New Liberal Party (New Zealand)

New Liberal Party (New Zealand)

The New Liberal Party of New Zealand was a splinter group of the original Liberal Party. It was formed at a meeting in the Christchurch suburb of Papanui in June 1905[1][2] by two Liberal-aligned independents who sought a more "progressive" policy than that followed by the Liberal leader, Richard Seddon,[3] and was similar to the Radical Party in 1896.

The New Liberal Party was launched by Harry Bedford and Francis Fisher, but attracted a number of other MPs as well. George Laurenson, Frederick Baume, Alexander Hogg, William Tanner, and William Barber, all dissident Liberal MPs, associated themselves with the party, and two independents who had formerly been aligned with the loose opposition block, Ewen Alison and Alfred Harding, also joined. Tommy Taylor, a radical independent with a reputation as a firebrand, became the New Liberal Party's leader. Some Liberal dissidents, however, refused to be involved in the new party - the most notable being John Millar, George Fowlds, and Robert McNab. Many critics of Seddon believed that the New Liberals risked splitting the liberal vote and allowing a conservative government.

The New Liberal Party announced an intention to contest the 1905 elections, but there was debate as to the exact nature of the party. Some saw the New Liberals as being complementary to (and possibly even a part of) the Liberal Party, spurring it forward but not directly challenging it. Others saw the New Liberals as a completely independent group that would stand against and eventually supplant the original Liberals. As a result of this disagreement, the New Liberals never developed a party organisation outside Parliament, and did not institute block voting - the party consisted of little more than regular caucus meetings.

The "Voucher incident" caused a split in New Liberal Party as moderates distanced themselves from Fisher

The New Liberals suffered considerable damage from the so-called "voucher incident"[4], in which Francis Fisher alleged that Richard Seddon's son had been received payment from a government department for work he had not done. The allegations were disproven, and the New Liberals suffered a considerable public backlash. As Fisher had not consulted his colleagues before making the accusation, it also strained relations between party members. William Barber and Alexander Hogg sought rapproachment with Seddon, and others also appeared to distance themselves.

As the election approached, the New Liberal Party comprised only Bedford, Fisher, and Taylor. The party, which now considered itself fully separate from the Liberals, contested a number of seats, including those held by Liberal MPs. Of the party's three MPs, two were defeated — Fisher was the only one to remain in Parliament. By the 1908 elections, the New Liberal Party was defunct, and Fisher was re-elected as an independent. He later joined the Reform Party, established in opposition to the Liberals.


  1. ^ "The New Liberal Party". The Star: p. 3. Issue 8334, 5 June 1905. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Tuesday, June 6, 1905.". The Star: p. 2. Issue 8335, 6 June 1905. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "A New Party". The Star , Issue 8335. 6 June 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "The Fisher Incident again". Thames Star,2 Volume XLII, Issue 10682. 10 August 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 

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