Author Archives: Kirsten Johnson

Listening, not just hearing

I have had several requests through facebook from voters on both sides of the EU issue on how to find a healthy, positive way forward. As deeply upset as many of us still are, it is difficult to think in positive, helpful terms when there still so much anger about this referendum taking place at all.

But I have put some thought into this and wish to share some ideas. In conflict resolution and mediation, lot of weight is placed on listening. This is a deep kind of listening, not one in which words are heard and then our point of view put forward, ‘but, but, but….’ Having done a fair bit of EU speaking and hustings, I am familiar with the riposte and parry required in refuting arguments and arguing a case.

Deep listening is understanding what is behind the words a person is saying. Many have suggested that much of the ‘leave’ vote was an anti-establishment vote, not an anti-EU vote. Tim Farron has pointed out that worries over housing, lack of school places and an under-resourced NHS were salient factors in the ‘leave’ vote.

I would further suggest that fear is behind many of the views of those who voted against the referendum. We live in a global world, a shrinking world, one that is quickly changing with technological advances. Those who voted leave, among them the majority older people, I suggest would like a return to a simpler world of pen and paper, not email, where everyone knows everyone in the village and stays there their entire life. But that is not the world young people live in – we train in different cities and countries, we work around the UK and in the rest of the world, we fall in love and have relationships which transcend borders. Younger people understand and embrace a fluid, global world. Many older people are frightened by it.

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Agenda 2020 essay #1: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today, to me, is about fairness, equality and freedom.  Freedom for all us to be who we wish to be and to develop our talents to the full.  Equality that no matter who we are, our origins, our abilities or disabilities, we are given equal voice and valued equally in society.  Fairness is about combatting structures in our society which promote the few over the many, so that all are enabled and empowered.

To be truly free is not a singularity.  It happens in relationship. Being a Liberal Democrat is about being in relationship: we are stronger together than we are alone.

WE are the world.  Not me.  Not I.  The rise of individualism, and the emphasis of individual freedoms without the context of relationship, has brought us to this point.  The 21st century is a self-serving society.  What is best for me?  What can I achieve?  How much more money can I make?  The emphasis on me, me, me is a losing ticket. Me can only win if WE are at the forefront of policy and decision making.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments

Opinion: Non-Linear Values: The Z Coordinate

Since the General Election arguments have raged over whether we, or particular people in the party, are centrist, left of centre or right of centre, and, if so, how much left or right of centre.

I think we are getting this wrong. It is not a linear issue. If I am a kind person, am I left of centre or right of centre? If I am selfish, am I left or right of centre? Why do we limit ourselves by a linear construct?

Rather than see liberal values, and the placement of Liberal Democrats on the political map, as linear, my view is we must take a non-linear perspective. Values are overarching. Promoting liberty, equality and community might sometimes involve what might be called right leaning policy, at other times left, but whether it is one or the other or neither is immaterial. What is important is whether the policy achieves liberty, equality and community. Those overarching values should be the litmus test for any policy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 25 Comments

Opinion: My vision

As a Parliamentary Candidate I received innumerable emails on a range of issues. One said:

Right, Kirsten. You’ve come into my house via your election pamphlet so here’s me coming into yours via an e-mail. I have a very simple request and that is for you to describe your personal vision (not a formulaic party response) for our country in 10 to 15 years’ time and your strategy for attaining that vision.

Many of us are tired of the same old party political machinations which focus solely on ‘buying’ votes via unachievable promises. I want to be inspired by someone who is able to rise above the unedifying scramble and who can paint a picture of a UK that will become admired.

Posted in Op-eds | 16 Comments

Opinion: Please vote

You have to register to vote by tomorrow, 20 April. If you haven’t already registered, please do! Here’s the online link: Register to vote – GOV.UK

Yesterday I attended a Wartime Tea Concert in my constituency. The hall was decorated in bunting, the orchestra played Dam Busters, the screens behind the orchestra showed pictures of the Normandy landings and ration queues.

There must have been at least twenty tables set for tea and covered with Union Jacks. At each table was a group of elderly people from either a local care home or from a lunch club. Their generation remembers the war and the sacrifices made.

I was moved to tears as I looked about the room. Our generation has not known such universal sacrifice and deprivation. Many of us do not know the true value of freedom. The vote is taken for granted. And in only a few years, that link with previous generations who can tell us first-hand about the great wars will be lost. We will only have recorded memories to rely on.

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Opinion: Water of Life

Today many Christians are celebrating Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus, whether you view him as historical figure, prophet or messiah, used many images in his teaching. One was water.

John 4:13-14 talks of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria at the well, and Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give them will become a spring of water in them. It will flow up into eternal life.”

Water is a precious resource. Just this week there was news of California entering the fourth year of drought. Governor Jerry Brown has introduced strict conservation measures to reduce water usage by 25%. California produces a third of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans, and prices in shops across the country are already reflecting the drought.

Global warming has brought this on. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains which supplies the water California needs is at a record low. The water California needs for households, crops and industry is not available. Sacrifices will have to be made.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 11 Comments

Opinion: Could you save a life?

As a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate I have received emails from St John Ambulance and from the British Red Cross, both wishing to promote First Aid. But what about mental health first aid? With equal parity now being given to mental and physical health, shouldn’t First Aid include Mental Health First Aid?

I think so. And I am pleased that Lib Dems at conference thought so too, for we approved new mental health policy which included a clause I submitted with the support of Oxford East:

To consult with external bodies on the content of, and how best to include training in, Mental Health First Aid, with a view to incorporating elements of Mental Health First Aid into existing First Aid at Work courses.

Imagine the world before First Aid classes, before people were taught the recovery position and CPR. Before such training, if someone was ill people would flap and call for help. They would not get involved.

The same thing happens when people are in mental health crisis. People feel inadequate, have no idea how to help, and do not get involved.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments
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    Actually, Labour's manifesto is to "Review the Prevent programme with a view to assessing both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities." It...
  • User AvatarPalehorse 30th May - 1:52pm
    Paul, "....... Liberalism based upon Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge. I will happily promote the latter and indeed have during my 34 years as a...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 30th May - 1:28pm
    @ John, "Overall, we should focus on cutting trade deficit if we want to reduce debt in the long run." Yes. That's right. Trade deficits...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 30th May - 1:15pm
    What we need is a policy thats simple enough for an 8 Year Old to get with very little explanation. Thats how Labour have confounded...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 30th May - 1:06pm
    What is strange here is that Alex wishes to bind Cable to Clegg. This in fact mirrors what happened in 2010 before the Manchester (or...
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    @David Evershed. Depends whether the 'Liberal' economic policies you want to promote are those of nineteenth century Gladstone or those of twentieth century Liberalism based...