Reflecting on all this, particular a recent post I wrote on John Stuart Mill made me wonder if liberals, whatever party they are members of, face two stark choices.
The first choice is to accept the world you are operating in as it is and attempt to make the policies being argued over being more liberal. For instance, you accept that there won't be significant changes with the public sector but devise ways to give people more say and control over how they are run. Broadly speaking, this is how the Liberal Democrats approach policy.
The second choice is to look at every issue through a liberal prism and develop liberal policies in response.
If one is to do the latter then it is important to have a clear sense of what liberalism means.
Let us assume that a liberal philosophy is built around the ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. Mill argued for a government that defended liberty: only intervening when an individual causes harm to another individual, crucially not to themselves, but otherwise government would stand back. It would let people work together, argue together and find truth and success through voluntary co-operation.
Today this would mean that government should not be telling people how to live, attempting to shape society beyond enforcing the 'harm principle' or divide up resources. It would mean being liberal in all things. Of course, government would have to create a liberal State to make sure that liberty could flourish. It would need to remove obstacles to liberty and as Mill, and Adam Smith, conceded the State would have a role in funding certain services. Mill believed education should be delivered by private organisations but funded publicly. Smith believed the State should fund the building of infrastructure but the providers of the infrastructure should be private organisations.
The latter is the harder choice. It is a choice that the Liberal Democrats need to make and be clear on over the next few years.