Liberal leader James Tien Pei-chun has been enjoying his unlikely role as the people's hero ever since his resignation from the Executive Council frustrated the government's last-ditch bid to push through the unpopular national security laws. Whether viewed as a courageous and principled act to reflect the will of the people, or a sharp piece of political opportunism, there is no doubting the resignation had a positive impact on the party's fortunes. Polls have consistently shown that the popularity of the Liberal Party and its leader have both received a big boost. But the reaction of the party to these unexpected events in July has been disappointing. Its relaunch this week was more a change of style - and a minor one at that - than of substance. The party boldly declared its intention to attract broader support, particularly from the disenchanted middle classes. It vowed to shake off its image as a party that represents an elite group of business people and to 'join-hands' with the community. So far, so good. But Mr Tien went on to state that the party hopes to achieve this historic transformation without making the slightest change to the principles for which it stands. So the ideas upon which it has built a reputation as a 'party just for entrepreneurs' are somehow expected to pull in voters from all walks of life. It is a curious concept. The 'repositioning' announced by the party is all the more deflating when we consider the enormous potential created by the events set in train by the demonstration on July 1. Mr Tien's decision to break with the government at such a pivotal moment and back the people who marched marked a turning point for Hong Kong. It also provided the Liberal Party with a golden opportunity. Now is the time for the party to step into the political mainstream. It is well placed to do so, being in an unrivalled position to unite members of our fragmented, tired and rather outdated political factions. It could win votes not only from the business sector, but also from middle class professionals. The Liberal Party has a chance to move from being a small yet important voting bloc in the Legislative Council to become the dominant force. It could, in the process, change the political landscape and, if the political system is reformed in the years ahead, perhaps become Hong Kong's first ruling party. But this will take courage and vision on the scale as that which prompted Mr Tien's resignation from Exco. It will require a genuine change in position and a new platform that reaches out to the very people the party now proclaims it is trying to attract. Instead, the relaunch produced vague statements expressing a desire to capture support from all walks of life, including the working class. This ambition was reflected in a recruitment campaign featuring all the colours of the rainbow, a somewhat uninspiring slogan and a symbolic joining up of gaps in the party emblem. All very slick, but hardly a defining moment in Hong Kong's political history. If the party is really to capitalise on the goodwill it has enjoyed since July, it needs to come up with a new manifesto, with new ideas and new policies. It must offer the middle class in particular a programme that demonstrates they are regarded as important constituents. A firm commitment to democratic reform in 2007 will be essential if it is to establish such credentials. Ditching the party's practice of fielding Legco candidates only in functional constituencies with relatively small electorates is also needed. To become a party of the people, its candidates must face the public in direct elections. But attracting popular support requires hard work and hard thought to produce and publicise policies that are relevant to people's lives and concerns.