Tag Archives: social liberal forum

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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Naomi Smith’s speech at the Progressive Alliance launch

Last night, a rally attended by over 900 people launched the Progressive Alliance’s campaign to support single anti-Tory candidates in a number of seats around the country.

The event was addressed by Labour’s Clive Lewis, Greens leader Caroline Lucas, Zoe Williams, Paul Mason and Make Votes matter. The Liberal Democrat speaker was former Social Liberal Forum Chair Naomi Smith. She has sent us her speech. Here it is:

I’m Naomi Smith, former Liberal Democrat PPC for this constituency (Cities of London and Westminster), former chair of the Social Liberal Forum and very proud Remoaner!

I’m not standing this time round, but am campaigning in St Albans where with a 63% remain vote, we’ve got a good chance of taking the seat from the Brexiteer, Anne Main.

Of course, we’d have a much better change if an electoral pact between the progressive parties have been brokered. I’m pleased, of course, that the Lib Dems have stood aside in two seats, but am disappointed it wasn’t more. I commend, as we all should, The Green Party, for having done so in a great number of seats. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

What has happened in South West Surrey, where the Labour Party and my own, failed to step down for the doctor running against Jeremy Hunt, tells us all we need to know about the culture changes needed in our parties.

SW Surrey, could have been the new Tatton, where if you remember in 1997, both Labour and the Lib Dems stood aside for the anti-corruption candidate, Martin Bell. This helped to highlight Tory sleaze and bring it under the spotlight during a general election campaign. How differently our parties behaved then. Had we not done that, Neil Hamilton may be restanding as the MP for Tatton in June. If we’d make like Tatton in SW Surrey this time, we could’ve made Tory under funding of the NHS a greater feature of the 2017 General Election.

To change those cultures in our parties is a longer term project. We need to engage in a process of building and reciprocating goodwill and trust. Milestones along that journey in my opinion, should include Labour moving its position on Brexit quite markedly, and for the Lib Dems to rule out working with the Conservatives.

Given the lack of leadership in our both our parties on this, it is now very much down to us, as progressive activists. But before I get on to what Liberal Democrat local parties can now do, let me just put in to context the vision and leadership shown by some:

On the other side of the debate, the organisation has been ruthless. The Regressive Alliance is real. UKIP are giving the Conservatives a free run in 41% of the seats the Tories are contesting. In 2015, UKIP stood 624 candidates. This time, they’re contesting just 377 seats. By comparison, our parties have managed to stand down for each other in around 40 seats. And while I highly commend those local parties that have managed to strike a deal, I sincerely wish it could have been more.

Let’s not fight fire, with dire.

It matters, because we know when we work together, we all benefit. The greatest periods of success for progressive over the last 100 years all involved some degree of cross party collaboration (1906, 1945 and 1997). Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. As long as progressive parties are estranged from one another, the Tories will always be able to present themselves as the providers of secure and stable government.

So what can we do now, right now, to help reduce Theresa May’s majority? Well, we have to try and offset the ill effects of the Regressive Alliance. I’m encouraging all Liberal Democrat supporters in marginal Labour/Tory seats to critically engage their candidates on the key issues of Brexit and that most progressive of issues, Equal Votes.

The reality for Lib Dem supporters is that the Conservatives are generally terrible on the things we care most about, from LGBT issues to internationalism and democratic equality. While we still have this horrendous first past the post system, we have to vote tactically and encourage others to do so  as well.

Tactical votes and non-aggression pacts are what we have left between now and 8 June. And it’s so important that we employ them. As the American philosopher Carl Friedrich said, ‘Democratic order is built, not on agreement of the fundamentals, but on the organising of its dissent’. Or in other words, what distinguishes the health of a democracy , is the vitality of its opposition. If Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders won’t yet collaborate, then we must. And it’ll be no coalition of chaos, but a rebel alliance, and I look forward to working with you all – tactical voting is now our key message, as we begin to build our progressive future. Thank you.

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New SLF publication on the European carbon market

As Brexit continues to hog the spotlight in the British media, there are still important issues being discussed and votes taking place in the European Parliament that Liberals everywhere should care about.

On the 15th February 2017, MEPs voted on a package of regulations intended to strengthen the proposed reforms to the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and added their own amendments.

Tellingly, the vote was welcomed by a number of high-emissions sectors as well as the European Commission but heavily criticised by a number of NGOs and advocates of carbon market reform, with Climate Action Network, for example, describing the compromise as a betrayal of the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. Next week (on Tuesday 28th Feb) EU environment ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss how EU member states will respond to the vote.

The environment and its stewardship have long been and remain part of the DNA of Liberals everywhere.  As part of its series of publications that challenge and progress thinking in a number of policy areas, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is pleased to announce the publication this week of “The European carbon market isn’t working – and social liberals should be worried”  by SLF Council Member Edward Robinson

The article looks at the history of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), analyses why it has not been working in the way it was intended, and looks at possible reforms to the system that would make it more effective at stimulating carbon price inflation and driving the uptake of clean technologies.

As Edward says:

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Follow the Social Liberal Forum Conference TODAY

If it’s a wee bit quiet around here today, that’ll be because most of us will be in London (that’ll be a 6:25 am flight for me) at the Social Liberal Forum Conference. 

It’s the first time a major party gathering across the UK has tackled the subject of Brexit. Party President Sal Brinton, peers Lindsay Northover and Jonny Oates and others will be discussing what to do next.

The theme of the day is Inequality and its various effects on welfare, housing, health, about inter=generational inequality. It’s been planned in conjunction with the Equality Trust which was set up to take forward the ideas in The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson.

Vince Cable will be delivering the annual William Beveridge Memorial Lecture at 1:20 pm.

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Inequality and Brexit

inequality street 4The Social Liberal Forum conference on Inequality takes place on Saturday in Holloway, central London and readers of LDV are very welcome to come along and participate. We have added a morning session on Brexit to give everyone an early opportunity to debate the implications for the party. Please register in advance via the Social Liberal Forum website.  Guest speakers include Vince Cable, Norman Lamb, Sal Brinton, Shiv Malik, Neil Lawson from Compass and Karin Robinson from Democrats Abroad.

So why are we focussing on inequality?

The EU referendum result came as a terrible shock. Just as we started to wonder where we go from here, news came in of the reactions this provoked, one of which is a huge increase in Lib Dem membership. This opens the possibility that the Liberal Democrats may become a major force in British politics again. Another of course is a huge increase in racially motivated violence and intolerance. So we have more Lib Dem members becoming active in an increasingly illiberal society.

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Inequality Street

inequality street 4Six years ago my ideas about inequality in society were given a jolt by the publication of a book with the intriguing title ‘The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone‘, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The authors – both academics – drew on research from many sources to show that societies in which there are huge variations in income are bad for everyone, rich or poor, and that more equal societies benefit all their members.

We might expect inequality to have an impact on factors such as life expectancy and educational performance, but the authors observed its effects in some surprising areas of life, from obesity (‘wider income gaps = wider waists’) to teenage births. And in each case the effect was seen right across the income spectrum. The sobering truth is that, amongst the developed nations, the UK is one of the more unequal countries.

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

Opinion: SLF Conference – a brilliant day focused on social liberal ideas

img_8090The Social Liberal Forum is, sadly, a point of contention in the Liberal Democrats for some. The candidate who went first at the leadership hustings towards the end of the conference was chosen by how fast they could name the former special advisor to Nick Clegg who made the case that all Social Liberals in the Lib Dems should join Labour (it was Richard Reeves, by the way, & he said it here). Reeves’ comments  show how far up in the party those critical of SLF are & how scathing their attacks can be. Nevertheless, I do wholeheartedly identify as a Social Liberal, so despite claims of the SLF attempting to turn the Lib Dems ‘socialist’ that I had heard from other members, I attended the conference & discovered I couldn’t have made a better decision.

Firstly, I was struck with how damn trendy the conference building was. It was hosted in the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, & with all its exposed black bricks & flat-white-selling cafe’s I had to check if I was in the right building for a Lib Dem event. Thankfully it was, so I was escorted into the main room for the famous SLF Annual Beveridge Memorial Lecture, this year presented by Baroness Claire Tyler, but not before a quick remembrance to that champion of Social Liberalism, Charles Kennedy. It was done not with a 1 minute silence, but a 1 minute applause to recognise his achievements, which definitely captured his spirit & energy better than any mourning could have done. The Beveridge Lecture itself was intensely interesting, going over Beveridge’s 5 great evils in the modern day (squalor, ignorance, want, idleness & disease – the antiquated language of which was a large point of the lecture) & reminding us that a higher & higher GDP can’t alone tackle these issues, but national wellbeing should always be a priority too.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMike S 29th Jun - 2:30am
    Apologies, should say: There seem to be some very different views here. My point is, there seem to be some very passionate opinions been voiced,...
  • User AvatarMike S 29th Jun - 2:10am
    It seem to be some very different views here. Are these differences real? What's the common ground here that most can agree on?
  • User AvatarPalehorse 29th Jun - 1:48am
    Joe, I read the link but it does start with "101 ways to win an election" and concedes the party has had the lowest vote...
  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 29th Jun - 1:46am
    @ John King - I don't think the EU can refuse to recognise an Article 50 notification. But I am not sure that they see...
  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 29th Jun - 1:43am
    Bernard is right about the best approach but one of the (foolish) things that May committed to in her Lancaster House speech was no ECJ....
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 29th Jun - 1:34am
    Agreed, Clive, Vince is the pragmatic solution to our requirement for a new leader, so long as he is now agreeing with party policy, as...
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