“That is the purpose and the spirit of Liberalism, as I learned it as a student in my young days, as I was taught it both by the precept and the example of the great Liberal statesman Mr Gladstone…that remains the same today. Do not forsake for temporary expediencies, for short-lived compromises, for brittle and precarious bridges – do not forsake the great heritage of the Liberal tradition of the past. It is not superstition; it is not a legend; it is founded upon faith and experience, and justified at every stage in our political history”
- Prime Minister H. H. Asquith (circa.19189)
Fiscally responsible, yet passionate about social justice; socially and economically a true liberal. Gladstone once said wealth should be left ‘to fructify in the pockets of the people’ and was the last Chancellor to carefully consider abolishing income tax. His social reforms helped pave the way to radical education and health changes within the country and the Third Reform Act drastically strengthened British democracy.
His second administration helped to tackle corruption in politics, exploitation in the workplace and land reforms. Of course, Gladstone is political giant of a forgotten age, but he helped maintain liberalism through some difficult times. Us liberals, who are the current defenders of the faith, must learn to accept there is no difference between social, economic, political and individual liberalism – we are all liberals.
The Liberal Democrats do not need to decide between which liberalism to accept and promote; a true liberal party represents and defends all liberals. That is the most important lesson Gladstone taught us.