Today we are announcing the launch of Liberal Insight, the new liberal think tank. Liberal Insight will contribute radical, progressive and innovative ideas to a vision of liberal society. Our advisory board is being chaired by Party President Tim Farron MP.
Liberalism has seen a resurgence in Britain in recent years, culminating in almost 7 million voters at the last election for the Liberal Democrats, a place in the Coalition Government and a long-awaited opportunity to implement distinctly liberal policies.
This rise in electoral success has come against a trend of the liberal gains of the last century being eroded by the deliberate actions of successive governments or the simple failure of specific policies. We face a fractured society with greater inequality, both of wealth and opportunity. We face existential threats to the welfare state and public services. Perhaps worst of all, we face a worrying disengagement not only from politics, but also from civil society, by a growing number of people.
The Coalition provides liberals with an excellent opportunity to reverse this trend and some progress has already been made. The pupil premium, for example, is a perfect example of a far-sighted policy that tackles the causes, not just the symptoms, of social inequality. It will contribute to establishing the equality of opportunity that should be the cornerstone of any liberal society.
We need to work out how to do better. How, for example, do we go beyond the pupil premium and reform the non-financial aspects of the education system? What would a liberal public healthcare system look like and how can we implement it in light of the Health and Social Care Bill? How can we best build local democratic institutions to deliver the real benefits that liberals have historically supported? How can we make sure governments here and abroad protect the environment and tackle our over-dependence on dwindling natural resources?
In the recent past liberalism has lost out on the investment in generating new ideas. Most prominent think tanks have been aligned to either Labour or the Conservatives and with the loss of the Lib Dem policy unit, the intellectual base of liberalism is somewhat under threat. We aim to redress this, not least by starting to tackle the big questions above.
* Tom Smith is Director of Liberal Insight, the new liberal think tank.