Ben Ramm talks with a swagger that belies his age. At 22, he is fresh out of university, but speaks with confidence and elegance about the challenges facing liberal thinking.

This week, a new magazine was launched at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Bournemouth, creating a platform for political, social and cultural debates within modern liberalism, and making Mr Ramm one of the youngest editors around.

"I have grown a beard, which helps. Most people in the Lib Dems don't know how old I am," he said.

Mr Ramm, of Church Mount, East Finchley, has brought about the magazine's rebirth this week along with publisher Simon Eder, 25, of Southway, Hampstead Garden Suburb. They follow uncomfortably and intrepidly, they admit in the footsteps of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Leigh Hunt, who formed The Liberal in 1822 to challenge the consensus of conservatism with poetry, prose fiction and reviews.

Now, as then, liberals need a space to think, the co-founders believe, but they also want to reclaim the word 'liberal' which has been sullied over the years, especially in the United States, as meaning woolly or soft-centred.

"We want to reposition the term liberal'," said Mr Ramm. "Socialist' was a word you could not use in the States. The term liberal' was used in its place, but you cannot use the term now.

"Liberal, the philosophical position, is fine in New York or in California, but these do not matter in elections. It is other places around the States that are shunning it," he said.

He believes that Bill Clinton, with his vote-winning it's the economy, stupid' strap-line, and John Kerry, who is portraying himself as a strong military man, have betrayed the liberal ethos (in a way that another military man, Paddy Ashdown, never did).

"I stood and applauded when Kerry said 'I am reporting for duty,' but maybe I should have laughed. At least we do not have that here.

"We can be an organ for the Liberal Democrats, but also a critical friend, " said Mr Ramm.

And the furore surrounding the Little Orange Book, which was published a few weeks before the Lib Dem party conference, and demonstrated to many political analysts a marked swing to the right by the party, was another sign the Lib Dems were lurching where they felt votes were to be gained.

"We are politically on the left of New Labour, but to the right of old Labour.

"But the left-right divide does not really work. What can you say about being for a local income tax?" he said.

But the magazine is no mouthpiece for the Liberal Democrats. Contributors to the first issue include Liberal Democrat politicians like Chris Huhne MEP, who has contributed a piece on devolution, and Tim Garden, member of the Lib Dem defence and foreign affairs team, who wrote about the lack of long-term strategic planning for the new Iraq.

Others do not wear party colours on their sleeve. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, contributed an article on Government plans for ID cards, and Germaine Greer picks her dinner company from the annuls of history.

"We want to be a broad church," added Mr Ramm.

Other authors include writer Hanif Kureishi, model and writer Sophie Dahl, conductor Daniel Barenboim, writer and broadcaster Ziauddin Sardar and painter Jack Vettriano. The publication also includes poetry and arts reviews.

"We have quite a few backers from within the party, and from liberals with a small L, but I have complete editorial independence," said Mr Ramm.

The magazine is being handed out at the Liberal Democrat party conference and reactions have been largely positive so far.

"It has been received quite well at the party conference. Some aren't interested in the philosophical side, some have given it a good reception," said Mr Ramm.

So was it difficult to get people on board? "No, it was quite easy," said Mr Eder. "I think people want to show their disillusionment with the Labour government," added Mr Ramm.

Mr Eder worked with Jewish Book Week before being convinced by Mr Ramm, who had just graduated from Cambridge in English, to get involved with the project.

"There was a gap of the market and we just felt that Liberal views were not expressed in the press," said Mr Eder. And within a few months the team were ready to publish the first addition.

But Britain today is not 18th-19th Century Britain, so is there a real need for this this approach to liberalism?

"Shelley said in 1819: he is against leaders who do not see, nor feel, nor know. Blair promised the Third Way but we have had Thatcherism instead. Liberalism will be the dominant philosophy of the 21st Century," said Mr Ramm.

"The modern liberal is the Third Way. Tony Blair did not follow the Third Way: he did not develop proportional representation. He did not produce enough devolved government.

"The Labour government is utilitarian. Blair says that he is into education and health. We are supposed to have the free market within hospitals, but we have the tyranny of the waiting list.

"We want a free market, but what we have now is not a free market, it is protectionism. We want a real free market and fair trade. We need a new aesthetic. It's not about tax, it's about needing new leaders, people who are going to be able to understand the workings of the DTI Department for Trade and Industry whilst knowing what people need. What we need in education is real value, Blair doesn't value it himself."

And what of the Lib Dems' chances at the next elections? "We are only eight months before an election. The liberals feel like we are getting more press coverage. And I think we can get 30 to 40 more seats."

Not enough to really rock the boat, but with a new magazine spearheading the liberal world, who knows.

The Liberal will be available for purchase at WH Smith, Borders, Waterstone's and newsagents for £2.80. Visit