Nick: fairness is the Lib Dems’ core value

‘It’s all about fairness’, is the refrain we can expect to hear a lot from Nick Clegg in the next few months, leading up to the 2010 general election. It was noticable that the word ‘fair’ was deployed in each one of Nick’s four key policy areas set out in his Times article yesterday on the Lib Dems’ approach to a ‘hung parliament’:

  • fair taxes;
  • a fair start for all our children;
  • a fair and sustainable economy that creates jobs; and
  • fair, clean and local politics.

And it’s the word which recurs in this BBC interview, where Nick states his belief that the core value of the Lib Dems is fairness:

There may be some mutterings about the emphasis on fairness – what about freedom, for example, an essential component of liberalism? It’s a fair point. But as yesterday’s post on Lib Dem sloganeering made clear, to have an impact your core message has to be simple and memorable.

Just as importantly, if you’re the leader of the third major party, you need to differentiate yourself. For all that freedom is essential to liberalism, it’s unlikely while the Tories are sort-of in the ascendant that this will mark out the Lib Dems in the public mind.

Nick’s stated aim – as detailed in his The Liberal Moment pamphlet last autumn – is for the party to replace Labour as the major opposition to the Tories. In which case it makes good, strategic sense to pitch the Lib Dems’ tent squarely on the territory – fairness – traditionally associated with Labour.

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  • Bill le Breton 6th Jan '10 - 12:43pm

    Two cheers for what is coming out of the campaign team after Christmas. Stephen reveals only a quarter of the briefing he has received but this and the other three-quaters signals that they have rethought a number of their previous conclusions. I’d say Cable and a few key MPs have been making their views known.

    “Fairness” when utttered by a UK politician is vulnerable to the interpretation of meaning the opposite – one person’s fairness is another person’s unfairness – however it does give an overall theme, does fit Liberals well, (with its fig leaf resemblance to ‘Justice as Fairness’) and does, as Stephen suggests, indicate a willingness to portray ourselves as an alternative home for disillusioned Labour votes. Quite a shift from the earlier determination not to get to the left of the Tories.

    There is also evidence of a new confidence that we *can* campaign for change. Previously they begged that this was the preserve of Cameron. Now one can begin to detect a willingness to challenge the Tories – “can’t trust ‘em, got it wrong on every key economic decision and they don’t really want reform especially as it would mean losing their sugar daddy in the House of Lords.” Again an important shift.

    Also underneath the slush is some hard campaigning potential:

    1. first £10,000 you earn tax-free.
    2. cuts to class sizes, a pupil premium, an extra £2.5 billion to our schools
    3. £3.5 billion for investment in creating a sustainable economy
    4. Radical reform of political system
    5. Protecting NHS services from cuts:
    6. 3,000 more police officers
    7 Scrapping student tuition fees
    8. An immediate up-rating of the basic state pension in line with earnings
    9. And some crude flag waving towards service pay increases

    We are still weak on the balanced parliament issue. There is again no definition of what ‘strongest mandate’ means in our stated position that “If voters decide no party deserves an overall majority, then the party with the strongest mandate will have a moral right to be the first to seek to govern on its own or seek alliances with other parties”

    To answer that “the British voters will make it demonstrably clear what ‘strongest mandate’ means” would not hold up for 10 seconds under a Paxo cross-examination.

    Overall, though, this all shows considerable change in thinking and considerable progress.

    We are getting there.

  • Fairness also came up in Nick’s PMQs questions today

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