Author Archives: Tim Caswell

Why you should join the Liberal Democrats’ Social Democrat Group

We can only imagine what, David Owen (83), infamously styled Dr Death by Dennis Skinner, made of the Social Democratic Party’s 2021 conference, from his lonely perch in the House of Lords where he sits as an independent social democrat, estranged from the other survivor of the gang of four, Bill Rogers (93) who is still a loyal member of the Liberal Democrats. The recent SDP plenary featured an address from Baroness Claire Fox, the only peer in history to include membership of the Revolutionary Communist Party and being a UKIP MEP on her curriculum vitae. Owen should perhaps be retitled Dr Frankenstein whose creation’s demise was widely desired.  Fortunately, despite the spectre of the surviving SDP, who Owen led into the wilderness in 1988, still haunting the periphery of politics, the social democratic tradition is alive and well inside the Liberal Democrats.

Determined to build on that tradition, the Social Democrat Group became a formal organisation within the Liberal Democrat Party in 2020, published a book, The Future of Social Democracy, in 2021 and passionately believe that the emblematic bird of freedom needs two wings; liberalism and social democracy to reach its former heights; and that the founding principle of one party two traditions is a vital to our future not a footnote in our past. Working closely with Dick Newby, The Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords and SDP CEO in their heyday, the Social Democrat Group are planning an innovative session on the future of global football at Spring Conference and an ambitious membership drive and post lockdown relaunch at the, hopefully face to face, Autumn Conference in 2022.

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Why be a Liberal Democrat?

My family had a century of Labour Party membership between us. I left after three decades, coming home, intellectually, emotionally and ideologically, by joining the Liberal Democratic Party.

After one year’s membership, as a candidate in a marginal ward, and part of the campaign to re-elect our popular Mayor, I am writing this in ancient Rome. A timely reminder that the name, “potholes” dates from when the Anglo Saxons dug up the clay from Roman roads to make cookware and that the history of ideas matters. In particular that England has been divorcing Europe since Henry VIII. In this context, why be a Liberal Democrat?

The first reason is the need to keep the ideas of Liberalism and Democracy alive. Our broken politics and failing democracy make this challenging. But the twentieth century taught us that the twin evils of totalitarian communism and nationalism will lead to barbarism every time that the freedom, tolerance and rule of law inherent in Liberal Democracy are abandoned. The works of Sir Karl Raymond Popper illustrate why.

In The Poverty of Historicism and The Open Society And Its Enemies, Popper shows us that when the pseudo-scientific certainty of authoritarian dictatorship defeats liberalism and social democracy, barbarism is inevitable. He also elucidated the ultimate liberal paradox: freedom of thought and speech is sacrosanct but there must be limits on the actions of the enemies of freedom from the left and right.

Second, we are the true children of the enlightenment. Rational, evidence-based policy is already abundant. Taken together with the philosophy above and coupled with a renewal and extension of democracy will offer the best chance of a progressive hegemony in the twenty-first century.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

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