Agenda 2020 Essay #8 What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently 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 is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected].

It starts with you.

It starts with you and your family.

It starts with you and your family and your friends.

It starts with you and your family and your friends and your community.

It starts with you and your family and your friends and your community and your society.

It starts with you and your family and your friends and your community and your society and your world.

It starts with you and your family and your friends and your community and your society and your world and your future.

It starts with you.

It’s not about doing it for you. It’s certainly not about doing it to you. It’s about giving you the power to do what you want for yourself.

It means that we have to listen, to understand, to weigh the evidence. And then build the bridges that will let you get where you want to go, and knock down the barriers that are in your way.

You want a better job and a better life? That’s why we’ll give you access to education. Ill-health holding you back? That’s why we’ll make sure the health service is there for you. Crushed into inadequate housing, or no house at all? That’s why we should build properly affordable homes, and the schools, surgeries and amenities that go with them. A lack of opportunities? That’s why we need to shape an economy that works. Trapped by poverty? That’s why we founded the Welfare State.

It starts with your family.

Liberalism is about bringing people together, however you want to define your family. We are on a route to equal marriage, to recognising, valuing, protecting and not interfering in all the different ways that people can make their lives together. If you need protection, we should care for you; if you need support, we should be there for you; but if you want us to let you be, we should let you be.

The freedom for you and your family to be yourselves, in whatever diverse, wonderful, ordinary or extraordinary way you choose to be, is enshrined in our constitution and in our hearts. Believe what you want to believe; love who you want to love; and do no harm.

It starts with your community.

Your community is where you make your life, whether it’s your neighbourhood, or your interest groups or your workplace or even your online spaces. That’s why we are the original community activists, that’s why we’re always there, asking you what you want, offering to help, putting pressure on those with power.

That’s why we support community regeneration, and neighbourhood action, and places for the young and the old and wherever you are in between, and local banking, and small businesses that are the bedrock of the economy from your old family trades to your new tech start-ups. That’s why we’re out there with that petition about that thing that’s bothering you. That’s why we need to be where you live, whether it’s helping out at the food bank or tending the flowers in the best kept village or cheering on the (women’s) football team. We are there with you.

It starts with your society.

Because we know we don’t live in a fair society. And we will fight to stop it getting worse not better. Because the people who have most power and privilege are gaming the system to get more, and leaving the rest behind. And that is not acceptable. The status quo is not acceptable. And that’s why we have to intervene, to change things, to bring fairness back, to give you the opportunity to make your own and your family’s lives better.

Your chances in life should not be determined at birth, by your DNA, by where you are born, or your parents’ bank balance, or your gender, or your colour or who you will love. You should have the freedom to make the life you want.
And so we are open to the movement of people, welcoming to others, because they make our society richer, materially and culturally. You should not be afraid for your job or services; so we should make sure there’s enough to go around.
But power doesn’t belong to us. Or to any politician. Or to corporations. Or to newspaper barons. It belongs to you. Our job, our only job, is to take power from the powerful and give it back to you.

It starts with your world.

Because your world is wonderful and we should cherish it. You and we are only the custodians of this Earth for a short time. If we consume too much of it, then you or your children or your children’s children will eventually be without. That’s why we have a duty to use this world gently and sustainably. That’s why we are the original green Party. That’s why we’ve done more to create a green economy, to generate more clean, green energy, to save you more money with greener buildings than any other Party. Ever.

It starts with your future.

We believe in the future; we embrace creativity and innovation. You shouldn’t have to fear the future, no one should be enslaved by poverty in old age and that’s why we believe in good fair pensions. You should have dreams for your children. That’s why we priorities spending on their education, so that they will have all the opportunities you had and more, so that the future that they choose to build will be one with a stronger, greener, fairer economy. That’s why we protect the environment, so that you will have a future to enjoy.

We believe that your future can be better, that you don’t have to be enslaved by the failures of the past, that any future you want is possible. Together, we can make it possible.

It starts with you.

So what do you want to do about it?

* This entry is one of the shortlisted entries for the party's Agenda 2020 essay competition. You can read and vote for the essays by 12 February here.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brilliant!

  • Thank you for writing this, it’s beautiful, a poem to Liberal Democracy. It says everything I would want to say so I don’t need to cudgel my M.E. affected brain over the weekend to write something by Monday! I do hope we can put this on a piece of paper and put it through every letterbox as David Penhaligon once said, or use it as a party political broadcast with appropriate visuals. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Stephen Hesketh 31st Oct '15 - 6:52am

    Thank you for this excellent piece.

    It captures so many of the progressive values of Liberal Democracy and the reasons we are Liberal Democrats.

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