Author Archives: Lorenzo Cherin

A liberal lion not alone – in support of Maajid Nawaz

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The Liberal Democrats are not a bitter and twisted lot. The, or we, are not a lot at all. There are not as many as two larger groupings, but we avoid groupthink and would think of ourselves as a lot of individuals, together. Or not always together. Liberals, by nature, are good soloists as well as sociable choristers!  Perhaps I am preaching to the choir, I think many surely  must know what I mean. When a Liberal Democrat steps back a bit, goes his or her own way, this party do not say, as others seem to, ” good riddance to bad rubbish!” We are far too keen on recycling for this approach!

Very recently a Liberal Democrat withdrew from our party. He had not been active as a member since taking up more independent broadcasting, but he had been a Parliamentary candidate, in the worst election for this party, 2015. His reasons for not currently wanting to continue his membership are, it seems, to work cross party, on serious issues that are above party. He appears to be wanting to be more assertive on things he is vociferous about,  and to maintain a distance as well as not bring the party into controversy, if he needs to criticise politicians.  But whether in or out of the Liberal Democrats, he is one of the strongest proponents of liberalism. His parting comments were, that his departure is not a divorce and that he will always love the Liberal Democrats and send liberals our way.

Maajid Nawaz has been on a quite epic  journey. It is one that we should both relate to and be impressed with. He made the journey from Essex to Egypt, from  Islamism to liberalism, from liberalism to the Liberal Democrats, from the Liberal Democrats to where he is today.

He is on a hunger strike. He is doing it to demand action on behalf of and for the plight of the Uyghur people in China. He wants citizens of the UK to sign a petition to get a debate in Parliament to consider sanctions against the powerful in China. His is specifically a struggle against a government, for a people, not against the people of China. As one who is a prominent voice within the BAME community of the UK, he is very clear to express it as what it is and what it is not.This is an issue about humanity, as I explain on this site, recently, that is important.

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The Arts and humanity’s cause

For many years, I have been at what is today referred to as the intersection, in this case, of culture and politics. As someone who has worked in different ways and continues to in the cultural area, I have always seen the connection. As one, also involved directly in politics, more so. I particularly want to convey this on this excellent political site, contributing so regularly as I do, and appreciating very much all those involved.

There is overlap, and rapport between, cultural politics and political culture. This is true of the theatrical stage and on the political stage. Some time ago I did something about the need to link these, in keeping with liberal values, and contribute more as a result. It is a project in development. It is The Arts and Humanity’s Cause. A website set up and given shape is now joined by a channel which it would be marvellous if people could subscribe to on YouTube.

There is much to do from now in a situation where, as a result of the pandemic, there is a significant effect on  livelihoods as well as lives, a  cultural politics that needs greater awareness, and a political culture that needs greatly to change.

I see the scope of the connections that can and should be further explored. I have just partnered with the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum. This is a forum which I contribute to, and work regularly with, as a member and writer. This terrific project was started by Sir Peter Ustinov, who was amongst many things a Liberal all his life, to continue his legacy as a man of many parts in the arts and as a humanitarian. He set it up originally at Durham University, where he was Chancellor. It continues online as a part of the Ustinov Network, which is an international effort with Sir Peter’s son, artist Igor Ustinov, at the helm. As someone of immigrant origin, with different aspects to his multinational background and family, the Ustinov efforts feel poignant and personal – to understand and eradicate prejudice. Yet these are efforts we can all, here, relate to and take up ourselves.

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A theatre of the absurd!

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It was very welcome to see a centre right chancellor acting like a centre left one.” You can tell there are few things to get excited about when you begin to quote…yourself!

This was something I said, and of course it was about Rishi Sunak, in my most recent article. And just when I thought that the operative word for me was acting, as in acting like, what does the chancellor do, he delivers millions to theatres!

So the operative word, in fact, was also centre, as in centre left. This chancellor is the most left wing since Gordon Brown! And just as we  think we are led by a chancer, we see it is the chancellor we must keep our eye on, out for the main chance!

My previous piece was an angry reflection on the awful decision to reinstate tenant evictions and benefit sanctions during the pandemic. But just as the callousness of this emerges from the DWP, so too now does the creative industries support of a billion and a half arrive from the chancellor. “The creative accounting of Rishi Sunak,” might well be the title of this chapter in the story of this man and his government. Creativity beats callousness, but as I said before, also, oh the confusion, of this government! I do prefer confusion, to callousness, but like creativity best of all!

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The herd and the unheard!

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There is a current running through this government. It is one of confusion. But, despite my best efforts to not impune motives, I am coming to the view that the current running through this government is one of callousness. Not always intentional, but incredible, too.

Sometimes the callousness is because of the confusion.The one caused by the other. So we have loss of life due to Covid-19 in the highest numbers per head of population in the world, caused by lack of testing, tracing, PPE, etc. But that is only a part of it. Confusion here is in the delivery, but what I am more worried about is callousness in the decision making.

It was very welcome to see a centre-right chancellor acting like a centre-left one. It is very surprising to see a centre right PM think he is a New Deal President. But this is only a part of it.

What is the reality now is that we have a government in denial. It cannot see that it is all well and good having support packages, in part through pressure from other parties, but what’s the use, if they are stopped? It is fine to have schemes to rebuild, but what is the point if we tear down the support for people!

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She sang for freedom

As any who are liberal minded know, we all of us speak for freedom, it is who we are and what we believe in. But to be free takes work. Some work at it by what is called politics, as if it were separate. They do so on the political stage. Others do it in the area of culture. There are amongst them  some who do it on the theatrical stage. As one involved in both, some get it, they relate to that, they understand it.You can speak for freedom, but you can sing for it too. Dame Vera Lynn, years before and after she was made a Dame, was one of those. And one amongst many, a one in a million, whose charm was, she appeared ordinary. Not as self indulgent affectation, but as individual self reflection.Vera Lynn was not ordinary. She was one of the greatest singers ever, in my opinion and that of any who truly heard her. A voice rich and as natural as was her personality, a strength of tone as was the directness of her character, a vibrato as warm as she was. She may have helped to win a war, but I, as one, fifty years younger than her, loved her, ever since a child, in years of peace, and for the peace of mind she brought, just as she had during those of war.

She may have sang of bluebirds over cliffs, and reassured us that we would meet again, but what she sang for was freedom. Not as a concept, to be thought about, not as a craze to be talked about, but as a cry to be felt. Hers was not a cry of tears streaming down a face, expressed with a style accordingly, but it was a more subtle cry from the heart, in a voice as strong as the content of the message in it, from a woman as strong and as human.

When the BNP used one of her songs on a record, thinking themselves entitled to appropriate the message as if it was for Britain, and thus was theirs for the taking, Dame Vera was not amused. She may have been singing for Britain, but not for the Britain the BNP wanted! She was from the world of show business, but was for a better world. She might have conveyed that she was an ordinary wife and mother, but she was the wife of a Jewish husband, musician  and manager, Harry Lewis! Dame Vera sued the BNP and won! All proceeds from that of course went to charity!

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A leader with legitimacy- a crisis needs cooperation

I voted for Jo Swinson to become leader in the most recent election for party leader. I like Ed Davey, as a person and politician, as much, but felt a need for a new style or type of leader for the party was right for the Brexit period. I say this immediately because till we remove bias, objective reflection isn’t easy, or understood by many. I am not promoting Ed Davey for leader. He does not need a campaign manager now. He needs a unity with this party and our country. This is not the moment for party politics, internal …

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Let me be very clear!

Too often politicians, of any political type, come to an interview with their usual hype and the phrase “Let me be very clear,” only to then confuse or speak vaguely!

I am not a politician. But I am political. I have a tendency to reflect, rather than hector. I usually persuade, rather than command. To some, on any thread, in any context of debate, particularly online and in writing, what they seem to want to some real degree is one sided, strong opinion to agree with or disagree with. Even if that is then what is presented, the same types, reacting, want it expressed with little subtlety, no humour or irony. Of a recent article of mine, one reaction was, “this has no clear message!” Thinking aloud is not meant to. It was what I was doing. It was the intention of that piece. It was thus, in cause and effect, clear.

Let me be very clear. Not reflective. Nor thinking aloud. I am angry. No. I am sad. I am angry and sad, not because I, my wife and others are having to stay at home as the full extent of our apparent sacrifice. I and many are angry that it was not possible for that to be voluntary because of people and their irresponsibility. I am sad because people are so into business, as usual, and yes I mean that in every sense, personal, and political, societal, and economic, that it was considered, so anathema to them, that it is no sacrifice to avoid pubs, clubs, bars, markets, when the only reason is to help others in doing it. And the government assured us there would be compensation.

Well, many of us have no sympathy with the naysayers, individuals or companies. Not with any of them. Those unknown or known to us as famous, or infamous. Tim Martin, who thinks his pubs essential, or Mike Ashley, who forces people to stack the shelves of his sports goods shops calling them key workers; shame he didn’t think them this when he treated them so disgracefully all the years prior to their new found apparent status! Construction companies not told strongly enough to do so are at least better than these two examples, in closing down non essential contracts.

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We should be for – the rule of law!

Liberal self identity, or libertarian self indulgence? Personal autonomy vs political authority? Subjective rather than objective? The individual not society? Where is the balance in pitting things, one against the other, and where is the harmony in the lack of balance?

The Covid-19 crisis, has led us to where the fears, concerns, obsessions, priorities, of years, are questioned, or should be, in weeks. No ideology fairs well in this, from left to right. My own view is, the centre ground so many decry, has never had a try. We have had extremes, in tandem. Moderate societies, that have had fewer disruptions, …

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Boris Booster!

Asked a few months ago what his philosophy is, what his politics represent, what his programme means, Boris Johnson, new UK Prime Minister, said,  “ …boosterism!” The notion of boosting morale, of boosting services, boosting business, boosting…Britain! This was and is great news, at least, from the man who during Brexit, said, f***, business!

Boosterism, is not a half bad philosophy of government, come to think of it. Certainly with more of an appeal, than say, “frugalism!” It might be the philosophy of government for the future! Whatever the concerns that populists only stand for populism,” boosterists,” of course, might not in fact only pander, to popular opinion, whether that is good or bad opinions. The public contains individuals for whom different policies might be popular. The “will of the people,” from a Liberal view, can mean, what, all the people?! Lincoln was correct; you can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people, all of the time, but not, all of the people all of the time! Boosterism might need the mood of the people, but could gain from the leadership, of the politician. What needs a boost, what are the priorities?

The new Prime Minister got off to a bad start, as a test of his approach. Not much boost to anything much, in a boot up some of his own parliamentary party, whips applied, rather than boosts, and whips withdrawn! So too, not much evidence of this new dawn for a new way, in at least as far as the public opinion goes, backing HS2 and Huawei!

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Lock down is not the alternative to herd immunity

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Some think only in what is often called binary ways, left, right, black, white, male, female, rich poor, young, old, sick, well, us, them…

I see things differently. I have often put it like this: why should the answer to that which we do not like, automatically be considered to be the opposite of it? Why does it have to be, either, or, why can’t it be neither, and something more?!

Group think is herd mentality. But that is not quite herd immunity. But herd immunity, in theory or practice, is not one thing. And the government strategy is not one thing, not even if they have presented it thus. It seems like they are making it up as they go along, even if that is not the case.

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Making a drama out of a crisis? Taking the harm out of the virus!

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If we believe in anything, it is the Harm Principle of John Stuart Mill. People should be at liberty, to make their own choices, unless they do harm, to others, or to themselves, if in ways that might harm others too. The bar for the deciding of what is a harm, is set higher or lower, according to whether you are a Liberal or a Libertarian. Mill was a Liberal. He believed the state, the government, needed to exercise authority, on, for example law and order. The balance, is what is to be considered. The preamble to the constitution of this party refers to that as “between the fundamental values, of liberty, equality and community.

I have often put it this way. I am a Classical Liberal, on liberty related issues, a Social Liberal, on equality related issues, a Social Democrat, on community related issues. I am of the view that there has rarely been an issue that combines all these and more, and requires strong thinking and action, than Covid19.

I have just written an article for the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum, an organisation of which I am a member and writer. The article is titled “Viral Expertise“, in which I look at greater word length and in different ways, from a more international perspective, at what I want to say here, from a UK Classical Liberal, Social Liberal and Social Democrat point of view. The importance of this issue, is such, that I would very much welcome colleagues visit the link too.

I, we, surely must subscribe to support policies that reveal and encourage, personal responsibility and public good. For all , responsible, for goodness sake, more needs to be done at home and abroad to combat this virus and act as a rehearsal for, an ongoing effort where the world performs better.

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Why Luciana Berger joining the Liberal Democrats is important

As someone who has been both involved in campaigns against the growing, vile, antisemitism, and for the engaging with the Independent Group members of parliament, the decision of Luciana Berger, to become a Liberal Democrat gives real delight and is a pivotal defection, and, indeed,  a poignant one. This warm, eloquent, dynamic woman, is a courageous and feisty opponent of the prejudice and abuse she and others experience, and in support of a better more caring society and politics. She is a voice for mental health and a dedicated mp. She has been the target of far left Labour baiting.

For researching articles I have written for the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum,  at which I am a member and writer, I have been made aware of the extent of frequent taunting, inappropriate insinuation, direct insults, ongoing trolling, many who are Jewish, experience. This particularly complex and insidious prejudiced attitude, is a racism that has developed more, not less, in our country, in Europe, and even in the US. In the UK, it is statistically, thankfully, less. We are a more liberal and tolerant country, but victims of racism do not want to be tolerated.

The extent of her opposition to Brexit, as with Liberal Democrats , is obviously based in part, on her, and our belief, that only by greater unity, more harmony, real involvement, in each other’s societies, do we, as Europeans, counter the emerging narratives of populism and nationalism, that we witness, but must not  and, as Liberals, do not ignore. Racism is a consequence of extremism, ever since modern societies emerged, and at periods in history before such things were fully realised, these two have been bed fellows.

The resilience, determination, creativity, humour, of Jewish communities, and individuals from within them, over hundreds of years, has been and is, inspiring and inspired. These fellow citizens of this and any country, are amongst the most longstanding, to have emerged from immigration. It is no coincidence that Emma Lazarus, the remarkable young woman, lost to this world so young, was Jewish. She  was the writer of the great poem, that is on the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. ” Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is a rallying cry for liberals, progressives, humanitarians worldwide. It is now denigrated from the right. Even in the US.

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Jo Swinson and the art of disagreeing well

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When I was at London University in the latter 1980’s studying History and Politics, a particular incident made an impact on me and I recall it clearly.

I was in a politics tutorial, one in which the very mild mannered, but enthusiastic, tutor, a delightful German of young middle age, had got the class to be a sort of forum for topical discussion. “What shall we discuss today, then?” He said, one day, as often he did. He was greeted by silence, as often he was!

“Any suggestions?” He said, again trying to enthuse. He was greeted by silence, again nobody very enthused. I was very enthusiastic, but said nothing, because I rarely did say anything, and was very political, elected during those university years as a President of the Student Union, and I did not want to be pushy or too showy.

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Finding the common ground – becoming truly more united

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the tragic loss of Jo Cox MP. On Saturday, I was at a hustings and heard another Jo, and another member of parliament, Jo Swinson, talk about her. She spoke about how horrible it was to hear Nigel Farage, after the Brexit referendum vote result, say, it had all happened “without a shot being fired!” She actually said it made her feel sick. It makes sense that a woman now a similar age, with similar politics, and same first name, would feel this, knowing a colleague had just been murdered, shot and stabbed!

Yesterday, a …

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Chuka joining the Lib Dems is good for him, the Lib Dems and UK politics

Chuka Umunna becoming a member of the Liberal Democrats is good for him, the Liberal Democrats and politics in the UK. There are several and important, obvious and not as obvious, reasons why this is so.

Chuka Umunna is clearly an able, dynamic, eloquent personality. Anybody who has seen him relate to and engage with people, can see this. At home on television, with interviewers, on platforms, he is a communicator who is a good talker and listener. And he is as at ease with school kids and young people in their turf as he is in the Westminster bubble.

He brings with him knowledge of and a background from, South London and its diverse communities. I am from South London and have been a resident of Streatham too. I know he has a high reputation there.

He has in his biography, some remarkable elements, not as often alluded to. His African father Bennett Umunna, came to the UK with no money. He started and built a successful import and export business. He became involved in Nigerian politics, and his stand against corruption brings some to the conclusion that his tragic demise, in a car accident when young Chuka was in his early teens, was no accident. Bennett had met and married  Patricia Milmo, a solicitor. Chuka’s mother is the daughter of Sir Helenius Milmo, a prosecuting lawyer at the Nuremberg trials. What few know, is, they are also descendants of a great Liberal politician Samuel Morley.

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The actions of a Tiger

Then imitate the actions of a tiger, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard favoured rage!

Shakespeare’s Henry V, could have been referring to politics, now! The tiger is not timid, but is brave. The rage is not destructive but is strong. There is a need to be brave and strong. The centre ground is regarded by some, wrongly, as merely mushy, wishy washy. That old adage, the only thing that happens in the middle of the road, is, you get knocked down, is nonsensical.

I welcome those who do want to journey with me. I, though a Liberal, and therefore  for the individual, am too, a democrat, and welcome the company on the journey. I see the centre ground as needing to be cultivated, nurtured, with possibilities for development and scope to build, but a path, too, to travel, and a journey, that continues. It is the path ahead. It is, in politics, the road less travelled now, but along its route, we can make real friends, and have fellow travellers, not from or to the extremes, as too often associated with such a phrase, but on the way forward.

As a longstanding member of the Liberal Democrats who, as a youth, cut my political teeth in the Labour party, I welcome alliances and cross-party working, because I also know how seldom so many do, in the two big parties. From the outset of the emergence of TIG, through the debacle regarding its becoming Change UK, some of us, a few, have continued to reach out, rather than reject. We know that to leave a party requires bravery. We see that to feel hounded out because of antisemitism is  awful. We get it that Brexit has indeed led to a change in our discourse.

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Viva Verdi, Viva Italia!

As Italy has voted, I am, as the son of an Italian, and a practitioner in the arts, thinking of Giuseppe Verdi and of the country he helped to create. Verdi is mainly known as one of the greatest composers of opera, but though that was his main and great talent, he had one for politics too. At a time when Italy was a collection of small and to some extent, rival principalities and states, the Risorgimento movement he supported, was fighting, for a nation of Italy, a unified State, the country we now know. Some interpret this as …

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For liberal, independent voices

This is a liberal site, a place for discussion amongst liberals, and those who are supporters or members of the Liberal Democrats. But it is an independent site, and welcomes those with different views , as long as there is respect.

On the most important decision and issue for many, currently, it is the moment for liberal and independent voices.

The decision and display of and by Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, to push for, as a declaration of intent for coalition, ” a united States of Europe ” has changed the nature of this debate for Liberals and any of an independent disposition. He goes so far as to , more than imply, but to encourage those states who do not agree to leave the EU. This attitude and all that goes with it, spells the destruction of the EU as it is, and changes the naysayers of Brexit, and those who voted Remain, myself included, to reconsider.

I am no Europhile. Nor am I a Eurosceptic. I am a Europragmatist. I have, as one of part Italian and Irish origin, a view,  in no way as sentimental, in favour of the EU project. It is  in my view, a project. It is not, nor should it be a state, super, or not. We cannot be supporters of individuals and nations, of localism in our Liberalism, and back the creation of a superstate, a continent as a country, a Leviathan.

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When politics is personal

I have been a contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice for so long,a reader for longer,that some  have asked me why I do not write articles for it. As a contributor to one or two other sites,and someone who also, amongst other things  does write professionally,and increasingly has had my head down more than once upon a time,this site has seemed to be a part of my political, rather than creative world.As I am based in an area,Nottingham,and from one,London,where getting elected for this party is no easy or even very feasible thing,politics is for me the world of the amateur of professional standard,my degree was in history and politics and as with many in our party,my interests are in both,but not my financial interests! But amateur means motivated by love for something,when referring to the reason for doing something,rather than the ability at something.I love the world of politics even if a part of me loathes it too!

That is not something I could say of this site.While it can drive me potty at times,I do believe it to be the best political site in Britain,the efforts of it’s editors considerable,especially considering they are, as with that word again, amateurs in not getting paid, though of such obvious professional standard as writers as well as editors.I play a part in something , in which I am delighted to do so.

But my despair at certain things today,and at times I would call it this, in our society or our party, in my sphere or profession,encourages me to do one of two things.Either say, and do less, of that which has been my answer to that frustration, politics,or, say and do, more.Often,my solution,like many of my views,is between two extremes and I have chosen to do neither, but find a strong middle way.I am coming to the conclusion that although my Italian and Irish part lineage, and theatrical and artistic temperament,might lead me to rely on that steadier influence that comes from my English side, and go for the reasonable and the moderate, that I have to say and do more.I have something to say and I have got something to do and I am going to say and do it.

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