Agenda 2020 Essay #19: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party has been 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 was last Monday. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected].

My name is Frieda. Today, Friday 16th September 2016, I took the plunge and joined the Liberal Democrats. I want to explain why.

My name may sound a little unusual. My mother is Danish, that’s why. She met my stepfather while he was working in Aarhus, my mother’s home town, for an energy consulting firm involved in wind turbine projects. It wasn’t long before they moved back together to Fleetwood – on the Lancashire coast – with me in tow! That’s where I spent my teenage years. Dad kept visiting Denmark for some time, until his firm finally went out of business last year (more of that later). I went up to Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts just last year.

Yesterday’s In-Out Referendum result wasn’t as close as it might have been. I think that has much to do with the clarity and leadership offered by the Lib Dems. It was always a distinctive stand for the party to articulate such a unique and unequivocal belief in Britain’s future in Europe, but they (I will have to get used to saying “we”!) executed its vital role in the campaign with tremendous assurance, building broad consensus and offering a vision of opportunity and hope. It will be exciting to see the party take that distinctiveness of message into 2020, across the spectrum of debate.

With my half-Danish background, I’ve never really understood why – in this country – sovereignty appears to be such a taboo issue. Often, it seems to mean turning inward on ourselves, and away from others; building walls, and seeing only threats from across the water. When Liberal Democrats showed they had the courage to challenge those fears, and to describe British nationhood in decisive new language and colours, we took the dialogue with the British people in a different, and in my view exhilarating direction. Europe as partner, not adversary. Britain looking forward with an open mind, not turning away with clenched teeth and fists.

When we won the case for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds to vote in the Referendum, we didn’t only change the course of the campaign, we made a statement about who Liberal Democrats are. We are looking towards the future. It’s above all we, the younger generations, who must be given the opportunity to determine and shape that future. A changing electorate will remember that commitment. I joined not only because Lib Dems understand me, but because they trust us to help shape a different future altogether.

As I mentioned earlier, my stepfather lost his job in Denmark when his company downsized. He had spent some time learning from Danish renewables firms, leaders in “green” technology and investment. Sadly, when the newly-elected Conservative government’s lack of vision “cut the green crap”, demand for renewable energy started to fall in the UK. With the technology too young and infrastructure still developing, the unsubsidised costs of wind and solar power installations just became too much for industries and homes to justify. We need to reverse this with urgency.

It was never just about me and my family. I expect us Liberal Democrats to design and implement an even brighter, more ambitious environmental vision, and to fight for people’s freedom to choose the impact they have on the environment. We can only offer that freedom to choose if we also help each citizen afford their choices.

As a student of Contemporary Arts, our attitude towards Culture and our stewardship of the Arts matters to me immensely. Art is a way to think and feel differently, and Liberal Democrat ideas need to be unashamedly different to capture the imagination of younger generations.

Especially in austere times, art is too casually cast aside. Downgraded in schools, and marginalised or overlooked altogether by policy makers. I’ve been looking at recent research, which shows ever clearer correlations between the economic competitiveness of a nation, and the vibrancy of its cultural scene. Research also demonstrates a broad range of benefits to social cohesion, mental and spiritual health from participation in art.

I know that the party I have today joined understands not only what generates an immediate financial return, but what builds a healthy, dynamic and vibrant community of inventive citizens. When I leave LICA, it is my dream to work in the creative sector. I want to realise that dream in a country that values my aspiration as highly as any other more overtly profitable or pecuniary one.

As William Morris said, in language as Liberal as it gets: “I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few”.

The UN launched its International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009. Yet still today, a growing band of barbaric thugs smashes up ancient cultural temples and artefacts in the Middle East, drives people from their homes. This isn’t only heart-breaking; it is also a desperate failure on our part, and on the part of our neighbours in Europe and beyond. Let’s not be naïve or blinded: let’s refuse to pander to states that brazenly deny freedom to their citizens, whatever their creed or their culture.

Is it also taboo in the UK to confront the accepted wisdom that Britain’s economic growth should be its one undisputed goal and aspiration? Surely, as long we seek merely to enrich ourselves, while denying universal access to technology, art and education, freedom of expression and cultural identity, our community will be the subject of envy and hatred, and our streets increasingly unsafe.

I didn’t join a centrist party, or a party of equidistance. I joined the Liberal Democrat party because of the courage, vision and creativity it displayed throughout the Europe campaign. I joined a party to help apply that courage, vision and creativity in new ways and on new battlefields. I can’t wait to get going!

My name’s Frieda, and this is why I joined the Liberal Democrats today.

Friday 16th September, 2016

* “Frieda” was conceived and written by Marianne Magnin, a new member in the Westminster constituency and Nick Pannell, a new member in the Cotswolds constituency. Resemblance to any future Liberal Democrat member is entirely intentional.

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  • ” With the technology too young and infrastructure still developing, the unsubsidised costs of wind and solar power installations just became too much for industries and homes to justify. We need to reverse this with urgency “.

    I can see why you might choose to be a Liberal Demcrat, why worry about the practical and technical realities of maintaining our infrastructure and base load electricity requirement, when we can sing and dance around the green maypole in a bucolic ideological utopia without all that dirty nasty industry.

    If you are actually interested in the real world it should not have escaped you that with winter not even in sight, yesterday the power industry had to issue a demand-side balancing reserve (DSBR) notice to companies to try and mitigate the risk of power cuts even now in a warm autumn. Many of us in UKIP have been saying this was going to happen for years whilst the ‘greenies’ have slagged us off. Well it won’t be a surprise, and it is coming to a substation near you very soon.

    If we have the bad winter2015/16 that the forecasters are preducting, and the now near certain power cuts that will go hand in hand with it, forcing millions of people back into the stone age, the LibDems will have been at the forefront of the campaign to cause the problem, by being front and centre on the campaign to close our base load coal generating sets, whilst completely distancing themselves from the practical consequences of doing so, by burying their heads in the sand with the claim that Telly Tubby land will replace it.
    I would imagine by late spring2016 after months of intermittent internet, heating, lighting, cooking, mobile phone networks, (shades of he 70’s)you will be standing completely alone in demanding more greenery, immediately prior to running down the road with the mob chasing after you demanding your head.

    This winter may well be the defining winter for the whole intermittent renewables industry, when reality comes crashing into the pie in the sky thinking that seemingly drew you to the LibDems.
    Let’s have another essay on your views next year to see if being a LibDem means you can learn by your mistakes, or is the defining characteristic always that wall banging with your head is always the default setting.

  • Oops forgot to post the link on risk of imminent power cuts.

    Note for editors: Is there any reason why you do not have an edit function on your blog for small corrections?

  • Richard Underhill 5th Nov '15 - 2:03pm

    A connector from Noprth Africa to Spain, Portugal or Gibraltar would encourage the expansion of North African solar.
    The government should continue to put diplomatic pressure on France to co-operate.
    Perhaps we could hear from Ed Davey and/or Lynne Featherstone.

  • David Evershed 5th Nov '15 - 4:56pm

    Richard Underhill

    It is still night in Africa at roughly the same time as it is night in Europe when the lights and heating are on but there is no solar electricity generated.

    So without a massive storage system for electricity, the better solar link would to the other side of the world. Not sure how inefficient such a link would be.

  • David Evershed, the correct policy for energy in Europe is not dependent on one single source or generation method, it relies on interconnectivity across a broad geographic area and a diversity of supply.

    With the daily peak demand for electricity happening a few hours after the peak generation capacity for solar, followed by a return to a low baseload overnight, the storage problem isn’t as impossible as it might look. And with diversity of supply combined with the added insurance of spreading the grid out over a greater area, it is do-able if we accept that we will need to build more capacity than we need so that shortfall is accommodated.

    The other problem is providing the baseload, which is doable with nuclear technology taking over as we move away from fossil fuel intensive generation. Which is important because of two main reasons, those being that we don’t want to be dependent on the likes of Russia or Saudi Arabia for our energy and that we don’t want to just ignore the scientific conclusions on the greenhouse gas problem.

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