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.

In response, I said on 27.4.2015:

My vision for the UK in 15 years’ time? Well, I want to get rid of poverty. It is not fair that people don’t have enough money to have a decent life. I think hard-working people should be paid a decent salary. I support the Living Wage movement. I think people at the top are paid too much and people at the bottom aren’t paid enough.

The other thing I would like to see is a cleaner, greener approach to business and home life. We need to live more sustainably so that we leave a healthy planet for our children. I want them to be able to breathe clean air and enjoy the outdoors. Preserving and protecting the environment is important to me, and I hope that we cut down on pollution so that in 15 years’ time our world is in better shape than it is now.

In 15 years’ time I would want to live in a safer world. And that will make us safer here in the UK as well. I think we need to tackle the causes of war. These, in my mind, include poverty, disease and fighting over resources such as water and oil. I want the UK to lead in developing a safer world.

In 15 years’ time I want the NHS to still be here! And I want a strong NHS which provides good quality care for everyone. I think we need to do as much as we can to treat people early on and to prevent problems from developing into bigger problems. For example, I help with visiting some people in mental hospitals and if they would get better treatment earlier their problems wouldn’t be so huge. Also, we need to join up health and social care so that people get proper treatment at home and in hospital.

This leads me to older people. I recently wrote a blog on older people. I think we do not respect the older generation enough. In 15 years’ time I hope this has changed! We need to honour older people and treat them with dignity.

We suffered a massive defeat. In my opinion, we need to have a collaborative vision for where we see the world in 15 years’ time and then work towards it. This vision will give impetus to practical embodiment of our values.

 

* Kirsten Johnson is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Oxford East and a member of the Federal International Relations Committee.

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16 Comments

  • David Evershed 18th May '15 - 4:09pm

    Kirsten

    The things you list are fine but don’t you need to start by showing how we will create the wealth to justify the vision?

    Otherwise it sounds like the Labour party, just re-distributing what wealth there is rather than creating the conditions where more wealth is generated.

    So let’s hear it for a liberal approach to business and free but fair competition with the least possible government intervention.

    Plus a liberal approach to trade with free trade across borders not just within the EU. EU protectionism is not good for the EU in the long term.

  • Kirsten johnson 18th May '15 - 6:26pm

    Hi David, thanks for reading and commenting. I posted this, not because I gave the perfect answer (I gave a answer), but because the question posed is one on which we all need to reflect. Of course we will fly the flag of liberty, equality and community, but getting past the words into what are actual vision is will give direction to our discussions. My vision is actually broader than the quote from my email at the end of April, but it is some of what I’d like to see.

  • Kirsten johnson 18th May '15 - 6:27pm

    “our” sorry, not are, autocorrect thinks it knows best!

  • Richard Church 18th May '15 - 7:55pm

    It’s easy to nit-pick, but that’s a good response Kirsten, and it highlights the problem with our national campaign. We failed to set out our vision and how we are are going to get there.

  • @kirsten your response was big on where you wanted to get yo, but said nothing about how you would get there – the strategy your correspondent asked for.

    What do you see as the strategy we should employ to deliver the vision you have gave?

  • A Social Liberal 18th May '15 - 8:37pm

    David

    First comes the vision, then the decisions on how to achieve that vision.

    Kirsten – a good article, hope it convinced your questioner.

  • Kirsten johnson 19th May '15 - 7:53am

    TCO – yes, the strategy on how to get there is what we need to work out as a party. Agreeing a vision is the necessary first step.

    Regarding specific strategy, now that we have only 8 seats in the House of Commons, in this present parliament we will need to work with other parties across benches in our fight for equality and freedoms. Our MPs can also put forward amendments to existing legislation and use Statutory Instruments to improve some laws. For example, an amendment to the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 to incorporate Mental Health First Aid, which we passed as party policy at the Liverpool Conference, is possible in this parliament and would make a real difference to de-stigmatising and treating mental health across the UK.

    In the longer term, keeping in mind this is a 15 year vision, we need to build up the number of seats we have, and this is done by connecting locally, increasing our councillor base and re-establishing trust with the voting public. On the door-step I was confronted many times with the tuition fees debacle and ‘why should I ever trust you again?’

    We also should celebrate everything our MEP Catherine Bearder is doing in the EU and make more of her achievements for the liberal cause. We need to get good PR out for anything we do manage to do in the next couple of years and re-build our national profile. Getting big things done is the sum of a lot of little steps along the way. If we each do what we can, and work together effectively, we should start seeing results towards our goals.

  • Kirsten
    I followed the link and re -read your article on celebrating the elderly. You endd with the words. “…  In doing so we will create a Stronger Society and Fairer Economy for all.  [Yes, I know that’s the wrong way around.]”, which I liked.

    You are correct to say that —
    “…we need to build up the number of seats we have, and this is done by connecting locally, increasing our councillor base and re-establishing trust with the voting public. On the door-step I was confronted many times with the tuition fees debacle and ‘why should I ever trust you again?’

    The two come neatly together in terms of rebuilding the party. We should celebrate the successes of the older members of our party who knew how to achieve electoral success. Fortunately some of them are still around who remember building up the party in the 1980s, 1990s and through until 2005. The party only ten years ago had more than 60 MPs elected following exactly the sort of strategy that you describe.

    The thousands of new members could do worse than talk to and learn from and be inspired those older members of the party who were always sceptical of the route to failure that has been fashionale in recent years.

    Success breeds success – even if it needs to skip the generation that brought us spectacular failure earlier this month.

  • @John Tilley “We should celebrate the successes of the older members of our party who knew how to achieve electoral success. Fortunately some of them are still around who remember building up the party in the 1980s, 1990s and through until 2005. The party only ten years ago had more than 60 MPs elected following exactly the sort of strategy that you describe.

    The thousands of new members could do worse than talk to and learn from and be inspired those older members of the party who were always sceptical of the route to failure that has been fashionale in recent years. ”

    Many of our new younger members will be subjected to the war stories and the “when we” recollections of older members and I’m sure they will find them interesting and informative.

    However this is not 1965, 1975, or even 2005. They will need to take on board the advice they are given from all quarters, but look to the future to 2020 and 2025 when the world and the way we communicate will be very different from how it is even now.

    We have a tremendous opportunity to harness the energy and creativity of a wave of new members unconstrained by the givens of yesteryear, who will enable us to succeed in ways not yet thought of.. I sincerely hope that this is not stifled under the weight of tons of paper.

  • @Kirsten many thanks for your comprehensive response. I guess I was thinking less about the need to increase our representation as an end in itself and more about the practical measures that would be required to generate the necessary momentum towards delivering the sort of changes you wish to see happening.

  • Jamie Stewart 19th May '15 - 10:47am

    This is my first comment, but I think that the lady that emailed you got it bang-on. We need to emphasise those important things to get the message across. For that reason, your answer was only ok not great, as you picked up on general things that we all want improving. I think we need to pick our issues and fight on them. Incidentally, although I disagreed with a coalition with the Conservatives outright, I did think that if the Lib Dem leadership had picked some areas where they wanted to have particular influence, e.g. environment, local government, constitutional reform, civil liberties, then the Lib Dem’s contribution to the coalition may have been clearer.

    Anyway, one topic you didn’t mention @Kirsten, but I think is critical to the Lib Dem identity, should be an emphasis on local government. I’m new here, so I don’t know the general sentiment, but I was surprised that the Lib Dem’s took a party line against Scottish independence – individuals should have been allowed to make up there own mind on an issue that does get to the heart of the liberal agenda…

  • SIMON BANKS 19th May '15 - 1:30pm

    It is an excellent question that should be asked more often. It can be applied locally: “your vision for Xtown…”.

  • Nigel Jones 19th May '15 - 4:32pm

    Kirsten,
    I like your approach and did something similar in response to a voter who challenged me to give reasons to vote for me. Your enquirer rightly described the politics of buying votes by making unachievable promises as a summary of the way many people viewed what was going on in the last month of the campaign. I am afraid that Nick Clegg fell into to that and although it would not have made a huge difference coming so near to the General Election, saying what you said would have been a much better way of dealing with the last weeks of the campaign.
    We MUST now look forward to a leader who will change the way we say and do things, both in Parliament, in local government and in society. We desperately need a vision based on the preamble to our constitution or else we shall gain nothing from the support and sympathy recently expressed by the surge in membership.
    That vision is also needed for the EU; we MUST get away from the picture Nick painted of a party that would be happy with an EU that is not changed from what it is at the moment. The coming referendum needs to be led on our behalf by someone who is not tainted with that mistaken statement. I don’t agree therefore with Charles Kennedy’s suggestion of Nick leading us on that; Nick has knowledge and expertise that can help but in the public domain someone else must lead.

  • Sally Haynes-Preece 19th May '15 - 6:44pm

    As a life coach I know you have to know where you want to go before you can decide how to get there. Well done Kirsten. Its a grand vision. With my life coaches head on I would call it a HUGG. Huge Unbelievably Great Goal. (A term I have borrowed from The Art of Brilliance Team ) And you can think of it as a pyramid. ….you have to work lout what you need to do to get the capstone ….and work out what to do to build a firm foundation.

    My suggestion is we need to focus first on poverty, In the 21st century in a developed country NO-ONE should be be using food banks…..

  • Kirsten johnson 19th May '15 - 7:32pm

    Thank you all for reading and commenting! It is good to get a discussion going on vision.

    Jamie, here is a link to our manifesto: http://www.libdems.org.uk/complete-manifesto On page 133 you will find the section on devolving power with the title “A decentralized but United Kingdom”. Yes, Lib Dems believe in local decision making, and giving people a say in how local services and government are run, but we also feel the U.K. is stronger together and not split into separate autonomous countries.

    Nigel, I agree that the Preamble to our Constitution must be the basis for our goals. The Preamble certainly encompasses what I believe. And you are totally right that we need vision for our role in the EU as well. I think leading on Europe is a good way of getting our message out there, and will help us build more of a following here in the UK.

    Sally, your perspective as a life coach is very helpful. I hadn’t heard of HUGG before! Personally, I agree that poverty is the big one to tackle. It is one of the main reasons I entered politics last year and ran as a parliamentary candidate. Our world is unfair, and we need to make it fairer. Vast economic inequality needs to be sorted.

  • Neil Sandison 23rd May '15 - 7:29pm

    Kirsten I Know my own local candidate was on the same wave length and your vision is certainly shared by me .What a pity this was not reflected by our former leadership in the GE campaign .Better than all that centrist nonsense.

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