Way back in the 1980s, when the Social Democratic party was formed, I was at a joint meeting at which one of the SDP members asked what Liberals stood for. I jotted some ideas on the back of an envelope (I think I've still got it somewhere) and spoke briefly on the following lines -
LIBERTY comes at the top of our list of beliefs, with the John Stuart Mill constraint that we are free only to do what doesn’t harm others. This means that we value variety, welcome people with different cultures and religions and believe that diversity enriches society. Where the preservation of liberty clashes with our other beliefs, such as equality, then we put liberty first.
EQUALITY AND SECURITY. We believe that all individuals are equally valuable. Hence we believe that the state has the dual function of both preventing some people becoming too rich (by progressive taxation) and providing a generous safety-net for the poor, so that all have the ability to participate fully in the norms of society. We are proud that Welfare State was introduce by the Liberals Lloyd George (the People’s Budget, sick pay, retirement pensions) Winston Churchill (employment exchanges) and developed on the principles of William Beveridge (conquering the five giants of idleness, ignorance, squalor, sickness and want) and regulating the economy to achieve these aims using the economics of J M Keynes.
DEMOCRACY. Liberals believe that people can be trusted. (Both Conservatives and Socialists believe at heart that we need to be coerced). We want to see parliamentary reform, so that the people’s representatives have genuine control over the executive; reform of the electoral system by the introduction of proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies; an elected second chamber representative of the regions, to which power will have been devolved to regional governments; and vital local government. All political power should be exercised at the lowest possible level. We are devolvers, not centralisers.
WORKPLACE DEMOCRACY. Our trust for individuals extends to the workplace, where we believe that workers should have a share in the decisions their firms make (which often have a bigger influence on their daily lives than the decisions of government.) We have advocated and pioneered schemes of profit sharing (Taylor of Batley, for example), and industrial democracy. Our belief in the value of variety means that we would not lay down a single pattern. The concept of “Stakeholder” firms and, indeed, a “Stakeholder Society”, is essentially Liberal.
INTERNATIONALISM. We believe that Liberal values should extend beyond the shores of this country. We are the only British political party to have consistently supported full, enthusiastic and committed membership of the European Union, not simply because we feel that to stay outside, or semi-detached, condemns us to fourth rate political and economic significance, though that is probably true, but because we see the EU as a bold and exciting adventure. The more idealistic of us even see it as a step on the way to world government. We believe that all international action should be taken through the United Nations, which should be reformed to reflect present day political realities. We campaign consistently for Third World development through the cancellation of unpayable debt, the reform of the world trading system to end the exploitation of poorer and weaker economies, and appropriate development aid from the rich to the poor countries.
SUSTAINABILITY. We reject the concept that further continuous economic growth in the developed countries is the be-all and end-all of politics and life . A more equitable sharing of what we have is far more important, with consideration for the quality of the environment through the conservation of energy, the development of sustainable energy sources and economic processes, and emphasis on greater happiness thorough involvement in art, leisure and the community rather than the accumulation of further private material wealth.
EDUCATION is seen by Liberals as a major liberating experience. We reject the restrictive link between education and employment and believe that every individual should have access to and the opportunity to enjoy education for its own sake throughout their lives.
The 2015 election was fought not on great principles but a series of messy tit-bits which were effectively bribes To revive, and I'm sure we shall, we Liberal Democrats need to establish what sort of society we want, based I hope on the lines outlined above, and make it clear in our campaigning that we are not just pavement politicians who work "all the year round" but have values and beliefs which many people share