Fringe reports: Generous Society

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I feel slightly guilty because I haven’t found time yet to write about the beautiful and joyful Generous Society pamphlet that Julian Huppert wrote about recently.

This is a wonderful contrast to our recent habit of being as nuanced as we can to try to avoid upsetting people. It’s an antidote to the paint by numbers, soulless, brand based, dull centrist mush that we have been prone to cling to. Maybe one day we’ll learn that subtlety never won anything and that we need the sort of liberal heart and sprit that The Generous Society contains.

It has some superb illustrations and does not pull its punches:

No economist can calculate the beauty and wonder lost from our world because of the restrictions our society has placed on the freedom to create and contribute. We must reduce the burden on those who want the dignity and peace that comes with a secure, well-paid job – but instead find themselves ripped off, spied on, or otherwise mistreated by their employers. In a liberal society, you will not have to spend excessive physical and mental energy on basic needs.

I also liked the acknowledgement that in a liberal society, we recognise that there will be a small amount of  abuse of social security systems, but that the wider aim of ensuring that people have enough to meet their basic needs is more important.

In a fringe meeting on Friday, Julian Huppert chaired a discussion between Polly Mackenzie of Demos, Ailbhe Rea of the New Statesman and Generous Society author Tom King.

You can watch it here.

Ailbhe Rea said that her experience of her first Lib Dem conference was that we had a whole stack of policy but no underpinning vision.

She observed that generous was a less embarrassing word than love but that the pamphlet basically was about the politics of love. She felt that the social and cultural aspects were much easier to envisage and implement than the economic ones.

As a non Lib Dem, she observed that this is a totally different way of relating to the world of work and how we remunerate people, how we relate to things like automation which will reshape the amount of time people can spend working. She also pointed out that there are varying ideas in our party on how we might want to achieve redistribution of wealth.

Polly Mackenzie, who was one of Nick Clegg’s special advisers during the coalition, looked about how we create the sort of spirit of community required to implement this.

What is it that makes people come together as a nation and how do you make that happen in away that isn’t around ethnic or tribal identity. How do you build civic nationalism that makes it feel worthwhile to overcome differences? What might the spirit of that be?

She talked about how prejudice is used by dictators to build hostility to the “out of favour” group and create solidarity in the “in favour” Group.

How do we create solidarity without a scapegoat group?

She said that we should support and encourage collaboration and we should not accept the premise that there is a conflict between individuals and communities.

We are used to Cambridge Liberal Democrats providing entertainment on the first night of conference with their disco. It was good to see them providing such a thoughtful and inspiring meeting in place of Julian Huppert’s gold shirt and the usual raucous and outrageous fun.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • richard underhill 27th Sep '20 - 12:13pm

    Ed Davey was on the Andrew Marr show, but, unusually rudely, he was only allowed to answer a few questions and not to set out a vision.
    There is live tennis from Paris on ITV4, about 7 degrees Celsius, compared with 31 in Florida as Azarenka said. She played on an outside court. There is only one court with a roof this year, whereas Wimbledon has two.
    Please do not keep saying that the next general election is in 2024. Rebellions from ambitious Tories can happen, as the Times cartoon of page 29, 26/9/2020 shows. The Chancellor is depicted with hands (applauding) face (white, crossed out) place (10).

  • richard underhill 27th Sep '20 - 12:18pm

    Money for street improvements was rushed in causing retailers to complain about lack of access to their properties for deliveries and customers. Ostensibly wider pavements are intended to increase social distancing, but needed better planning.

  • richard underhill 27th Sep '20 - 12:21pm

    Evans 6
    Nishikori 1

  • richard underhill 27th Sep '20 - 12:27pm

    “whole stack of policy but no underpinning vision.” ???
    What about the Alderdice review?

    Andy Murray will play Stan Wawrinka later today in autumnal daylight.

  • Paul Holmes 27th Sep '20 - 3:02pm

    Caron -where are these recent nuanced approaches you talk of? From 2016-2019 it was reject the Referendum/Bollocks to Brexit and in 2019 it switched to Revoke. Nothing nuanced there. How did all that work out in the end?

  • An underpinning vision can be that we rejoin the EU and take our seat as one of its leaders

  • Correct. They were not nuanced approaches. They were ‘in your face’. However, ‘Get Brexit done’ was also ‘in your face’. That worked. Simple emotive sound bites do work but they have to fit with what the voter wants.Revoke was OK. It was how it was sold that was wrong. Also remember that the media tore it apart. The mood of the message has to tally with what people want.The message does not have to be nuanced Just a vote winner.

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