It’s not enough to open up the party

Millions of people know that Britain is heading down the wrong path. Very few know what they can do about it. The Lib Dems have to become home for the despairing liberal millions. It’s now or never.

What’s so wrong with Britain today? Well, we can’t find room for even 3,000 child refugees for starters. We let freeloading multinationals take us for a ride. We’re not doing enough to stop climate change. Millions of families struggle to afford to eat. The young have to earn twice as much as their parents did to afford a house. Women and minorities earn less than white men for the same work.

Focus on this one for a second: the UK is so transphobic that last year a British trans woman was granted asylum in New Zealand. Seriously.

The list goes on and on – and that’s not even to mention Brexit.

Millions of people in the UK today are horrified about exactly these causes. We all know them: our family, our friends, our colleagues.

Take a second to count them – how many do you know? Ten, twenty, more?

Now ask yourself this: how many of them do you think would do something – as small as to sign a petition perhaps – to help tackle any one of those problems listed above?

Fewer, right? But still a good number. Let’s think of these people as liberal activists in the making.

Final question: how many would want to think of themselves as a card carrying Lib Dem? I’m guessing very few

Our party should be a home for the hundreds of thousands of activists who wish they knew what they could do to get Britain back on track. They want what we want. We should do everything in our power to help them.

Instead we take more than we give. We ask people to deliver leaflets for us, donate money to us, run as a candidate for us. All these things are important, but we must start giving too. If you want to stop Brexit, tackle air pollution, fight discrimination, stand up against the powerful to protect what’s right: the Lib Dems should help you do it.

We have to become a movement that empowers liberals to change Britain for the better.

This isn’t just about living our philosophy: this is about getting more councillors and Parliamentarians elected. If we pledge to take action in government on air pollution, then the people that we helped become activists on that cause will campaign for our candidates.

What’s more, if we can be useful to them, we can show them that we’re not as bad as people say. In turn, they’ll appeal to those despairing liberal millions who remain out of our reach. It’s not getting Vince on Question Time that will get them behind us – it’s winning over their friends. 

Win over the liberal activists and we’ll win over the liberal millions.

You might have thought this post was about Vince Cable’s proposed reforms. It’s not. If you agree with the picture I’ve set out here, the general direction of Vince’s reforms is a no brainer. (The devil is absolutely in the details – how long should people need to be a supporter for before they can vote for the Leader? What voice should they have in policy? Get involved in the conversation to help figure it out.)

But Vince’s reforms should only be the beginning. We need to let people take part without becoming card carrying members, sure. But we also need to empower them to do something about the causes that inspire them. We need to give them the tools to campaign, invite them to innovate, and challenge them to help change Britain for the better. 

 If you agree, sign our petition. If you want to get started, join me and the Your Liberal Britain team at 5pm every day at Conference at stand 12 or live on our Facebook page for a speakers’ corner, challenging you to promote practical steps we can all take to solve Britain’s most urgent problems.

* Jim Williams is the founder of Your Liberal Britain

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Jim,
    I think you need to broaden your horizons, the liberal Britain you talk about exists only in the imaginations of Liberals.

  • Peter Hirst 20th Sep '18 - 1:41pm

    We must also make it easy for people to show their support for us and our values.

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