The Liberal Party was relaunched as a national organisation by Liberals who rejected the merger with the SDP which led to the formation of the Liberal Democrats. Instead of worrying about our media image we have returned to our philosophical roots. This manifesto sets out our proposals on key issues based on that Liberal philosophy.
The Liberal Party stands for the creation of an open society and against all forms of prejudice and vested interest. The hallmark of liberalism is the faith it places in people and communities. Liberals want everyone, not just the wealthy and the most able, to have the maximum opportunity.
By rejecting prejudice and vested interests Liberals have historically been generators of new ideas; ideas often adopted much later by others. We are proud to continue that tradition and in this manifesto are many radical ideas that contrast sharply with the bland consensus of the three main parties.
Liberals do not seek merely to adopt a middle position between conservatives and socialists. Instead we try to apply Liberal principles and are not afraid when this leads us to unconventional conclusions.
Both Conservatives and Liberals talk about "the freedom of the individual", but they mean different things by that phrase. Conservatives see freedom in narrow economic terms. Liberals have a much broader view of freedom.
Cooperative ventures, employee participation and community involvement are all on the Liberal agenda. Our aim is to spread power to give people real influence over the decisions that affect them. However, we also believe that the process of spreading power must not be paternalistic and that new structures must evolve in response to real needs rather than being imposed from above.
A consequence of our view of freedom is an attitude of tolerance towards minorities. The unemployed, travellers, gays, single mothers and many others have found to their cost that the Conservative view of freedom does not include them.
Socialists aim to achieve equality through state planning and regulation. Because this involves action on behalf of the disadvantaged members of society it has always had the sympathy of Liberals. But Liberals believe that state planning is usually ineffective and that equality is not the prime objective. We aim for a good minimum standard of living for all. Liberals do believe strongly in equal rights and thus have some aims in common with socialists.
As our society becomes more aggressive and less stable, authoritarian solutions can seem attractive. This is an increasing problem, not just in Britain but around the world. Fear leads to demands for quick action and "strong government" rather than careful thought and consultation. Simplistic solutions, the scapegoating and oppression of minorities and stifling of criticism are the inevitable results.
Against this the Liberal quest for freedom leads us to a love for reason and debate. Our proposals for the reform of British democracy go beyond calls for a fairer voting system to ideas which seek to ensure that decisions are made after due debate and deliberation, on the basis of good information, and with better protection against abuses of power.
We are not armchair theorists. The ideas and proposals in this manifesto have been worked out and debated by members of the Liberal Party on the basis of their experience, drawn from many different walks of life and from active campaigning.
All we ask is that you read what we have to say, consider it with an open mind and, if you agree with the principles of our approach, join us!