Author Archives: Paul Connolly

Opinion: Step forward true liberals


True liberalism is hard. Sometimes we don’t understand this. Lacking an urgent, reformist edge, we let others define us. Our milder critics used to style us sandal-wearing fruitarians who knitted their own CND badges. Hostile tabloids called us dangerous deviants.

Oddly, we were comforted by these perceptions. Underlying them was a sense that Liberals are relaxed and open to all-comers. But this vision of our tolerant Party has two problems.  Tolerance can degenerate into shoulder-shrugging passivity and turning a blind eye. And we’re not that open anyway.

We’re a Party of ageing, white males. Just like we used to be.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 49 Comments

Opinion: A letter to Michael Gove

Dear Michael,

I hope this finds you well.

A confession.

Unlike Paxman, I’m a fan.

You’re an unusual Tory with unusual origins. And your passion to change education is laudable.

The 1960s Crosland reforms, implemented by your mentor Mrs Thatcher, were supposed to promote social mobility. The reality is mixed. Overall literacy and numeracy have improved. Higher education has become more accessible across class, gender and race.

But this has come at a cost. Some think general mediocrity is better than a few attaining excellence while the majority attain little. I think it’s still mediocrity. Employers lament school-leavers’ inadequate skills. Our performance in the Pisa education …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Mandela’s moral greatness

Nelson Mandela’s political legacy is too great, too various, to summarise in a single post. But for me he represents a core insight.

For a revolutionary political idea to thrive, it must not be consumed by the very zeal it ignites.

This is not to underestimate the importance of Mandela’s cause. And it is sobering to think that, two hundred years after the Enlightenment’s high watermark, the rightness of that cause was not at all self-evident to the greater part of white South African opinion, any more than Rosa Parks’s validity as a person with rights was self-evident to George Wallace.

Rather, it …

Posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

Opinion: Liberalism is radicalism

Though cheered by Nick Clegg’s letter on Liberal principles, I balked at being “slap, bang in the liberal centre”.

Though not his intention, “centre” always suggests equidistance between left and right. It implies reasonableness. And everyone knows politics is a contest for the centre ground. We live there. We win.
Except this conflates two unhelpful metaphors.

When Labour and Conservatives contest the centre ground it doesn’t make them Liberals. Rather they’re engaging with popular (often illiberal) sentiment, metaphorically located somewhere between them, in order to succeed electorally. If strong, they cajole that sentiment towards a programme. If weak, they appease it.

Our supposed …

Posted in Op-eds | 30 Comments

Opinion: Let many flowers bloom (though not too many Flowers)

The Cooperative scandal, it’s got the lot.

Sex + drugs + religion + money = media feeding frenzy.

Liberals mustn’t join in too much. Especially where mutual ownership and public services are concerned.

Like the Cooperative Bank, most mutuals and co-ops operate in market conditions. Unlike it, most are small. In public service, as free collaborations, mutuals provide an alternative to collective state monoliths. In commerce, properly run, they avoid public companies’ shareholder short-termism. Indeed, in some ownership models, they confer real power on consumers. The Cooperative Party gives Labour significant reach across mutual enterprises. But it doesn’t control all …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

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