Ming Campbell has a great opportunity to push the Liberal Democrats to centre stage. The Liberal Democrats have always stood up for the socially liberal agenda. The clarity with which we express opposition to the political might of the state is part of the very bedrock of what we do well. The commitment to international law and to the social limits of the state have been two things that have made the Liberal Democrats stand out over the past five years. The opposition to the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" has marked us out as principled and brave.
The next step is to show that our Liberal Democrat vision embraces economic freedom too. The taxation pot is not limitless, and the micro-management of Gordon Brown has created enormous fiscal drag. Even were it desirable (which I strongly dispute), it is just not possible to continue to tax and spend. If Lib Dems get tax right this time- which means setting clear limits on tax rates and tax takes- then there really is a great prize for us. Liberals, by definition believe in limits to state power. The fact is that we have not expressed our economic Liberalism nearly clearly enough. We grew confused- sometimes preferring the producer interest, instead of defending consumer choice. Now we have an opportunity to escape these past mistakes.
We do not need to break with our past- as Labour did, and the Conservatives still do- we need to show why a smaller state, more localism, a bonfire of quangos, and free trade, (domestic and international) are such strong Liberal Democrat traditions- and what that means.