Your Liberal Britain – Oxford East Event

Your Liberal BritainWhen asked to chair a meeting in Oxford East for the Your Liberal Britain initiative my heart sank. Having been through all the Lib Dem soul-searching last year, written a post-election blog, My Vision, and an Agenda 2020 essay, the last thing I wanted was more philosophy and discussion on values. But I agreed to host and I’m glad I did!

The event attracted a room full of people, more than our usual events, and the majority of the audience were new members. They hadn’t yet gone through the existential angst of figuring out our party’s identity and the way forward. They were fresh, full of ideas and raring to go!

So after a brief introduction and having a member read out the Preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution in full (most new members had never read it) we divided into small groups and worked through the four questions posed by Your Liberal Britain. I picked up some of the sheets left over at the end of the evening and thought I’d share some of the responses here.

  1. What do you think is the single biggest social problem in Britain today?
  • Hugely unequal distribution of wealth/education/opportunity
  • Inadequate education system
  • Lack of work opportunities for the young
  • Inequality
  • Social divisions – loss of connection and a sense of isolation
  1. What one improvement to people’s lives should we aim to deliver through building a Liberal Britain?
  • Seriously good quality education – free!
  • Everyone has a job and gets minimum wage.
  • Stop zero hour contracts.
  • Get rid of public schools.
  • Build up community and break down class divide.
  • Controls over rent and help with purchasing a home.
  • Devolution, more local decision making.
  1. How would you complete this sentence? “In building Liberal Britain we need to revolutionise our…”
  • Education system to provide more equal opportunities for all
  • Education so that all have a fairer chance in life.
  • Hierarchical class system so that Britain is a much more equal and just society.
  1. “In sum, for me, Liberal Britain is a country where…”
  • People matter.
  • British values of fair play, tolerance, democratic values and freedom are brought back.
  • There are equal opportunities for all.
  • Diversity is celebrated, everyone has a fair chance and no one is left behind.
  • All are equal and free to be themselves.
  • Every child, independent of class, has the same opportunity to be well educated, can thrive and fulfil their full potential (i.e. bring about more social equality).
  • The state works against entrenched vested interests and in favour of supporting the disenfranchised and socially excluded.

You can have your say on your vision for a liberal society on the Liberal Britain website. You can also have your say in person at the Your Liberal Britain lunchtime fringe at Autumn conference on Monday 19th September.

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

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  • Agree with your comments about improved Education, which you rightly imply is much more than passing examinations. However, there is a limit as to what our Education system on its own can achieve. The attitudes of people in communities around our schools play a big part. A report by RISE in 2013 concluded that 80% of difference in performance of youngsters in our schools was due to factors outside the school.
    I would therefore add two statements.
    1.Local and national government give particular attention to actively helping the disadvantaged. (Some youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds do not and cannot take advantage of opportunities; so providing equal opportunities does not address the key issue)
    2. Local authorities need resources to ensure there is assistance for disadvantaged individuals, families and communities.

  • Kirsten johnson 17th Aug '16 - 8:18am

    Nigel, I agree completely. These ideas did come up on the evening – I’m sorry they were not included in the blog post. I was using sheets left on chairs in writing the post, so it was not an exhaustive list. You are completely right that helping those disadvantaged in any way to access opportunity is key. With best wishes, Kirsten

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