, classicist
- Chris Smith, CULC member, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, 1983–2005, and cabinet minister
- Robert Egerton Swartwout, CULC President 1930–31, coxswain, author, poet, and cartoonist
- Sarah Teather, CULC member, Lib Dem MP for Brent East since 2003, and Housing spokesperson
- C. P. Trevelyan, CULC committee member, Labour President of the Board of Education 1924, 1929–31
- Richard Wainwright, CULC President in 1939, and Liberal MP for Colne Valley 1966–70 and 1974–87
- Jim Wallace, CULC member, former Lib Dem MP 1983–2001 and Deputy First Minister of Scotland
- Lord Wallace of Saltaire, CULC President in 1961, academic
- Ronald Waterhouse, CULC President in 1950, High Court judge
- Alan Watson, Baron Watson of Richmond, CULC President in 1963, broadcaster and Lib Dem peer
Since the 1988 merger, the society's President has been Baroness Williams of Crosby, who was the SDP candidate in Cambridge in 1987. She had also been Patron of Cambridge University Social Democrats in 1987-88.
The association runs a subsidiary group, the Keynes Society, for alumni. Membership is free and lasts for life.
Former Presidents and Chairs
See Former Presidents of Cambridge University Liberal Club and Chairs of Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats
- Michael Freeden, Minutes of the Rainbow Circle, 1894-1924 (Royal Historical Society/Camden Fourth Series, London, 1990)
- "About us | Keynes Society". Keynessociety.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
- Thévoz, Seth Alexander (Summer 2016). "Cambridge University Liberal Club, 1886-1916: A Study in Early Student Political Organisation" (PDF). Journal of Liberal History (91).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Liberal Voice – the online version of the society's paper
- The Keynes Society, for alumni of CSLD – includes extensive lists of past events and officeholders of the society
- Cambridge University Liberal Club minute book 1886–97, papers of Edwin Samuel Montagu, Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge
- Cambridge University Liberal Club minute book 1897–1915, papers of J. Conway Davies, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
- Cambridge University Liberal Club records and papers, 1945–87, Manuscripts Department, Cambridge University Library