Conference heroes and heroines

Shirley Williams – for rejecting the title of living deity with characteristic common sense in her Sabbath day speech to conference.

Evan Harris – for cutting through the cynicism of christening motions after national treasures by teasing conference with his “William Beveridge” amendment speech on the Shirley Williams motion. What next – the Conrad Russell memorial welfare reforms or the John Stuart Mill cuts in Sure Start? That’s enough naming stuff after deities living or dead thanks very much.

Pamphleteers Prateek Buch (Plan C – social liberal approaches to a fair, sustainable economy published by Social Liberal Forum) and Jo Ingold (Challenges for the Liberal Left published by Liberal Left). As Jo’s co-editor I am, of course totally biased, but having heard Prateek and Jo speak on the conference fringe it is a relief to know that there are some young thinkers analysing the party’s policy predicament and putting forward some ideas for the future.

Craig and Leola Card of LD Image – the ultimate insufficiently sung conference heroes, purveyor of rosettes and bird of liberty teddy bears to the Liberal Democrat populace. How long have they been doing this bless them? Is it not time they got an award or something?

The ladies of the Lib Dem creche. Whatever the high jinx on the conference floor it is as nothing compared to the diplomacy needed to herd disparate activists’ kiddies in the conference creche. Thank you Amanda and team.

And last but not least Northumbria Police, who, just as their fallen colleague PC David Rathband was being commemorated a short distance away at Newcastle Cathedral, led with tact and good humour a group of demonstrators who chanted “Fascist Police” at them.

See you in Brighton!

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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  • If any piece deserves an ‘Opinion:’ in front of it, this does, no?

  • Ruth Bright 14th Mar '12 - 8:22pm

    As gracious as ever Zadok!

  • Tony Greaves 14th Mar '12 - 8:43pm

    I think John Stuart Mill would be opening SureStart centres not closing them!

    Tony Greaves

  • Joseph Donnelly 14th Mar '12 - 10:42pm

    @Tony Greaves

    A dubious but perhaps true claim. As always were dealing with the problem that John Stuart Mill lived in a time when terms like SureStart would have been nonsensical (still kind of are today).

    As far as I’m aware J.S. Mill’s view on education was that it was good because it increased the faculties of the individual to make choices (different from later idealistic liberals like Green) and he only talks about the state having any role to play with elementary education (later and university education he thought were well covered by the voluntary bodies).

    But I’m fairly sure that Mill makes clear that he doesn’t want government to have a monopoly of provision of elementary education (which I’m stretching to cover SureStart) because he viewed government monopolies of provision as dangerous/inefficient. So he only wanted government to provide a guarantee of elementary education not actually provide it.

    So he probably wouldn’t be opening or closing SureStart centres, it seems to me like he would have wanted a different solution than another government ran service.

  • Joseph Donnelly 14th Mar '12 - 10:46pm

    ‘A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body’
    p. 239 On liberty


    ‘ Education, therefore, is one of those things which it is admissible in principle that a government should provide for the people.’
    principles of political economy p. 953

    Its probably clear at this point that I’m currently doing an essay on Mill and procrastinating

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '12 - 11:16pm

    @Joseph. Well, by now I guess you know that J.S.Mill wasn’t correct about everything! In our present future, I’d argue that a general state education needs to help people to be sufficiently different that they can think independently of historical precendents and other boxes, and so be the innovators which our industry needs and will continue to need.

  • Joseph Donnelly 14th Mar '12 - 11:34pm


    I think I actually agree with Mill here just a bit refined.

    To me he seems to be essentially saying that the government should make sure everyone has a certain level of education (he says elsewhere he favours tests to check this has been achieved) and he would like for those whom charities don’t help and those who can’t afford to pay that the government could provide a subsidy (a coercion to stop a coercion). He is effectively arguing for what we would now call a voucher system. The government pays for education but doesn’t actually run schools.

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '12 - 11:49pm

    @Joseph. Interesting point of view. I am looking at “the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government”. I am remembering reading 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Darkness at Noon. I am thinking about what the word “liberal” means. Yes, I am crazy, alienated, upside down and back to front, but I have worked hard to be just that!

  • Love your comments re Craig and Leola Card, and creche – couldn’t be without them. The Police – I include the nice one’s who lifted a barrier so I could take a short cut to Jury’s when I forgot my badge, and let’s hear it for the staff at The Sage. Most helpful and friendly, and first time I’ve known staff go running around to get chairs for people standing at fringe meetings. But what do you expect from the friendly NE 🙂

  • Suzanne – definitely agree on the Sage staff. Very helpful. In particular, when the changeover from one fringe meeting to another was taking longer than it should and there was a queue forming outside the room they made a real effort to get some extra staff in to help. Also, when we’d packed up our stand on Sunday they actually helped us move all our stuff to the loading bay which was a first. Very impressed.

  • Ruth Bright 15th Mar '12 - 5:19pm

    Thanks all. Agreed that the Sage was a wonderful venue.

    I knew even a throwaway line about John Stuart Mill would set everyone off! Did you finish your essay Joseph? A n essay title to conjure with next time: “‘Harriet Taylor – did she just make the tea for Mill while he worked on ‘On Liberty’ or did she write most of it?’ Discuss”.

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