Southport and strategy

This is my personal view about the Southport Conference Strategy motion – what’s good and what can be improved.

There are four big ideas:

  1. A dual approach to politics. We are an insurgent party In our hearts and minds – we want to use political power for change and reform through government and by working with people to help them to take and use power over the forces that affect their lives. It means practical campaigns for our values, fighting the forces that diminish people’s lives and making modern liberalism into a political and social movement.  We should win campaigns NOW on local, national and international issues, working with people in other parties and outside conventional politics.  Our members should be on the streets, into social media and telephoning to win campaigns not just votes. Votes will follow successful campaigns; if they appear to be our main or only purpose, we’ll fail to win hearts and mind for liberalism, fail to win a mandate for radical change and fail to win big elections.
  1. A re-statement of the big ideas that define our core campaign themes: the open society, tolerant, pluralist and internationalist; a fair economy which challenges inequality; and helping people to take back control. We want a strong society, a fair economy, and communities where people find themselves as confident, powerful individuals.

These campaigns resonate with communities throughout the UK . We are not defined by Brexit, although we have important things to say to people on both sides. We have strong messages for people “left-behind” by globalisation and for everyone who wants more control over their lives. We are an inclusive Party, hearing and responding to the pain of many who feel that the EU doesn’t help them, and explaining why open, tolerant, internationalist society works best.

  1. Building a progressive alliance of ideas, putting aside tribal differences. This isn’t the cul-de-sac of electoral deals; without Labour, such deals are tactical and local.  It seeks the groundswell of support for a new politics that goes beyond party. Self-confident Liberal Democrats can lead that movement with ideas fit for the twenty-first century.
  1. Liberal Democrats became increasingly reliant on professional campaign management.  That improved vote-winning skills, but undermined the distinctive voice of local, campaigning leaders with their own identity and voice.  We need both to strengthen our consistent national message and to empower members to express the same core, liberal messages in local conditions and local language. That means both grassroots and centre helping members to a rewarding experience; welcoming and sharing new ideas, experiments and best practice. This strategy will invest in developing local leaders who represent people and work with them on issues and problems, listening, helping, campaigning with them in innovative and effective ways. Our Party should inspire every member to find their own way to put liberalism into practice.

If I were looking to strengthen the motion, I ‘d suggest (1) strengthening the commitment to getting black and ethic minority leaders; (2) reforming policy-making to concentrate on a few big ideas, rather than refining details; (3) providing leadership in wider intellectual debates; (4) writing “social justice” into our commitment to a fairer economy and reducing inequality; (5) making community politics explicit ; and (6) recognising that inequity between the nations and regions of the UK drive discontent with democratic and economic structures.

* Gordon Lishman is over 70 and has campaigned for older people and on issues concerned with ageing societies for about 50 years.  Nowadays, he does it with more feeling!

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  • @Barnaby
    Be careful, You may wake us up.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Feb '18 - 3:17pm

    Yes, Barnaby the Liberators are coming.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Feb '18 - 5:26pm

    No sensible political organisation which is ‘on its uppers’ would ever dream of sharing its stratefy with a public including its opponents. Thankfully, this document is not a strategy hence does not provide such a worry.

    A political organisation which has been marginalised nationally can not have a strategy which does not include a ‘multiplier’ method of making it relevant.

  • Tony Dawson 9th Feb '18 - 5:30pm

    And, in terms or relevance, the party needs to grasp reality – the bad as well as the good. For every Sunderland council by-election win there is also a week or three with a set of by-elections like this:

  • Paul Reynolds 10th Feb '18 - 1:34pm

    The Strategy Motion for Southport Spring Conference next month is the result of a good piece of hard work by dedicated Lib Dems. It is not really a ‘strategy’ as such, more a set of useful guiding aspirations. A strategy in the fullest sense would involve defining our aims, objectives and goals in such a way that they might be achievable; then setting out the external & internal obstacles and problems in getting there, including an assessment of our rivals in this context, and then deciding how to overcome those problems and obstacles in the pursuit of our aims and so on. In the fullest sense, any strategy should then be followed by an approach to adjust institutions and processes to ensure they are conduive to this pursuit. There may be some cultural obstacles for the Party in taking such a standard ‘strategic approach’ (I certainly believe so), thus, that might be a good place to start.

  • Hi Barnaby – I’m not sure what more you want us to say to leavers… we think you were / are wrong, and as and until we’ve left the EU, we have to continue saying that, and calling out Govt and opposition when they make inept / bad decisions. As for the rest, I’m with Gordon…

  • Possibly we need a revival, reinvention and return to community politics. Although I take on Mark Pack’s point that “by the 21st century references to [community politics] had become mostly of the ‘we should revive it’ sort.” And I am not sure that I have ever fully grasped what it is!

    But clearly the political environment is also very different to 1970 when community politics was adopted by the Liberal Party and when, for example, the internet did not exist.

    Gordon Lishman and Bernard Greaves writing in 1980 said what community politics was not. “Community Politics is not a technique. It is an ideology. Community Politics is not local. It is universal. Community Politics is not Government. It is about people. Community politics is not about winning elections. Elections are [though] an essential part of community politics.”

    Looking back at the last 25 years, and to pick up on something from another thread, I think I have been too concerned of an evening to go out and canvass X number of people deliver x number of leaflets (or just watch TV!) rather than really campaign in my local community!

    I think two recent things particularly stand out for me. The first was a piece on Sunday Politics South a few weeks ago. It was about a mother [not a Lib Dem or party political] who tragically lost her son at a very young age and has been campaigning for a statutory right to bereavement leave. And it looks as if clauses are being introduced to a Bill going through Parliament at the moment that will make this law.

    Secondly a fringe meeting at the 2016 conference where Eastbourne Lib Dems explained how they had really and meaningfully consulted on their policies for the council with local people.

    I would urge everyone of whatever political persuasion to go and campaign – whether it is getting a street light mended, starting a website/facebook page for a national campaign or shaking up complacency in your local council.

    I would also urge every Lib Dem whether 8 or 108, whether a party member or not and regardless of whatever “grand strategy” is passed at Southport to go and shake up their local party. March towards the “sound of gunfire” and stick it on a piece of paper [or on the internet] and shove it through someone’s letterbox [or send it to their inbox].”
    And do it today because tomorrow we die (hopefully not literally but if is short!).

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