The Triple Lock: Where it came from, how it worked and its future

I’ve penned a piece for the Journal of Liberal History about the party’s so-called triple lock – the procedures agreed to ratify or reject agreements with other parties such as the coalition agreement. As the introductory blurb says:

Fears over Paddy Ashdown’s talks with Labour in the late 1990s triggered the Liberal Democrats to introduce the so-called ‘triple lock’ arrangement to stop Ashdown bouncing the party into a controversial decision on its future. Though never used under his leadership, the process technically stayed in force. It was used for the first time to confirm, ironically, a deal with the Conservative Party in May 2010. The party has since voted to review its working, but with a view to making minor changes rather than to abolish it. After its first outing in anger, the triple lock is firmly here to stay. Its origins and continuing relevance are examined by Mark Pack.

The article is below for you to enjoy in full and information about subscribing to the Journal of Liberal History is here.


During the 2010-15 Parliament, the Liberal Democrats debated and amended the ‘triple lock’ process, with the party’s constitution changed to read:

ARTICLE 15:   Support for a government which contains other political parties

15.1       This Article applies where the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons (‘the Commons Party’) enters into negotiations with one or more other political parties with a view to the formation of a government supported by the party and such party or parties; and sets out the procedures to be followed for the party to give its support for such an arrangement.

15.2       For this purpose:

(a) the Leader shall, with due regard to diversity, appoint a negotiating team to conduct such negotiations; and

(b) there shall be a reference group consisting of not more than nine people (none of whom shall be members of the negotiating team) appointed equally by (i) the Federal Policy Committee (ii) the Federal Executive and (iii) the Westminster Parliamentary Parties (in the last case acting jointly).

15.3       The negotiating team shall report regularly to the Leader and the reference group, and shall have regard to their respective views.

15.4       If as a result of these negotiations the Commons Party determines, after further consultation with (i) the Federal Policy Committee (ii) the Federal Executive and (iii) the Parliamentary Party in the House of Lords (together ‘the consultees’), to support a government which contains members of one or more other political parties, it shall seek the approval of conference by submitting a motion to that effect. Such a submission shall state the final views thereon of each of the consultees, and such a motion shall require for its passage a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at the conference.

15.5       Upon the submission of such a motion, the Federal Conference Committee shall convene a conference to consider the motion at the earliest practicable opportunity or shall include the motion in the agenda of a conference currently in session or imminently to start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.