Author Archives: Gordon Lishman

Southport and strategy

This is my personal view about the Southport Conference Strategy motion – what’s good and what can be improved.

There are four big ideas:

  1. A dual approach to politics. We are an insurgent party In our hearts and minds – we want to use political power for change and reform through government and by working with people to help them to take and use power over the forces that affect their lives. It means practical campaigns for our values, fighting the forces that diminish people’s lives and making modern liberalism into a political and social movement.  We should win campaigns NOW on local, national and international issues, working with people in other parties and outside conventional politics.  Our members should be on the streets, into social media and telephoning to win campaigns not just votes. Votes will follow successful campaigns; if they appear to be our main or only purpose, we’ll fail to win hearts and mind for liberalism, fail to win a mandate for radical change and fail to win big elections.
  1. A re-statement of the big ideas that define our core campaign themes: the open society, tolerant, pluralist and internationalist; a fair economy which challenges inequality; and helping people to take back control. We want a strong society, a fair economy, and communities where people find themselves as confident, powerful individuals.

These campaigns resonate with communities throughout the UK . We are not defined by Brexit, although we have important things to say to people on both sides. We have strong messages for people “left-behind” by globalisation and for everyone who wants more control over their lives. We are an inclusive Party, hearing and responding to the pain of many who feel that the EU doesn’t help them, and explaining why open, tolerant, internationalist society works best.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

In Depth: Person-centred Liberalism

Person-centred liberalism is a tautology – there’s no other form of liberalism. However, it might be useful to explore a little of what we mean when liberals talk about individualism, the freedom of everybody to be themselves and to make the best of their lives.  “Isn’t that the same as the Tories?” a lifelong Labour supporter once said to me.

The idea is central to liberalism. It says that each, precious, separate person is more important than any group of which she or he may be part.  Yes, we find and express ourselves in communities and other groups. But it’s the individuals that define the groups, not the other way round.

Take class, for instance.  In modern Britain, social class is self-defined and has little to do with income, status, work or even origin.  Look at the Labour Party’s leadership! But it still has a lot to do with Labour rhetoric and strikes a chord with their core vote. It’s often a key reference for the attitude which says: “I’ve always voted Labour; so did my parents, because we are working class”. Even so, I was surprised to see Blair’s pollster, Philip Gould, start his autobiography with a quotation from Hegel:

The human being finds his proper identity only in those relations that are in effect the negation of his isolated particularity – in his membership in a group or social class whose institutions, organisations and values determine his very individuality.

I’ve quoted that rather turgid sentence because it makes my point exactly: for Hegel and Gould, the important thing is to be defined by class, not to define yourself.  As part of the Labour mindset, it’s also an important indicator about why it’s so hard to move on from the institution that imprisons them.

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Opinion: Let’s put members in the driving seat

“Caron’s test” for emails to Party members is good, but I think we can go further.

The underlying problem, as I’ve written before, is that too many of the emails  seem to be written by marketing professionals who are trying to achieve a specific result – often one that can be measured by funds raised.  The reason it’s a problem is that we aren’t just donors – most of us see ourselves as members of an extended family who need to be reassured, engaged and spoken with directly in ways that relate to our own experience as Party members.

It is interesting that fund-raising charities now spend a good deal of their time and money on chatting with supporters about what they do rather than just doing constant appeals based on need.

A recent piece of US experience seems to me to be useful:

Levitt and Dubner in their most recent book in their “Freakonomics” series quote the example of Brian Mullaney of Smile Train with his “once-and-done” strategy.  That involved asking potential donors to make only one donation with the option of ticking a box to say “do not ask for another donation”. That seems counter-productive: in charities, we have learned that first-time donors rarely give enough to cover the cost of making the contact. It’s only with continued donations that the charity makes a surplus on the relationship.

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

Introducing the Social Liberal Forum

New members have been asking about Lib Dem organisations that they can join.  You are welcome to submit similar items on behalf of other organisations.

Social Liberal ForumWhat we believe

The Social Liberal Forum exists to foster debate within and beyond the Liberal Democrats, with the aim of developing social liberal solutions to the challenges facing the country, and which find popular support.

The ethos that underpins the Social Liberal Forum has remained unchanged since its formation in 2009, and is best described as the belief that a democratic and open state has a positive role to play in guaranteeing individual freedom.

Like all liberals, social liberals believe that individuals should have the freedom to develop and grow as they wish. The creation, protection and nurturing of this freedom should be a central objective of all governments.

Posted in Lib Dem organisations | Tagged | 36 Comments

Opinion: “Values” and Party

There has been a lot written about the importance of “values”. I’m not convinced.

Talk about values reinforces the idea that one can pick and mix principles and ideas – just as with policies, one can put together a package which suits your pocket or your likes and then decide which party at any one time best meets your need to vote. Or, indeed, you can just campaign on one or two which happen to strike you as most important.

This view encourages the idea that party is an outdated concept and often inconvenient if there happen to be some bits of your party’s policies which you don’t like – which there always will be in an open and democratic community. In this world of values, party affiliations are worn loosely and are often transient. I want to proclaim the importance of both party and philosophy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Long term gains from short term arguments

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderMost participants in the post-election debate have concentrated on specific changes they want now: the Leader, his advisers, the communications team, the detail of policy issues etc.  I firmly believe that the underlying issues are systemic rather than one-off and that we should use the opportunity to establish structures for the future which minimise the likelihood of problems arising and improve our capacity as a democratic Party for dealing with them.

Some key targets:

  1. Agreement by the Party in advance on the elements which underpin construction

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 28 Comments
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  • User AvatarJoeB 24th Feb - 5:49pm
    Michael BG, the figures are for the current account budget (defined by Office of Budget Responsibility as (current expenditure – current receipts – depreciation). Keynes...
  • User AvatarRoland 24th Feb - 4:39pm
    @Peter Martin - "It’s always interesting to read Keynes and other notable economists from past eras too. But I don’t believe we should hang on...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th Feb - 4:27pm
    @ Michael BG, Sure, Govt can steer the economy. It can raise or lower interest rates to encourage everyone to save more or less. It...
  • User AvatarRonald Murray 24th Feb - 4:17pm
    As a third generation Liberal now Liberal Democrat with over forty years membership I find all the points made above excellent. There is no comparison...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 24th Feb - 3:58pm
    @ JoeB, It's always interesting to read Keynes and other notable economists from past eras too. But I don't believe we should hang on to...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 24th Feb - 3:53pm
    @ Peter Martin In the context of what is a stimulus and what is austerity and how is the economy affected generally when the deficit...