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1931 Liberal Party General Election Manifesto

Liberal address to the Nation

The country is faced by an economic crisis of great gravity. Not only has Britain been driven off the Gold Standard, but almost every other nation is reeling under the strain of an unparalleled depression.

Nothing save the highest statesmanship can steer the world back to normal conditions and prevent disasters of the greatest magnitude.

The Liberal Party held that the Government and Parliament should devote themselves to the vast and urgent tasks that faced them, without a General Election at this time. But the Prime Minister has decided to appeal to the country for a mandate to carry through whatever measures may be found to be needed to deal with the emergency, and the electorate is now called upon to give its judgement.

In these circumstances, the Liberal Ministers have felt it their duty to co-operate with the Prime Minister in maintaining a strong and stable Government composed of men of all parties.

Situation still critical

The situation today is not less critical than it was when the National Government was formed. Despite the fact that the Budget has been balanced, the nation has gone off the Gold Standard, and the effects of this on national and international credit, and on the cost of our food and raw materials, have yet to be fully felt.

The vital need of today is to avoid any inflation of the pound, which would mean a rapid fall in the purchasing power of money, the loss of savings, large and small, and a general lowering of the standard of life of the whole community.

Common action by the countries of the world is urgently required to stabilise currency, to deal with the international debts and reparations, and to make a powerful effort to secure a lowering of the tariff barriers to trade which are without doubt one of the principal causes of the universal depression and unprecedented unemployment.

At home it is imperative both to keep the Budget balanced and to secure a favourable balance of trade, by whatever methods, whether related to currency, to the expansion of exports or the restriction of imports, which might be found to be necessary and effective for that purpose. At the same time, energetic action should be taken to promote industrial and agricultural development, with a view to increasing the production of foodstuffs at home and the export of manufactured goods abroad.

The Liberal Party goes to the polls as the vigorous advocate of those Liberal aims and ideals which have rendered the highest service to the country and to the Empire. We are strongly of opinion that no issues of controversy between the parties supporting the Government should have been introduced at this election.

Having regard, however, to pronouncements that have been made, we feel bound to declare our view that whatever emergency measures might be found to be necessary to deal with the immediate situation, freedom of trade is the only permanent basis for our economic prosperity and for the welfare of the Empire and of the world. Protection has not saved those countries which have adopted it from more acute unemployment than ourselves.

Taxation on the staple foods of the people has always been opposed by the Liberal Party and would lay fresh burdens on those least able to bear them.

The abandonment by Great Britain of her free trade policy would aggravate the divisions between nations and would check the growing realisation throughout the world of the disasters towards which they have been leading mandkind.

The nation's sacrifices

It is profoundly to be regretted that the financial difficulties of this time have put a check upon measures of social reform and of national development, and have demanded severe sacrifices from the whole nation.

Liberalism, which for generations has played a leading part in the effort to raise the standards of life of the people, and which still stands as the principal bulwark between the country and a disastrous conflict between classes, deeply deplores these events.

but it sees in the maintenance of sound finance, which is the condition of the restoration of industry and commerce, the indispensable steps to the lessening of unemployment and to the resumption of social progress.

Despite the professions in the recent declaration of the Labour Party that it would wish to balance the Budget and to prevent inflation, the programme of expenditure to which that party has now committed itself must defeat both those aims and lead to financial disaster.

The conditions of the present Election are one more proof of the imperative need of a reform in the electoral system if the real wishes of the voters are to be truly expressed at the polls.

An independent party

To safeguard international peace, to maintain and increase the strength of the League of Nations, and to promote the success of the forthcoming Disarmament Conference are among the price purposes to which the nations should address themselves. The development of responsible government in India through the Round Table Conference is also of the highest importance.

It is an independent party, standing with undiminished conviction for those causes of individual and national liberty and social progress with which liberalism has always been identified, forming a barrier against both reaction on the one hand and rash and injurious changes on the other, but co-operating now with the Prime Minister in dealing with the crisis which is upon us, that the Liberal Party appeals to the nation.

It asks that the electorate shall use its power to ensure that liberal ideas shall have a powerful expression and an effective influence both in the Government and in the coming Parliament.

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