One of the reasons people accuse us of betraying our principles is that few outside the Lib Dems understand what those principles are. To counter this I quote the start to the Preamble to our Party Constitution:
“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”
While this defines what t he Liberal Democrat Party stands for, and (in my opinion) being in Coalition has not meant betraying these principles, but it does not define Liberalism. For that I am grateful for this quote from the Annual Report of the Dewsbury Liberal Association in 1923 which was quoted this week at the Funeral of Jeremy Thorpe:
“An election may come at any time. Liberalism is not dead. It has a message for today. It believes in Democracy. It believes in a Government of aristocracy, not of birth, of wealth, or of landed or other possessions, but an Aristocracy of intelligence, of energy, of character.
Liberalism is not a compromise between two extremes of opinion. It is a solution of its own for the ills of humanity. It is not a half way house between Conservatism and Socialism.
It is not a house at all. It is a broad road of travel along which may walk honest pilgrims through the confusion of life, not without glimpses, at the end, of the walls and towers of the Celestial City”
These words may be over 90 years old but to me they are just as relevant today as they were then. Liberals believe in freedom and equality of opportunity, in allowing people to look after their own lives with minimal interference but also helping those who need help, in giving everyone the freedom to fulfil their potential and supporting those who, through no fault of their own, struggle to deal with problems.
I am a Liberal as I believe in cooperation but not imposition, I am a Democrat because I believe in the sovereignty of the people not the elite and I am a proud Liberal Democrat who will use these principles to help guide me the coming Election.