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“Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government!” David Steel’s rather premature exhortation to his activists at the 1981 Liberal Conference is remembered – to the extent that it’s remembered at all – as a classic example of over-optimism verging into hubris. It shouldn’t be. For a brief moment, there really was a genuine chance that the old Lab-Con dominance had been broken. At the last poll before the conference, the SDP-Liberal Alliance had pushed the Conservatives into third place; by the end of the year, they would record an astonishing 50.5% with Gallup.