Liberal Reform: The leadership campaign is too important for factional infighting

Liberal Reform issued this statement following Tim Farron’s announcement that he will contest the party leadership election:

From the Board of Liberal Reform:

“The party now has two excellent candidates to choose from for leader, both with many strengths. We believe that whichever candidate is elected will need to lead a united party into battle against the Government and to expose the fake progressives of Labour and the SNP.

In this spirit, therefore, we do not believe it is appropriate for Liberal Reform to endorse a candidate in this contest and would urge other groups to take the same view. The need for unity in our task of rebuilding makes this leadership election too important for it to descend into factional infighting.

That does not mean that we do not want to find out the views of Tim and Norman on issues of interest to our members. We will want to meet with them to understand their views on how we can campaign to protect our civil liberties and for critical but uncompromising support for our membership of the European Union. We will also want to talk about how we build a strong, liberal economy by overcoming the UK’s chronic low productivity problem and understand their views on the EU-US free trade agreement.

We also want to see if they share our belief that we need to urgently review the party’s structures, which were found deficient in many areas in the recent campaign, and how we can embrace the thousands of new members joining our democratic party.

Most importantly we will want to know how — after the leadership election is over — each of them will ensure the other’s supporters are brought in to work in a united party as we go about the difficult but vital task of rebuilding.”

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70 Comments

  • I hope that the leadership campaign is run in a civil manner. I know that there is a group of members still very angry at the coalition, but I would hope that people can back their candidate positively rather than attacking the other camp.

    Whoever wins, we will need Norman and Tim both at full strength after the leadership election. Each MP is essential to the survival of our party now. Let’s be dignified and civil, and find a way forward.

  • Liberal Neil 14th May '15 - 9:18am

    Glad to see that there appear to people from across the political spectrum within the party backing each candidate.

  • The primary issue should be who can better project and communicate Liberalism at a time when we are likely to be sidelined as a relative irrelevance. There has been a tendency on these pages to portray secondary and what will become fading historical issues as primary.

    On the primary issue there are, in my opinion, important doubts about both candidates. It is up to them to convince who can project most successfully outside the political bubble.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th May '15 - 9:56am

    @ Helen
    Absolutely lets be civil but lets not dodge the truth either. Social Liberals can make a contribution by owning up that the Centre Ground is too important to cede to Labour or Conservatives but followers of the previous leadership need to be honest about the huge mistakes made, the disconnect that lost 4.5 million voters and how we need to return to the Centre Left. We also need to talk about engagement on a broad Left alliance with Labour, Greens, SNP, PC on issues of common agreement to oppose the Tories. Labour is going through a similar dialogue and perhaps we ought to find common ground.

  • We are in The Liberal Democrats in the interesting position where 20% of our members have joined the party in the last 7 days.

    Many completely new members might not know who or what ‘Liberal Reform’ is.

    Their website is not that helpful so maybe a member of their “Board” might like to put in a comment here explaining –
    1…who are the principle people in their faction
    2…how many members they have
    3…how much funding they receive from outside the party (by way of shared resources, sponsorship of meetings etc).

    New members would find this sort of information helpful.

  • Martin

    “On the primary issue there are, in my opinion, important doubts about both candidates. It is up to them to convince who can project most successfully outside the political bubble.”

    An importatn point, also they need to explain how each of them will be able to harness the talents of all remaining MPs a lot of expertise have been lost.

  • Martin,

    Your primary issue is entirely correct. But central to that is trust – the electorate has to be prepared to trust our candidates (at all levels) again in an atmosphere where our rivals are bound to point out any examples where the party broke their trust. The pledge with individual electors (effectively) on tuition fees is the obvious example, since all voters could see that each MP had the power to keep that pledge. So I and many others say “if they cannot keep to a promise to vote a particular way on that one, how do I know they will vote to save the local hospital?” etc etc etc

    I agree that many issues will fade into history but this one will not, I am afraid. The leader needs to be able to say “look at my record: you can trust me” in a straightforward way with no weasel words about ministerial responsibility, party whips, coalition agreements etc

  • Brenda Lana Smith 14th May '15 - 11:30am

    As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all…

  • Eddie Sammon 14th May '15 - 12:06pm

    Both candidates are good, but I think I am looking for something different to Tim Farron, Norman Lamb, Liberal Reform and the Social Liberal Forum.

    I want a stronger welfare state, but I also want tougher controls on immigration. I think this is the only way to rid things such as homelessness from our society. It shouldn’t be seen as heretical to liberalism to consider this approach.

    I still see the Lib Dems as being the most reasonable party going forward, but the 2020 election is going to be a tough one, especially if Labour become more pro business and the Conservatives a bit more “one-nation”.

    Best regards

  • @JohnTilley
    That sort of information isn’t only helpful to new members like me John, it’s critical.

  • George Potter 14th May '15 - 12:55pm

    @Eddie Sammon

    Restricting immigration will create more homelessness, not less, since immigrants are net contributors to the tax system and are therefore propping up things like the NHS, welfare and social housing with their taxes. If they left we’d be struggling even more than we are at the moment to house the homeless and provide for the poor and the vulnerable.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th May '15 - 1:04pm

    Hi George, the problem is I want to increase welfare spending, but I think this will lead to a noticeable increase in immigration, so if we do the former then I think we have to be prepared to restrict the latter.

  • @Brenda Lane Smith
    “As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all…”

    What a bizarre comment. Why should anyone’s personal faith be changed by whether they are leader of the Liberal Democrats or not? Having rules about a Catholic on the throne is bad enough, but is this really what is meant here? Whether any candidate can lead inclusively is of course a different and relevant matter.

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 1:10pm

    IanT14th May ’15 – 12:17pm
    “@JohnTilley – That sort of information isn’t only helpful to new members like me John, it’s critical.”

    I agree Ian … and also to me as a long-standing member!

  • Brenda Lana Smith 14th May '15 - 2:11pm

    tpfkar 14th May ’15 – 1:09pm
    @Brenda Lane Smith
    “As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all…”

    What a bizarre comment. Why should anyone’s personal faith be changed by whether they are leader of the Liberal Democrats or not? Having rules about a Catholic on the throne is bad enough, but is this really what is meant here? Whether any candidate can lead inclusively is of course a different and relevant matter.

    UNQUOTE…

    As an openly “LGBT + Lib Dems” member… and… Human Rights advocate… I am not advocating one necessarily change one’s religion… but practice full equality for all… to wit… that all our party’s leader candidates pledge to ignore the dictates of any religion or religious body that does not practice such…

  • George Potter 14th May '15 - 3:26pm

    All the evidence is that people don’t come to the UK for benefits – not least because we have one of the stingiest welfare systems in Europe.

  • david thorpe 14th May '15 - 3:49pm

    LRiberal Reform is not some sort of secret underground group-all the info about us is on the website.

    All of our people are LD members-a good many of our board members were PPCs in this election-we have faced the gunfire as much as anyone-but this blog post aims to ensure that in future-when we face the gunfire again-it wont be coming from our own side.

    It is hardly an unreasonable request.

  • david thorpe 14th May '15 - 3:55pm

    some people come to the UK with benefits in mind-no doubt-but the majortiy come to work

  • Simon McGrath 14th May '15 - 4:07pm

    To answer another one of Tilley’s questions we do occasionally have shared meeting at Confernce. At Liverpool for example with Centre Forum , Glasgow with ERS.

    We even had one with the SLF a couple of years ago !

  • @John Tilley not having been aware of Liberal Reform before, I followed your advice, found out more about them, and signed up. I’d encourage new members to do the same.

  • I would like to thank you, Alan Muhammed for your comment.
    I did follow your link, Alan, but it is not obvious from it where I would find the answers to my questions.

    Quite a lot of the website seems to predate November 2013.
    It does include this report which gives a hint about who you are and what infuence you have at the top of the party —

    “….In a briefing before the party’s spring conference in Liverpool this weekend, Liberal Reform described it as “regrettable that even at this final conference before the election, party members are being left in the dark as to how all of these plans are going to be funded”.

    When asked about the comments at a press conference on Monday, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he had not heard of Liberal Reform…. ..

    Liberal Reform adheres to the broadly pro-market, economically liberal ideology represented in the Orange Book, which was published in 2004 and co-edited by schools minister David Laws.”

    I am glad to see you object to party members being kept in the dark and wonder if you could answer my three questions here in a comment, if that is not too much trouble?

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/mar/09/liberal-democrat-members-left-dark-about-party-spending-plans

  • Alan Muhammed
    I have studied your website further but still cannot find the answers to my three simple questions.

    This link fills in some of the gaps. It is from Zadok Day who seems to have founded your group in 2012.
    He seems to have resigned the following year and resigned from the Liberal Democrats for the reasons he gives here —

    https://asongofliberty.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/sisyphus-shrugged/

  • @Tom Papworth: Why are there only four corners of liberalism? Why not two? Or five? Or sixty-three? Or five thousand, two hundred and thirty eight?

    Can you point me to the great Liberal philosopher who asserts and identifies these four corners?

  • Many thanks to Tom Papworth for your open and honest comment. It is much appreciated.

    I assume you are the same Tom Papworth who is also a prominent member of ‘Liberal Vision’ which actively supported Conservative and UKIP candidates In last week’s general election.

    If you are a loyal member of the Liberal Democrats why are you also a prominent member of a group which vehemently opposes Liberal Democrat MPs in elections?

  • Paul Pettinger 14th May '15 - 5:25pm

    The Electoral Reform Society looks to campaign and raise awareness across the board. It therefore makes no endorsement of Liberal Reform and has not funded or co-funded an event with them.

  • Simon McGrath 14th May '15 - 6:31pm
  • @Brenda Lana Smith
    Thanks for the helpful clarification – I can see where you are coming from now, but judging who does and does not meet that criteria will take up plenty of threads on here. My experience is that faith can drive a liberal outlook in terms of social justice and an internationalist and humane approach to politics. Will be interesting to see how these themes come out during the leadership contest.

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 6:59pm

    Tom Papworth 14th May ’15 – 5:03pm

    William Hobhouse is a sound Liberal Democrat.

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 7:04pm

    TCO 14th May ’15 – 4:20pm
    “@John Tilley not having been aware of Liberal Reform before, I followed your advice, found out more about them, and signed up. I’d encourage new members to do the same.”

    TCO, clearly another of your “I work for a think tank/I don’t work for a think tank/I was being ironic” moments.

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 7:09pm

    and finally …

    Tom Papworth 14th May ’15 – 5:03pm
    “John Tilley, Liberal Reform is not a “faction” any more than the Liberator Collective is a ‘faction’.

    Hmm … but how many Liberator Collective members are LDV co-editors?

  • David Allen 14th May '15 - 7:33pm

    “As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all…”

    Speaking as a person with no religious faith, and with scepticism bordering on antipathy to religious faith, I would say: Equality, yes. “Secularism”, no. That, to me, implies that an atheist is to be considered superior to a religious person. Which, to me, is no better than considering a white person to be superior to a black person.

    “Full equality”? Well, why the tautology here? Equality is, after all, equality. That’s all that needs to be said. So why say any more? Is “full equality” a kind of subconscious code for something rather more than just “equality”, I wonder?

  • @Stephen Hesketh well its true as Joe Otten will attest. I may well join SLF too.

  • Toby Fenwick 14th May '15 - 8:02pm

    @John Tilley

    I’m amused at your use of “faction”, John. Do you regard the SLF as a “faction”?

    I’d welcome all new and old nembers to look at Liberal Reform’s website and publications. We’re open and always happy to engage.

  • @Stephen Hesketh 14th May ’15 – 7:09pm

    “Hmm … but how many Liberator Collective members are LDV co-editors?”

    I’m a bit confused by this. Does this mean that the LDV editor for this article is one of the people who issued this statement?

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 9:00pm

    David Allen 14th May ’15 – 7:33pm
    “Speaking as a person with no religious faith, and with scepticism bordering on antipathy to religious faith, I would say: Equality, yes. “Secularism”, no. That, to me, implies that an atheist is to be considered superior to a religious person. ”

    David, that is a slightly unusual interpretation of secularism if you don’t mind me saying so. The National Secular Society website states, “Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.”

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 9:11pm

    Bolano 14th May ’15 – 8:53pm
    [[Stephen Hesketh 14th May ’15 – 7:09pm Hmm … but how many Liberator Collective members are LDV co-editors?]]

    “I’m a bit confused by this. Does this mean that the LDV editor for this article is one of the people who issued this statement?”

    I have enough friends on the ‘naughty step’ without me joining them there thank you very much 🙂

    But to answer your question in this specific case – who knows – I am assuming that Newshound isn’t someone who is who they say they are 🙂

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th May '15 - 9:15pm

    TCO 14th May ’15 – 7:36pm
    “@Stephen Hesketh well its true as Joe Otten will attest.”

    And that Tabby is about as clear as mud. To what will Joe Otten attest?

  • @Emile Heskey you accused me of being ironic; I wasn’t. Tabby?

  • @Stephen Hesketh 14th May ’15 – 9:11pm

    Well, yes, I don’t want another bout of naughtystepitis.

    I don’t have any problem with anybody being part of any group.

    I do have a problem with a lack of transparency.

    John Tilley does invaluable work attempting to make clear what’s what in cases like this. I didn’t know anything about Liberal Reform before reading this but by the way this article has appeared, and the way the members who’ve replied to John Tilley have completely failed to engage with his three simple points (and I emphasise that it’s not John Tilley who’s made them appear in this way – it’s their own doing) , you come away thinking that this is some Liberal Vision-lite organisation, trying to push the party towards the Tories.

  • “If you are a loyal member of the Liberal Democrats why are you also a prominent member of a group which vehemently opposes Liberal Democrat MPs in elections?”

    That is a very, very good question..

  • Brenda Lana Smith 14th May '15 - 10:17pm

    Tpfkar 14th May ’15 – 6:44pm
    @Brenda Lana Smith

    Thanks for the helpful clarification – I can see where you are coming from now, but judging who does and does not meet that criteria will take up plenty of threads on here. My experience is that faith can drive a liberal outlook in terms of social justice and an internationalist and humane approach to politics. Will be interesting to see how these themes come out during the leadership contest.

    UNQUOTE…

    Sadly, Tpfkar, my experience ( http://zagria.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/brenda-lana-smith-consul-activist.html ) and that of many LGBTQI folk throughout the world is that fundamentalist religions politically dictate a bigoted outlook when it comes to granting equality for all…

  • Toby Fenwick 14th May '15 - 10:50pm

    @Bolano: sorry, I don’t follow. Lib Reform’s website, publications, conference briefings and views are hardly secret. But John Tilley decides to use “faction” as a pejorative, accuse Tom Papworth of campaigning against the party (something which I believe to be inaccurate, and I’d welcone John’s evidence) and you see this as John making things clear?

    Perhaps you’ll forgive my confusion?

  • Stephen Hesketh,

    OK, here’s what the National Secular Society say they stand for:

    “The National Secular Society … campaign for a secular democracy with a separation of religion and state … to challenge the disproportionate influence of religion on governments … defending freedom and equality as a counterbalance to the powerful religious lobby”.

    I can support those aims, personally. What I don’t believe is that ALL members of a serious political party should be compelled to do likewise.

    The original comment I took exception to said: “the Liberal Democratic … party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism”. This seems to be a recipe for excluding Farron from the leadership and excluding vast swathes of the public from voting Lib Dem. Not sensible!

  • @Toby Fenwick 14th May ’15 – 10:50pm
    “I don’t follow…But John Tilley decides to use “faction” as a pejorative, accuse Tom Papworth of campaigning against the party (something which I believe to be inaccurate, and I’d welcone John’s evidence) and you see this as John making things clear?”

    John Tilley doesn’t accuse Tom Papworth of that. Shall we look at John Tilley’s own words:

    “I assume you are the same Tom Papworth who is also a prominent member of ‘Liberal Vision’ which actively supported Conservative and UKIP candidates In last week’s general election.

    If you are a loyal member of the Liberal Democrats why are you also a prominent member of a group which vehemently opposes Liberal Democrat MPs in elections?”

    You see there’s no confusion at all. John Tilley is accusing the neo-liberal group Tom Papworth belongs to, not Tom Papworth himself. In fact John Tilley’s word are a model of clarity.

    Why don’t you address what John Tilley writes, rather than pretending he’s written something else entirely?

  • @Toby Fenwick 14th May ’15 – 10:50pm

    In fact I’m curious as to what the difference is between Liberal Reform and Liberal Vision – is it like that between the Tories and UKIP, or do you both believe pretty much the same things?

  • Can I make a general suggestion for LDV (without risking the naughty step)?

    Might it be worth – when running articles representing groups that Lib Dem editors are members of – not using a pseudonym to post the article, so readers know whether the writer of an article has a personal interest in the article? I think there would probably be less controversy.

  • I thought the above exchange clarified matters nicely.

  • The above comments strengthen the need to use Members’ Forum much more – for our internal workings and debates. I’m sure everyone commenting here seeks to be open and helpful, especially to new members – nevertheless, the original post is a valid contribution on HOW we should conduct the presidential election.

  • Phil Rimmer 15th May '15 - 8:53am

    Blimey, a call to avoid factional in fighting, a perfectly reasonable request for information from John Tilley and all we get is …….. well a call to avoid factional in fighting! Do I start to detect a faction who want to avoid something else?

    I surprised myself when I read this article in that, even after 36 years in Liberal politics, I have never heard of Liberal Vision!

  • Phil Rimmer 15th May '15 - 8:56am

    Apologies, I got the name wrong in the last line, Liberal Reform.

  • Tom Papworth you seem to think it is unreasonable to believe what an organisation says on its website yet you refer new members to the so-called ‘Liberal Reform’ website.

    Whilst at he same time you appear much more prominently on the ‘Liberal Vision’ website I hope you can understand why people like Toby Fenwick might get confused.

    Still appearing on the Liberal Vision website at 9.30am Friday 15 May 2015 —

    Tom Papworth – Contributor

    Tom Papworth is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Crystal Palace in the London Borough of Bromley, a professional policy analyst and freelance writer. He is a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and works as a consultant at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
    Tom has previously worked for the leading International Security think tanks in the UK and Sweden, was a Cabinet Office civil servant, and for the past five years has been analysing and delivering policy in education and development.
     

    http://www.liberal-vision.org/about-liberal-vision/

  • The fact is that The Liberal Party’s decline was due to factionalism-read Dangerfield’s The strange Death of Liberal England. The Liberal party can only be successful when we embrace the differences that we all have as liberals. The Liberal party can regain its strength by appealing to all voters of the Left/Right or Centre and thereby restore One Nation Liberalism to it’s rightful place at the heart of the political debate. The future is potentially bright, we must seize the opportunity that this current situation gives us.

  • @Phil Rimmer ” a perfectly reasonable request for information from John Tilley ”

    Which was answered perfectly reasonably both here:
    Alan Muhammed 14th May ’15 – 3:19pm

    and here:

    Tom Papworth 14th May ’15 – 5:03pm

    @Bolano “the way the members who’ve replied to John Tilley have completely failed to engage with his three simple points ”

    That’s simply incorrect Bolano. See above.

  • Paul Pettinger 15th May '15 - 12:06pm

    Simon McGrath – the event was not funded or co-funded by the Electoral Reform Society. The ERS campaigns and raises awareness across the board.

  • Margaret Gray 15th May '15 - 1:27pm

    I’ve always been a little suspicious of Liberal Reform since attending one of their fringe meetings – a feeling they had an agenda we weren’t hearing everything about – may be just me, I’m a clinical psychologist so don’t take much at face value.
    Reading Zadok Day, would he consider the abolition of slavery an instance of the Nanny State, it almost sounds like it. If LibRef an organisation with extreme economic liberal or ‘throw off all societal restraints’ including Mill’s ‘no harm to others’ principle sort of views?
    It would be nice to be clear.

  • There are two rather separate themes running through this thread, which deserve individual comments:

    @Brenda Lan Smith and others on ‘secularism’…

    Brenda wrote:
    > As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs
    > must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all.

    Well, absolutely! Some commenters seem to be conflating secularism with atheism. Secularism, at least in the political context, surely means that politics and policies should not be guided by religious beliefs (or lack thereof). A good example here is equal marriage. I find it hard to accept that anyone who otherwise professes a ‘Liberal’ philosophy can get away with opposing something as fundamental as equal marriage by arguing religious faith. In my view you are either for equality or against it. No ifs, no buts.

    Frankly I have no idea where either of the currently declared leadership candidates stand in terms of their ‘secular’ outlook, but I would certainly expect them to lead the party in a secular way, whatever they may believe personally. I think that is what Brenda was meaning in her comments.

    @JohnTilley and others on Liberal Reform…

    I too had not heard of this group until I came across it at the start of the week. I joined immediately! To me it is absolutely essential that our party addresses not just social liberalism but also economic liberalism. I don’t see how we can argue for personal freedom if we then ring-fence economic matters and say that personal freedom does not apply, or is at least curtailed, in those cases.

    Mind you, I joined “the Liberal Party” back in 1983, pre the SDP merger, and I’ve always seen myself as “liberal with libertarian tendencies” rather than a social democrat, so I accept that I personally may not be in the mainstream of the current party thinking. That said, I think that it is also likely to be the case (reading some of their comments) that many of the new members are rather more attracted by the centre-right than the centre-left (maybe a good subject for a LDV poll?).

    Anyway, surely groups such as Liberal Reform, the Social Liberal Forum, and others are hugely useful in allowing groups of members with similar interests to develop their ideas and to work together to try to promote them within the party. This shouldn’t be seen as ‘factionalism’ but as ‘debate’!

    Surely if there’s one thing that all liberals ought to agree on, it’s the right for us all to promote our own views? “Whigs admit no force but argument” as William Browne put it back in the 1700s!

  • @Mark Posen “That said, I think that it is also likely to be the case (reading some of their comments) that many of the new members are rather more attracted by the centre-right than the centre-left (maybe a good subject for a LDV poll?).”

    I agree Mark, but saying that won’t make you popular 😉

  • david thorpe 15th May '15 - 4:15pm

    Nick Clegg saying that he had never heard of Liberal Reform is quite ironic-given that he wrote the forward to our group’s publication!

    But then he follows in the great tradition of people who say the first thing that comes into his head when it suits him!

  • @TCO > “saying that won’t make you popular”

    I’ve been a Liberal since 1983. I’m used to not being popular!

  • SIMON BANKS 15th May '15 - 5:40pm

    I don’t think we should be snooty about factions. They’re a natural development in substantial parties such as we were and will no doubt be again. It’s important though that people who identify as, for example, Social Liberals or Economic Liberals to debate and share ideas with one another with mutual respect. Tim Farron might perhaps be described as being on the “centre-left” of the party (remembering that right and left are labels with limited validity) and Norman Lamb has described himself as an Economic Liberal and was close to Nick Clegg, but his style and issues of choice may make him more palatable to Social Liberals than Nick Clegg was. I’m sure both candidates will want to move to respond to people in the party who are not their natural constituency, both before and especially after the election – at least, the winner will.

    Liberal Reform doesn’t like being called a faction, but if it isn’t a faction, the SLF isn’t either. OK, they’re groups. But Liberal Reform refers to the danger of factional infighting (though it itself isn’t a faction) and then says for this reason it won’t endorse a candidate and hopes other groups won’t either. Does not compute.

    I think it would be a pity if because Liberal Reform has decided not to endorse a candidate, other groups, for example Green Liberal Democrats, should feel they can’t. Of course, we’re liberals and I hope we all know that if, say, the SLF endorses Farron then a considerable number of SLF members will vote for Lamb.

    Basically, though, I agree with a lot of the Liberal Reform statement. They are two good candidates; as Martin says, there are also doubts about both of them; and the contest should be fought thoughtfully and civilly as I’m sure it will be by these two good Liberals.

    Just a small point about that excellent post from Jonathan Pile. When we talk about the centre ground, we should ask ourselves, “the centre ground on what?”. Politics is not a load of people on a long plank.

  • @TCO 15th May ’15 – 11:39am
    “@Phil Rimmer ” a perfectly reasonable request for information from John Tilley ”

    Which was answered perfectly reasonably both here:
    Alan Muhammed 14th May ’15 – 3:19pm

    and here:

    Tom Papworth 14th May ’15 – 5:03pm

    @Bolano “the way the members who’ve replied to John Tilley have completely failed to engage with his three simple points ”

    That’s simply incorrect Bolano. See above.”

    That’s simply incorrect, TCO. See above. John Tilley asks “how many” and “how much” – and these are not answered. Perhaps this kind of information is restricted to people who work for libertarian think tanks – you wouldn’t happen to have come across these facts during your time working and not working for said think tanks, TCO?

  • Readers of this thread will be interested to know that at some time between 9.30 this morning and 5.30 this afternoon the reference to Tom Papworth has been removed from the Liberal Vision website.

    It must be down to the power of LDV and open debate.

    So there’s just the Adam Smith website to go Tom. 🙂
    http://www.adamsmith.org/about-us/key-people/fellows/page/5/

  • @JohnTilley 15th May ’15 – 6:34pm

    “Readers of this thread will be interested to know that at some time between 9.30 this morning and 5.30 this afternoon the reference to Tom Papworth has been removed from the Liberal Vision website.

    It must be down to the power of LDV and open debate.”

    I do believe that that’s the second time that this has happened, down to the power of LDV and open debate in recent weeks.

    If we persist, perhaps we’ll find that there isn’t actually anyone there at all. That the grand liner of libertarian thought is actually a stricken Mary Celeste, bobbing along.

  • Mark Posen,

    “Secularism, at least in the political context, surely means that politics and policies should not be guided by religious beliefs (or lack thereof). A good example here is equal marriage. I find it hard to accept that anyone who otherwise professes a ‘Liberal’ philosophy can get away with opposing something as fundamental as equal marriage by arguing religious faith. In my view you are either for equality or against it. No ifs, no buts.”

    If but methinks you do protest too if but much! Because it’s not as simple as you make it out to be.

    I support equal marriage. I also support not shooting the Lib Dems in the foot by finding reasons to drive people away and thereby make the party a tiny group of people who agree on everything, stand aloof from the rest of the world, and fade into insignificance.

    For example, Tim Farron would like to permit a registrar with religious objections to pass over to his/her colleagues the job of conducting a gay marriage. Well blimey, that’s just common sense! Who would want to be married by a registrar whose every glance indicated disgust?

    The fundamentalist secularists would insist that their opponents must be humiliated by being forced to conduct gay marriages, or else lose their jobs. That is not liberal. It is Farron’s view which is the liberal view.

  • @David Allen

    Many thanks for some interesting comments. I think you may have somewhat overestimated my ‘fundamentalism’ on these matters (although, frankly, when it comes to the equality of all people, all liberals ought to be pretty fundamentalist!), but in any case I’d like to respond to some of your points:

    >”it’s not as simple as you make it out to be”

    I don’t think it is a simple matter, and I hope that I didn’t imply that. Dealing with competing individual rights is one of the main challenges of the liberal view, in my mind. But in general I would take the view that a secular party (and the leader of that party – which is where we came in) ought clearly to operate in a secular way when it comes to policy and strategy. That’s all I’m saying, nothing more. I’m certainly not arguing for the immediate dismissal of any registrar who will not conduct marriage (although I do have some thoughts about this – see below).

    >”I support equal marriage. I also support not shooting the Lib Dems in the foot…”

    Well, of course I agree with that, and I hope that most in the party would too. However, there really ought to be some areas on which we should not compromise (I almost said ‘red lines’!). In my view the equality of all people in the face of the law and in their treatment by the state ought to be one area where compromise is difficult, if not impossible.

    >”For example, Tim Farron would like to permit a registrar with religious objections to pass over to his/her colleagues the job of conducting a gay marriage. Well blimey, that’s just common sense! Who would want to be married by a registrar whose every glance indicated disgust?”

    Perhaps, but this approach actually disguises a ‘special pleading’ for religious intolerance when compared to common-or-garden day-to-day intolerance. We wouldn’t allow a registrar to pass over to a colleague BME couples, disabled couples, jewish, muslim or vegetarian couples because they had ‘objections’ to conducting their marriage for some deeply-held ‘belief’. So why is it OK for some registrars to object to gay couples?

    >”The fundamentalist secularists would insist that their opponents must be humiliated by being forced to conduct gay marriages, or else lose their jobs.”

    In spite of my comments above, I’m not suggesting that registrars having such objections should be sacked. The ‘system’ changed and it would be unfair to penalise them. However, I do think that a strong case could be made for requiring all newly-appointed registrars to be committed to equality in their office. In fact this is something that I would expect from *any* employee of the State in the execution of their office. What about a housing officer who objected to helping gay couples, for example? It’s not something that I want to be fundamentalist about, but I do think that it is a debate that we ought to have.

    >”That is not liberal. It is Farron’s view which is the liberal view.”

    Believe it or not, when I wrote my original comments I genuinely had no idea about the views of Tim Farron on this (a sign, perhaps, of my disengagement from matters political in recent years – something post the 2015 GE result I now regret!).

    However, I would come back to Brenda’s original comment which started this discussion:

    >”As the Liberal Democratic party is a broad church its party leader no matter their personal beliefs must pledge to practice secularism and full equality for all.”

    This is the key point – not about who was right and who was wrong in the equal marriage debate. I have no doubt that Farron is sincere in his liberalism. But he is also sincere in his religion, and should he become leader of our party the many, like me, who are not christians will be looking to him to make it very clear that he will keep his religion and his politics separate. Farron’s recent statements about his commitment to equality, and his voting record on equal marriage, help a lot in this regard.

    But to me – and to many I hope – secular politics is hugely important, and I cannot accept that a religious view, no matter how deeply held, is a justification for discrimination against some sector of the population.

    As I said before, “no ifs, no buts” when it comes to equality. That’s liberalism, after all.

  • David Allen 19th May '15 - 5:13pm

    Mark Posen,

    Thanks for your careful response. My position – as a committed unbeliever I might note! – is that it is really important not to discriminate on the grounds of religious belief (or its absence), and that we have to be sensitive to the genuine difficulties which may face people who have a faith. I can see that you have made real efforts to listen to that point of view. A few comments in return:

    I used to work in the power industry. Hard hats are mandatory in that industry in dangerous environments, and you can get thrown off site or sacked if you do not wear one. The Sikh religion insists that a turban is worn instead. The power industry recognises this as a special case of conscience and (as I understand it) allows Sikhs to break the rule. That’s how our party should act.

    “What about a housing officer who objected to helping gay couples, for example?”

    That’s not the same as officiating at their marriage. A housing officer has only to treat gays and straights alike when administrating in their day-to-day lives, and so yes, that must be mandatory. It’s a bit different when a registrar is central to a gay couple’s special day, and the camera is there to record his insincere smile or involuntary flinch!

    “We wouldn’t allow a registrar to pass over to a colleague BME couples, disabled couples, jewish, muslim or vegetarian couples because they had ‘objections’ to conducting their marriage”.

    Hmm. Then again, I can imagine a registrar who had “objections” to rude or obnoxious couples. Or, a registrar might simply want to say to his/her colleagues that they couldn’t get along with such and such a couple, and could someone with a bit more tolerance for arrogant snobs / loud-mouthed chavs / or whatever please volunteer to replace me? I don’t know what is permitted in such cases. However, I think that if the State is to marry people, it should take responsibility for finding someone to do the job who will do it well and show their pleasure in doing it. The State should not press-gang someone into doing a job which they will do badly.

    ” “No ifs, no buts” when it comes to equality. That’s liberalism, after all.”

    Yes, so, is it equality to let a Sikh not wear a hard hat, when you would sack anyone else not wearing one? Or is it inequality? In my view, it is equality, and liberalism includes fair treatment of religion.

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