Agenda 2020 update

The essay competition run by the Federal Policy Committee as part of our Agenda 2020 exercises closed in November; Liberal Democrat Voice was good enough to publish several of the entries. We asked participants to write no more than 1,000 words on what it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.

We received a total of sixty entries, and we’d like to put on record our thanks to all those who wrote them. Their standard was generally very high. Unsurprisingly, most chose ‘freedom’ as the focus of their essay, but how they defined ‘freedom’ varied quite considerably. Some described it conceptually, some used concrete examples, some stressed more what we are against than what we are for.

Between us, the shortlisting committee (Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Jenny Woods, Prateek Buch and me) initially chose almost twenty essays which we felt were eligible to be voted on. That’s too many for a shortlist, so we are cutting it down to nine, and in fact we’re still in the process – it’s not easy! We don’t think any essay is a clear winner – none of them gained initial votes from all four of us, and only one from three. We don’t know the names of any of the authors – all the essays have been anonymised (and we’ve carefully avoided looking at the entries published here) – to avoid any bias on our part.

We’ll have selected the final shortlist of nine by the New Year, and these will be published on the Agenda 2020 section of the party website ( We’ll then invite the entire party to vote for the winner. We’ll notify the opening of the ballot in an all-member email in the middle of January, and by a notice on Liberal Democrat Voice. You’ll need to vote via the members-only section of the website. We hope you enjoy reading the essays as much as we have.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who responded to the Agenda 2020 consultation paper, both at conference and via the website. We’re currently going through all the comments and rewriting the paper we published in the summer into a longer one for a consultation session at the spring conference in York.

The earlier paper focused mainly on attempting to articulate the party’s core values and approach. This second paper will include similar text (modified in the light of comments), but the sections dealing with the challenges the UK will be facing over the next five years, and the extent to which existing party policy is fit for purpose in the light of those challenges, will be substantially expanded. As before, we hope party members will respond to this paper, organise their own discussion meetings and tell us what they think.

Happy Christmas to you all!

* Duncan Brack is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and chaired the FPC’s working group that wrote Rebuilding Trade and Cooperation with Europe.

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This entry was posted in Party policy and internal matters.


  • Richard Underhill 22nd Dec '15 - 10:58am

    When the logo went up at federal conference I welcomed it by saying ” In this party we believe in Liberty above all” and continued with a speech to Free John McCarthy, which was carried. Duncan told me that no cards had been put in to oppose, so we had to arrange our own opposition on the precise wording of the motion.
    In the audience were Liberal Democrat leader Paddt Ashdown, APNI leader John Alderdice and Pat Cox MEP from the Irish Republic.
    There is no mention of this in in the book Some Other Rainbow which John McCarthy wrote with Jill Morrell after he came back to the UK from the Lebanon.
    At a press conference The Sun asked him “Are you a couple?” He replied “Yes.”
    The Prime Minister had said that she was against doing anything to help, but the Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, himself a former diplomat, arranged to talk to Iranian diplomats ” in the corridors at th United Nations”.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Dec '15 - 10:59am

    Paddy Ashdown

  • Thank you Duncan, I look forward to reading the essays, and wish I had been organised enough to write one

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Dec '15 - 1:59pm

    The BBC were showing a video of Jo Grimond “marching towards the sound of gunfire” while they waited to find out what the policies of the merged party would be. I have been assured by some older voices that Jo Grimond did not mean “gunfire” literally, he was speaking metaphorically about political debates. Paddy Ashdown said that he would model himself on Jo Grimond, despite the different times and their different backgrounds.
    I have heard Jo Grimond speak twice, once at a fringe meeting at the Special Assembly of the Liberal Party, in favour of merger with the SDP, in Blackpool. and once at a Christmas party of the Gladstone Club in the premises of the National Liberal Club in London, light-heartedly. The record shows that he persuaded David Steel to switch constituencies and thereby set off a long career with important achievements.

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '16 - 11:51am

    Although Leighton Andrews has switched parties there should be sadness about his electoral result on 5/5/2016.
    He played a key part in the campaign to Free John McCarthy and consequentially the other kidnap victims.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Feb '19 - 12:19pm

    A newspaper in Kent has reported on the death of Alf Baker, commenting on his time as Mayor.

    He was present at the mayor-making of a member he had recruited, who is still a borough councillor. A Tory businessman who does not live locally became Council leader, so he was told, “because there isn’t anyone else”. Our man was hard-working as deputy mayor and as mayor and widely congratulated.

    When Alf Baker was chairman the Tories were rowing over Europe and we were winning council elections, becoming the largest party. At a subcommittee meeting at his house we drafted the motion to Free John McCarthy and sent it to federal conference. Our PPC, a member of the Sevenoaks party, agreed to second the motion, which was carried overwhelmingly. There was a brief mention in the Liberal Democrat News. I had said that I did not want personal publicity. We wanted action, despite the PM’s expressed view that the kidnappers were terrorists. Action was achieved because the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, understood the situation better than the PM.

    Alf Baker was the second preference as mayor. The Tories opposed the first choice, a Liberal woman, but “had confidence” in Alf.
    He was a socialist from the Labour Party, vis the SDP and the merger.
    He loved to tell us about the Independent Labour Party and marching for “World Government by 1955” which had not, so far, been achieved.

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