Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity


Each day seems to bring another installment in the ongoing sagas of the red and blue camp. Either it’s the EU referendum backbiting and divisiveness in the Tory party or the long, slow and painful fall out from Corbyn’s election and the unleashing of some rather unsavoury elements in the party.

Scandal, drama and political machination may command media attention and interest from keen political observers, but it’s another nail in the coffin for the reputation of politicians and crucially politics in the eyes of the voter.

Politics should be about improving people’s lives, creating a more harmonious society and ensuring that our country is in the best position economically both now and in the future. In a word it should be about ‘opportunity.’ Opportunity and improvement is something we all strive for and is a uniting and resonant word shared with people across classes, faiths and creeds. It’s a word that often crops up in our conference speeches, slogans and leaflets because it is a natural fit for our party, but now is the time to make it central to our message and communications.

Now is the perfect time for our party to seize this word and focus on a wider policy narrative and vision, because from a narrative flows an aim and an objective and a position from which to critique and argue against Government policies. We shouldn’t pretend that the Coalition was an aberration, just something that we were forced into through circumstance and then slowly skulked away from, wanting to pretend it never happened. We need to take the policies we undertook and build on them, reminding people of the good we did in power as the true nature of an unbound conservative government plays out for all to see. The pupil premium, equal marriage, apprenticeships and a fairer tax system are just a few of the excellent policies that strove to give more people life opportunities.

We talk about the Liberal Democrat ‘Fightback’ but what are we fighting for? A soundbite in opposition to a government policy? Our narrative needs to be the narrative of opportunity. Issues like drugs liberalisation and transgender equality are important, but we need to ensure that we have policies that are broader and resonate across all sections of society. It needs to be a positive vision: a much needed antidote to the negative and divisive campaigns seen in recent London Mayoral elections and in the EU referendum debate.

Giving our country the opportunity to have a renewable energy infrastructure, giving young children from poorer backgrounds the same opportunities as those from richer families, giving smaller and new businesses the opportunities to grow and thrive and giving our society the opportunity to vote for a party with a clear liberal vision in all aspects of our lives: health, education, housing and work.

* Lauren Keith is an activist in Brent

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  • Richard Underhill 30th May '16 - 11:07am

    The Mayor of London and the Prime Minister will appear together today for Remain.
    Si mi abuela tuviera ruedas seria una bicicleta
    as Robert Goizeta, head of Coca Cola said.

  • Richard Underhill 30th May '16 - 11:09am

    If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a bicycle.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '16 - 2:57pm

    Very good article Lauren and I would add another word: hope. If people think Corbyn is going to trash the economy then not many are going to vote for the Labour Party whilst he is leader no matter how much they want help.

    The party needs a backup strategy and possibly a backup leader because at the moment it seems winning votes is a bonus and running campaigns celebrating immigration whilst over 300,000 net are coming each year is what matters.

    It’s almost like the Millwall chant: “nobody likes us but we don’t care”.

  • Cameron & Osborne are doing a pretty good job of trashing the economy, and the Tory Party is doing a pretty good job on trashing itself.

  • I hate to say it but we don’t have an awful lot of credible, clear, and distinctive policies on offer. If we do then we’re not communicating them. We want to create thousands of homes and have no problem with unlimited migration without preparing the necessary transport, health, education and other infrastructure *first*. The rest seems to comprise of opposing whatever the Tories are in favour of, which is often but not always a good bet. Oh, and whining on and on about unfair voting methods despite having had our referendum and lost decisively and accepting peerages to sit in an undemocratic anachronism. Those negative and divisive London campaigns you refer to got most of the votes. If we want to fight back we need to reinforce our independence from vested interests, our liberal and democratic principles, and our commitment to social equality. But we also need practical, well considered, logical and progressive policies that won’t collapse under the first prod.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st May '16 - 1:45am

    Lauren Keith
    Very good article , well done.

    Agree with you on new and more tangible policies, not on the leadership.Tim is here to stay for several years and good thing.He is centre left and centre, radical and moderate too , open to ideas and suggestions but with his own stance.We must back him.

    One of my criticisms of those who were particularly angry over coalition policy mistakes , was the extent of how they would regularly , and still do , personalise it as being against and all about , Nick Clegg. Factualy , nonsense ,as all ministers and cabinet ministers from our party were involved at some level.

    We need to realise that however well or otherwise Tim is polling , he has fine qualities we must value.

    We must recognise as a party that we have a robust and realistic immigration policy , and sound like it ! That is when we can criticise all our leaders including Paddy Ashdown who always sounds as though it is about “the needs of the economy “, not true ,needs of the society and individuals first !

  • I think this is a strange article. I remember the days when Conservatives used to talk about giving people equal opportunities. This meant that everyone had the same opportunities – everyone had the same opportunity to pass the 11+, everyone could start their own business, to suggest two examples.

    But opportunity is not enough. At what age do doors close and a person’s opportunities narrow? Does Lauren Keith’s opportunity deal with this? There is the pupil premium, if it fails by the age of 16 do we have a policy to give that opportunity again. If someone is not in work, do they have all the opportunities they had at 14 to find a job to suit them?

    So if we talk about opportunity it should be about not a once in a lifetime opportunity, but giving people the same opportunity again and again during their whole life.

  • I agree Lauren. It was the third element of our (lengthy!) pre-election slogan and often forgotten. At a meeting after the 2014 elections Ryan Coetzee said it should be our key message. So what happened, we might ask!

    MichaelBG: Yes, we have policies that propose lifelong entitlement to education and training.

    Stevan Rose: voting reform needs to be seen as giving voters the equal chance to influence the result.

  • Nigel Jones 31st May '16 - 4:38pm

    Opportunity is not a sufficient word; so I disagree with Lauren’s three worded mantra quite strongly. Much of what she says is good, but opportunity by itself is a rather empty word and does not convey our distinctive philosophy.
    We need the phrase ‘helping people to help themselves’ as part of our philosophy; many disadvantaged people ( and others) are either not aware of opportunities or do not know how to avail themselves of those opportunities. Even Conservatives and Labour would agree we need to provide opportunities, so where is our distinctiveness ? Conservatives believe in providing opportunities but leave too much to the individual, so that those who have the right background, network of people and bags of support get on much better than others. Labour tend to constrain people by the state directing too much and often develop the attitude that people expect everything to be done for them. We believe in helping people by getting alongside them, so they can take advantage of opportunities in the way they decide they wish to go.
    We definitely need a good vision, but we also need to work carefully on policies for the future and that will take a little time. We can state our aims, but we have yet to work out how to get there and what it means in practice.

  • @ Stephen Robinson

    I have looked at our 2015 manifesto and there was nothing about what help and assistance we would give people who are not children or young adults to access training, or education or economic assistance to start their own businesses. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place (I was looking in the section entitled “An opportunity society – World-class education for all”).

    @ Nigel Jones
    “but opportunity by itself is a rather empty word” and “We need the phrase ‘helping people to help themselves’”

    We need not just to talk about ‘helping people to help themselves’ but we need to set out what this means and what support, advice and assistance we would provide and how we not only would make it easy to access but well known to everyone no matter how disengaged they are.

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