Organised, radical liberalism is winning liberalism

Big, radical messaging works and when we do it, we win.

That’s the message we should all be taking away from our stunning successes in recent weeks, where saying “bollocks to Brexit” and focusing on the result we want rather than on process and detail has won us MEPs in numbers we could never have dreamed of in January, including an amazing two wins in my own North West seat.

This didn’t happen by accident though. Many of us within the party have been campaigning for the clearest possible anti-Brexit line since 2016, and helped get policy and message in the place we needed it to be in order to win big. To win has meant activists doing great work at every stage of the process – writing policies and amendments, standing for office, delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. Plus, of course, one of the most important and least known bits of what we do, supporting each other and ensuring we don’t burn out. Politics can be a tough business, and we always need to be thinking how we can better support our members who are working on it.

One thing that can help both in ensuring we have strong policy and in challenging our party to do better for activists and members is having organisations that can fight for those things, and the Radical Association, which I’m director of, has been a great part of that in the last few years. Radical Association activists have strongly backed strengthening our stance against Brexit, and also improved party policy in a range of other areas. Last Autumn, for example, the Association supported my amendment to allow anonymised logging of abuse incidents, helping protect our fellow activists, and our activists also successfully won changes to immigration policy to protect foreign spouses coming to the UK, and to economic policy to support cooperative business startups better and end the idea that corporations should only exist to benefit their shareholders.

We’ve recently restarted the Radical Association’s membership lists after a break to sort out tech and GDPR issues, and we’re going to be electing a new committee soon. If the achievements we’ve had so far sound like the sort of thing you want to support in the Lib Dems, and you feel like keeping putting together the strong liberal messaging that just won us two elections, now’s the time to join us.

As well as all members who join by June 10 getting to stand and vote for our 8-member committee, we’ll also be sending questions to the two leadership campaigns to see where they stand on the issues that matter to radical liberalism, and we’ll have policy campaigns for autumn conference as usual as well, all things members can get involved in. We’ve got a huge amount to do – and we hope you’ll be along for the journey with us.

* April Preston is the Director of the Radical Association and candidate for Withington Ward in Manchester

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  • Exactly this, thank you April

  • Olly Craven 3rd Jun '19 - 5:29pm

    Great article!

    It’s time we back strongly social liberal policies like a Guaranteed Minimum Income, much more support for employee ownership (and potentially ways of converting old, large companies into employee owned firms over time).

    With both of the other parties wanting to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few, be they rich private citizens or state bureaucrats, it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to adopt a model that distributes power and wealth as widely as possible.

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd Jun '19 - 8:06pm

    “end the idea that corporations should only exist to benefit their shareholders.”

    Make shareholding in UK companies an unattractive option and holding shares in UK companies will be, well, unattractive.
    There are 193 states in the United Nations and I suppose that those looking to invest and grow companies will have to put their money into companies based in one of the other 192.

  • James Baillie 4th Jun '19 - 12:02am

    Good article, and I agree with April that you should all get on and join the Association, it’s a good bunch of people 🙂

    @Innocent bystander: Owning shares, speaking as someone who has some money in investments, is never going to be unattractive. They pretty literally make you money for doing nothing except the fact of owning them. But we need to get away from the idea that “I invest in this company and want a fair return on an investment” is the same as “I invest in this company, so I control all the major actions of this company in perpetuity and this company should have no incentives to do anything beyond giving me money”. We need to rebalance the incentives to serve shareholders, workforces, communities and the environment to build a better and more justly distributed economy than we’re managing to do at present.

  • Innocent Bystander 4th Jun '19 - 8:16am

    Of course shareholding will remain an attractive proposition. But April’s plans can only operate in one of 193 countries. If you choose to make investing in UK companies less beneficial then the inevitable will happen. Calls to rethink how we view shareholding will be ignored by the rest of the world.
    Sometimes I wonder why all LibDem economic growth and tax policies assume that globalisation never happened and that the world’s population will fall into line with our latest noble ideas.

  • Dearly me not so Innocent, a Reactionary view from a Reactionary, quelle surprise. I’m sure your predecessors made similar argument against slavery; if we abolish it, slave owners will just relocate. We should expect better and we certainly shouldn’t heed the siren call of “nowt we can do” from you and your ilk.

  • Innocent Bystander 4th Jun '19 - 2:54pm

    Hello Frankie,
    I don’t see myself as a Reactionary, more a Latter Day Private Frazer.
    It’s not so much “nowt we can do” but rather “nowt we want to do will work”, is my message (on the grounds that it has been tried multiple times this century and the last and hasn’t done anything but create economic collapse).
    I accept that it is your message that holds sway, here and now, and not mine, even though the challenges posed by globalisation to a comfortable and entitled Western culture are obvious.
    These threats to our way of life are being ignored instead of being faced and mitigated, but I agree my tocsin will sound unheard.

  • The main headlines as far as the Lib Dems are concerned relate to the party leadership being anti-Brexit and anti-Trump. Laudable as those aspirations are, I would like to know what the Lib Dems policies are (some day we will be beyond Brexit, one way or the other!) on some of the core issues that exercise most people most of the time i.e. housing (affordability), education (academic and vocational), social care and (more so recently) environmental issues. I’m sure they are somewhere but the aforementioned seems to drown them out. One of the policies that attracted me to the Liberals many years ago was the idea of employee ownership, mentioned by Olly. Hooray!

    More of a niche question, what is the Lib Dem policy on the House of Lords. I cannot understand why we still have a “nominated” second chamber. Surely we are the only democracy who has this?

  • Peter Hirst 6th Jun '19 - 4:24pm

    What we need is messages that resonate with the electorate. The response, “that makes sense and “why has nobody else come up with this” are vote winners. Also, messages that remind it of our values and why they voted for us in the past. And not too many of them. Three strong messages is ample.

  • @Frankie.
    You seem to be equating Bystander’s defence of shareholding with the arguments employed 200 years ago in favour of slavery. Hmmm. Interesting !
    I always believed that joint stock limited companies were devised so that individuals with spare cash could invest, allowing industries to grow and jobs and prosperity along with them. Today millions benefit from direct and indirect shareholding, be they small shareholders trying to grow a nest egg, or members of large pension schemes. It’s called capitalism and I thought that as a party we still believed in capitalism ? Now clearly the excesses of capitalism need to be constrained, but I see no such nuance in the arguments put forward here.

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