Liberals need to be bold and impatient for reform

This Op-Ed is inspired by an article in the latest Economist, A Manifesto for Renewing Liberalism, which caught my eye because the author and I are in agreement that Liberals must be bold and impatient for reform! The only way they will prevail in society, the writer says, is “if their ideas are unmatched for their ability to spread freedom and prosperity”.  I could not agree more, my thoughts exactly.  Not freedom for some or prosperity for some, but freedom and prosperity for all of society in its diversity.

We as a party, and Liberals at large, have spent a huge amount of our energy in recent years on Identity politics and that was the right thing to do.  As a result, we have seen significant gains in reduction of discrimination on the bases of Gender, Sexuality, and to a lesser extent, Race, Religious identity and Disability.

Without completely abandoning identity politics, in order to regain our rightful place in the centre of politics, we must re-focus and now move with renewed vigour to fight for Universal Freedoms and Rights, including Economic Rights, first at home, but also abroad as we are by our nature internationalist.  It is good that we have been spearheading the fight to remain close to our neighbours with Brexit and must claim the lead as the party for a People’s Vote, a position that Labour and other pretenders are keen to claim.  We must use this to re-launch our universalist agenda on Freedom and Prosperity.

In recent years here at home, Freedom of Speech has increasingly been under threat, and people’s prosperity has been dependent on geography and class.  As the writer in the Economist suggests and I concur: “In all sorts of ways, the liberal meritocracy is closed and self-sustaining”.  This is true in society as well as in our party.  Success at one point brought complacency.

This brings me to Vince’s proposal for a supporters’ scheme to open up the party to a new constituency, a new way of thinking and being.  This is an idea I wholeheartedly support as I believe it will rekindle our party which desperately needs it as we work to bring freedom and prosperity to all in our country.

Joyce is a Vice Chair of the Federal Board, an Executive member of FIRC and LIBG and Diversity Representative for her local party in Ealing. Joyce is a Social Justice Campaigner, a mother of two daughters, loves to dance and listen to all genres of music.

* Joyce Wangui Onstad is a Vice Chair of the Federal Board and on the Executive of the Ealing Local Party.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Gordon Lishman 15th Sep '18 - 3:14pm

    Hear, hear.

  • David Hopps 16th Sep '18 - 9:31am

    Agree with every word, Joyce. We must reassert our relevance to the majority by espousing our universalism. Of course, within that universalism we must continue to fioght prejudice and discrimination. But we explain how we can be a party that works for the country. The opportunity is there, waiting for us, if only we remain focused on that task.

  • Sue Sutherland 16th Sep '18 - 12:37pm

    I’m sorry to disagree with you Joyce, but I don’t think opening up the party to supporters will in itself reinvigorate the party. We have had a huge influx of members since the Brexit vote and quite a few have campaigned and had success in local elections but others are leaving the party.
    I believe that until we change our ways of working to involve members at every stage of decision making, as in our belief in community politics, no matter how many new members or supporters we get we won’t be reinvigorated.
    Our existing top down decision making and then attempts to persuade conference to support those decisions isn’t the way our party should operate. If we want bottom up decision making in local and national government we should practise it in our own community. Then we will be offering something extraordinary to create a movement.

  • Nigel Hardy 16th Sep '18 - 6:40pm

    Well said Joyce. We need to be able to shout above the Brexit noise espousing the virtues of Liberalism, yes with capital L.

    Vince Cable has been far sighted IMO for the need to reform the party and we should support that aim. If we don’t encourage our supporters to become our foot soldiers we won’t spread the message. The Tories have been successful in getting non-activits to do their leafleting and elections times, because they are seen as the natural party of government (perhaps not for much longer) and we need to do likewise.

  • Humphrey Hawksley 19th Sep '18 - 12:36pm

    Excellently put, Joyce. Underlining the Party’s values and long-term vision is as crucial to electoral success as delivering local-issue leaflets. With so much global debate on the fate of liberal democracy, we have a perfect platform on which to rebuild, one that goes far beyond Brexit. I remain confused by Sue Sutherland’s argument. How are bottom-up community initiatives implemented if not though decision-making on priorities at the top. The alternative is dozens of varying policies reflecting the needs of communities stretching from the Scilly Islands to the Shetland.

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