Community Politics – putting people first

Liberal Democrats believe that the state exists to serve and enable individuals to live their lives to the full.  Our starting point is the individual. We want to find ways of enabling and encouraging each person to fulfil his or her own potential.

We believe that men and women have an immense, largely unrealised capacity for self-direction, self-cultivation, self-understanding and creativity.  People are not sheep to be flocked, cattle to be herded or oxen to be led; it is inhuman to reduce people to the status of objects to be manipulated, directed or discarded.

It is the right of every human to share the liberty and the opportunity to experiment, to experience, to learn and to influence his or her surroundings. This is the ethos that drives the Liberal Democrats.  It is not about having one’s own way; it is about having a way that is one’s own.

A liberal community does not dictate how people should live, but liberates people to live as they please so long as that in doing so they do not impinge upon the freedoms and rights of others.  It does not provide for the needs of the citizen, but rather enables the citizen to provide for their own needs.

A community based on co-operative values and mutual understanding is the cornerstone to a truly Liberal society, and that is why this party champions freedom of association, the right to organise and the involvement of the workers in managing their workplace.  It is why we promote co-operative working and mutual societies above large corporations, and why we promote the development of not-for-profit companies and social enterprises to deliver services and goods to our communities.

The underlying tenant of Liberal Democracy is that people of apparently differing backgrounds will come together in common cause or concern.  That common cause or concern is what binds a community, and it is what makes our society function.  It is that basic nature of humanity that makes Liberalism as relevant today as it has always been; adapting to changing circumstances but always protecting the individual against the state.

As the two great authoritarian parties, the Conservatives and Labour, continue to restrict our freedoms and curtail our liberties now more than ever there is a clear need for a strong and powerful Liberal voice in this country.  A voice that puts the individual ahead of the state, that gives the worker influence over the employer and above all in a society that worships corporations and big government is still capable of standing firm and putting people first.

* Chair of Manchester Gorton Liberal Democrats, a member of the NW Regional Executive and the English Council and Vice President of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • So very true and very well put, Iain. Philosophy , history and popularity would and are all on our side if only more could understand what we are all about. But we need robust policies and , in certain areas, such as adherence to the Harm principle as a yardstick , we need to show rigour , such as correlation between all so well articulated above , and a sense of individual and community responsibility . Strong example is Liberal belief in the rule of law , not law of the jungle .

  • Jim Hodgson 14th Dec '15 - 2:57pm

    I like the points about The Tories being authoritarian…they pretend to serve individual interests whereas we know this to be a smokescreen for serving their own interests. They espouse anti-state rhetoric like there’s no tomorrow….but when it comes to engineering tax breaks for the rich, spying on citizens, or letting bankers off the hook for financial misdemeanours….the state steps in.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article Iain and found myself nodding along in agreement at the end of every paragraph. The focus on individual empowerment and protection from the state were my primary reasons for joining the party. You succinctly expressed what I sometimes struggle to articulate. I hope that many non-members read this article and become swayed to join.

  • Although democracy is a cornerstone of Liberalism , we also are the Liberal Democrats ,we need to make more of it , our sense of individual responsibility and shared community should come to fruition in greater democracy , in our party , and in society . A sense of country and belonging would result , I feel.

  • Simon Banks 15th Dec '15 - 2:55pm

    Reads like one of the 1,000 word essays. I like it. We discuss equality and liberty a lot, but not community.

    I do agree with Lorenzo: if you believe in devolution. empowerment and community, you must also adopt individual and group responsibility.

  • Iain – Thanks for speaking up for putting people first and also for community in all its forms. Your clear exposition shows exactly why opinion polls consistently show a huge appetite for liberalism. Yet somehow that isn’t translating into political support and I think we should treat that as a big red flag that something, somewhere is going badly wrong.

    By and large the party does know how to do things at local level; where there is an established base and a good team the results can be spectacular as some recent votes have shown. Yet nationally it’s a disaster.

    I suggest that one part of the problem is that the national party simply is NOT, as the headline says, “putting people first”. Somehow we have been fooled into buying into the Tory line that “the economy” is the thing to put first – as in “building a stronger economy and a fairer society”.

    That’s implies agency to the economy that it doesn’t have, that any ‘strengthening’ is necessarily good and that there is a direct link between ‘strength’ and good outcomes for ordinary people.

    For one thing ‘strength’ is undefined. Is growth in the City’s profits a sign of strength or of an inflating bubble? Does it compensate for manufacturing weakness in provincial cities? Obviously not. Obfuscating this leaves the door open to running the economy for sectional benefit as the Tories are in fact doing. For their core backers growing City profits are a good thing, for everyone else not so much since they ultimately come out of the real economy of ‘Main Street’.

    For another, given the gross inequality that’s grown up in recent decades, the “economy” is increasingly code for a very small subset of people – those who own it.

    Genuinely putting people first would immediately shed a whole new light on several Lib Dem policies that really don’t give much thought at all to ordinary people so they in turn don’t support the party. Why would they?

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