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Liberal / SDP / Libdem Manifestos > 1951 > Manifesto text in a single long file
1951 Liberal Party General Election Manifesto
The Nation's Task
Great Britain is facing a new crisis - one of the biggest in her history. The people have not yet grasped how vast are the problems we have to solve very soon indeed.
There is still no sure peace between nations. Hanging over the whole world is the fear that some governments are planning aggression. There is still war in Korea, and the dispute in Persia is an immediate danger. We have begun a gigantic programme of rearmament, which will affect the living standards of all of us. At the same time, the Dollar Gap has again opened and that, together with shortage of all foreign currencies, brings the ugly threat that we may not be able to buy the raw materials we must have to keep up the employment of our people. On top of all this is the fact which comes home to every housewife every day: the cost of living keeps going up.
One thing is certain, no matter what the result of the Election. The country will need not only courage but unity. The nation cannot afford another parliament based on open class division, bitter party strife, and the remorseless friction of two great party machines.
A Party for All the People
Why is it of vital concern that there should be a strong Liberal Party in the next House of Commons?
First - the Liberal Party has something to say on its own account. It is the only party free of any class or sectional interests. Its influence is far and away greater than its numbers would suggest.
Second - the existence of a strong, independent Liberal Party would strengthen the liberal forces n both parties. Neither of these parties is genuinely united. Both have powerful extremist wings which could do serious damage to the nation's welfare. In the everyday business of Parliament, the Liberals would support the more reasonable elements in both the Labour and Conservative parties. They would act as a brake on class bitterness and create a safeguard against the deadening power of the great political machines. It is their peculiar role to do this in modern society because they are radical without being socialist. For that reason they provide the rallying-point for the saner elements in both modern Conservatism and modern Socialism.
The existence of a Liberal Party, as recent experience has shown, constantly reminds the individual M.P. that the crack of the party whip is by no means the be-all and end-all of a live democracy.
That is why Liberals are convinced that there should be, and must be, more Liberal Members in the House of Commons. In a supreme effort to bring that increase about, Liberals will contest selected seats in all areas of the country, and concentrate all their resources in those constituencies. By so doing, Liberals offer to the nation an opportunity of sending to Parliament first-class men and women who have a great contribution to make to the solution of our problems; men and women who will fight without fear for the policies they think best for the nation, whether they are popular policies or not.
Liberals, with more Members in the House, can compel Parliament to face the problems squarely and can make sure that the measures taken for their solution are based on common sense and social justice.
World Peace Through Law
We stand firmly, as we have always stood, behind Collective Security and the United Nations Organisation. We believe in the absolute necessity of maintaining the rule of law, and protecting British interests when necessary within the framework of international law.
Because there are other nations who do not accept that rule of law, peace cannot be taken for granted. For this reason, we support with all our hearts the measures which are being taken to build up collective security among the free nations, so that there shall be adequate strength to stop any possible aggressors and oblige them to settle their disputes by peaceful means. We fully support the rearmament programme, but we emphasise once again that it is a mistake to measure the success of rearmament by the amount of money we spend on it. The true test is the number of fully equipped Army, Air and Naval units that are ready for action. More Liberals in Parliament means more Members pledged to demand efficiency and value for money in all our military spending.
A String Commonwealth
One of the greatest forces for peace is the British Commonwealth. The Liberal Party, which created the Commonwealth, will throw every ounce of its weight behind every effort to improve Commonwealth relations and build up a system of genuine co-operation. Liberals are proud of the Commonwealth. They wholly condemn the colour bar which exists in parts of it.
New Design for Europe
The Liberals alone recognise the fact that the world is witnessing the end of the era of national self-sufficiency. Nothing that we can do on our own can completely solve our difficulties. We must act and think on an international plane. In this sphere, the Liberal Party can justly claim to have been the pioneer. It is the only truly international party of the three.
The Council of Europe is a Liberal conception. It is the realisation of a dream of European Liberals for two centuries. We are living in a world in which a great new design for human government is taking form. Our intimate family relationship with the British Commonwealth, our partnership with the United States - a partnership on which all the hopes of world peace depend - and such fresh groupings as the North Atlantic Organisation and the Pacific Pact, are not rival conceptions to one another. They are all part of the shape of things to come. To avoid international anarchy and chaos, everything depends on the willingness to agree to some organ of government larger than the State.
The Liberal Party will campaign continuously for the breaking down of international barriers. Only by working with like-minded peoples shall we secure the greatest prize of all - the peace and growing prosperity of all mankind.
More Production - Lower Prices
At home, after tremendous efforts to recover from the war, we are still faced with appalling difficulties. We used to be the workshop of the world. That position is now seriously challenged. Although we have full employment at the moment - a policy which Liberals largely designed and fully support - the standard of living of our people cannot be maintained unless a very great effort is made and new policies adopted.
For wages to go up is, in the long run, a good thing. For prices to go up is a bad thing. We can keep wages up and bring prices down in only one way - by making more and better things with the same amount of labour, and selling at no more than a fair profit. To achieve this, it is essential that producers should have up-to-date plant - and enough of it - and that manufacturers, farmers, housebuilders - in fact, everyone who makes necessary goods - shall be able to do so in the ways that are most efficient. Only thus can we hope to compete in foreign markets and increase our exports.
Liberals in Parliament, if there are enough of them, can ensure that legislation and administrative action help the producers of goods instead of hampering them. The Trade Unions, too, have a very big part to play, but they must be ready to accept and promote new and better methods in industry. To refuse new methods, with the idea of preventing unemployment, is the surest way to cause unemployment. The American worker lives much better than the British worker, not because he works longer or harder, but because he often has better machinery and better tools, his work is better organised and the industry operates under far less restrictions.
Increased efficiency and production must also be obtained by bonus systems and profit-sharing schemes on top of the standard Trade Union wages. This will encourage the worker to do his best, and will lower the cost of production.
Set Industry Free
Heavy taxes which prevent business from having enough capital to scrap old plant and put in new must be avoided in the interests of efficiency.
In many industries profits are higher than they need be or should be, because groups of producers combine to limit competition. Parliament must strike at Monopolies, price rings, and other hindrances to trade; in fact, at everything that hits the consumer by forcing up prices.
What we need is a great national drive to bring down the cost of living. It can be done, but it means the fullest co-operation of Government, Parliament, Capital, Management, Labour, to see to it that there is more production per man, greater freedom to produce, greater freedom to sell, greater freedom to buy.
No Easy Promises
Many promises will be made in this Election. We refuse to join in a dishonest competition to make the nation's tasks look easier than they are. It would be easy to hold out false hopes of lower taxes immediately or that all the houses that are needed could be built in a short time.
Taxation can only be reduced substantially when by hard work and increased efficiency we have raised the national income, so that a lower rate of tax will bring a higher revenue. We shall take care, as Liberals have always done, that the burdens do not fall too heavily on those who are least able to bear them. And at the present time, Liberals will specially champion the interests of pensioners and all with small fixed incomes - just because they are the people most in need.
Widespread misery and suffering is caused by the shortage of Houses. But more houses depend on materials being available, and these can only be obtained as part of the general production drive. We shall continue to advocate our policy of reducing building costs with out lowering standards.
The Social Services must be safeguarded. Food subsidies must remain until the increased productivity campaign has brought down the cost of living.
Extravagance and Waste have constantly occurred in public administration. We demand the setting up of a House of Commons Committee on National Expenditure, to prevent the waste of taxpayers' money before the event, instead of leaving the Comptroller and Auditor to discover it two years later.
The difficulties which face us in the field of international trade and in home industries, and the great danger of a world food shortage, emphasise the vital part which British Agriculture has to play if we are to survive. In these unsettled conditions, the system of guaranteed prices and assured markets is essential. Liberals advocate the complete reorganisation of the marketing system of the country so as to eliminate waste and inefficiency and enable producers to get fair prices while ensuring reasonable prices and standards of quality to the consumer.
Scotland and Wales
We repeat our pledge to Scotland and Wales that we will work in every possible way to win for them their own Parliaments. Self-government for Scotland and Wales is necessary to save their vital concerns from neglect, and it is no less necessary to ease the burden on the Parliament at Westminster. It is a step forward in freedom which will not weaken but will strengthen the unity of the Kingdom.
The Nation's Task
The way out of our difficulties will not be found by relying on governments. Every one of us has a responsibility which we must accept. The British are an adventurous people. They work best when they have the greatest freedom. The duty of governments is not to restrict enterprise but to create conditions in which enterprise can flourish in the interests of the whole nation.
We believe that a Parliament in which these views are not forcefully expressed will serve the nation badly. Only Liberals will resolutely champion this policy as a whole and on every occasion.
We live in difficult times, and no honest man can pretend that there is an easy way ahead. But we know that Britain will rouse herself to accept the challenge of these days. The next few years will be critical for our country. We cannot fail to win through if we meet them with the courage and the initiative that are fostered by a Liberal attitude to life.
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