Letter: Liberalism lives to control power

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The Independent Online
Sir: When you talk in your leading article (1 August) of 'ending the era of split opposition', you remind me of Jeremy Thorpe's remark that 'every year the hearse turns up at the Liberal Assembly, and every year it goes away empty'. If we have not disappeared in the past 50 years, we are hardly likely to do so now.

You also mistake our identity. After the merger with the SDP, we decided by an overwhelming majority that we were a Liberal Democrat, not a Social Democrat, party. If Labour should become a Social Democrat party, it would make co-operation with them easier if the electorate so decides, just as it would if the spiritual heirs of Robert Carr and Ian Gilmour were to regain control of the Conservative Party. In neither case would the change meet our essential message.

Liberalism is dedicated to controlling arbitrary power through the rule of law and through accountability to the people. As Alan Beith once said, we are the only party willing to come into office committed to controlling our own power. It does not matter whether the power is exercised by governments, employers, trade unions, banks, them or us: it still needs controlling.

Yours sincerely,


House of Lords

London, SW1

1 August