In the battle against poverty, I want people to know where the Liberal Democrats stand.

It is great to be in St Albans and to celebrate with you the local council success that you have had here and the advance that Michael Green made in the 2005 general election.

Thinking of Chris and Simon and I going round the country – I was reminded of the contest for the Republican nomination in 1976.

Ronald Reagan was running against Gerald Ford and he used to say in every speech to illustrate that his opponent was a Washington insider that ‘Gerald Ford has been a Congressman for 35 years.’

After too many speeches one day he surprised his audience with the claim, ‘Gerald Ford has been a communist for 35 years.’

I’ve been thinking in the last few days about how quickly politics can change.

In a matter of hours, the political world can be turned upside down, all the certainties of newspaper columnists demolished in an instant.

Dunfermline and West Fife – underlines that old saying a week is a long time in politics!

Let me remind those same commentators who wrote us off – a few weeks of bad publicity will not destroy a political tradition that has thrived for one hundred and fifty years.

What Dunfermline has confirmed is that our underlying political values and appeal are not only very resilient but with the right lead and right campaign – very popular as well.

And yet how often do we actually go out and talk about our values to the public?

How often does any party do that?

All too often, politics is seen as a value-free zone. Politics and politicians are seen as grubby and self-serving.

You’re all the same� is an all too regular accusation.

With values being driven out of politics, by Messrs Blair and Cameron, perhaps it�s no wonder people come to that conclusion.

But you know, and I know, that politicians aren’t all the same.

The Liberal Democrats do offer a different choice because we have different values.

So I believe passionately that our task in politics is to take our values to the British people – not just in 60, 70 or 80 seats but in every seat.

We have to set out why those values are the right ones for the twenty first century.

The message of a fairer, greener, more democratic Britain is a powerful one which I relish the chance to deliver.

There is no point in us being just another managerial option.

There is plenty of that on offer from Blair and Brown and Cameron.

For them, politics doesn�t seem to be about different visions.

They see politics as being about different management techniques.

And they seem to think that if you tweak a bit here, fiddle a bit there, then people may just decide that their form of managerialism is the way forward.

We need to offer a much starker choice.

A choice which challenges the powerful vested interests, the dominating monopolies and the unaccountable quangos.

Challenges not by quick fix policy solutions.

I do not believe there are simple answers to be found in pinning all our hopes on one tax rate or another or on some superficial slogans that will be ripped apart by our opponents.

But challenges by having a powerful and compelling political message.

The fight against poverty at home and abroad.

The need to tackle climate change.

The state playing fast and loose with civil liberties.

The centralisation that leaves local communities with no say over their hospitals and schools.

The arrogant nationalism that sees powerful countries taking the law into their own hands.

Beveridge talked of the five giants stalking the land when he published his report in 1942.

Want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

He inspired the nation by drawing the battle lines starkly.

In doing that he paved the way for great reforms.

I tell you today that I am determined to draw those battle lines just as clearly in the twenty-first century.

When Jo Grimond said that he would lead his troops towards the sound of gunfire, he inspired me and an entire generation of Liberal activists.

But today, we have to be making the sound of gunfire ourselves.
We must be leading the attack and firing the first salvos.

In the battle against poverty,
I want people to know where the Liberal Democrats stand.
I want people to understand that we regard poverty as a disgrace in one of the world’s richest nations.
I want people to know that we think it is a scandal that 40,000 children go to secondary school every year not being able to read.
I want people to know that we are appalled by the desperate conditions which put one and half million families on the waiting list for a council house.
New Labour boasts they roar like a lion � too often they squeak like a mouse.
If we are to fight that war against poverty and injustice there will have to be both redistributive taxation and creative local policies to tackle problems like housing.
That way, people will recognise us as the champions of social justice.

In the battle against climate change, I want people to be in no doubt of this: that the planet we share is the most precious inheritance we can pass on to future generations.
Liberal Democrats will have no truck with those whose actions lead to irreversible damage.
Then I want the public to know that we will take tough action to change behaviour � both at home and abroad – so that there is a habitable planet to pass on.
That way people will recognise us as the champions of sustainability.

On civil liberties, we must lead the charge because we are the only party with consistent credentials on rights and diversity.
This debate has for too long been an abstract one, but we now know where an illiberal government leads.
It leads to plans to take away people�s rights for months on end without trial.
It leads to the most invasive and intrusive scheme on ID cards ever seen in peacetime Britain.
And tragically, it leads to an innocent man being shot on the London Underground.
I have argued for strong measures to counter the real terrorist threat � like telephone intercepts – because I never want us to be accused of being soft on terrorism.
But I know this can be balanced by defending people�s liberties, against the government ministers who want to take them away.
That way, people will recognise us as the champions of security and liberty.

We must also take our values to the great debate on public services.
Where we stand on this must be clear: we want real local choices for all.
Labour cannot offer the real choice which flows from local democracy, because above all else they are a centralising party. So are the Conservatives.
We reject that. We believe in localism. We invented community politics.
We stand firm in our belief in local democracy as the best guarantor of local choice.
Only through local democracy can communities make real choices for the good of all.
The people of St Albans must have the power to make decisions about how the local schools, hospitals and policing run.
Our belief in democratic localism must be the vision that emerges triumphant.

Finally, we are the internationalist party in British politics.
When the others are so worryingly nationalist, we must be the party that argues for international law.
The party that understands that international cooperation, through Europe, the UN, and the WTO, is the way to tackle the problems we face as a global community.
I want the troops home from Iraq.
But I also want us to have a phased exit strategy like in the Bosnia not an arbitrary date plucked from a London calendar.
And I am passionately committed to continuing to make that internationalist case.

So when we look back at twentieth century liberalism, we can draw strength from our past
and look forward to our future with vigour.
Beveridge had his five giants.
So do we: poverty, climate change, centralisation, terrorism and nationalism.
These are our enemies.

In facing them and defeating them, there is only one course we can take.
Let us be proud of our values: social justice, sustainability, localism, security and liberty, internationalism.
And let us proclaim them to the British people.