Author Archives: Ian Kearns and Jon Alexander

Time to stand up for Liberal Democracy: Fringe launch 17:35 Friday

As we Liberal Democrats begin our annual conference, held entirely online for the second year, we must recognise that we do so in the context of existential threat to the political system that gives our party its name.

30 years ago, Francis Fukuyama declared the victory of liberal democracy, and “the end of history”. But now history is very much back, with authoritarianism on the rise in Britain and across the world.

This context, we believe, means that it’s now time for the Liberal Democrats to stand up as the party of liberal democracy – and for leader Ed Davey to set out a meaningful vision for the country, instead of relying solely on local action to make incremental “Blue Wall” gains. As Nelson Mandela famously said:

Vision without action is just a dream; action without vision just passes the time; vision with action can change the world.

A new collection of essays, Citizens Britain: towards the renewal of liberal democracy, will be launched at a conference fringe event today.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 1 Comment

The European Super League is a Liberal Democrat issue

The news that six of England’s biggest (if not currently best) football clubs are intent on joining a so-called European Super League is dominating both back and front pages today, and rightly so. This is a story about football, but not just football: it drives home the point that excessive foreign ownership of many of our industries is not in the public interest, and illustrates the grotesque outcomes we get when we allow market and consumer logic to totally dominate the economy at the expense of citizen and community power. As such, this an issue on which the Liberal Democrats should have a very clear point of view, and a very loud voice.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Citizens Britain: a radical agenda for the 2020s

On Saturday, the anniversary of last year’s disastrous General Election, we published a new report. Citizens’ Britain is the follow up to our previous collaboration, Winning for Britain, which was the first data-rich review of 2019. That earlier report concluded with the challenge of identifying “a distinct, progressive, liberal alternative”. Citizens’ Britain, a country where every voice is heard, and where we work together to solve the problems we face, is that alternative.

We must be honest with ourselves: liberalism itself is now under threat in this country. A year on from the General Election, the Conservative government’s approach to the pandemic and Brexit is endangering lives and livelihoods. Since his re-election, Boris Johnson and those around him have enabled nationalism and right-wing conservatism while also stifling progressive voices and ripping up the liberal institutions and frameworks that underpin our daily lives.

The mandate that Johnson and his cronies are claiming for this is rooted in a myth. The myth says people are uninterested in politics and just want government to get on with running things while they are left alone to get on with their lives. The Tories, to be clear, believe that Brexit and the hoarding of power in the central executive, at the expense of parliament, the devolved administrations, and local government, is no more than a response to the popular demand for government to ‘just get on with it’. To the extent that their governing philosophy extends beyond that, it is to say only that people should occasionally be called upon to use their consumer power to boost the economy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Winning for Britain: Rebuilding the Lib Dems to change the course of our country

Today, we have published a new report with the Social Liberal Forum “Winning for Britain: Rebuilding the Lib Dems to change the course of our country“. We have done so because we passionately believe the Lib Dems must learn from last year’s catastrophic election defeat, not only for the good of the party and Liberalism, but because if we don’t the Conservative will rule for another decade.

We present evidence of the scale of what went wrong last December and ideas on what needs to change. Some of this is about data collection, analysis and improved message testing. But our report is also about the party’s strategic positioning, relative to the voter groups we need to win over.

The challenge in front of us is to build a coalition that spans voter tribes labelled in the report as the Green Left, Older Establishment Liberals, Progressive Cosmopolitans, Young Insta-Progressives, Centre-Left Pragmatists, Mainstream Tories and into the Younger Disengaged and the Older Disillusioned. In the latter two groups, the majority currently do not vote at all.

Our argument is that this coalition can only be built by a fundamentally progressive and socially liberal turn that consigns Cleggism and “equidistance” to the past. The Lib Dems must fight from the centre left but rather than being a pale imitation of Labour, must offer our own distinct, Liberal alternative to the Conservatives. The research in the report shows that the voter tribes we need to attract will support us on social justice, environmentalism, and internationalism. It shows we will get support if we attack unaccountable and over-concentrated private sector power. It shows that we can tap into new sources of support in disillusioned communities, young and old, if we challenge over-concentrated public power too. It shows we can win if we expand citizen voice and use it to erode the toxic perception that politicians are out of touch, a perception that helps drive support for right wing populists who claim to speak for ‘the people’.

But our report also shows that we should move on to territory that some in our potential voter coalition care about and that we often ignore. Issues like patriotism and social order matter to some voter tribes where we have strong potential to grow our support.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments
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