LibLink: Norman Lamb: It would be easy for our party to shelter in our comfort zone but it would be very, very wrong

Norman Lamb has been writing for the Huffington Post about his vision for the future of the Liberal Democrats.

The next few years can’t just be about making ourselves feel better; we must be far more ambitious than that.

That means broadening our policy and political thinking, daring – once again – to be radical and challenging. It is why I am proposing a renaissance in our approach to political action and debate, reaching out to include the many – particularly young people – who share our values and instincts but are put off by closed party structures and, even worse, by tribalistic political thinking.

Our task now is not just to devise short-term tactics or louder opposition. We will succeed when we have a long-term, coherent and persuasive set of strategic ideas for Britain.

The good news is that Liberalism fits our age. Britain has become less collective, citizens and consumers feel more empowered and many individual rights – through equal marriage for instance – are better recognised.

What are his key issues?

And – where it is right to do so – we should be prepared to use the power of the state to overcome market failures. Housing is a good example. Why not enable government to provide new housing on public land at market rents, while using the returns to invest in more affordable housing? Since we know that inequalities of opportunity impact very early in every child’s life, let’s make nursery education the top priority that it needs to be.

There are many other issues that we will need to champion. For instance, we will not just play our part in securing Britain’s future in the EU. Liberal Democrats must, once again, lead the movement for a more engaged Britain that plays its full role in the world. The case for political reform is as strong as ever.

But a modern liberal party must also show how to deliver both prosperity and social justice. The fightback begins here.

You can read the whole article here. 

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23 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '15 - 9:26am

    Unfortunately, Norman’s words of avoiding the “comfort zone” don’t seem to match his actions. I do not like criticising people, but I have been very disappointed with Norman Lamb’s campaign. I have the following problems with it:

    1. A heavy reliance on social issues.
    2. No mention on Twitter of the terrorist attacks on Friday as of Monday evening when I gave up checking.
    3. A personal issue of feeling ignored by him, even when I’ve tried to reach out and helped build his profile for 12 months.

    I am not on anyone’s team. I’m not even a member (please don’t ask why), but I started the campaign wanting Lamb to win and I end it wanting Farron to win. Even though on policy issues I am probably closer to Lamb. I’m a neutral at best, but disappointing nevertheless.

  • Donald Smith 1st Jul '15 - 9:28am

    A good article and showing modern forward-lookingn thinking. The 21st century world is very different to that in which most of our political policies and remedies were thought up. Parties need to adapt and be ahead of the curve. Both our leadership contenders are streets ahead of the sterility we see in the Labour leadership campaign.

  • Tony Dawson 1st Jul '15 - 9:30am

    I am intrigued. What has Norman been doing other than keeping the Party in ‘the comfort zone’ (ie avoiding facing up to reality) for the last four to five years? Now that he and his mentor have placed the Party in such a horrendous ‘discomfort zone’, with the General Election catastrophe (to add to three previous election catastrophes) why does he feel that he is the person to be trusted to take us forward from here?

  • Ruth Bright 1st Jul '15 - 9:45am

    Ah, so WE humble party members need to get out of OUR comfort zone. Norman has surely spent much of this campaign in HIS comfort zone. The campaign on mental health is great, good for him, but there is nothing game-changing or quintessentially Liberal Democrat about it. The whole spectrum of political opinion from Sinn Fein to UKIP support better mental health provision.

  • Paul Pettinger 1st Jul '15 - 11:04am

    For talk of moving out of our comfort zone to have real meaning, we should recognise the view expressed by the electorate about the Party’s direction of recent years. If ‘comfort zone’ is being used to mean breaking promises, doing right wing things that liberally inclined voters don’t like and standing ready to prop up the Conservatives, then it’s an analysis that will keep us in the electoral wilderness.

  • Stephen Hesketh 1st Jul '15 - 1:01pm

    Tony Dawson1st Jul ’15 – 9:30am
    I agree Tony. I listened to Norman at the Manchester hustings and was pleased with much he had to say. At the back of my mind however remains the simple fact that he was Nick Clegg’s aide at the very start of the coalition when many of the decisions that were later to cost us very dear indeed, were made.

    Ruth Bright1st Jul ’15 – 9:45am. Agree. Mental health affects all human beings everywhere, either directly or indirectly. Yes, as a Lib Dem Minister Norman achieved some worthy reforms them but there is so much more our party has to offer than what we achieved in coalition.

    We must look to the future and challenge the status quo in so many areas of life.

    For me, Tim’s input has been the much the more challenging and forward looking to us as a movement. He has also made the link between the lack of decent affordable housing, the lack of opportunity and of poverty on life chances and on mental and physical health. Reduce the number of people suffering in the first place!

    Tim Farron simply offers the best combintion of vision, policy, ambition and drive to renew and rebuild the party.

  • More negative campaigning from Lamb. In light of all these digs towards Farron I really do wonder how much Lamb actually knew about the push polling scandal within his campaign.

  • Bill le Breton 1st Jul '15 - 1:14pm

    I’m confused. I don’t mind uncomfortable policies. Change is always an uncomfortable process. But if Liberalism fits our age and most people already support liberal policies, how come supporting them is uncomfortable?

    So – please what four concrete proposals would we need to support that would be uncomfortable?

    Would someone from Team Lamb just list them?

  • A Social Liberal 1st Jul '15 - 1:47pm

    Norman wrote

    “And – where it is right to do so – we should be prepared to use the power of the state to overcome market failures. Housing is a good example. Why not enable government to provide new housing on public land at market rents, while using the returns to invest in more affordable housing?”

    This, in a nutshell was brought about by the coalition government. They (including Norman) brought in a policy which slashed grants that councils and HAs received to build new units and more or less forced them to put up rents to 80% of market rates. Personally, I believe that the socially liberal thing to do would be to reisntate those grants in full with the proviso that rents go down to a point where they meet the costs of maintenance (which is what social landlords used to do) and then allow those social landlords to borrow against the housing they own.

  • Donald Smith 1st Jul '15 - 3:29pm

    I have to say I am getting a little tired of the anit-Clegg brigade (and the tution fee betrayal trope so beloved of Labour supporting LDm haters) attacking anyone and everything from the last 5 years. I’m willing to hear what Norman and Tim have to say and judge as themselves. I like Tim’s willingn ess to think about the practicalities of policy and dare to think ahead to new ideas. I like Tim’s obvious passion and emotion. Where either of them stood re Clegg, which of them was in or out of government is not for me an issue. I want to look forwards not backwards.

  • Donald Smith ” Where either of them stood re Clegg, which of them was in or out of government is not for me an issue. I want to look forwards not backwards.”

    That’s all very well but the voters who deserted the Party will not forget the last five years so easily. So the Party needs to face up to its recent behaviour if voters are to be won back.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '15 - 5:19pm

    Norman Lamb (from his Huffington Post article)

    I want a public sector that is more self-confident and innovative, but ruthlessly focussed on delivering the big-ticket outcomes of improved educational achievement, better health for all, falling crime and welfare support for those who need it most.

    Well, ok, but who would want a public sector which is not self-confident or innovative? Who would want a public sector which is not focussed on improved educational achievement? Who would want a public sector which is not focussed on better health for all? Who would want a public sector which is not focussed on falling crime?

    Ah, but “welfare support for those who need it most”? Is this a message against Tory cuts in welfare, or is it a coded way of supporting cuts in welfare by claiming that some need it less than others, so they’ll face cuts? And what about “ruthlessly”? What does that mean? My dictionary defines this as “showing no pity or mercy; pitiless; cruel”. Who exactly does Norman Lamb want to be pitiless and cruel to? Is this a coded message for more attacks on public sector workers, more stress-inducing target-setting, more people thrown out of their jobs? If it is, what Mr Lamb needs to learn is that the demoralisation decades of this has caused has had seriously damaging effects to good public services.

    Or does “ruthlessly focussed” mean big public cuts in all public services which don’t fall under the things listed?

    This is the problem, and I really dislike the way so much internal election campaigning in the Liberal Democrats works like this. You see something which at first sight looks bland and uncontentious, but you are supposed to look at it closely and find the code words and make your judgment on that basis.

    I regret that “shelter in our comfort zone” is another of those coded phrases. The line “we should not shelter in our comfort zone” is one of those many phrases which gets used by people trying to push politics to the economic right. Now, sure, it COULD just as well mean we should break from the Thatcherite consensus which Blair pushed Labour into accepting and the Orange Bookers have been trying to push the Liberal Democrats into accepting. But it doesn’t look like it’s being used that way here, does it?

  • Matthew Huntbach interesting post, I hadn’t seen the things you picked up apart from the ‘ those who need it most’ line. Food for thought!

  • Jayne Mansfield 2nd Jul '15 - 9:21am

    @ Donal Smith,
    Yes, I too am getting fed up of the discussions about the tuition fees, so could people move on and start discussing the Health and Social Care Act, and the top down reorganisation that was never supposed to happen?

    It is only by looking backwards that we former Liberal Democrat voters can judge what we can look forward to (whatever fine words are uttered), if we ever vote to put the Liberal Democrat Party back in to any position of power.

    Caroline Lucas’ attempt to reverse the effects of the Health and Social Care Act is enough to keep me voting Green in future . The Green Party seems to me to be the only radical party available to me at the moment, which is a pity because there are several posters on here, (usually dismissed contemptuously as the ‘usual suspects’ despite being long term , vote winning, radical Liberals, still fighting the good fight.

    I keep hoping that the Liberal Democrat Party will return to the party that I thought I voted for but despite reading the posts on Lib Dem Voice, I don’t actually see much sign of it.

  • Phil Rimmer 2nd Jul '15 - 10:19am

    Norman, you have lost the plot. That article is so riddled with bad policy, illiberal hints at policy, negative campaigning and unwillingness to accept your culpability in the last 5 years that I am amazed anyone could be bothered analysing it. Well done Bill Le Bretton, Matthew Huntbach and Michael Hall in particular.

    It’s the negative campaigning that get to me though. It started with just the Westminster Bubble element of your team and now appears to have spread to you. I have always had reservations about Tim Farron but you really are making it ludicrously easy for me to vote for him.

  • It’s pretty clear from the tone of most of these anti-Norman posts that the party will fracture. It’s just a matter of when.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jul '15 - 11:08am

    @TCO “It’s pretty clear from the tone of most of these anti-Norman posts that the party will fracture. It’s just a matter of when.”
    The leadership election was always likely to become a surrogate for the debate between the “orange” and the “lefty” groups within the policy.
    It will at least be an opportunity to find out whether all of those new members joined in order to support the coalition version of the Lib Dems with a “continuity” leader or to break away from that with a different direction for the party.
    An indecisive, close result in the leadership vote, whichever way it goes, is possibly the worst outcome.

  • @Peter Watson “It will at least be an opportunity to find out whether all of those new members joined in order to support the coalition version of the Lib Dems with a “continuity” leader or to break away from that with a different direction for the party.”

    It’s not clear that support for Norman = Orange Book Lib Dem, as comments from many pro-Tim OBers will attest. And vice versa.

    But clearly there will be a fracture if the anti-OB brigade see a Tim victory as licence for a purge.

  • Samuel Griffiths 2nd Jul '15 - 11:54am

    I would be ok with that. The whole not being able to support certain parts of the party is killing me. I want a conclusion that puts the pottianl of a split away for good – even if it means a “purge”. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that either candidate has any intention of supporting one side over the other. Norman is not as Orange book as people think (his work on mental health proves this) and Tim is certainly not as much of a progressive Liberal as he is positioning himself to be. This truely is politics and we shouldn’t be surprised that both potential leaders are good at politics and more interested in garnering wide ranging support than they are legitimising this turf war.

  • @Samuel Griffith ” I want a conclusion that puts the pottianl [sic] of a split away for good – even if it means a “purge”. ”

    I would say be careful what you wish for. As I’ve commented on another thread (if the post has been released yet) we had nearly 2.5 million voters in May, and a lot of coalition supporters didn’t vote for us this time given their greater fear of a Lab/SNP victory.

  • Malcolm Todd 2nd Jul '15 - 12:01pm

    TCO
    I’d be wary of assuming you can tell much about the likely future of the party from the tone of a few posts on LDV. That some people will leave after the leadership election, whichever candidate wins, is probably inevitable, but I rather doubt it will be a mass exodus.

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