Author Archives: Sophie Kitching

The radical centre needs a new story

You only need to read the comments on any news coverage that we happen to get to see the problem. We’re so used to the jokes that we are often the first to make them, pre-empting the inevitable. “The Lib Dems are wishy-washy centrists. They sit on the fence, stand for nothing, and betray their principles at the first hint of power. They’re irrelevant. Being a Lib Dem is just a marginally more socially acceptable front to being a Tory.”

We are not good at selling the story of liberalism.

Shocking as it may seem to some of us, voters don’t go through manifestos with a fine-toothed comb, weighing up to merits of each and every policy before coming to a decision. People vote based on ideas. The left owns equality, health and social care and education. The right is the home of the economy, of business, of the free-market. If we call ourselves left-wing social liberals, why aren’t we Labour?  If we find ourselves more to the right, why aren’t we Conservatives?

And at both extremes, we find politicians willing to listen to our anger and our concerns and provide us with people to blame. It’s a simple, attractive narrative; you’ve lost your job because there are too many immigrants. If we send them ‘home’, then everything will be okay again. Alternatively, maybe it’s big business at fault?

Both the left and the right offer solutions offer visions of a better future. We need to find out who we are, and communicate to voters what we want from the world. To a certain extent, ‘Stop Brexit’ did this. We were offering something distinct from the other parties, and at least for a while, polling rewarded us for it (remember when we were above Labour?). Yet defining ourselves on a single issue like Brexit will never work as a long-term recruitment strategy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments
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