#NewMembersDay Why I joined the Liberal Democrats #5

The weekend after the election I surveyed my generous Surrey garden that I have acquired despite my Georgist Liberal views and decided that, partly in the spirit of national austerity, and mostly as the previous gardener had given up this commission, I would mow the lawn myself.

I started in the middle and mowed longitudinal strips up and down the lawn. After the first few lengths of concentrated mowing I took a step back to admire my progress and was shocked to find the expected pleasing straight lines were in fact ugly wavy wobbles.

Of course many of you will be thinking what I was thinking, that this is an obvious allegory for the Liberal Democrats in recent years. You see there is great temptation when mowing to look down at the line of the previous pass, and to follow a path with the cut lawn directly to the left and the unmown lawn directly to the right. This feels good at the time yet is ultimately unproductive. The key to a straight lawn is to ignore what is going on to the left and right of you, but to travel towards a fixed point in the distance, a strategy that will happily lead to a lawn to be proud of!

I hope readers will forgive me as I push this political metaphor further and claim that the fixed point in the distance should not be a set of policies or strategies, but should be a way of thinking and a set of values that can help those in a democratic society peacefully and efficiently negotiate trade, conflict, justice and disruptive change.

Liberalism is the most effective way to approach these challenges. The socialism of Labour is a response to the particular historical problems of mass industry, and the conservatism of the Tories, whilst better within the current economic paradigm than their traditional opponent, also has at its heart the view the progress requires the benign mystical skills of those at the economic top of the pile.

Thus this weekend, this 36 year old GP joined the Liberals, with the hope that the scale of defeat will free the party to take a fresh look at how society can prosper in a global world, where information, ideas and even money creation itself can be democratic and borderless.

Localised government; resisting state surveillance; freedom to use cryptocurrencies; land value tax; drug liberalisation; universal basic income; decommissioning Trident; extreme caution with TTIP; reduction of economically harmful taxes, especially for the poor; and perhaps even breaking the state monopoly on funding health, not present in successful systems such as Holland, Germany and France – these are all policies that would fit in a classical liberal tradition yet continue to respect an individual’s very existence, without the corrosive effect of means testing and peer judgement on the national psyche.

Will some of these ideas stick? Will I be welcome in the party? I look forward to finding out. For perhaps, with the 10,000 new members, this noble yet damaged party will become strong once more, confidently piloting their lawn mowers towards the liberal ideals.

* Dr Simon Gilbert joined the Liberal Democrats in May 2015

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Conor McGovern 13th May '15 - 7:17pm

    Welcome to the party, Simon. Liking a lot of the liberal wishlist! 🙂

  • I’m a non-conformist. I mow my lawn in a curve so as to run parallel to the curved edge of the lawn on one side of the garden. Starting from the right and mowing to the left. Mowing in straight lines is, I think, a sign of conformity and not the actions of a radical liberal. Tut, tut!

  • Personally, I welcome anyone who uses the word ‘paradigm’ 🙂

  • I love the smell of cut grass…literally and, to continue your analogy, I love the political process. Glad you’ve joined and are looking forward to getting your feet mucky!

  • You are VERY welcome Simon. And I’m off now to cut my lawn!

  • Simon – would you consider comming to live in Wiltshire?

  • Simon Gilbert 14th May '15 - 12:18pm

    Why Gordon ? I’m not that good at lawn mowing!

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