Do the Liberal Democrats have a captivating Big Idea?

At the weekend Daisy Cooper was interviewed by Matt Frei on LBC about the local election results. Daisy was fluent and informative until Matt asked her to spell out the Liberal Democrats’ big idea.  Matt did not accept Daisy’s answer about dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. He rightly pointed out that the electorate were looking for more than another politician’s solution to another problem. They want to feel a vision, something that defines the Party and sets it apart from the two tired, rival beasts in the room.  Daisy had no answer, except to say that any big idea would be in the manifesto.

While congratulations are well-deserved, the results are unlikely to translate into general election success without a vision that captures the public imagination and can be shared in a few words.

Over the past decade, charismatic and strong person campaigning, often wrapped around a false narrative, has delivered populist election victories. Boris Johnson achieved this with ‘Take Back Control’.  Bongbong Marcos, son of the corrupt and repressive dictator, this week won a landslide in the Philippines with the slogan ‘Together, we shall rise again.’  Donald Trump remains hugely popular with his concept to ‘Make America Great’ again, and so on.

There is nothing shameful or cheap about a big idea. Indeed, this was the basis on which the United Nations, the European Union and NATO were founded.  The thought behind this particular one was that we must never go to war again. (Note how the populist ideas pay tribute to a mythical past, whereas the founding of the U.N. was to avoid a real and catastrophic past.)

With Ukraine, we are now in a parallel situation in which voters crave to see a way through to a new and different future.  The Conservatives and Labour, buffeted by infighting and extremism, are living on discredited ideas of nationalism and socialism in atmospheres riddled with corruption and racism.

The Liberal Democrats, therefore, have a unique opportunity.  Let us define our big idea and begin arguing its case now so that by the time the next general election is announced it will be embedded in the national conversation.

* Humphrey Hawksley is a member of the Hammersmith and Fulham Local Party and on the Executive of the Liberal Democrat European Group.

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68 Comments

  • Jason Connor 11th May '22 - 2:22pm

    I listened to this interview but to be fair I don’t think any of the main parties have got a big idea or USP whatever you want to call it. Daisy has spoken about rent controls before so I was surprised she did not mention this but difficult to do in an interview spur of the moment. I don’t know whether you would call build back better and levelling up big ideas but people do seem to remember these slogans. However vacuous they are, people can judge the government’s record or otherwise on them. I wasn’t quite sure about the link between racism and the conservative and labour but a lib dem councillor was suspended yesterday due to an anti-Semitic tweet so it cuts all ways.

  • Martin Eggleston 11th May '22 - 2:47pm

    The Lib Dems have a big idea; a better deal for carers. Ed Davey talked about it at length, especially the situations faced by unpaid, unsung family members. Had Daisy forgotten this? Or does she not agree?

  • I agree with the need for a big idea, if one wishes to put it like that. I believe that the starting point has to be to build up enthusiasm among our members and potential members. We need to face though the problems that we have as a party. We would do a lot better if we could have groups of researchers who could feed ideas into our teams and back it up with research. As our campaigns build we need the resources to spread the message, support our members and build up local campaigns.
    I am afraid we have almost no chance of our achieving these things. In my opinion although there is more chance of the Labour Party achieving some of these things. For the Conservatives they will always have people to fund both the party and groups which can feed ideas into the party and help with spreading particular messages.
    All in all I do not envy our parliamentarians – especially since they have to react to every event.
    Finally we can all give ideas about the ideal leader, ideal campaigning and so on. We can simply work to improve what we have. The Tories thought they had found their ideal leader. They are not so sure now. But for us finding a way to appeal to potential members would certainly help.

  • Malcolm Todd 11th May '22 - 3:44pm

    “He rightly pointed out that the electorate were looking for more than another politician’s solution to another problem. They want to feel a vision…”
    Do they, though? I think it’s journalists and political nerds who want big issues and vision. What most voters want is indeed solutions to specific problems – or to punish politicians who they think have done wrong or got it wrong.
    I would point out that none of the populist “big ideas” you list are actually big ideas at all – they’re successful slogans, that’s all.

  • Steve Trevethan 11th May '22 - 4:18pm

    Differentiate the different parts of the “ National Debt”?
    Produce versions of governmental statements, policies etc with the same reading age as a “Red Top” daily paper, (c. That of an average eleven year old)?
    Abolish student debt and invest heavily in tertiary education?

  • Steve Trevethan 11th May '22 - 4:26pm

    Make it law that the governing body of the Bank of England has to have at least two members chosen by lottery from the general public?
    Abolish tax havens and the like?

  • Graham Jeffs 11th May '22 - 4:33pm

    I’m a tad cynical about ‘big ideas’ if they are only to be seen as some sort of policy golden bullet.

    We need to instil in people what our vision is. Much of this is encapsulated in the first paragraph of the party constitution. Our policies should then be presented in such a way that they are seen to be connected to, and are in support of, our vision for society.

    Failure to project an overall vision consigns us to a bidding war in terms of electoral promises for a disparate range of issues. There is no cohesion and we fail to provide ourselves with a sufficiently recognisable identity.

  • Michael Cole 11th May '22 - 4:37pm

    Humphrey Hawksley is right to ask the question.

    I would suggest that our ‘big idea’ should be that strong communities make for a strong nation. This is entirely consistent with our liberal principles.

    Many of our councillors and MPs realise the importance of communicating with local people, understanding their needs and their concerns and then acting accordingly. They have been doing this for years.

    LDs are aware that over-centralisation is the enemy of democracy – in contrast to Labour and Conservatives. And that people respond positively when they feel they are part of the political process.

    Ed Davey has hinted at this with his message that politicians have been ‘taking people for granted.’ This is a message that resonates with the electorate as shown by the by-election victories in Chesham & Amersham and N. Shropshire and perhaps has contributed to our recent success in local elections.

  • David Evans 11th May '22 - 5:05pm

    A “big idea” only gains real traction when the ‘others’ have messed up and are losing support which is looking to go somewhere else, which another party has as their own. Labour has most of the not Tory big ideas and the Tories have the not Labour.

    However both have messed up badly in some way or another over the last few years in their own way. The one period that was actually quite good was the Coalition years, and people realise that is down to us.

    How about “Stopping the others screwing up”? it would equally apply to the SNP, Plaid and the DUP, which might also help the Alliance.

    Paddy could deliver such a line. Which of our other guys and gals could do it now?

  • Colin Taylor 11th May '22 - 5:35pm

    Mark Pack’s podcast yesterday had a very interesting comment in its content. One about Ronny Regan in the USA asking ” are you better off than you were 4 years ago ” Most Americans were not so voted Regan in with a landslide.. I am old enough to remember Harold McMillan with his ” you have never had it so good ” slogan.
    It is the simplest little quotes that lodge in the brain and act as a trigger and a catalyst with people. We have seen it with ” Brexit means Brexit and get Brexit done ( both to our costs ) As for ideas, it must be along a greener sustainable future fit for all not the few who can afford it.

  • Neil James Sandison 11th May '22 - 6:13pm

    Big ideas are frequently shot down when they come to detailed scrutiny or fact checking content . We already have a vision in the preamble of our constitution . We just dont shout about enough , it is our USP . defending liberty , social equality , the right to both a good education and diverse environment are pretty good stating points .

  • Tristan Ward 11th May '22 - 6:23pm

    ‘Take Back Control’.

    ‘Together, we shall rise again.’ ‘Make America Great again’

    None of these are Big Ideas. They are slogans.

    If we need a slogan how about – Helping people be the best they can be”?

    For a BIg Idea – Liberalism – the promotion and expansion of human rights, capitalism, rational analysis and representative democracy.

    These have delivered continued improvements, longer lives, greater wealth and more freedom across the world for the last 200 years or so. It’s the Enlightenment project.

  • Peter Watson 11th May '22 - 6:42pm

    Based on discussions on this site, Universal Basic Income is the one “Big Idea” that stands out as the sort of thing that Humphrey Hawksley is looking for. “Rejoin” would be another candidate, but the party appears to have distanced itself from that. I would argue that “Electoral Reform” is an important topic but not enough of a “big idea” without another reason to vote for Lib Dems in the first place.
    However, I don’t think that any sort of “big idea” would be consistent with the party’s apparent “Blue Wall” strategy which probably requires the party to maintain a very conservative approach with few ideas.

  • James Fowler 11th May '22 - 8:26pm

    I agree with Tristan. Liberalism is the big idea, or guiding set of principles behind every decision, to put it another way. However, avoiding having a too clearly defined big idea has served us well in the past, and serves us well again currently in being a major repository for ‘fed up with the usual incumbents (actual and potential) and want to send a vague, non-threatening message’. Liberalism does actually have some sharp edges, but a big dose of social democracy in the Party takes the edge off those, leaving us with… A perfect expression of centrist, moderate, non-conformity. It’s a winner, just tends to evaporate on contact with actual government.

  • Chris platts 11th May '22 - 11:02pm

    Perhaps the big idea should be
    Selflessness,integrity,objectivity,accountability,openness,honesty,leadership.

  • Michael Cole 12th May '22 - 12:14am

    Chris platts: Yes, agreed. but you have listed 7 ‘big ideas’.

  • Jack Nicholls 12th May '22 - 6:51am

    My suggestion would be ‘meaningful freedom’; a classical liberal view of legal and constitutional rights paired with a radical/progressive stance on how to make those rights genuinely and practically accessible to everyone.

    I’ve never quite understood the alleged divide between the social and economic wings of the party. Economic liberalism is pretty hollow if you have no capital and no access to good public services, and pretty miserable if, with or without money, you live in a society where you can’t be who you are. Concurrently, social liberalism remains partially theoretical if your personal freedoms are restricted by limited economic opportunities dominated by big institutions.

    In a complete inversion of the two standard, if flawed, offerings, much of the world now has right-leaning big governments; the worst of all worlds for any shade if liberal. If we talk in terms of meaningful freedom, we offer a philosophical context for the things the state could do better by engaging, and the things it could do better by going away, and framing modern liberalism in a clear, digestible way.

    Good post Mr H 🔶

  • Trevor Andrews 12th May '22 - 8:33am

    Any big idea needs to be simple and understandable, so things like Jack’s “meaningful freedom” would flow over the heads of most electorate. The big thing I see, as a relatively new member, is that we want to give power to the people in terms of our memberships involvement in policies, PR, devolved power. Now I accept “Power to the People” will probably not work, but something that expresses this may be one big idea. Last minute thought – “Giving you control”

  • I like Michael Cole’s ‘I would suggest that our ‘big idea’ should be that strong communities make for a strong nation. This is entirely consistent with our liberal principles.’
    Too often democracies rely on a strong personality delivering a strong slogan/Big Idea in order to win – Johnson, Trump, Putin (Yes, Russia has ‘elections’), even Macron v. Le Pen. Yet we seldom applaud those countries with less memorable leaders which perform as well or better than those led by inflated egotists.
    Our big idea should be to restore and devolve power to communities, regions and states and make a positive commitment to deflating Whitehall and Westminster.

  • Mark Johnston 12th May '22 - 9:26am

    Humphrey, I agree. Europe is the obvious candidate. Davey and Starmer’s conspiracy of silence on Europe gives the Tories a free run to call-out the policies that we have anyway but hide in the closet. It’s why we’re stuck in the polls.

  • James Fowler 12th May '22 - 9:39am

    @Jack Nicholls, very much agree.

  • Russell Simpson 12th May '22 - 9:44am

    I’m sure people will not like to be reminded of Clegg’s (spoofed) apology but here goes. Of course he didn’t apologise about what they did on tuition fees but rather, not making it clear what its red lines were in the manifesto. There is a very good chance that we will have a hung parliament after the next election and although we should have the usual detailed manifesto we need to be clear at the outset what we’d be expecting from lending support to (presumably) Labour. One of the red lines (insert BIG idea if we have one) should be REFORM (including electoral).

  • Gordon Lishman 12th May '22 - 10:00am

    I suggest that finding a Big Idea is not a matter of choosing a specific policy.
    Nor is it a slogan.
    What we need is a short phrase which summarises who we are and what we stand for.
    That’s why I like Paddy’s Ashdown’s idea of “Citizens Britain”. He set it out in his book of that name. As he said in his Conclusion:
    “The one thing that unfailingly gives me satisfaction in politics is to watch those who have been taught they are the subject of others’ power, rise to meet the challenge of power in their own hands – and then be unbelieving at what they are able to do. To believe in this and make it happen is, for me, the great passion of politics”.
    It applies to many policies and is a unifying theme for LibDems.
    That’s why I and others are working on a programme to promote it through the Party. Happy to work with others who agree.

  • Freedom and Fairness. The freedom to be who you are without prejudice or fear; in the context of fairness, (not “equality”). Your freedom should not endanger, threaten or diminish others.

  • In a world in which respect for democracy itself is collapsing around us,
    LD should promote the ‘Big Idea’ of REAL ‘Take Back Control’:

    1. From the ‘big beasts’ of the two current, venal, self-serving. ‘covert-coalition’ parties.

    2. To individual ‘sovereign’ citizens.

    3. Through constitutional reform (including, but not limited to, proportional representation in the UK Commons).

    In more specific detail:

    1. Proportional respect for the opinions and rights of all individual ‘sovereign’ citizens (i.e. not just those wishing to nominate LD as their proxy in the UK Commons).

    2. Proportional respect for the politicians and policies of all parties (i.e. not just of LD).

    3. True-democracy, consensus-governance, honour, honesty, decency, and openness (i.e. as opposed to the ‘elected autocracy’ and ‘alternating-hegemony’ for the ‘big beasts’ of the two current, venal, self-serving ‘covert-coalition’ parties).

  • Tristan Ward 12th May '22 - 12:45pm

    I do love the bit of the Preamble to the Constitution that talks about no one being enslaved by ignorance, poverty or conformity.

  • Tristan Ward 12th May '22 - 12:48pm

    @ Gordon Lishman

    How about

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to promote a fair, free and open society, to promote liberty, equality and community, and to ensure no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”?

  • Neil Hickman 12th May '22 - 1:10pm

    A very old-fashioned view, I accept, but there was a great deal to be said for “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” (which, given that the last of those is a gendered word, might conveniently be updated to “Liberty, Equality, Respect”).
    As we saw with “Give Rees-Mogg Control” and “Get Done By Brexit”, three-word slogans are powerful.
    At one stage, a reference to honesty and integrity in politics might also have been appropriate, but “No more broken promises!” didn’t work too well for Clegg, and the less said about the Bermondsey by-election campaign perhaps the better.

  • @Martin. ‘Power to the People’ was the slogan of the Tooting Popular Front!

  • Good article.

    The Preamble to the Constitution is fine but it fails the ‘reversing test’ as no-one would ever argue for the opposite even though that’s what their policies mostly deliver.

    Similarly, even the best slogan is merely a marketing tool which works only if it taps into some existing vein of feeling as did “Take Back Control” or the earlier “Labour isn’t working”.

    What is missing is “one ring to bind them all” – i.e. an understanding of how the world works that underpins and guides all policy. Hence Thatcher’s achievement in 1979 was to sell the idea that markets are efficient and should therefore rule all. That was a massive paradigm shift, the theoretical basis of which had been developed over preceding years by a small group of academics and activists before Thatcher took it mainstream.

    Thatcher’s 1979 campaign promise was to turn Britain from “the sick man of Europe” (which it was) into the “workshop of the world”. In fact, her first two years saw (IIRC) 25% of British industry close permanently showing just how far adrift from reality Tory thinking was – and still is.

    We urgently need a comparable shift in understanding to 1979 but in a Liberal direction and that must centre on how resources are managed. The Liberals got started in the 1800s when they did just that, challenging a system developed by and for hereditary landowners.

  • Christopher Clayton 12th May '22 - 5:22pm

    LD for a Fairer, Caring, Sharing Future. We have a Leader who would fit this well and it points to a politics based on moral / ethical values which citizens increasingly think are lacking today.

  • @Gordon
    “The Preamble to the Constitution is fine but it fails the ‘reversing test’”
    I get what you mean, but perhaps the “reversing test” we should be looking for is more along the Brexit Leave logic, namely, the idea should simply engage the emotions etc., but presented in a way that arguments against can’t be so simply constructed.

  • Excellent call – something I have wanted for a long time.

    How about “Build a fairer Britain – Social justice; Economic justice; Climate and environmental sustainability”

    That’s my tuppence-worth.

  • David Leaver 12th May '22 - 7:38pm

    Individual autonomy within a creative community — a big idea!

  • Zachary Adam Barker 12th May '22 - 7:53pm

    I believe anti-corruption and full spectrum government transparency can be the big idea. We can look at international examples like the Clean Hands campaign.

    -Clean up corporate lobbying.
    -Give the Public Accounts Committee some teeth.
    -No new Lib Dem candidates with second jobs apart from very few exceptions such as being a Medical Doctor.
    -Clean up defence procurement.
    -Beef up the National Audit Office.
    -More transparency and accountability over the monarchy including the finances and the Duchies.
    -A ban on honours given to political donors.

    To name but a few.

  • Michael Cole 12th May '22 - 8:53pm

    Henry Jebb: 12th May ’22 – 9:03am:

    I like Michael Cole’s “I would suggest that our ‘big idea’ should be that strong communities make for a strong nation. This is entirely consistent with our liberal principles.”

    So far your comment is the only one in open support … so thanks for that.

    You are absolutely right to point out that “Too often democracies rely on a strong personality delivering a strong slogan/Big Idea in order to win …” Charismatic leaders are all very well … but of course it depends who they are ! The best government (like a good referee) tends to be relatively unobtrusive.

    And yes, I agree that devolution and reversing centralisation is a vital factor. Grass roots politics, community politics, being closer to people – these have always been at the heart of the great LIB/LD revivals. That’s why the Tories don’t like it.

  • Michael Cole 12th May '22 - 9:17pm

    Martin 12th May ’22 – 9:04pm
    Zachary Adam Barker:

    “Your suggestions are too long and do not mean enough to too many people, however the essence of your suggestions – ‘Clean Up’ might be OK.”

    Yes, say 3 words maximum. ‘Clean Up’ is good. Or how about ‘Wise Up’ ?

  • Neil Hickman 12th May '22 - 9:35pm

    Martin:
    I note what you say. I have heard other accounts, from people in a position to know.
    It was long ago. Let’s leave it there. There are Tories to attack.

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th May '22 - 9:39pm

    Several posters have already touched on the notion of ‘fairness’ – how about encapsulating the party’s principles with a really simple slogan, like: “Work Fair, Play Fair, Live Fair”, or “Treat Everyone Fairly”, “The Party of Fairness”, “Strength through Fairness”, etc, etc.?

  • Neil Hickman 12th May '22 - 9:54pm

    If “Liberty, Equality, Respect” doesn’t float your boat, how about “Be serious. Vote Lib Dem”. Accompanied by a picture of Johnson.

  • Chris platts 12th May '22 - 11:44pm

    Okay how about protecting high public standards

  • Neil James Sandison 13th May '22 - 12:38pm

    Since most of the public appear to think our politics is rotten to the core Johnson just embodies that belief so keep the preamble to the constitution and add
    Cleaning up British Politics For Good .

  • Chris Moore 14th May '22 - 7:51am

    A fairer Britain: bring it on! Vote Lib Dem!

    Clean up our politics; clean up our rivers! Vote Lib Dem!

    Don’t forget people! Vote Lib Dem!

  • Brad Barrows 14th May '22 - 6:39pm

    @Martin
    I’m delighted to read your comments about the Bermondsey by-election as I had always believed that the notorious ‘which queen will you vote for’ leaflet had been delivered by the Liberals. Thanks for setting the record straight.

  • Michael Cole 14th May '22 - 7:06pm

    Zachary Adam Barker:

    You made the point that: “Your suggestions are too long and do not mean enough to too many people, however the essence of your suggestions – ‘Clean Up’ might be OK.”

    I replied: ” ‘Clean Up’ is good. Or how about ‘Wise Up’ ?”

    How about “Wise Up, Clean Up” ?

  • Michael Cole 14th May '22 - 7:14pm

    Chris Moore 14th May ’22 – 7:51am
    “A fairer Britain: bring it on! Vote Lib Dem! Clean up our politics; clean up our rivers! Vote Lib Dem!”

    Agreed but for election purposes it needs to be a short, memorable phrase..

  • Chris Moore 15th May '22 - 9:21am

    Hi Michael Cole,

    These were three separate suggestions!

  • Peter Watson 15th May '22 - 10:01am

    Gordon
    “The Preamble to the Constitution is fine but it fails the ‘reversing test’”
    “even the best slogan is merely a marketing tool which works only if it taps into some existing vein of feeling”

    I think these are two very important points. The Lib Dems’ “Stop Brexit” (and its ruder equivalent!) were memorable phrases and they encapsulated a specific and party-defining
    defining policy. “Take back control” summed up a very different policy! “Labour isn’t working” was part of a message about reducing unemployment.

    Could the Lib Dems do something like that at the moment? Does the party have a specific big idea or defining policy? Discussions on this site suggest there are lots of radical ideas floating about – some of which would distinguish the party from others.

    Disappointingly, it looks like Lib Dems and Labour are pinning their hopes on the “big idea” of Buggins’ Turn and that “Ed/Keir [delete as appropriate] is not Boris”. It is difficult to get a clear impression of what would actually define the much-vaunted “progressive alliance” apart from “not Tory”.

  • The NATIONAL INCOME DIVIDEND could be the big idea. It is, of course, a better term for what it means, UBI — a topic on which the Lib Dems seem to have made useful progress with the local voters in the substantial city of Hull.

    What do I mean by it? I mean UBI. It will be achieved, after three other radical changes, as follows.

    1st: Electoral reform leading to a fair voting system , in which the result will be several shades of grey, not our present choice: “It shall be Black if White don’t win”. Or in livelier terms, it will be Blue if Red don’t win. So we must first secure PR, and get a rainbow House of Commons

    2nd. We must reorientate our thinking and feeling about the Economy by concentrating talk and thought not on GDP (which is for the rich) and by considering instead the multitude of personal incomes — voters’ incomes — totted up to become the GNI, the Gross National Income. (I am keeping things simple, not academically rigorous, of course).

    Continues below, I trust!

  • Continuation from above

    3rd. With PR we will, I hope and believe, have no single party ruling on much less than half the votes, so the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget will not be his or hers, but the outcome of debates representing many party views and some compromises. The outcome of those votes will be to agree on the enormous economies to be found in abolishing rigid bureaucratic “benefits”, with the introduction of the old “UBI”, now to be understood as, and called, The NATIONAL INCOME DIVIDEND.

    It has a ring, surely? We’re all part of the NATION; everybody is in favour of, and needs, an INCOME, to be well and dry; and the notion of a DIVIDEND sounds good to each of us, as in the old days of the football-pools: the rich get their riches in share Dividends so lets all share out a chunk of the National Income, and become again a commonwealth. No grudging “benefits” to the hapless and the needy, but a decent share as a Right. It will be annually reviewed, in the light of perceived need; and it will be the opening announcement in the Budget statement.

  • Peter Watson 18th May '22 - 12:56pm

    @Roger Lake “1st: Electoral reform leading to a fair voting system”
    I often think Lib Dems risk putting the cart before the horse with this.
    First, voters need a reason to vote for Lib Dems (rather than just against the Tories) – and that’s where one or more big ideas comes in.
    Then voters can be outraged that the unfair system deprives them of these fantastic ideas and demand electoral reform to deliver them. Or perhaps the ideas would be nicked by another party, but that’s still a win of sorts!

    P.S. Calling UBI a “NATIONAL INCOME DIVIDEND” is an interesting branding idea. It certainly sounds more positive.

  • Renaming the UBI by a different name doesn’t make it more workable, affordable or justifiable.

  • Peter Davies 18th May '22 - 4:40pm

    “National Income Dividend” implies a specific justification for the policy that sits well with liberals. Part of the wealth we create is the result of our own efforts and part of our cooperation as a society. That part should be distributed to all the members of that society as a dividend.

    “Negative Income Tax” is a way of not frightening the horses. We already give a substantial sum to all tax payers in the form of tax and NI allowances. Why should those who fail to reach the tax threshold get the same.

    “Universal Basic Income” makes it clear that the main effect would be that everyone has a regular income that they can rely on. Just “Basic Income” seems to play better and doesn’t get abbreviated.

    Of the three, “Everyone should get a basic income” probably plays best among those who will benefit most. Moral philosophers do not constitute a major part of that demographic.

  • Peter Watson,

    Exactly! There are indeed radical ideas floating around but I don’t see the institutional capacity to pick them up, so they eventually drown in the bureaucratic swamp of policymaking. That leaves “Ed is not Boris”, as the deeply uninspiring default.

    Roger Lake,

    No single policy, neither UBI (however named) nor any other, is the ‘Big Idea’ the country needs. Thatcher responded to the evident failure of the predominantly Labour-influenced post-war settlement with the ‘Big Idea’ that ‘free’ markets were the missing factor. The belief was they would restore national competitiveness, revitalise industry and run many state activities more efficiently than government could.

    (Actually, it was a smallish group of activists, think-tankers etc. that came up with this. Thatcher had the political courage to ditch the then-received wisdom and run with their ideas.)

    From that stable we got everything from PFI financing of schools and hospitals, to selling off council houses, the ‘Big Bang’ of City deregulation, tax reforms and more.

    Now, 40+ years later, we see the disastrous consequences of an epic misdiagnosis. Almost none of those ideas have worked for the 99% although they worked fabulously for 1%. That is, of course, a feature, not a bug.

    The ‘Big Idea’ we need must be comparable to Thatcherism in scope. Think of it as an aquifer that will give rise to many policy springs which will, because of their common source will have a coherence and power that Lib Dem policy now lacks.

  • Peter Watson 19th May '22 - 9:26am

    @David Raw “Renaming the UBI by a different name doesn’t make it more workable, affordable or justifiable.”
    UBI would be a big idea for Lib Dems, but I genuinely don’t know whether or not UBI is a good idea and I sit firmly on the fence! It seems to be a difficult sell within the party.

    I suspect the party fears UBI would put off target blue wall voters who probably aren’t looking for anything radical, especially if it’s redistributive and will hit them in the pocket, so I don’t expect the party to make much noise about it (or any “big” ideas) before the next general election. Even “rejoin”, the most obvious candidate for a Lib Dem big idea, seems to be something in which the party has no interest.

    Still, it’s nice in this article and discussion to imagine what an unconservative version of the Lib Dems might look like, and what sort of butterfly could one day emerge from the party’s dull chrysalis! 😉

  • Peter Hirst 20th May '22 - 3:48pm

    Our big idea must of course be in the area of electoral reform, governance and a written constitution. I am sure Ed can decide on the detail but it must show he is as committed to this as I am sure he is. He has more than enough evidence from recent events to keep even the most ardent newscaster happy for months if they choose to endorse and promote his big idea.

  • My comment not far above is meant to suggest what may be thought too long-term — certainly more than one General Election, since the first stage of National Income Dividend (shall we call it Niddy, here?) . . . the first stage in achieving Niddy will have to be the introduction of PR. That, today, looks less remote than ever before.

    PR will result in several Parties having the opportunity — the necessity? — of forming alliances, which may differ from topic to topic. But there will be, surely, a Chancellor of the Exchequer appointed ( like the PM, in this PR world) by a mixed majoritypresenting a Budget which will represent the interests of a majority. At that point NID might well have a wide appeal. And that is why we must stick our name on it as soon as poss, before some other party does!

  • Richard Denton-White 15th Jun '22 - 4:24pm

    LIBERATING CITIZENS BUILDING GREEN DEMOCRACY

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Recent Comments

  • expats
    David Evans 9th Aug '22 - 5:20am........... David, you mention EDF....On 6 July 2022, French prime minister Elisabeth Borne announced that "the French govern...
  • Tristan Ward
    Everyone knows energy produced from hydrocarbons needs to be expensive to help discourage its use and associated CO2 production and dependence on the srab State...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Chris Platts 8th Aug '22 - 10:07pm Are you trying to dictate the content of a proper written constitution before we've had a proper debate about what should b...
  • Andrew Tampion
    Michael BG "I would expect the energy producers to sell their energy in the UK at the capped price and they would be free to sell their energy on the world mar...
  • David Evans
    Michael BG, but you haven't really thought through the question I asked. How much of 'their energy' would you expect them to sell in the UK and on what basis w...