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After 146 years, a once dominant British political party is making a comeback

British Musuem/Isaac Cruikshank
British Musuem/Isaac Cruikshank
A satirical print from the time of Whigs and Tories.
By Kabir Chibber
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The Whigs were once the UK’s most powerful political group, establishing the principle of parliamentary rule and constitutional monarchy during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and giving the nation its first, and longest-serving, prime minister. Established in 1678, the Whigs officially ceased to exist in 1868 as many of their members went on to form the Liberal Party (which later merged with others to form today’s Liberal Democrats).

After more than a century, Whigs will once again run for election to parliament next year.

British Musuem
A bust of Sir Robert Walpole from around 1745.

The son of a Conservative-voting Pakistani immigrant is not the sort of person you might expect to lead the revival of the Whigs but Waleed Ghani, an Oxford-educated consultant, is committed. ”We believe there’s a space at the center of British politics, an intelligent, progressive, reforming space that was carried by the Whigs for hundreds of years,” Ghani told the BBC.

Ghani’s Whigs will have about a dozen people running for parliament seats in May, including his fiancé, and no actual policies. Instead, the modern Whigs will stress values such as human rights, “love of country,” and diversity—which they puzzlingly describe using the Swedish word for it, mångfald.

Whether there’s space for the Whigs in a crowded marketplace of upstart political parties remains to be seen. The Whig name has been mostly forgotten while their rivals in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Tories, still exist in some form in the modern Conservative Party. Most people think Ghani is talking about actual wigs when he campaigns.

“We’re clearly not about forming a government or even winning seats, but about raising the standard of political discourse,” Ghani told The Independent. “I think there is something pleasing about a political revival.”

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