The future and practice of garage politics

Oh no! Here we go again – another year, another leader.  Still we cling, the drowning man, to a way of doing politics that is so very Noughties or perhaps even very Nineties – Eighteen Nineties even.

In response to the 2010/15 disaster we  devised a Board, which is frankly very ‘grown up’ but totally unimaginative in the light of the huge alteration to our reputation, status and standing, as well as being culturally inappropriate to Liberalism.

WANTED:  a politics for the 2020s or even the 2030s, shipped today.

We need to predict the future.   “Hey, if you want to predict the future, make it”?

Good advice. Who said that?

Steve Jobs.

You see, in 2015, I began to wonder how Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX would approach the problems we had.  Watch Musk on some wicked issues here.

People like Musk and Jobs disrupt entrenched thinking. That’s what we need.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment
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Improving Watford through arts, culture and fun

This weekend sees the start of the seventh Imagine Watford festival, consisting of free outdoor dance and theatre performances by an impressive array of British and international artistes and groups.

The festiva is part of a long-term vision of Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and Liberal Democrat councillors to use arts and culture to promote the regeneration of Watford town centre and make it a more enjoyable place to visit.

This has centred on an area of the High Street that had become primarily for the evening economy (a euphemism for bars and nightclubs). While successful enough of itself, the area had gained an unwanted reputation for late-night anti-social behaviour, while struggling to find a daytime role.

That is why Dorothy promoted the idea of a family-friendly town centre – as somewhere not just for shopping at one end and clubbing at the other, but as a place for cultural and social activity. We carried out a major environmental improvement scheme, which included creating a space where arts and community events can take place. As television retail guru Mary Portas, who grew up in Watford, commented at an event to mark the completion of the scheme:

High streets aren’t just about shopping, they’re about encouraging us to engage in where we live. We can never underestimate what the high street means to us.

Alongside that, we launched our Big Events programme of which Imagine Watford is part. It includes an urban beach and outdoor film screenings during the summer holidays, ice skating over the Christmas period. Other events, including a variety of music performances, are held at nearby Cassiobury Park, itself subject of a major lottery-funded restoration scheme, These events are enjoyed by thousands of local people, helping to create a sense of pride and wellbeing as well as offering people access new cultural experiences, and providing a chance for people from Watford’s diverse communities to come together. 

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Brexit, one year on

A lot can change in a year.

On 23rd June 2016, I was left heartbroken after a tough and exhausting referendum campaign saw a victory for an insular nationalist vision of Britain.

The vote to Leave has divided our country in a way even ‘Project Fear’ could never have imagined.

After the referendum, we were told that the populist right was on an unstoppable rise. Geert Wilders, Netherland’s answer to Donald Trump, would storm to victory in the Dutch general election; Marine Le Pen would triumph over the established political consensus in the French Presidential election; and the Liberal Democrats’ fight to keep Britain in Europe was laughed off.

But a lot can change in a year.

Our ALDE sister Party, VVD, secured victory in the Netherlands with a lead of over 8 points. Voters in France chose a pro-European liberal vision of hope as Emmanuel Macron overwhelmingly won the Presidency and obtained an absolute majority in the French Parliament.

And in the UK, it’s still all to fight for. Theresa May called a general election to ask the electorate to force through her destructive Brexit and the public refused to give her the mandate.

The latest polling on Brexit shows big movement – 53 per cent of people now back the Lib Dem position for a final say on the Brexit deal.

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Tainted love?

I’ve seen people talking about the need for a leader who will be “untainted” by Coalition.

I couldn’t disagree more.

We have a strong story to tell, and the Coalition is a crucial part of it. We will never thrive by being the party of protest and pure tactical voting. As Mark Pack and others have said, we need to create a core vote of our own. The Coalition makes this more plausible.

Despite being naturally liberal, I didn’t support the Lib Dems before the Coalition because I perceived them as a protest party.  I thought they were opportunists, tactical vote recipients, defined by who they were not rather than who they were.  Then the 2010 General Election happened, and the Lib Dems went into Coalition and started making hard choices. They started governing. Either I had been completely wrong about the Lib Dems, or they had risen to the situation amazingly. Or quite possibly, it was a bit of both.  They proved  beyond a shadow of a doubt  that they were a true and plausible political party of Government with their own agenda and ethos, which I very much liked.

The Lib Dems achieved so much in Coalition, outpunching their weight by a huge amount. The rise in the income tax threshold made a massive difference for the just-about-managing (note how the Tories have tried to take the credit for this). The Quad – with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – adjusted the austerity regime to boost growth and protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Take a look at the distributional analyses of tax and benefit changes under the Coalition and compare them to those under the Tory majority rule since – it’s a horrifying change.

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Latest Social Liberal Forum Publication Now Available: “Northern Discomfort: An Analysis of the Lib Dem performance in the 2017 General Election”

Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the Social Liberal Forum is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of  liberals—in particular social liberals– everywhere.

We are very grateful to Michael Mullaney for writing his excellent analysis of the General Election results, especially as it focuses on the fate of the party in significant regions of  England.  We now hold only one seat in the north of England (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and looking at the north, the Midlands, Wales and East Anglia combined, we defended only seven of the 16 second places we were defending, and lost our seats in Leeds Northwest, Sheffield Hallam and Ceredigion.

The story of this General Election is undoubtedly the fall in vote share to 7.4%–wonderful as it may be to have increased our tally of MPs by four– and the party facing irrelevance in large parts of the north, and other parts of the country.   This is particularly distressing, as our policies would make such a difference to people living in these regions of England.

At the end of his piece, Michael says,

….there is a large potential market place for centre-left progressive politics.  This gives us the opportunity at the next election to present the public with a progressive, social liberal agenda.

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A candidate’s tale: Part 2

Today Richard continues his account of his campaign in Macclesfield in the General Election. You can read Part 1 here.

We planned a campaign to make maximum use of social media – the leafleting of the 21st Century. (Don’t worry. We had plenty of leaflets too!)

Having practiced our high-visibility public-facing events – canvassing and hustings – we captured them in photos and posted through Facebook and Twitter, so people could see we were out there talking to the voters, taking the campaign seriously. A weekend’s events could be spread …

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Layla Moran MP writes: Where I stand on the leadership contest

My, it feels a long time ago since June 9th.

My first few days in Parliament have been hectic, exhilarating and at times utterly magical. The first time you sit on the Green Benches and you pinch yourself to check you’re not dreaming. Accidentally on purpose getting lost in the warren of passages and have policemen refer to you as ma’am (being in my early 30s I find this very odd indeed). Your first engagement as the MP in the constituency and random people stopping you with huge smiles to say how happy they are that ‘we did it!’. Having a quick nap and waking up to find the Leader who got us there has decided to step down. Thud.

Like many of you, the changing of this particular guard was not something I remotely expected, nor indeed desired.

I was hoping for a period of stability. Not least for me and my fellow new MPs to have time to settle in and tackle such mundane tasks as: work out how the internet works (very well actually), where the ladies’ loos are (clearly an afterthought in some areas) and where all the post has gone (in the hidden Post Office off Central Lobby, 3 bags worth).

I have a very sage member in my constituency who has a mantra: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.

This is the approach that got OxWAb to the narrow win we achieved.  It is what will drive us to hold on to it.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 19 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJenny Barnes 24th Jun - 9:27am
    Momentum?...I think it's already happening, just not here. Occupy..alt blogs..
  • User AvatarRobert 24th Jun - 9:22am
    We can't force people to stand in the leadership race. So some commentators on here ought to prepare themselves for a Vince Cable coronation.
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 24th Jun - 9:15am
    I saw Newsnight yesterday, early because Glastonbury took their usual slot. Andrea Leadsom is just being herself, lots of Tories do think like that. She...
  • User AvatarHolly Matthies 24th Jun - 9:15am
    @Michael You'll have seen from my next comment that I inadvertently left "EU" out of that 5% immigration statistic. Since I can't edit the comment,...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 24th Jun - 8:58am
    " Watford at number 48 on Tim Farron’s list of seats he’d like to target." Our first house was in North Watford, chosen for a...
  • User AvatarNeil Mackinnon 24th Jun - 8:38am
    @MichaelBG If Brexit goes ahead these income inequalities are only going to get worse and be further inbeded. Brexit is going to make us all...
Sat 1st Jul 2017