Over the centuries, Britain has taken enormous strides to becoming the fair, free and open society we all know it can be.
For more than 150 years, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have led that change: championing free trade, introducing the state pension and free school meals, laying the foundations of the welfare state and the National Heath Service, legalising same-sex marriage, and taking urgent action to tackle the climate emergency.
But after years of Conservative neglect, the social contract – or fair deal – between people and government has been shattered. Liberal Democrats will never stop fighting to rebuild and strengthen it.
Furthermore, the UK’s political system is fundamentally broken. Millions of people feel powerless and excluded, robbed of their rightful say and unable to hold the powerful to account.
We want to give everyone the power to make the most of their potential, and real freedom to decide how they live their lives.
The task is extensive. That is why the fair deal we propose has five themes which are set out below.
1. A fair, prosperous and innovative economy that promotes opportunity and wellbeing.
Everyone deserves the chance to get on in life and see their hard work and aspiration properly rewarded. Businesses and entrepreneurs should be supported to create worthwhile jobs in every part of the UK. But the Conservatives’ botched deal with Europe has damaged trade and prosperity and is acting as a permanent brake on the economy.
Liberal Democrats are the champions of small businesses – the engines of our economy and the beating heart of local communities. We put people first, with a focus on education, training and flexible working. We believe in harnessing the benefits of new technology and innovations for everyone. And we understand that to grow the UK’s economy we must fix the broken relationship with Europe.
2. Fair access to good public services and a strong social safety net.
Every child deserves the best possible start in life. Everyone should receive the care they need when they are ill or frail, and a helping hand when they fall on tough times. Liberal Democrats believe that an active state is essential to empower people and provide the support they need.
That means a government which helps struggling families and pensioners when they face a cost-of-living crisis, rather than one which plunges them into poverty. We understand that education is the key to opportunity and the best possible investment in our country’s future. We cherish the NHS, a Liberal invention and one of the UK’s proudest achievements.
3. A flourishing environment, with fair access to nature for all.
Everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of our wonderful natural environment, and our children should inherit the future they deserve. The climate and nature emergencies are the most pressing threats to prosperity facing the UK and the world.
We must act now: investing in green technologies and skills training, cutting air and water pollution, and taking a new approach to farming and the countryside. The UK can lead the world with innovation and ingenuity, while boosting the economy and enhancing everyone’s quality of life.
4. A strong United Kingdom and a fair international order.
Liberal Democrats are proud internationalists. We believe that our country and our people thrive when we are open and outward-looking. The UK can be an incredible force for good when it stands tall on the world stage, championing the values of equality, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Both the Covid pandemic and Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine show that events beyond Britain’s borders inevitably become our concern.
We are passionate about close British-European cooperation, which benefits us and our allies. While we support a longer-term objective of EU membership, we recognise that the Conservatives have damaged trust in the UK so badly that there is a lot of work to do before that is possible. We have therefore set out a comprehensive step-by-step plan to rebuild our ties of trade, trust and friendship with our nearest neighbours – ties that can only be built back gradually over time.
5. A truly fair democracy, where everyone’s rights are respected and individuals and communities are empowered.
Every person matters. Every life is precious. Liberal Democrats believe that basic rights and dignity are the birthright of every individual, to be respected, cherished and enhanced. We want to shift more power out of the centre in Whitehall, so local decisions are made by and for the people and communities they affect. We want to break up concentrations of power, and put real power in everyone’s hands.
For a hundred years, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have been fighting for fair votes, to give everyone equal power in our democracy and hold all Members of Parliament properly to account. Our goal is to transform the nature of British politics itself to make it more relevant, engaging and responsive to people’s needs and dreams.