Agenda 2020 open thread, essay collection and competition

As we announced here, Agenda 2020 is the name given to a project of the Federal Policy Committee to re-examine our timeless values. They have now published quite an interesting collection of essays (pdf here) to set the ball rolling, and are inviting further essays by the 5th October.

You might miss the essay collection if you have gone for one of the greener options for the conference agenda, or if you aren’t going to conference, but I must say they are interesting enough to put my natural cynicism for the project on hold for a while.

Rather than attempt a review, let me give you a little teaser of each. Quotes do not imply endorsement.

David Boyle:

This is an extension of the implications of Popper’s open society, and its implications are profound. Society, public services and the economy are the same in this respect: they work better if people are involved alongside professionals not consulted (some people are not articulate enough for that; this is not about committees), but actually involved themselves as producers as well as consumers, as service providers as well as service users.

It implies the need for a basic mutualism – and Ostrom won the Nobel prize for her work on mutualism – which binds people together in the co-production of society, and blurs the traditional boundaries between givers and receivers, between professionals and patients.

David Howarth:

In each case of markets undermining themselves, the purpose of liberal intervention is not to edge towards replacing markets with state domination, but to preserve the market economy by saving it from itself.

Fiona Hall:

Coming to the here and now, three issues stand out as ones where this constructive, non-tribal approach is urgently needed: climate change, the forthcoming referendum on EU membership, and fair votes. Today’s concerned bystanders are watching the Liberal Democrats as I once did.

David Laws:

Social liberalism recognises that people cannot be truly enabled or free if they do not have the opportunity to develop their talents, and if their lives are blighted by poverty, unemployment or illness. Social liberalism recognises that collective action is sometimes justified and necessary, in a free society, to avoid exclusion and to ensure that freedom is meaningful and participation in society is real. Social liberalism should be pursued while carefully respecting the other forms of liberalism.

Sarah Ludford:

I think the Liberal Democrats should have more to say about how to bust cosy introverted networks, whether in banking, trade unions or indeed in ‘community champions’ patronised by politicians, often at the expense of the voices of the young and female.

Stephen Tall (quoting Danny Finkelstein on floating/Tory voters):

It is wrong to think of them as Tories. These are people who just want a moderate, competent government which keeps the economy on track. One which ensures that there are decentpublic services that don’t cost the earth.

Teena Lashmore:

As an educated woman of colour faced with continued poverty and having to navigate sophisticated institutional racism in places of work and services, participating in a global city (London) that lacks homes for ordinary people earning ‘ordinary salaries’, I have a voice within the Liberal Democrats’ movement for social justice and equality.

Robert Brown, Nigel Lindsay and Gillian Gloyer:

A crucial challenge for us is the need to articulate social liberty, political liberty and personal liberty as core parts of Liberalism, while rejecting vigorously the economic libertarianism that underlies current Conservative political thinking.

Jo Swinson:

Rebuilding our post-crash economy is not about recreating what went before. Equally, a flourishing society needs to be based on sound economics: you can’t spend what you don’t have indefinitely. We must resist the urge that some parties have succumbed to of putting forward populist plans that don’t make economic sense. Our economic credibility- so hard-won in government- should be nurtured.

Julian Goldsworthy:

In many countries, the politics of fear has won over hope. Faced with the dizzying pace of globalisation, with huge economic, social, environmental and technological forces at play, there is an obvious political appeal to introspection.

Erecting barriers- both literal and metaphorical – create the pretence of safety and security, when in reality they deliver the opposite. Fear of ‘them,’ whether it’s the Scottish, the English, the Europeans or migrants, is used as a tool to galvanise ‘us.’ It’s dangerous and divisive.

Why not have a go yourself? You don’t need to be able to link Karl Popper and Elinor Ostrom in a single argument, but it wouldn’t do any harm.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • David Evershed 25th Aug '15 - 8:46pm

    Firstly we need to decide the brief.

    Are we trying to set out clearly what are our traditional liberal values

    or are we trying to invent a new set of values, some of which might not be thought to be liberal?

  • Duncan Brack 25th Aug '15 - 11:16pm

    Values may be timeless, but their expression is not. We can trace the roots of Liberal thinking back into the seventeenth century (at least), but the way in which they are applied and articulated has changed massively along with changes in society, the economy, the environment, etc. etc. So we (the FPC) think it’s reasonable to have a look at our core philosophy, and discuss whether it needs updating, modifying or expressing in a different way – or whether it’s perfect as it is. The result of this year’s election suggests that there may at least be something lacking in the way we put it into practice! And of course people change as well – since we last carried out this exercise in 2001-02 (leading to the paper ‘It’s About Freedom’, also available via the website), plenty of party members won’t have had the chance to participate in this kind of debate.

    That’s the first point of the Agenda 2020 exercise, and you can see the FPC’s attempt to describe the party’s philosophy in the consultation paper, which Joe has helpfully to linked above. Since documents drawn up by committee tend to be rather boring, we also approached a range of individuals within the party to give their own personal views, which Joe has, also very helpfully, quoted from above; they’re all worth reading in full. And since no one has a monopoly of wisdom, we’re inviting any party member to contribute their own thoughts, whether through the essay competition, responses to the consultation paper via the website and/or at conference, or posts on Lib Dem Voice.

    The consultation paper also tries to summarise the challenges the country and the government will face over the next five years and consider whether we need to rethink party policy – i.e. the application of our philosophy – in any particular area (maybe in all of them!). But the first step is to discuss what we believe – which is the backbone of our policy-making.

    Sorry about the long post, hope that helps explain what we’re trying to do.

  • John Tilley 26th Aug '15 - 7:10am

    Thanks are due to Duncan Brack for providing his comment (which is not that long and is a lot more coherent than much that appears in LDV).

    People need to take note of Duncan’s very understated — “..The result of this year’s election suggests that there may at least be something lacking in the way we put it into practice! ”

    I hope as many people as possible respond to this FPC consultation and say how they think the party must change to survive and rebuild after the recent years of disaster. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending we can carry on as if everything is normal is not a sensible response to a general election result of just under 8% support for Liberal Democrats.

  • Teena Lashmore 26th Aug '15 - 1:05pm

    Thanks to Joe Otten and LibDem Voice for getting the essays out and a BIG THANK YOU to the Feds for inviting me to contribute too!
    I’m glad I contributed and had the opportunity to reflect upon others. From this example, I see the spectrum of liberal philosophy and the beauty is that each contributor internalises this in accordance to their unique and personal self.
    Although not scientific, its not the principles and values that nuture BAME to dis-engagement with LibDems, its the look of the party. Every BAME, Disabled, LGBT+, White Working Class and Woman identifies with equality, so let us welcome them in!
    I don’t have one single answer into how we win votes but personal integrity is in the top 5!
    Let us have crystal clear narratives that showcase our philosophical spectrum, for example, there is no reason why LibDems should not have a Social Housing Policy for London, along with a Mixed Ownership Housing Policy (5%-95% ownership) and Private Home Ownership Policy (which would include private renter campaigns). Let us be the party of clarity as well as equality!

  • Richard Underhill 26th Aug '15 - 4:58pm

    Teena Lashmore 26th Aug ’15 – 1:05pm Come to Maidstone and meet some Nepalese, well respected, working hard.

  • Teena Lashmore 2nd Sep '15 - 5:55pm

    Happy to Richard
    Lets do it!

  • Brian Haley 6th Sep '15 - 7:31pm

    Nice to see some original thinking!

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