Extract from an article by Lord Tom McNally in the current weekly Liberal Democrat News (26 February) written after attending a Lloyd George Society weekend at Llandrindod Wells:

"It was a thoroughly enjoyable and battery recharging weekend. On the journey home I had time to reflect how comfortable this party is in its skin.  Paddy Ashdown used to end many of his speeches with Cromwell's exhortation: 'Know who you are and what you fight for.'  The more I go round to party meetings and talking to our activists, the more I hear the same passions for freedom and fairness.

"The taproot of liberty of the individual grows strong and deep in our party. What differentiates the Liberal Democrats from both Labour and the Conservatives is marrying that commitment to individual rights to an equally strong commitment to social and economic fairness.

"As we approach a General Election, which provides us with the best opportunity in a generation of significant advance, it may be time to remind ourselves that a party of conscience and reform must march towards the sound of gunfire in defence of its principles.

"We do so not because of esoteric theory, but because of a very practical belief that we will not retain the social cohesion necessary to see us through the difficult times which lay ahead without social, economic and taxation politicies which are seen to be fair.

"Nick Clegg has, quite rightly, refused to play the media game of being drawn into meaningless speculation about hung parliaments.  We are entitled to point out, however, that the last 31 years have produced what Lord Hailsam called democratic dictatorships with Labour and Conservatives enjoying absolute power on minority votes.  That situation has given us the Poll Tax, an illegal war in Iraq and the worst recession in 80 years.

"Every poll shows that the electorate knows that tough times lie ahead and that they want politicians to listen and to work together. We should not be afraid to argue for the new kind of politics which involves a break with a failed past.

"The DNA of this party enables us to meet the twin challenges of a country where the need to both protect our freedoms and repair our economy in a way which protects the weak.  It is our roots in the great radical tradition of reform which is the best guarantee to the electorate that a vote for the Liberal Democrats will be neither wasted nor betrayed."