Policy Themes, Leadership Priorities

I was first inspired by Jo Grimond to join the Liberals. I was excited by a party that embraced new ideas, that cherished its principles, and that refused to sacrifice its enduring values for expediency.

In the Scottish political setting at the time, it was a rebellion of sorts. The two established parties dominated the scene. Most of the children from my school in the West End of Glasgow went on to support Labour or the Conservatives, like their parents and grandparents.

But that was not for me. Liberalism was fresh, open minded and willing to challenge the comfortable certainties of the two established parties. I knew I was a Liberal, an instinctive Liberal, even if it was at odds with my friends and my family.

I remain as passionate about the values of pluralism, tolerance, diversity, personal freedom and social progress today as I did when I first joined the party. I have never wavered in my trust in the cause of liberalism.

I believe in dedication and hard work. As an international athlete and as a lawyer I learned that success only comes about because of consistency and commitment.

Politics, too, requires patience and hard work. It took me 11 years, three elections, a lot of shoe-leather and single-minded determination to win my seat in North East Fife. In that time we went from fourth place and no councillors, to running the council and � eventually � first place in the General Election too. Campaigning for my political beliefs, and campaigning to win, is second nature to me.

If elected as Leader of this great party, you can be sure of this:

I will work tirelessly to cement the unity of the party. But unity must not come at the price of clarity, we must be clear in all that we say and do.

At a time when some critics have been quick to write us off, I intend to reassert our credibility and authority. This movement has been fighting for Liberalism for a century and a half. A great cause is not going to be destroyed in a month and a half.

I will draw on the different strands of our liberalism � economic, social, personal and political � to mark out distinctive territory in the liberal centre of British politics.

I will not allow the Liberal Democrats to be diverted by the short-term manoeuvres of the other two parties.

If elected, I will always be a listener, but above all I intend to be a leader promoting the unity, authority and purpose of our party.

Tony Blair has squeezed values out of politics. Under New Labour, politics has become managerial and not inspirational. The Government�s obsessive tinkering and micromanagement of public policy are illustrative of a politics without purpose, devoid of a clear guiding philosophy.

David Cameron has taken the same course, shunning conviction and desperate only to emulate the value-free managerialism of Mr Blair�s number 10. Mr Cameron is creating a Tory Party which repels less, but which still does not attract.

Britain does not need a third managerial party. It needs a distinctive liberal democratic party, drawing on the traditions which have sustained our party for generations.

But if the founding principles of our party have not changed, it is equally true that the world in which we seek to apply these principles is changing at breakneck speed. Our party must move with the times, applying those principles to new, complex challenges.

Consolidation and caution will not be an adequate response, either for our country or for our party.

Liberal Democracy cannot be a struggle between those who wish to modernise and those who do not. To be a Liberal Democrat is to be a moderniser. What were Lloyd George, Beveridge and Grimond but modernisers in their time?

When I joined this party we were not afraid of fresh thinking, of testing the boundaries of political debate, and challenging the fossilised thinking of the other parties. I am determined that we will become a party not of protest, but of Government, a party which changes Britain for the better.

I believe that a modern Liberal Democrat party is better placed than any other to understand and address the most pressing challenges of our time:

  • the overbearing centralisation of public life in Britain, which has led to a pervasive feeling of individual powerlessness amongst its citizens, and to public services which still fail too many of the people they are supposed to serve;

  • the absence of social justice, with persistent levels of poverty and social immobility, which are simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours, and a tax system still biased against the poor;

  • the unsettling effects of globalisation and the urgent need to rebuild confidence in the international rule of law;

  • the threat of catastrophic environmental degradation and the complex task of changing individual behaviour for the sake of the survival of the planet;

  • the fundamental imperative of reforming our outdated political institutions, and defending civil and individual rights at a time when Labour � and the Conservatives � are all too ready to abandon those hard won freedoms.

These are the urgent challenges of our times. My leadership will focus relentlessly on applying fresh thinking to these issues, drawing on our longstanding principles, and offering new solutions and answers to a British electorate weary of spin and managerial politics.

This personal statement sets out in more specific terms how I would aim to deliver on those pledges.

Thank you for your support.

Menzies Campbell (signature)

Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP