Liberal Reform’s submission to the Gurling Review

Liberal ReformLiberal Reform have submitted their recommendation to the Gurling Review on the recent election campaigns.

We believe that the Party needs to present a set of policies around the theme of freedom and opportunity which will allow the electorate to see how a government containing  Liberal Democrats would be different from the other two parties

The Submission has  5  areas where we believe the Party needs to  focus on for 2015

Clear reasons for voting Liberal Democrat

We can no longer rely on people to vote for us because we are ‘none of the other parties’.

There is no doubt that our core appeal – responsible  free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal  support for the needy and a commitment to personal  freedom – is popular with many people , particularly  those who are urban, well- educated and at home in a multicultural Britain. But we need to be much better at targeting that group, who are our best chance to build a solid base of votes.

Rapid Rebuttal

From the beginning of the coalition we have been the subject of numerous smears and lies often promulgated very effectively through social media and Labour supporting newspapers.  This will only get worse as we get closer to the election.

The Party should take a leaf out of Peter Mandelson’s book and set up a Rapid Rebuttal Unit tasked with issuing immediate responses to quash as many of these lies and myths as quickly as possible.

Taking the battle to Labour

We have allowed Labour to set the narrative on what is wrong with the coalition while avoiding scrutiny themselves.  The time and resources spent attacking UKIP in the recent election could have been much more effectively used against Labour

We should follow the lead of the Welsh Liberal Democrats  and draw attention to the  dreadful record of  the Labour administration in Wales where Labour’s poor record  needs to be driven home on every possible occasion. If  voters want to see what a Labour Britain would look like they only have to look at Wales

 Increasing the public Profile of a wider range of Liberal Democrat spokespeople

Given the focus we believe that we should have on Labour’s record in Wales, Kirsty Williams should be  a key part of our election campaign   along with Jo Swinson  showing the effectiveness of our Ministers.  We should also ensure that our  diverse range of candidates who reflect modern Britain like Lisa Smart,  Caroline Pidgeon, Shas Sheehan, Maajid Nawaz and Sarah Yong are highlighted.

How to deal with our record in the Coalition

We agree with those commentators who have said that people will not vote for us out of gratitude: Churchill lost in 1945.

But we also reject the idea that apologising for our actions in the Coalition so that we get slightly less of a beating in the Guardian, will make a substantial difference to our votes.

We need to be clear about why we went into Coalition but also how we used the power we obtained through being in it to promote liberal values – and link what we have achieved in Coalition to what would do in a future government.

Copies of the Liberal Reform submission can be obtained  by e mailing [email protected]

 

* Kavya is a Liberal Democrat activist in Scotland and London. She is a former co-Chair of Liberal Youth and a Board Member of Liberal Reform.

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87 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:25am


    There is no doubt that our core appeal – responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom – is popular with many people

    That says nothing. Neither the Labour nor the Conservative Party would say they stand for irresponsible free market economics. Neither the Labour nor the Conservative Party would say they oppose free market economics – neither of them are calling for the sort of nationalisation that Labour was calling for in 1983. Neither Labour nor Conservative are calling for the end of the NHS. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are calling for their to be no support for the needy. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are calling for socially illiberal support for the needy. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are saying they are opposed to personal freedom.

    So there is no distinct message in there whatsoever. Nothing at all which distiguishes the Liberal Democrats from Labour and the Conservatives and suggests why people should vote for us rather than them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:30am


    But we also reject the idea that apologising for our actions in the Coalition so that we get slightly less of a beating in the Guardian, will make a substantial difference to our votes.

    Who is saying we should apologise for our actions in the Coalition? Apologising means saying that we did something wrong, that there was something better we could have done in the Coalition. I don’t think there is anyone much in the party who is saying that.

    What I have been saying is that we should make more clear that what the Coalition has been doing is not what the Liberal Democrats would be doing if we had a majority or were the lead party in the government. I certainly believe we should make more clear that what is coming out from the government is a compromise which is inevitably far more to the Conservative side than the Liberal Democrat side, due to the Conservatives having five times as many of its MPs. But this is not “apologising”.

  • “a real but limited role for the state”

    Again, this obsession with the *size* of the state and its role as a supposed antithesis of liberal values. What matters is how democratically accountable the state is and what is done with the money spent, not what precise percentage of GDP it accounts for. Can’t people get this fixation out of their heads, because if we don’t, we are just going to be seen as espousing the same, stale old Tory doctrine. We are meant to be intelligent, modern liberals, not old-school, pre-Keynes, pre-Lloyd George classical liberals. An accountable, devolved, efficient state can be compatible with personal freedom and can even enhance it.

  • Joshua Dixon 9th Jul '14 - 9:43am

    “But we also reject the idea that apologising for our actions in the Coalition so that we get slightly less of a beating in the Guardian, will make a substantial difference to our votes.”

    Can we have a source or a reference to who actually had this idea? Because as far as I can tell no one has actually suggested this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:47am

    So, you are talking in code, and this is what really puts people off politicians – the use of words which on the face of it everyone would agree with, so you have to look underneath and subtle hints to see what is really meant by it.

    There is every doubt the that the sort of politics I think you are about has any sort of popular appeal. There is no significant support for another party which pushes even further towards free market economics than what we have now, I have never myself come across anyone who would want that who is not a firm supporter of the Conservative Party. The Coalition and influence of the Orange Book has caused people in this country to believe that we have become a party which stands for the economics of the Conservative Party, but without those lingering small-c socially conservative “King and Country” aspects of the Conservatives. This has not gained us any significant new support, but it has lost us a lot of the support we used to have.

    Perhaps people who have been canvassing for the party recently can confirm this – there is no significant number of people calling for more privatisation in health care, education and so on and saying this would make things better. There are large numbers of people who think the country has gone too far down that path and think it is causing problems and deterioration of service quality.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:52am


    We need to be clear about why we went into Coalition but also how we used the power we obtained through being in it to promote liberal values

    A great many people feel their liberty has been very much reduced by the economic policies of this government. So when you say things like this it will make them more angry with us and less inclined to support us.

    You need to understand why most people outside the economic elite do not see the sort of “limited state” policies you are about as any sort of enhancement of their freedom. I’m not saying you should agree with them, but at least show you can see it from where they are.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:59am


    From the beginning of the coalition we have been the subject of numerous smears and lies often promulgated very effectively through social media and Labour supporting newspapers.



    But we also reject the idea that apologising for our actions in the Coalition so that we get slightly less of a beating in the Guardian, will make a substantial difference to our votes.

    Isn’t there a contradiction between these two points?

    On the one hand you seem to be saying that no-one much reads the Guardian so we shouldn’t bother if it doesn’t like us, on the other you blame it for all our problems, suggesting we are going down in support because of the bad coverage we are getting in it.

    Or is it all down to the Daily Mirror? Because there aren’t any other Labour supporting newspapers.

  • Wow … “There is no doubt that our core appeal – responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom”

    Core appeal to whom exactly? A sliver of liberal metropolitan elite who are pro-free market, pro-social liberalism and haven’t already picked the Tories as their home under Cameron, representing approximately 5% of the vote. These people are already liberal democrat supporters under Clegg and his inability to appeal to anyone other than these people represents the parties failure under his leadership and under the Orange Bookers reinterpretation of liberalism.

    I think this stand of thought within the Lib Dems might be why the Gurling review exists in the first place. It will send the party back to the days when it could fit all its MPs in the back of a taxi.

  • “We should follow the lead of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and draw attention to the dreadful record of the Labour administration in Wales where Labour’s poor record needs to be driven home on every possible occasion. If voters want to see what a Labour Britain would look like they only have to look at Wales”

    Don’t the latest polls show support for the LibDems in Wales at 5%?

  • Also – ‘taking the battle to Labour’ totally contradicts Liberal Reforms own strategy appealing to centrist, free market voters. If you want to go down this route, the only vote you can squeeze is the Tories and a sliver of Blairites (again in liberal metropolitan seats) which are battlegrounds with Tories.

    That is unless you want a total contradiction in terms of messaging in target seats to what Liberal Democrats plan to deliver under a new coalition, which of course is why the Lib Dem core vote evaporated in the first place.

    Probably the only sensible part of this submission is the idea of increasing the profile of other spokespeople. However unfortunately for those on the right of the party the two who resonate most with voters are Tim Farron and Vince Cable.

  • geoffrey payne 9th Jul '14 - 10:11am

    What I would like to know is if the party leadership followed the advice of Liberal Reform, how much difference do they think it would have made? I am pretty confident the Welsh Liberal Democrats were attacking Labour in Wales but they only got 4% of the vote. So even if there are good reasons to attack Labour in Wales, this does not mean we would benefit from doing so.
    To step back I think the main problem is that people have stopped listening to us. Short of changing of leader I do not think anyone has the solution to that problem.

  • YouGov poll from early July:

    Wales Westminster: CON 25%, LAB 41%, LDEM 5%, PLAID 11%, UKIP 14%
    Welsh Assembly constituency: CON 21%, LAB 37%, LDEM 5%, PLAID 20%, UKIP 13%
    Welsh Assembly regional: CON 21%, LAB 34%, LDEM 5%, PLAID 18%, UKIP 16%

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 10:14am

    RC

    We are meant to be intelligent, modern liberals, not old-school, pre-Keynes, pre-Lloyd George classical liberals.

    The idea that 19th century Liberals took the sort of shrieking “the state is evil” line that those who claim to be their heirs do today is wrong. They were much more pragmatic about it, and fully supported the idea of the state (often at municipal rather than national level) providing various essential services.

    The small example I like to give is the great reforming Mayor of Hanley who used public money to purchase land to provide a public park for Hanley. He did not say “ugh, no, it is wrong to tax people to pay for things like this, it is an infringement of their liberty”. He did not say “put it out to competition – let private companies bid to run this park”.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 9th Jul '14 - 10:26am

    RC

    It’s interesting that you interpret “limited role for the state” as talking solely about the size of the state. That’s not what I would mean if I said that – it is much more about the way the state behaves, the extent of intrusion into people’s lives. That is why the word “role” is used, not “size”.

  • *sigh* I see the usual baying mobs are out.

    “responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom” is a setting out of what we need to be and what we need to prove we are, not the core message to slap on Focuses. It is an internal message, you show it to voters by picking relevant policies and promoting them.

    Also, the idea that socially liberal, responsible capitalism only appeals to a “small sliver of metropolitan liberals” is frankly ridiculous. The bulk of the electorate are pretty socially liberal (they overwhelmingly supported SSM, for instance, and the Tory party still are unelectable because of appearing to be “the nasty party”) and the vast majority of the electorate have no interest in socialism any more, they want a capitalism that works for them.

    The polling shows this quite clearly, the younger generation are increasingly sceptical about large state handouts whether to the poor, for the NHS, or to failed businesses. The shocking thing currently is how well Cameron’s Tories are doing among that demographic, compared to us.

    I also don’t get the argument that “attacking Labour” is somehow foolish. Labour made an absolute pig’s ear of their 13 years of power and are still doing so in Wales. Yes, the Welsh Lib Dems aren’t doing well but that’s because people in Wales still primarily vote on the overall UK-wide picture. It’s not that the Welsh Lib Dems are less popular than the federal Lib Dems, it’s simply that the Lib Dems as a complete entity are even less popular in Wales than in England.

    Our stance to date has been to hope to win Labour votes (and those that left us for them in 2010) by attacking the Tories. Really to take Labour votes we need to attack and discredit Labour, a party with little policy and even less competency.

    Finally, when we talk about “the size of the state”, we’re not doing so in terms of % of GDP. We’re talking in terms of where the state interferes in people’s lives; often to help, often not. Going forward into an Internet age where people can better make their own decisions and form their own groups, what should the government run and what should it just fund? Could areas of our society be better run by mutuals than by the state?

  • “responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom”

    This really is complete pablum. We’ve just had the biggest recession since the 1920s. We have burgeoning inequality. We have a huge number of unemployed and underemployed members of the white working class who are trending to the EDL, UKIP and other extremist politics. We have more too big to fail banks, high-speed trading threatens another financial meltdown because politics has become captured by the very rich, and we remain in a balance sheet recession. Social mobility has ground to a halt and birth is now destiny. Our communities are dominated by faceless chainstores and social capital is dwindling. And you want more Westminster double-speak? This is when liberals are meant to be doing what we did the last time we had an epic economic meltdown- rethink our economics, our politics and how our society works. Not re-hash tired old Westminster cliches.

  • “We can no longer rely on people to vote for us because we are ‘none of the other parties’.”

    I didn’t vote for Lib Dem in 2010 because you were none of the other parties – I voted Lib Dem because your manifesto most closely matched what I wanted to see from a governing party. I don’t want to vote for you now because it is obvious that people like you clearly don’t stand for the principles laid out in that manifesto. The fact that you think people voted for you in 2010 because of antipathy towards other parties rather than a positive vote of confidence of the principles and policies laid out before the electorate proves this fact.

    “There is no doubt that our core appeal – responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom – is popular with many people , particularly those who are urban, well- educated and at home in a multicultural Britain.”

    Modern liberalism sees a role of the state as being essential in delivering true freedom from the abuses of power by the wealthy, powerful and privileged who are given free reign in a ‘free’ market. That’s what your party stood for. It is not what you stand for.

    “From the beginning of the coalition we have been the subject of numerous smears and lies often promulgated very effectively through social media and Labour supporting newspapers. This will only get worse as we get closer to the election.”

    Really? Labour supporting newspapers? Are we talking about the Mirror here, as I can’t think of any other Labour supporting newspaper? It is the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph that deliberately set about the Lib Dems in the most vicious manner, and I find it perplexing that I need to point out that these papers are quite the opposite of Labour supporting newspapers

    “Taking the battle to Labour
    We have allowed Labour to set the narrative on what is wrong with the coalition while avoiding scrutiny themselves.”

    How do you think your exclusive talk of the political battle being between the coalition and Labour plays to the large swathe of core support you have lost because of your role in the coalition?

    “We agree with those commentators who have said that people will not vote for us out of gratitude: Churchill lost in 1945.”

    Churchill lost for two reasons. Firstly, he wasn’t very popular. A large swathe of the electorate saw him as an out-of-touch member of the aristocracy who spent his time knocking back whisky and smoking cigars whilst everyone else was on rations. Secondly, the electorate voted for change – the important word being ‘for’ – they voted for a positive reason for the most radical government of the 20th century. You rather patronisingly seem to infer that the electorate in 1945 were rather ignorant and ungrateful.

    “But we also reject the idea that apologising for our actions in the Coalition so that we get slightly less of a beating in the Guardian, will make a substantial difference to our votes.”

    Beating in the Guardian? Do you read the newspapers? The Guardian is still the most pro-Lib Dem newspaper in circulation, much to the consternation of its readership.

    I haven’t read the comments above yet so apologies to anyone who may have made similar points.

  • Joshua Dixon 9th Jul '14 - 10:50am

    I think my issue with that, Tommy, is we need to go further than simply attacking and discrediting Labour. That tactic alone simply does not work. Particularly when we are in coalition with the Conservatives. Just look at Labour facing areas. You need a truly almighty effort to get through to Labour supporters. Some have managed to crack it, but in really urbanised areas in big cities it seems near impossible. Even with incompetent Labour councils, all they need to come back with is a leaflet on the NHS or our alliance with the Tories and it is enough to discredit our message to many people.

    Labour run some pretty dreadful council in London, yet despite our endless attacks on them we still lost councillors in many of them. Simply being the ‘not Labour’ option will be an even more futile exercise than the one where we chase their support based on aligning ourselves as a credible party with progressive policies (which at the very least has a track record of working in the past!). But this is not about being Labour-lite or a diluted left alternative. It is about promoting and pushing radical policies that very much distinctively set us apart from both the Tories AND Labour.

  • responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom

    The law of the nonsensical inverse is working overtime today, I see.

  • “We’re talking in terms of where the state interferes in people’s lives”

    I’ve never felt that the state was “interfering” in my life. Could you give some examples of where the state does that, because I can’t think of any.

  • Going through the points one by one:

    1. We can no longer be the `what we’ve stopped` party. We have to be `if it wasn’t for us xxx wouldn’t have happened` party as well as `how we’re going to be post-deficit party`.

    2. Absolutely agree – I would argue it’s more important than templates. It’s about multi-angling our messages – not just `what we’ve stopped` but `that’s a lie xxx is true` and pushing the envelopes for an answer with the other parties.

    3. Probably the biggest mistake over the past four years – some members of our party appear to be paralysed by the Labour message. Anyone can see (even an idiot like me) that they would have done very similar things and where these things wouldn’t have been done others would have had to suffer perhaps other less well-off people. I would argue that retoxifying the Labour message (`no reversal of coalition cuts` and `zero-based spending reviews`) is of paramount importance to keep the third party leaning voters in our tory-facing marginals as well as building up our vote elsewhere. For example, would Labour spend MORE on the NHS?

    4. Couldn’t agree more – Kirsty and Jo are excellent as well as others

    5. This is a time for warriors. Where i live in a lib dem led authority the people that win are not merely `survivors` but `warriors`. That doesn’t mean they have to be naturally extrovert – they just have to use their own inner resources and pool the resources and skills of others to show they mean business. Ruthless yet smart messaging, literature leaving no stone unturned is the key.

  • Again, going on about “the state” as some kind of bogeyman that needs to be slain for the liberal cause. What exactly are you talking about? Because put forward in the abstract, the idea simply smacks of the same old Tory doctrine and we are just as much not a “little Tory party” as we are not a “mini-me” to Labour.

  • Thomas Long

    *sigh* I see the usual baying mobs are out.”

    In fairness if that’s the best the Liberal Reform can come up with your giving us plenty of ammunition. I presume the submission was written in the bar, because I can’t see how else anyone could come up with “people will not vote for us out of gratitude” and “Churchill lost in 1945”. Do the Liberal Reform really think there is any gratitude from the voters for the last 4 years and as for comparing it to Churchill and 1945 – well you will be pleased to know I am totally lost for words.

  • @malc – you see it as an issue of `us and them` – it’s about trying to pull us out of a ditch. If we’d just not joined in with the coalition a) the tories would have won a subsequent election and b) we would have been seen as the party that couldn’t step up to the plate.

    Perhaps we could look at how they’ve campaigned in Stockport, Hull, Newcastle etc as an exemplar instead of reinventing the wheel?

  • Stephen Campbell 9th Jul '14 - 11:29am

    This sounds like a load of PR waffle and ad-speak. There is nothing in this that distinguishes this party from Labour or Tory. In fact, I would not have been surprised if this had come from either of the two other parties.

    This is why so many people are now voting Green and UKIP: people are tired of the managerial-style of politics. We want passion in politics, not managerial-speak. We want choice, and the Tory, Labour and LD parties are so close together these days that the differences between the three are merely window dressing.

  • On the topic of the Gurling review, my understanding is that a report is going to FE next week. Can someone from LDV let us know what plans there are to report back on this as I am sure that lots of people and organisations who sent in comments will want to know what the next steps are and how the discussion goes.

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 9th Jul '14 - 11:36am

    There’s nothing in the article above that suggests that the state is some sort of bogeyman, but liberals have always been suspicious of the state.

    Why else do you think we worry about online snooping? Why did we oppose ID cards? It’s because these things expand the power of the state to interfere in citizens’ lives.

    Suspicion of an over-bearing state is not code for wanting to slash welfare, if that’s what’s bothering people. It is about wanting the state to get off people’s backs (or to get its boot off their faces, in a few more extreme cases), but welfare is an example of a situation where the state can actually offer a hand up. That is to be welcomed.

  • John

    Not sure I do see it as a “us and them” and I didn’t really have a problem about going into a coalition – if we’d had a strong leader I think it would have worked. It’s just this denial about how unpopular the LibDems really are – almost totally down to the leadership – that annoys me. To even talk about people voting for us out of gratitude I find astonishing.

  • Paul in Wokingham 9th Jul '14 - 11:47am

    What party is this submission promoting? Apparently the authors support a party that is aiming to establish a base of support among a demographic that is “urban, well-educated and comfortable with multiculturalism” and they think that the Liberal Democrats of 2010 vintage had no coherent platform but were simply a repository for protest by the permanently malcontented. So the solution for the collapse of the Lib Dems as a national party is to embrace the causes of that collapse even more. No. No. No.

  • Apparently the authors support a party that is aiming to establish a base of support among a demographic that is “urban, well-educated and comfortable with multiculturalism”

    There is one advantage to that: voters who are ‘urban, well-educated and comfortable with multiculturalism’ tend to seek each other out and stick together in certain areas.

    It hardly needs to be said that this is a considerable advantage under the UK’s electoral system.

    A ‘national party’ cannot get representation in Parliament, because it will not be strong enough in any individual constituency to win. Labour and the Conservatives are the main parties precisely because they are not national parties: they each have strongly geographical heartlands of support that they can build on. Labour voters congregate in the cities, Tories in the shires.

    It makes sense for the Liberal Democrats, if they want to retain Parliamentary representation, to try to find a similar ‘heartland’ of geographically correlated voters, and the ‘urban, well-educated’ sector is going begging. Focus on that and the Lib Dems can guarantee holding seats like Cambridge, for example.

    Try, on the other hand, to be a ‘national’ party and there pretty soon will be no Lib Dem MPs at Westminster.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 12:33pm

    Thomas Long

    The polling shows this quite clearly, the younger generation are increasingly sceptical about large state handouts whether to the poor,

    What large state handouts to the poor?

    Large state handouts to private landlords due to the abolition of council housing are not large state handouts to the poor, oh they may nominally go through the poor’s hands, but they don’t stay there.

    Apart from that, what do you mean?

  • Matthew /Joshua Now, while acknowledging that no-one much is going to pay an iota of attention to what I say, I have backed the idea of apology, when it has been discussed, which it has, certainly on here. It is obvious that Liberal Reform (so-called) would not back the idea, because essentially they back the kind of economic underpinning which has got us into so much hot water with the electorate. In fact , I am surprised them coming on here at all – they might as well say “We back uncritically what Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, David Laws, and even the surplus to ministerial requirements Jeremy Browne have to say”.

    The reason an apology is a good idea is because a) meaningful ones are very rare in politics, and b) it should give the signal that the party acknowledges it had moved away from the approach it has followed over many years, and was expressed through the party’s programme for the 2010 election. This post shows that Liberal Reform have not got the message.

  • Nick Barlow 9th Jul '14 - 12:39pm

    The comments above have raised most of the points I’d make but I’d also add that these are all very much focused on a top-down centralised campaign where the party decides everything and the gallant footsoldiers do as they’re told. There’s nothing about recruiting and motivating volunteers or doing anything to ensure a base in local government, just more focus on messaging and national-level spin.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 12:40pm

    Thomas Long

    Going forward into an Internet age where people can better make their own decisions and form their own groups, what should the government run and what should it just fund? Could areas of our society be better run by mutuals than by the state?

    Well, sure, but what we’ve seen since 1979 is words like this used to justify policies that end up with control of vital services being passed to shadowy global corporations, or to organisations controlled by the governments of other countries. We were told about it being a “share-holders’ democracy” etc etc, but in reality, it’s selling off control of our country to the Russians, French, Qataris, Bahrainis etc. We were told about it being a “home owners democracy”, but home ownership is going down, people are finding it hard to afford decent homes, the liberty that came from the guarantee of council housing providing a baseline standard available to those who cannot afford to buy has gone.

    So I think people have every right to be suspicious when another bunch comes along using the same old language to promote the same old policies.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jul '14 - 12:53pm

    I used to be quite strongly economically liberal. I couldn’t stand the idea of higher rate tax, couldn’t understand opposition to gay marriage and had even seen regulation in financial services stifle my own innovation. I was angry (nothing new there then).

    However, I started to feel alienated by some radical ideas. These involved people being very pro localism (single markets are important to me), knee jerk opposition to surveillance, military hawkism, sometimes disdain for religious freedom and sometimes being unwilling to challenge the banks and the ideas promoted by them, mainly lending money to them cheaply. Oh and sometimes a lack of concern for cuts and inequality too.

    I see myself as more of a moderate nowadays, but I am willing to engage with sensible economic liberals. I think tax competitiveness is important, but this means being as competitive as you need to be and not more. I don’t think we need the lowest corporation tax in the G20. This would lead to a race to the bottom.

    Best wishes

  • Joshua Dixon 9th Jul '14 - 1:00pm

    ^^^ Why is support for equal marriage being linked to economic liberalism? Of course most economic liberals I know do support it, but so do most who aren’t economically liberal. Weird conflation.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jul '14 - 1:19pm

    Oh no Joshua, I was just demonstrating that my first political instincts were both economically and socially liberal, as compared to more of a moderate now.

    I think equal marriage was an important innovation, even if at the time I wavered after mass protests and a french priest shot himself over it.

    Regards

  • Foregone Conclusion 9th Jul '14 - 1:23pm

    I’m curious about what those of us in constituencies which aren’t full of voters who are ‘urban, well-educated and at home in a multicultural Britain.’ Obviously some seats fit that pattern exactly (a lot of the seats in Inner London, for example), but others most of our others don’t, especially in the North.

  • paul barker 9th Jul '14 - 1:24pm

    Wow, 40 comments in 4 hours & 1 by a woman too. Could the masculine flavour be connected with the kneejerk hostility shown by most of the comments ?

  • Matt Burrows 9th Jul '14 - 1:54pm

    It seems that many LibDems- supporters and activists – that oppose more economic liberalism in the Party are determined to caricature the arguments and traduce the discussion. Not everything to the so-termed right of Social Democracy or Social Liberalism is neoliberal. I do not support neoliberal policies – if I did I´d have joined the Conservative Party straight off but nor do I believe there is a long-term future in a large state. Partly on the grounds of affordability but also the desirability of decisions that are sometimes very personal and intimate (health, care etc) being made by people unknown to them. The state´s role must – as Kavya said – be limited and I´d add defined. It does matter what the state does as well as the size of it. I am far from sanguine about the privatisation model that has been applied for the past quarter-century or more; but that does not mean the underlying point is not valid: monopoly is the problem more than than whether it is public or private.

    I agree with Steve´s point about the “abuses of power by the wealthy, powerful and privileged”. Sometimes that is the state and I don´t believe the economic area is exempt. That is central to what most Liberals believe and Liberalism has never been needed more.

  • Liberty can only work with responsibility . The inability and unwillingness of individuals to be held to account and take responsibilities for their actions cause many problems.
    1. Parents inability to produce children who are clean, fed, rested and willing to learn produce disruptive pupils who cause problems for teachers and those pupils willing to learn.
    2. Teachers who have pushed a child centred , anything goes attitude with a contempt for excellence, discipline and competitive sports has produced low standards in many comprehensives and they do not accept responsibilities for their mistakes.
    3. The inability to use their powers wisely and accept responsibility for their actions has resulted in corruption, racism, and incompetence from a minority of police officers while other police officers have not accepted the responsibility to improve standards.
    4. The unwillingness of some NHS staff to accept responsibilities for certain functions has led to deaths and other staff in the NHS have not held those who have been negligent to account.
    5. Bankers wanted rewards for success but are unwilling to accept the responsibilities for losses. In the 19C , the merchant bankers Rothschild and JP Morgan accepted the responsibilities for their losses. The top 3 levels of any financial organisation should be pay for any losses from their own wealth this will help to reduce reckless gambles.

    Everyone over the the age of ten is responsible for their actions and in any organisation, a person is responsible for their failures and reporting the failures of others.

    Successful people and organisation accept the responsibility for maintaining g high standards.

  • Sigh. All the old dichotomies trotted out here. Either you are FOR the state or AGAINST, you are EITHER left or right etc etc. I think that almost everybody in the party is for an enabling state, so not sure why there needs to be a discussion.

    Not sure anybody in the social liberals would want the state to do every single thing, and would not be against residents self-organising, taking over pubs or post offices or running their own car clubs or libraries whatever, and would not insist that they stop and want the state to take over from them – at least I hope not! And nor would ‘classic liberals’ want the state to retreat from providing libraries or public transport or whatever given people clearly can’t do everything for themselves always. I also don’t think anybody in the party is against greater tax on wealth, vital given the ageing population and the tightening of belts. So let’s focus on what we agree people!

  • I’ve going to say once again… the above piece isn’t the pitch we should put out to the electorate, it’s a submission to a technical report on how the party needs to change.

  • Joshua Dixon 9th Jul '14 - 2:14pm

    Could I see the whole report? Throw one my way if possible: [email protected]

  • The hostility isn’t kneejerk, it is in reaction to Lib Dem support in Government for a range of policies such as part-privatisation of the NHS, probation privatisation and private sector involvement in free schools. These policies roll back core areas of state provision.

    The people advocating for these policies are represented within the party by Liberal Reform. This direction, abandoning any proposition for centre left voters, is one of the key things to kill Lib Dem support and opened the schism between two wings of the party, Much in the same way as the Blairite managerialists hollowed out and destroyed the Labour base over time – except unlike Blair our lot haven’t even been electorally successful in the short term.

  • “Either you are FOR the state or AGAINST”

    I think it is the Orange Booker (for want of a better term) tendency that have set themselves as being against the state, usually tagged with epithets like “interfering” and “nanny”. My reason for supporting the party has always been that it is agnostic on the question of public versus private, and that it looks at empirical evidence from the real world before deciding whether a public or private solution is better. Those dressing themselves up as “economic liberals” all too often seem to have decided what the answer is before the evidence has been examined.

    “And nor would ‘classic liberals’ want the state to retreat from providing libraries or public transport”

    Don’t bet on it. We have had at least one piece on LD Voice saying that the cure for our transport woes is deregulation, less “state interference” and letting the private sector “get on with the job”.

    “So let’s focus on what we agree people!”

    We can’t ignore fundamental underlying principles. Are we a party that fetishises a small state as an end in itself, no matter what the evidence is? Or are we a pragmatic party that looks at whether the policies we propose will actually, in the real world, fulfil liberal aims of an open, free and fairer society where everyone can achieve their personal potential without being left behind by the rest?

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jul '14 - 2:58pm

    I think it is important to tackle both the wider context and the specific points mentioned in the article. I’ll now try to provide constructive feedback on the specific points.

    Clear reasons for voting Lib Dem – yes, but I am uncomfortable with going heavily for the quasi- libertarian vote.

    Rapid rebuttal – yes we definitely need to do this better. If you aren’t going to regulate the press then you need to tackle what it publishes quickly.

    Taking the battle to Labour – I agree we focused too heavily on UKIP, but I’ve been angered by some Conservative actions too.

    Increasing the public Profile of a wider range of Liberal Democrat spokespeople – I’m not a big fan of positive discrimination, but I’m less bothered about it if it includes ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups too.

    How to deal with our record in the Coalition – I agree we need to challenge some Guardian columnists. Their editorials are quite sensible, but a lot of the columnists seem to have lowered themselves to producing click-bait. The Telegraph does this too.

    Other points: the timing was wrong for the party of IN campaign and our leader is weak, but where I differ from the anti-Cleggites is I think there is no better alternative and we should just knuckle down for the next election. It is good that Clegg listens to criticism, but sometimes I think the public want him to be held accountable for some past decisions.

    Regards

  • I would suggest that the reason why regulations increases is because we allow people to avoid responsibility for their mistakes.

    Before Big Bang , merchant banks and stockbrokers were owned by their partners . Ifpeople made mistakes and lost money , the Partners lost out. Barings went bust because the Partner did not accept the responsibility of finding out out what Nick Leason was up to until it was too late.. Also if one undertook dubious practices one would be blackballed , both professionally and socially.

    If in climbing one makes too many mistakes, soon or later one will kill oneself. Also people will refuse to climb with one if one is reckless. In the NHS, if staff make mistakes, they kill the patients not themselves. If a trawler skipper makes mistakes, he will kill himself. Most state employees and politicians make mistakes they are not harmed , others are.

    He have a society whereby people accept responsibility for their success but not their failures- a free and democratic country cannot be sustained if the majority have this attitude. The unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their failures will result in authoritarian government which curtails peoples freedom.

    If a 17 years midshipman at Dunkirk can win the DSC for bravery , an adult can decide what to eat, smoke and drink, provided they have the information.

    The government should provide education and training let people stand and fall by themselves. Much inequality occurs because people do not take advantages of the education and training being offered. A person can live in overcrowded conditions, read great literature and learn to play a musical instrument and keep fit through basic exercises or they could watch an expensive television, spend money on computer games and expensive music systems and become an unfit slob with severe health problems. In the trenches of WW1 and POW camps people enriched their minds with great literature and discussions. One take a horse to water but one cannot make it drink and for the tree of knowledge to bear fruit it must be pruned and watered.

    What the Liberals should be against are :- patronage, cronyism, rigged markets and any organisations or groups given protection from the the Law all which tends to prevents honest hard workers from bettering themselves.

  • Caractatus: absolutely right. The position is embarrasing come the general election it will be humiliating. The Gurling thing is a waste of time, a side show to divert attention away from the real problems. This party of ours is dead in the water and will be drowned whatever we do, the public, the voters as a whole simply do not rate us at all. People continue to fiddle whilst Rome has burnt down. The MPs at PMs Question Time look washed out and fed up. No wonder.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 6:17pm

    Thomas Long

    I’ve going to say once again… the above piece isn’t the pitch we should put out to the electorate,

    Yes, and that is what people are afraid of, why people have turned against us. They are accusing us of being secretly much more like the Conservatives than we let on. They are saying that came out when the Coalition was formed and we seemed to be supporting Conservative economic policies which we previously gave the impression we opposed.

    As I’ve said, the original piece was in politician’s code. Superficially there was nothing in it any of the mainstream parties would be against. However, words like “responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state” tend to be words used by people who want to privatise things, who want what is currently run by the state to be run by private companies. So saying you want to push these ideas inside the party, but hide them from the public pitch to the electorate makes it even worse.

    I don’t see any desire for these ideas in the general public. If there was, people would be cheering us on for supporting the Conservatives’ reforms to the NHS. But they aren’t. After tuition fees it is probably the thing most cited by people who say they used to support us but don’t any longer as a reason for dropping their support.To suggest it is just Guardian newspaper trouble makers whipping up opposition to it is nonsense. Everyone I know who works in public services tells me of their despair at how standards are dropping and things are being run down and people working in the job are getting depressed, morale is crashing and bullying and harassment are becoming rife, all as a result of attempts to push a more market and competition oriented approach. I’m hearing this from people who have been life-long Conservative supporters. People who used to work in the NHS and have retired but gone back as patients tell me in particular how they can see things have deteriorated.

    Yet there is no sign here that the people associated with Liberal Reform have any idea about this, any inkling about why the sort of line they are pushing hasn’t worked in the way they are suggesting it will work, any way of correcting the problems that have been observed when it has been put in practice. Instead there seems just to be a gung-ho pushing it forward and condemnation of anyone who is concerned about that in the way Paul Barker put it at 1.24pm and Matt Burrows put it at 1.54pm.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 6:43pm

    Matt Burrows

    nor do I believe there is a long-term future in a large state. Partly on the grounds of affordability but also the desirability of decisions that are sometimes very personal and intimate (health, care etc) being made by people unknown to them.

    Well, ok, so you’d support the abolition of the NHS? Fine, but contrary to Kavya Kaushik’s suggestion, there don’t seem to be too many people who would agree with you on that. As I’ve said, our party seems to be losing support in part because it is believed to have gone along with the Conservatives in pushing things just a little further in that direction.

    When you say we can’t afford it, what do you mean? Would you support a situation in which there are people who will die, who could be healed of what would kill them, but it won’t be done because it cannot be afforded? Seems to me that dying because you can’t afford the health care needed to stay alive is a pretty drastic reduction of your liberty. Can’t you see how when Liberal Reform types insist this “minimise the state” approach is what liberalism is about, it doesn’t do much for the image of liberalism among most people? Now, if you say there is always going to be some sort of insurance system people could subscribe to in order to avoid dying in this way, well then, you are wrong to say it can’t be afforded. It can be afforded, it is just being paid for in a different way. What you REALLY mean is that wealthy people don’t want to pay the tax that is needed to subsidise poorer people having it. So poorer people must die to protect the liberty of richer people in not paying taxes? If no-one would actually die in this way, then it CAN be afforded somehow.

    You talk about personal and intimate decisions being made by “people unknown”. Well, as I’ve said, the sort of health care system you advocate would need to be financed by some sort of insurance. Have you ever made an insurance claim? I think you will find doing so is very much personal and intimate decisions being made by persons unknown. In practice we find that when services are put out to tender, they end up being run by big corporations. After all, if we can’t afford the state to run t hem, isn’t this how we cut costs – the economies of scale that a big private corporation can bring into it? Have you ever had a problem with a big company, some service or product it has provided which you are unhappy about? I have many times, in fact was dealing with one just today. When I could get through the computer system to speak to actual human beings, it was very much people unknown making decisions. If you want some sort of local scale thing with dedicated personal providers of care, I think you will find that would work out very expensive, so that very much contradicts your “affordability” line.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 6:45pm

    Eddie Sammon

    It is good that Clegg listens to criticism

    Perhaps he does, but I see little sign of him acting on it.

  • Caractatus. When it comes to Liverpool, the Labour MP , Eric Heffer was correct. The Liverpool workforce largely comprised a wealthy merchant class and a very large unskilled labour workforce with a very small skilled workforce. When seamans strikes, dockers strikes and ship builder strikes occurred plus the introduction of containers , the shipping industry collapsed leaving a very large unskilled workforce which found it very difficult to upgrade their skills. Large numbers of skilled people also left Liverpool.

    If we want to upgrade the UK’s industry and manufacturing , I suggest we do the following.
    1. Manufacturing -copy the German technical Schools and Fraunhofer Institutes and move 75% of expenditure on Arts and humanities to applied science /engineering.
    2. Infrastructure -copy France and ensure the civil service technical depts-Transport, Energy, MoD, etc, etc are run by chartered engineers.

    The massive expansion of arts and humanities degrees since the late 60s has done very little for the students or the country and only benefited middle class academics who could not obtain tenure at the best universities and the building companies who undertook the construction. When Blair boasted that 40% of British children would attend universities. A a German minister laughed at the absurdity. Pre- mid 1960s, the difference between the best and worst universities was not that great, now it is huge and the employers know this but not many students from poorer backgrounds.

    If the Liberals produce a workforce who can obtain skilled and well paid employment in the modern World , inequality will be greatly reduced. In 2014 , an arts graduate with a poorly respected degree from a poorly respected university with ten s of thousands of pounds of debt has a far worse future than someone with a NVQ 3 or 4 in a sought after subject and 5 years of good employment history. A good bricklayer can now earn £40K/yr.

  • Tony Greaves 9th Jul '14 - 6:52pm

    Liberal Reform appear to be stupid. They publicise what they think then expect most of us to agree with them!

    Tony Greaves

  • Would you support a situation in which there are people who will die, who could be healed of what would kill them, but it won’t be done because it cannot be afforded?

    But this is the situation now, and it will always be the situation. There are drugs which could keep people alive that they are not currently being provided by the NHS because they are too expensive.

    Because there is not infinite money to be spent on the NHS, there will always be people dying who could be saved if more money were spent.

    That is a fact of the world and denying it just makes you look like you can’t face reality.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jul '14 - 7:12pm

    Caractatus has got me by calling out the article’s needy line. Some of the neediest around at the moment are the banks and if they want to do what is in their best interests, which includes economic liberals, then they should recognise that they need the consent of the people and it is not just “us” who need them.

    Regards

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jul '14 - 7:20pm

    It’s not just the consent of the people they need as well, they need the Bank of England giving them nearly free cash. I’m not blackmailing, I’m pointed out the obvious that the banks and even the funding of right wing organisations are on life support and this can be switched off.

    That should be enough for now, I just wanted to challenge the idea that only those on benefits are needy.

  • Dav I think you will find there are a lot less current cases of dying through lack of affordability of drugs than you think. Clearly there is some of that, but, for instance, various gene therapy drugs for cancers. The way the media reports usually makes it sound as if everyone with specific cancers are affected, when it is actually only the much smaller subset of those with particular gene markers.

  • Dav I think you will find there are a lot less current cases of dying through lack of affordability of drugs than you think

    The number isn’t the issue: the point is that there are, and always will be, some. And the number will only increase in the future as new, more expensive treatments are developed — for example, as new gene markers are identified.

    Matthew Huntbach implied that it would be possible to have a situation where no one died because there was not enough being spent on the NHS. I was pointing out that that is not possible. You can always save more people by spending more money.

    We could put every penny that should be spent on replacing Trident into the NHS and there would still be some people dying who could have been saved if we’d, say, cut the education budget and put that into the NHS instead. To say nothing of the people waiting for operations who could get them quicker if more money were spent.

    Politics is the exercise of setting priorities, and part of that is accepting that if you spend even a single penny on education, that’s a penny not spent on health and so somebody somewhere is going to die, or wait longer for their hip replacement, or not be able to get IVF, or something because of it.

    Pretending that it is possible to save everyone just makes you look like you have lost touch with reality.

  • Matthew did not imply that – my take was there are less than there might be under an insurance company based scheme. I am sure Matthew is sensible and real world enough to know that no system is going to insulate us totally from unnecessary deaths. You, on the other hand, have to be careful not to go down the US Republican campaign line of accusing the NHS of more deaths than their earlier broken “scheme”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 9:30pm

    Dav

    Matthew Huntbach implied that it would be possible to have a situation where no one died because there was not enough being spent on the NHS. I was pointing out that that is not possible. You can always save more people by spending more money

    No, that’s not what I was saying. If I was saying what you claim I was saying, then it would be impossible to have an NHS. But it is not impossible to have an NHS, we have one. I am arguing about what we would agree would be a reasonable level of health care, let us say the level of health care that a private insurance company would agree to support. If I was saying what you claim I was saying, there would be no such private health care insurance companies, because they would all go bust because they too would not have infinite money. But there are private health care insurance companies, and they can make a profit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '14 - 10:40pm

    The point I was actually making was that the argument that we cannot afford to pay for something through the state so it must be cut is nonsense if we then pay for the same thing privately. We are still paying for it, that means it is not unaffordable. If we are not willing to pay the taxes to pay for it through the state, that’s another thing. Don’t say it is “unaffordable”, just admit that if you are rich you are not willing to pay the taxes to subsidise those who are not. So then, if this is done, then what? The point that Dav made is a complete red herring, it is not at all the point I was making. Rather I was asking how do we provide TO A PARTICULAR LEVEL a standard of health care to all if we are not willing to have the subsidy of poor by rich that payment through taxation provides? Are we going to reach the point where someone who has a health problem that could be solved in a fairly routine way dies because we say we cannot have an NHS because we can’t afford it, and that person is a poor person who can’t afford private medicine and can’t afford to have a private insurance policy?

  • There’s nothing in the article above that suggests that the state is some sort of bogeyman, but liberals have always been suspicious of the state.

    Liberals have always been suspicious of concentrations of unaccountable power (see Conrad Russell for more details).

    Only Liberal Reform are sufficiently naive (and so uncritical of the Tories) to sign up lock, stock and barrel to the Tory diagnosis that the only source of power about which we should have any suspicion is the state.

  • Matthew Huntbach. You are assuming any organisation is well run. The website http://www.insidethe environmentagency shows how many state bodies waste money. Hospitals in the USA which have adopted the Toyota approach where anyone can intervene to solve a reduces cost and increases service. The Toyota system devolves responsibility to the lowest level and ensures management is on the shop floor , not in offices. the Toyota system has been used at the Hitchenbrook Hospital at Cambridge. When using private companies it is important that public money is not used to subsidise them. One aspect which seems to occur is that civil servants appear incapable of drafting rigorous contracts .
    Just because public bodies sometime waste resources, it is not an excuse to allow private companies to do likewise.

    In the USA , costs are increased due to complexity, one surgeon reduced costs from $30k to $6k for an operation.

    Television programmes by Gerry Robinson showed how surgeons could increase the number of operations and a neurologist writing The telegraph showed showed how better planning reduced resources to treat people.
    I would say that survival for an organism depends upon the most effective use of resources: if a company fails to do this it goes bust , a state body just asks for money from the taxpayer.

    Personally whether private or public NHS is irrelevant, what system makes best use of every £1 spent. In Europe , many countries use a mixture of public, private and charity to provide health care. As a surgeon has shown , much of the USA system inflates medical costs.

    I would suggest that the NHS is to large to manage from Whitehall. I suggest we use the Toyota and Royal Navy( of the 18C ) approach and devolve power down to the lowest level, recruit the best , sack the useless and tell everyone that their responsibility is to make best use of every £1 collected from the taxpayer. Expect the highest standards, drive , initiative , quick decision making and sack the useless in a quick and cheap manner. One cannot have a well run organisations if the incompetent and slackers cannot be sacked and are paid as much as those who strive for excellence..

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '14 - 3:44am

    Charlie

    Matthew Huntbach. You are assuming any organisation is well run.

    I am making no such assumption.

    Personally whether private or public NHS is irrelevant, what system makes best use of every £1 spent.

    Yes, that’s closer to the point I was actually making, that affordability is irrelevant to whether it’s public or private, if it’s affordable one way it’s affordable the other.

    I would say that survival for an organism depends upon the most effective use of resources: if a company fails to do this it goes bust , a state body just asks for money from the taxpayer.

    Or, as we saw with the banks, the company just asks for money from the taxpayer, arguing they are too big to collapse. Or as with G4S in the Olympics, if they can’t make a profit from it, they just hand it back to the state.

    I would suggest that the NHS is too large to manage from Whitehall. I suggest we use the Toyota and Royal Navy( of the 18C ) approach and devolve power down to the lowest level,

    Well, okay, so that’s an argument against big global corporations as well.

    Expect the highest standards, drive , initiative , quick decision making and sack the useless in a quick and cheap manner.

    Or sack those who point out the bosses are useless, which is how what you are asking for tends to work out. Whistleblowers who point out how vast amounts of money are being wasted by those above them in the management hierarchy tend to find trumped up reasons are put together to sack them very quickly.

    Anyway, you have missed my real main point completely. Which is that however much you may argue your case here, there seems to be very little public support for it. The Liberal Democrats were seen to be supporting the Conservatives pushing the NHS down this road, and it didn’t bring in big new support for the Liberal Democrats, did it? Rather, it is the second biggest things that tends to be thrown at us by people saying why they are disgusted with us and are no longer voting for us. Perhaps these people are all wrong. Perhaps all those people working in health and care and other state services who are so angry about all this and saying how it is making things worse are all wrong, and you and your type are right. Oh yes, you’ll say, well, those people are biased, they have self-interest, so you should not listen to them. Might it not occur to you that the big money men pushing the “privatisation causes efficiency improvement” line also have a bit of a self interest, and so might be giving rather one-sided arguments?

  • Matthew Huntbach: (addressing you as most active on this thread, but also to others with similar views)

    Surprised by your first comments “that says nothing …”, I looked through your postings on this thread looking for what underlying principles you would advocate for the Party and was further surprised to find very little.

    You seem to make a lot out of what is currently popular opinion, which would suggest that you think the Party should go down the New Labour focus group route: is that really the way forward? What if all you find out is that people want to pay less for better services? Where does that get you? The vox populi is available to all parties, though some can afford more sophistocated means of analysing opinions and road testing responses, but in vacuo this leaves you with a type of centrist politics that elsewhere you have firmly rejected and opens the Lib Dems to the slur of being ‘all things to all men’.

    Clearly there is a need to start from underlying principles. Liberalism has a long tradition, but what does it or should it represent today? Could Matthew Huntbach provide in a short statement to which the rejoinder “that says nothing” could not be applied?

    I agree with others above that Liberal mistrust of the state is concerned with the power of the state and other large institutions over individuals rather than anything measured in % of GDP. Ultimately it concerns the balance between whether the state is servant to the people or that people are servants to the state. Obviously people rarely talk in this way, but are more likely to express how they are affected by specific instances when the state or some other powerful organisation affects their own or other people’s lives.

    The underlying principles do matter.

  • Martin
    I think very little is gained by speaking of “the state” in the sort of unitary way that you do. For me, as a long-standing (radical) Liberal, I listened to the arguments in the formation of our constitution and its preamble at the end of the 80s, as the merged party, later named the Liberal Democrats was formed. I thought for about a week, understanding what I thought to be what was brought to the table by the then SDP, and thought this was on balance, good. Others, such as Tony Greaves, of this parish, stood aside for periods. At that time politics was very divided, the Labour Party had been at its Bennite zenith, wanting to nationalise everything, and the Tories were Thatcherism in tooth and claw, destroying people’s lives, livelihoods, playing divide and rule with everyone. You could see the plummeting turnouts, neighbourhoods with little to do, massive divisions in society dating from this period. The early Lib Dems wanted them gone, for ever, and expressed this in our preamble. Through the 90s, in our heyday as a popular party, we pulled on board many people who did not (entirely) share our vision of a society moving back to being more at peace with itself, and at the same time recognising new pressures on us, eg climate change coming to the fore, publicised by the 1992 Rio Conference. This was all something to fight for – noble goals, such as renewed social justice, saving the world etc.

    I recognise also that there are practical limits to aims, but we are currently in a straitjacket brought about by huge pressure from the massive and mobile vested interests around the world. We can see those interests being trained on Ed Miliband with his rather timid programme of change to our economy! Our manifesto needs to tell the truth to people, about the threats posed in the environment, about the need to fashion a new economics (Paddy, among other bandwagons he jumped on! was gung ho for new economic measures at one point in the 90s), about the need to – yes – rebalance the economy – with less mass production, more repair and maintenance etc. We need to tell people that their jobs are valuable, whether they are those serving our communities as public workers, nurses, teaching assistants, planning officers etc, or whether we work in other areas of the economy. In order to do this we need new measurements, new goals as a society.

    Finally, this cannot be done immediately, and we know there is a massive amount of persuasion to be done. But we must start somewhere, or we will do further damage nationally and internationally, to our communities, our flora and fauna and our world generally. THIS is the sort of politics which many in the Lib Dems and the Liberals before have espoused. We should not be reduced to “a party of the centre”, in other words, an ill-defined mush, duplicating what is said by other parties to such an extent that it is not seen as having a purpose, and being seen as throwing out basic principles, and specific pledges made.

    I am sorry this is not a full manifesto / analysis of why we lost votes over the last 4 years, but for me, Martin, that encapsulates some of the main issues. It may surprise you to know that I am actually a “gradualist”, not someone who believes in an overnight revolution. But we have to make a stand, a line in the sand, and show the direction we know the nation, and the world, should be going. Community politics had its place, so that people understood a direction, and had their role in participating in building their communities and their world. Unfortunately, we are now in a place where the powers that be in the party have lost their sense of direction. That is what we need back.

  • Is there a submission deadline, or has Rigorous Liberalism missed it?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '14 - 2:00pm

    Martin

    Surprised by your first comments “that says nothing …”, I looked through your postings on this thread looking for what underlying principles you would advocate for the Party and was further surprised to find very little.

    Well, what it says in the pre-amble to our party’s constitution is a reasonable starting point:

    “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.”

    It doesn’t go on about state control and it doesn’t go on about free market economics. I take a pragmatic position these things, which is in line with our party’s statement of aims and objectives here. When Liberal Reform write that our core appeal is “responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state” in some ways it’s just a rephrasing of what comes later “a competitive environment in which the state allows the market to operate freely where possible but intervenes where necessary”, but we have to read between the lines – in reality Liberal Reform is a group which is very much about pushing our party further down the “free markets are the solution to everything” line.

    I’m glad you’ve acknowledged that just because I’m critical of those who are trying to push the party further down that line does not mean I am someone who thinks the state should control everything, and control it in a top down way from national government. When people like Charlie jump to that assumption, I despair, because it makes it impossible to have a sensible argument about these issues.

    What I most like to see is a willingness to be self-critical. That is an important quality in politics, and perhaps is close to the heart of liberalism. That is, even if we strongly advocate some position, we are willing to listen to and take seriously its critics, we are willing to admit we may be wrong. The market and the state are tools we can use to promote the sort of personal freedom we wish to see – but we must be very aware they are tools, and not confuse the tools with the end goals. This is what concerns me with some of these free market people, they are starting to define liberalism AS the use of the free market, which means they have destroyed liberalism because they know longer have a wider definition of it which can be used to assess whether the market solutions they propose are advancing it. If the free market IS liberalism, then all you can say is that the more of it there is, the more we are liberal. That is as bad as confusing the use of the state as a tool to promote freedom – which it very much can be used as – with freedom itself, and so moving to the supposition that the more state control there is, the more free is society.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '14 - 2:26pm

    Martin

    You seem to make a lot out of what is currently popular opinion, which would suggest that you think the Party should go down the New Labour focus group route: is that really the way forward? What if all you find out is that people want to pay less for better services?

    Yes, that IS what you will find people want. And that’s the problem.

    As I keep saying, what we need is an honest and open politics which is clear about the balances we have to achieve. And we don’t have that. Instead we have a politics which always goes on about one side and not about the other. So we have politicians who will go on about keeping high standards in the NHS or not having tuition fees, but not balance that by talking about the costs involved and the taxation that would be needed to meet those costs. Then we have politicians who go on and on about keeping taxes low, making out that taxes are just put there out of “envy”, and are inherently a bad thing – and don’t mention that taxes are needed to pay for the services the people say they want.

    See how the Liberal Democrats have been damaged by using this approach – we went on about tuition fees in the election as if there was no cost issue, and still we are being hit by this, those who attack us in it seem to think that we just voted to increase tuition fees out of nastiness or Toriness, they haven’t taken into account who it would otherwise be paid for. Now we are going on and on about reducing income tax by raising tax allowances, without noting what this means in terms of reduction of government income and hence necessary service cuts.

    We need to get away from this ad-man’s approach to politics, where it is all about making a sale by using a one-sided argument, going on about the good things, not mentioning the balancing bad things. It doesn’t work, it just leads to politicians being accused of not telling the truth, it is leading to a disaffection for democracy itself, which is very worrying. Yet all we seem to be getting from Liberal Democrat HQ is a constant stream of ad-man type “It’s all wonderful” lines, which just aren’t working with the general public.

    On the particular point I am making about state run v. market run services, well, look, don’t you think the overwhelming rejection from the public of pushing a more market oriented approach to things like health care should be taken seriously? Don’t you think that when professionals in this area are saying clearly it isn’t working and stating why, we should listen to them? Our party has lost a huge amount of support because people think it has joined the Tories in an enthusiasm for extreme free market economics, and is pushing this regardless of public concern over it. Isn’t it precisely the sort of arrogant top-down “we know better” approach that they criticise socialism for if we carry on further down that route in the way Liberal Reform are proposing, without any acknowledgement that just perhaps it isn’t working out as the fine theories say it should?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jul '14 - 2:29pm

    Me

    they know longer have a wider definition

    no longer, I mean. Funny how these mistakes get made when you are writing quickly, I think somewhere else I wrote “their” when it should be “there”.

  • Liberal Reform’s submission includes clear reasons for voting Liberal Democrat and then says, “responsible free market economics, a real but limited role for the state, social liberal support for the needy and a commitment to personal freedom”, which as Matthew Huntbach has stated is meaningless as a means to differentiate us from the Conservatives and Labour.

    This seems to be because we have real difficulty in identifying what makes us different. Our preamble states, “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. Lord Conrad Russell talked about us controlling power and we often talk about empowering people.

    Liberal Reform’s submission includes “how we used the power … to promote liberal values”. The problem is we haven’t.

    When people talk of “limited role for the state” this is often seen as a smaller government. However Nick Thornsby wrote, “it is much more about the way the state behaves, the extent of intrusion into people’s lives.”

    We could have opposed the new Conservative changes to the benefit sanction regime. As sanctions are the state telling the unemployed what to do and is an intrusion into their lives. We could have stopped the rule that makes it illegal to take children out of school for a holiday as it intrudes into their lives. This government is often telling the public what to do and we haven’t always stopped it or been seen to oppose it, so even if we now said this is what we want to achieve in the next parliament why would anyone believe us as our behaviour in this parliament doesn’t support it?

    @ Steve – “Modern liberalism sees a role of the state as being essential in delivering true freedom from the abuses of power by the wealthy, powerful and privileged who are given free reign in a ‘free’ market. That’s what your party stood for.”

    It is what we still believe and lots of us know we need to do more to ensure this is our message and not the “Orange Book” message and to ensure that our MPs put these beliefs into practice when in government and this is why we are calling for a change in the leadership of the party.

  • Its reassuring to see much of this submission being completely taken apart.

    ‘Follow[ing] the lead of the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ in terms of strategy did make me laugh though.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '14 - 9:59am

    Martin

    Clearly there is a need to start from underlying principles. Liberalism has a long tradition, but what does it or should it represent today? Could Matthew Huntbach provide in a short statement to which the rejoinder “that says nothing” could not be applied?

    Well, I think one thing we could be doing is putting the case for liberal democracy.

    That is the idea that politics is not about some group of aristocrats, or divinely ordained people at the top dictating downwards. Rather it is about people coming together to discuss issues, to choose some from their number to represent them in the formal discussions of government at all levels, and for government decisions to be made in this way, that is through open discussion in a representative assembly, where the representatives work with those who chose them to make sure their decisions remain in line with what those people would want and with what they are experiencing.

    So liberal democrat (small-l, small-d) politics is very much NOT about leaders. It is very much NOT about some party mechanism determining a fixed five-year plan manifesto which must then be rigidly pushed forward regardless of circumstances. It is very much NOT about political parties being organisations which consider themselves a “brand” which has to be “sold” to the public, with the public having just the passive role of choosing a brand. It is very much NOT about some special class of people claiming they are enlightened and so not bothering to listen and respond to those who out them in leadership positions.

    In short, it is very much NOT about the way the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg are now perceived to be.

    Does this help?

  • Matthew Huntbach, Tim13: Thank you for your responses.

    It is easy to deride any broad statement as hot air that anyone might accept. The preamble that Matthew quotes could be claimed by Labour and Conservatives, though I doubt either would choose such a statement for themselves. In fact I find the language of the quotation disappointingly pedestrian and to me emphasises that it is important to try to improve how we articulate Liberal principles .

    I can see now that Matthew’s attacks are as much on who ‘Liberal Reform’ are, as on what they are saying. In terms of honesty I think he could have expressed why he distrusts of the group at the start. I have to admit that I am not clear what they represent other than they seem to be particularly focussed on the economy.

    Tim13: You are right, I did not specify what counts as ‘the State’, though I did give “state and other powerful institutions” recognising that there are multiple centres of power that need to be held to account and have to justify whether their powers are not only appropriate but exercised at an appropriate level.

    I certainly agree with you about centrist politics. The most important doubt about centrism is whether it is possible rather than whether it is desirable or attractive to the electorate. It is scarcely a principled position and certainly a position that only defines itself relative to others; and who constitutes the ‘others’ is ill defined. On the other hand if others claim that we are centrist, I do not think that means so much either. It says more about who is making the statement than anything to whom the adjective is applied.

  • Matthew Huntbach: The first of the two longer paragraphs was more helpful than the second. Too many ‘nots’ int he second. I do feel that your strong antipathy to Clegg is deflecting the focus of your arguments, even if it sometimes gives them a sharper edge. I think you need to prepare for the post Clegg era which is quite likely to start next year.

  • Ever since the mid 70s, upper middle class parents have been putting far more effort into ensuring the children obtain a decent education. The days when Earl Spencer seemed unconcerned that Lady Diana only obtained one o Level are long gone. Big Bang brought in foreign companies and removed fixed fees for much City work. Consequently middle and upper middle class parents realised the advances in technology and greater competition in trade would mean their children would need a better education. The phasing out of most grammar schools in mid 70s coincided with many public schools increasing standards ; those which did not went bust. Eton in the 1960s had some thick pupils – read C Moore. A result is that only 60% of comprehensives offer Further Maths A level. Twice as many Maths and Science A Levels and three times as many Modern language A levels are taken by pupils as compared to those at comprehensive . Many comprehensives are indifferent to competitive sports. Consequently , inequality increases because public school pupils become highly represented at Russell Group universities reading STEM and Modern Language subjects and have played sport to a high level. A public school graduate who has read a STEM or Modern languages degree, played sport to county level and at university and graduated from a top 10 or even better top 5
    department has far better career opportunities than someone with a humanities degree in culture or media studies from an ex-=poly or Coll of HE with no sport to offer..

    As the World develops, employment will be dominated by graduates from the top universities in STEM, language and economic subjects and those who can design build and maintain the most advance technology.

    The problem is that the extreme left middle class arts graduates who dominated most of the education system are clueless as to how technology and trade is developing around the World which results in many British children not receiving a competent education. An Old Etonian who read Maths at Trinity Cambridge and works in international finance , living in Switzerland, does know how the World is run and will make sure their children have the right education and skills for well paid employment.

    Peoples lack of education, training and attitude is now a major cause why they are unable to obtain well paid work and which increases inequality.

    If we can ensure our education system delivers the education, guidance and skills so that the honest and hardworking can better themselves , then inequality will be greatly reduced. Once people can enter employment with wages above £27K/yr , then they have the financial resources to greatly improve the quality of their lives.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:02am

    Charlie

    Consequently , inequality increases because public school pupils become highly represented at Russell Group universities reading STEM and Modern Language subjects and have played sport to a high level.

    I am a university lecturer in a STEM subject at a Russell Group university, and was for many years my department’s admissions tutors. We had hardly any applicants from public schools, the vast majority of our students came from comprehensives. This idea that no-one from comprehensive ever gets a good university place is nonsense.

    Grammar schools are not the solution, because the problem is not with those who would have gone to grammar schools, it is with those who would have gone to secondary moderns. It is they who need to have their standards improved. Britain does well with those at the higher end of the educational scale, the problem is those lower down.

    If grammar schools were the answer, those places that have kept them, like the whole of the county of Kent, would be beacons of social mobility. But they aren’t, are they? The top positions in society are not full of people from working class Kentish backgrounds.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jul '14 - 12:05am

    Martin

    I do feel that your strong antipathy to Clegg is deflecting the focus of your arguments, even if it sometimes gives them a sharper edge. I think you need to prepare for the post Clegg era which is quite likely to start next year.

    I have been saying the same sort of thing throughout my 35 years of membership of the party. It is not just a personal antipathy to Clegg. I opposed the merger with the SDP and the model of politics the SDP were all about for just the same reasons.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    The stats on subjects taken at A Level came from the Guardian. When it comes to Further Maths A Level many comprehensives, especially inner city ones provide no or very poor tuition in this subject. The Headmaster of Winchester College has said that “Maths is the new lingua franca ; it has replaced Latin”. Some 75% of Winchester Pupils take Maths A Level. Many public school pupils with Maths A Level take subjects such as PPE and specialise in economics in order to go into the City or journalism. When employers look at A Levels and consider Maths to be a useful indicator of ability.

    When we had the 11 plus , approximately 20-25% went to grammar schools and 7% went to private schools. Sec Mod teachers often only had teachers with Cert.Ed qualifications as they only taught to CSE level. When school became comprehensives , many grammar school teachers with degree from what we now call Russell Group universities left and went to other grammar schools or private schools. Consequently, many comprehensives lacked teachers with degrees from Russell Group universities across all subjects or some were very poor. Very few comprehensives had Russell Group teachers in Latin, Greek and Modern Languages and could teach maths and science to university scholarship level. A Grammar school pupil may take French, English, History or English, Latin , History which are good selections for reading History or Law. Many Rus Gp admission tutors complained that those from comprehensives had not taken sufficiently rigorous A Levels.

    Direct Grant Grammar Schools such as Manchester, Leeds, Bradford , Liverpool Institute had catchment areas which covered a whole city and even the suburbs, which enabled top level teachers in each subject and large number in the 6 th form. Many DGG schools had 300 inMost public schools catchment is the whole World-many top pupils come from the Far East. the 6 th form enabling each subject to be sub-divided into a scholarship stream and a standard A Level stream.

    By the early 60s , DGG schools which educated 2% of the population produced 16% of those at Oxbridge and outperformed most public schools except for Winchester, Westminster, St Paul’s. See A Sampson’s 65 and 82 Anatomy of Britain.

    A main reason why public schools survived was that until the mid 70s many middle class parents some of their working life abroad- by the mid 80s this has greatly declined. Anderson , The headmaster of Eton in the 60s , predicted that 60% of public schools would close. The introduction of child centred discipline, lack of discipline, lack of rigorous standards and competitive sports plus teachers strikes and closure of grammar schools meant many public schools survived the mid 70s. Very few public schools offered better education than the likes if Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool Institute in the 60s and 70s. Affluent counties with poor comprehensives tend to support large numbers of private schools.

    Consequently , I think most rural and inner city comprehensives will never be able to compete with grammar and public schools. Comprehensives which do well tend to be in affluent suburbs- Camden, and those around N Oxford and Cambridge where dons send their children. The comprehensives in S Oxford have a much poorer academic record than those in the northern suburbs where dons send their children.

    The answer I think is to have 6 th forms which serve a borough or a whole town/city. This children can be taught by specialist teachers in all subjects. It may also be advisable to to extend to extend the 6 th to 3 years in order for pupils to catch up. The low level and high level disruption which occurs in many inner city comprehensives means that pupils lose teaching time- 10 mins in a 40 minute period equates to 2.5 years for 11 years of education between 5 and 16 years old.

    A major reason why cock-ups like G4 and the Olympics occur is because the Civil Service is often useless. There is the Inst of Purchasing which is for those in the private sector who buy on behalf of companies. Supply chain management which includes contract negotiation and drafting, including penalty clauses is a vital aspect of business. Companies could not survive if they made as many costly mistakes when it comes to purchasing as the Civil Service.

    If the Civil Service recruited chartered engineers, surveyors and Ch Members of Inst Purchase , there would be less cock-ups. All major companies have specialists in purchasing and contract negotiation; why not the Civil Service?

    The East India College trained employees in maths, political economy , languages and law in the 18th and 19th centuries . They were better trained than the majority of clerks and managers employed by the British State today . The Northcote Trevalyan reforms of the Civil Service were based upon the training given at EIC.

    I consider a reform of the Civil Service is needed so that chartered engineers , surveyors and purchasers are recruited and placed in technical ministries it would save costs and reduce demands for outsourcing. The inability of Civil Service to procure projects of adequate technical levels, on time to budget created the push for outsourcing. Also Civil Servants need to be kept on a project until it is completed and not moved every 2 years as this removes the responsibility for mistakes. Civil Servants should stay with a project and be held accountable for their mistakes .

    All those employed by the state should be accountable for ensuing every £ 1 spent is well spent and their careers will depend upon it. If a Fire Brigade commissions a control centre which is grossly over budget and delayed , those responsible should be sacked.

    If those employed by the State had the same high professional standards, determination, adaptability, cheerfulness in the face of adversity,unselfishness fortitude , humility and general state of mind as The RM C there would be no call fro privatisation or outsourcing

    The use of Quality Circles as used by Toyota and introduction of Kaizen- continuous improvement , has greatly improved Hichinbrook Hospital . Quality circles as used by Toyota mean that anyone can stop the production if there is mistake , which empowers everyone and the managers are on the shop floor.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2641055/Is-hospital-miracle-cure-NHS-It-Michelin-chef-happy-patients-run-doctors-nurses-And-shock-horror-operated-profit-private-firm.html

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '14 - 7:27am

    Charlie

    If those employed by the State had the same high professional standards, determination, adaptability, cheerfulness in the face of adversity,unselfishness fortitude , humility and general state of mind as The RM C there would be no call fro privatisation or outsourcing

    The story I am hearing again and again from people in the public sector is one of these attitudes you praise being destroyed by targeting, performance management and outsourcing. People’s attitudes and willingness to do their best in their jobs are being smashed by heavy-handed attempts to exert top-down control over them. For example, in the university sector where I work, pressure to produce published research, which is the key factor in league tables and government funding, means in many places lecturers have more or less been told to put minimum effort into teaching, and those who don’t obey this rule run the risk of being sacked. In the health service, contracting out of cleaning and other service jobs has resulted in dedicated people who knew their jobs and had a real service attitude being thrown out, and replaced by the sort of workers you get if you are a private company wanting to win the contract by offering the lowest bid.

  • Matthew Huntbach.

    The problem with the university sector is that there are too many universities trying to be top class research organisations. In reality, even the best scientists and engineers will have 5 good breakthroughs in their life. The idea of sending 40% of children to university is absurd. Have 5-10 world class universities, then 20-30 regional ones and a Fraunhofer Institute in all large towns. The massive expansion of universities has largely benefited mediocre academics, especially those in the arts/humanities who could not obtain positions at top ones plus administrators and builders.

    Friends in the Art Departments s say there are students going up to university with Btechs who cannot write a grammatically correct essay.

    The pre 1988 A levels were were quite good enough to start a a managerial/professional career. Someone with reasonable A Levels in English, Latin and History was quite good to start as an articled clerk in a law form. Someone with Maths, Physics and Chemistry A Level was quite good enough to start work in an engineering company and study at night for Ch of ICE, Mech Eng, etc, etc. Many scientists, engineers, lawyers, surveyors , managers, accountants and journalists started at 18 , and studied for professional exams at evening school.

    The top down approach is in part because the organisations do not have the managerial expertise. Many large and successful companies have the policy of recruit god people, train them well , state strategy and then let people get on with the job. Pre-1960s , hospitals were run by the matron and the Senior Consultants. Many sisters and matrons had served in either WW1 or WW2 and understood working in pressurised conditions.

    After, all The East India Company recruited and trained people to use their initiative. The idea of India being run by 1000 civil servants was not far from the truth. The Navy in 18C and 19C let admirals and captains think and act for themselves-Nelson’s Band of Brothers.

    Labour created a bureaucratic state in part o employ large numbers of labour voting clerks and managers. One aspect which help to create a demand for contracting out was that unions removed the ability of Matron to sack bad staff.
    Up to the mid 50s , Matron could hire and fire cooks, cleaners , laundry and store staff. Emily McManus , Matron at Guy’s , a veteran of WW1 , wrote a book om how to run a hospital.

    There will always be skivers and thieves in any organsation, it is human nature- that is why we have a police force and prisons. I f the average workers see skivers get away with bad practice it reduces the incentives to work hard and puts stress on others. A matron , who is good judge of character stops bad workers being recruited and those through the net are sacked quickly. I would suggest that the failures in the NHS and Police because a few bad apples got in and rose to junior leadership positions( senior nurse/sister and sergeant ) and caused problems.

    What contracting out does is enable an organisation to change staff. What I think is better is the old British system which enabled matron to hire staff and fire the bad ones. A civil service more similar to France which employs skilled technical staff would be better . If the Civil Service recruited chartered engineers, surveyors and chartered members of the Inst of Purchasing and made sure staff were held responsible for their mistakes( no moving every 2 years) and bad staff could be sacked cheaply , then there would no reason for contracting out resources. It would also be sensible for doctors and nurses to move in medical management. Hospitals appeared to be run in the 1950s with very few managers and clerks. Hospitals could be designed by in-house engineers and architects.

  • Charlie
    You are taking an extraordinarily old-fashioned approach to the exercise of personnel management in the public sector. When management is done properly, Trade Unions cannot oppose proper sanctions on people who offend at work, or are in your words “skivers and thieves”. Good trade union reps also have every interest in ensuring poor workers either get up to standard or are weeded out. I speak, by the way, as someone who had experience as a personnel managerin the 70s of the rail unions in West London, and several unions in Southampton Docks. Things were difficult, especially in terms of restrictive practices, demarcation etc, but discipline could normally be managed. Outsourcing, contractorisation etc has put the cowboys in charge, and however disillusioned people were with the public sector 30 or 40 years ago, it is as nothing to how things are now!

  • SIMON BANKS 18th Jul '14 - 8:52am

    Three problems with this brief submission, which does include some valuable points. One is hard to get round. In many cases we have failed to use our position in government to promote Liberal values: for example, we and the Tories promised devolution but Pickles has felt free to meddle in anything local government was doing and the pallid devolutionary measures taken have been dwarfed by the disproportionate reduction in local authorities’ budgets. But of course – silly me – economic Liberals don’t seem to recognise devolution of power to groups of people as essentially Liberal, only devolution to individuals. The second is minor but perhaps significant: using terms like “the needy”, “the disabled”, “the old” sounds belittling because it puts people in boxes. The alternative is “needy people” and so on.

    The third is major. Our basic values, says the preamble to our constitution, are “liberty, equality and community”. This submission defines equality as opportunity and community seems to have been wholly forgotten.

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