Radical doesn’t have to be big

I am of the firm belief that we as a party must be radical– this is because we have to fight twice as hard, to get half as much press as the Conservatives and Labour. A great example of this was Layla Moran’s pledge to scrap SATs and OFSTED in 2018 which received very little press compared to Labour’s pledge to scrap SATs over a year later in 2019.

But radical doesn’t necessarily mean big, expensive and time-consuming: little policies can have a huge impact. Obviously, there are some major radical policies that we should explore and implement when the Lib Dems are back in power – regional government, electoral reform, overhauling the public sector – but these are not the only radical policies we should pursue. Quite often wonderful, efficient and successful radical proposals can be found at the local level.

A great example of these sorts of policies is municipal Wi-Fi networks in city and town centres, as they can give ailing high streets a new lease of life. There is a reason why many shops offer free Wi-Fi to shoppers, to attract and bring them in; and, in theory, the principal could be translated to town centres. The more time people spend on the high street, typically the more that they end up spending, helping the local economy. These networks can be integrated into existing infrastructure, and working in partnership with companies and organisations, can make these projects cost-neutral or even profitable. These networks have already been set up in 13 UK cities, such as Edinburgh and Bristol, and there is no reason why these couldn’t be rolled out further as part of a local – or even a national – initiative to get Britain connected and breathe life into our high streets and town centres.

At the national level, there are some common-sense radical proposals that truly make you wonder why they haven’t already been done. Such as allowing university students to register with two medical practices – one at University and one at their out-of-term home. It’s every first year’s gripe when they ring up their local GP and find out that they are no longer registered. Though this can be sorted out by filling a temporary residence form, it can have a bigger impact on students with long-term conditions not being able to access the care they need. Students faced with mental health problems shouldn’t have to jump over bureaucratic hurdles to access the help they need. This is a simple but radical policy that no party is capitalising on.

These are just two small but radical proposals that would have a huge positive impact on their targeted areas – the high street and students.  What is clear is that whoever wins the Leadership contest has to keep the party radical and forward-thinking. We have to be brave, think big and break the mould – a radical platform will lead us to success in the next general election.

* Jake Perkins is Co-President of the Lancaster University Liberal Democrats.

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  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '19 - 9:20am

    So the principal principle is that the policy should be radical. Chambers Dictionary defines radical as ‘going to the root’ ‘politics: favouring thoroughgoing but constitutional social and political reform, Advanced Liberal’
    A radical idea would be that we should have a constitution, but what would you like in it?

  • Simon McGrath 10th Jul '19 - 10:48am

    The idiocy of getting rid of SATs is explained here

  • The scrapping of standardised testing has been key to the success of education systems such the Finnish one. Yes there needs to be an element of continual assessment. But by giving more autonomy to teachers in how to do that, it doesn’t detract from quality teaching time as opposed to preparation for SATs.

  • *Standardised testing for younger pupils. For GCSE/A Level equivalent it is somewhat of a necessity.

  • John Littler 10th Jul '19 - 12:17pm

    1. The Tories have been saying since Thatcher that if tax cuts are applied to higher earners and Corporations, this will boost the economy and increase the tax take so more can be spent on public services. Let’s examine this.
    Over those decades, the top rates of Income Tax and Corpn. Tax have been roughly halved, reduced far more than other Northern European countries. So with all that time applying huge increases to the untaxed portion of those incomes, where are the decent public services? The Police have been hugely cut, Council Services are cut the bone and even bankrupt, social services are in crisis, the roads are falling apart. Outside on the south, rail is often a joke. I could go on, but austerity has been taken far too far after reducing the deficit.
    Where is the payback from decades of Tory tax cuts? The laffer curve and imaginings of increased tax revenue from lower Corpn tax rates is because of delayed profit declarations and accountancy money shuffling and not anything real. The lower rates for Corpn. Tax do not prevent tax evasions which carry on regardless. There is no other tax where rates seem so little related to activity and outcomes.
    In the meantime average and below average pay is low and flat, productivity is falling and investment has collapsed and with it chances of things improving in years ahead. The government borrowing rates confirm low demand ahead and consumers are already displaying recessionary behaviour, with Manufacturing and Construction in recession, plus services flat.

  • john Littler 10th Jul '19 - 12:17pm

    2. Other northern European countries have all higher GDP per head ( except Finland) than the UK and have way higher numbers of Doctors, Nurses, hospital beds and GP’s. Their public services are not falling apart like ours and the trains work at way lower fares. But they all have higher rates of tax on high earnings and Corporations
    Labour and other parties seem unable to make the case that the Thatcher revolution has failed. Those right wing think tanks from America that started making this case in the 1970’s were a malicious force and they are still there getting airtime on BBC political programmes, pushing extreme free markets and ever lower tax rates on the wealthy, while VAT on all of us has gone up from 8% to 20% and no doubt higher again soon.

    Britain has been conned by the hard laissez faire right and Disaster Capitalism they are still pushing for more of this, now disguised by Nationalism to take the working classes along with it. One trick has been to make people on £12-£15 per hour to believe that what is holding them back is not tax free billionaires, a lack of investment & training, effective trade unions or rights, but swarthy incomers earning £8-£10 ph

  • William Fowler 10th Jul '19 - 1:38pm

    I seem to recall that tax reform in the early Thatcher years reduced tax but got rid of various ways of avoiding paying the higher rates that they inherited from Labour so many more higher earners actually had to pay tax on their income, albeit at a lower rate.

    The UK is perhaps unique in Europe that it manages to have ruinous state spending but also poor public services whilst having privatized utility companies that rip people off left, right and center… if you wanted to get the worst of all worlds it would be hard to beat.

  • Callum Robertson 10th Jul '19 - 3:12pm

    Scrapping SATS is acceptable, one could argue even necessary.

    The scrapping of OFSTED is nothing short of ridiculous. Reform, yes, abolish, no.

    Its a very middle class approach to a really complex problem.

    Let’s take D -v- ECC as a salient example. We take an OFSTED outstanding rated children’s services in Essex County Council. Judicially review it and you’ll see that it is an inappropriate measure for Children’s Services. However, for schools no such legal evidence exists that it’s bad.

    As a consequence the solution must be to reform the tenor of OFSTED, not abolish it

  • Jake Perkins 10th Jul '19 - 4:52pm

    @Richard Underhill – I think that proposing a Constitution is one of those big radical policies that the party should be perusing (but I with the article I my focus was on smaller scale policies). I think if we were to have a constitution it should set out fundamental rights and civil liberties, federalism (Neither at NUTS 1 Level or Country+London Level), political structures, strong judicial review, and modelling the Irish System for constitutional reform (Citizen’s assemblies, parliamentary votes, referendums, and then implementation). Similarly I think that a Citizen’s assembly is a sensible route to deciding certain elements of the constitution.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '19 - 5:10pm

    John Littler 10th Jul ’19 – 12:17pm
    So, who is Round and why does he object?

  • What great ideas! and I am sure there are others. When your response to a policy proposal is either I thought we already did this or why on earth isn’t this routine, you onto a winner. I suspect it will take a sea change for our proposals to make the headlines though I hope I’m wrong.

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