Tag Archives: gordon lishman

Opinion: Reflections on the Social Liberal Forum conference

slflogoSo what did we learn this weekend?

In several ways, the Social Liberal Forum conference in Manchester has been about celebration. Not only was the weather as glorious as it was when I left that great city as a student; but the work of the SLF in ensuring the delivery of social Liberal policies in Government has been worthwhile, should not be ignored and merits recognition for those who have played a part in it.

We were also – rightly – challenged by Norman Lamb when thinking about public services, …

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Work places are communities too

As Liberal Democrats we are committed to the concept of people participating and exercising democratic rights in their communities. But we usually identify communities geographically, in the villages or the wards where we can deliver our Focuses.  During yesterday’s debate on Mutuals, Employee Ownership and Workplace Democracy (F22 in the Conference Agenda) Alan Sherwood reminded us that the workplace is also a significant community for many people. So workplace democracy is a natural extension of community politics.

In moving the motion, which derived from a policy paper, Martin Horwood went further and claimed that not only should Liberal Democrat …

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Updating Community Politics: the role for social capital

My short answer in response to David Boyle having only two cheers for Community Politics is: “I agree”.

The slightly longer response to David is: “I mostly agree, but “.

The nearly long enough to justify a blog post version is…

David Boyle is right to raise the concerns he did, and had he been in the hall he would have not only heard Gordon Lishman himself express similar concerns but also the excellent news that Gordon is intending to draw in a wide group of people to some of that thinking and updating that we all think is necessary.

For me at …

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A challenge to Community Politics

Community Politics is an ideology beloved of many Liberal Democrats, even if not all are quite sure what it is. As Mark Pack points out, “Community Politics” is distinctively Lib Dem, and Mark contrasts it to Labour “localism” and the Conservative “Big Society”.

But is it right?

No ideology is completely correct – all have faults where they fail to capture certain facets and nuances of our complex human behaviour. Few are complete nonsense either – most ideologies have elements that capture something important, and it’s a foolish person indeed who dismisses any ideology completely.

Some are better than others, …

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Our lost phrase: community politics

On a hunch, earlier this year I did a little research ahead of writing a blog post for Liberal Democrat Voice: how often is the phrase “community politics” used by the party’s national spokespeople since the May 2010 election?

The answer was far worse than I’d feared. Looking through all of Nick Clegg’s major speeches, all the news release from him and also all those from others issued via the Liberal Democrat press team, I could only find one use of “community politics” – by Paul Burstow. Andrew Stunell deserves an honourable mention for using it in an LGA pamphlet …

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Opinion: How can the community politics approach reform the Coalition?

“All change, all change here!” That was the shout of the bus-conductor as we reached the terminus. If only we had realised what a profound philosopher he was. For he is no more, nor is his role, nor the structure of society he inhabited.

Change and how to cope with it is at the heart of every human decision. The conservative wishes to take a measured step based on hard facts taken from experience. The progressive predicts the shape of the future and confidently proposes a radical leap.

By contrast, the community politician, the ideas behind whose activism we have begun

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Opinion: So what is this Community Politics all about then?

Party President, Tim Farron recently published on this site a very well received piece reminding us that we have, close to hand, the greatest opportunity in the history of our party.

He also observed that, “our biggest collective failure recently – from the grassroots to the cabinet – has been that too many Lib Dems have drifted from the sort of community politics that we have prided ourselves on in the past, or else been too busy to practice”.

Community politics is a much misunderstood concept practiced by many as an electoral technique and belittled by others as ‘pavement politics’.

I hope the …

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How to use politicians to get what you want

Scott Colvin’s book has a delightful title and does a good job of living up to the high expectations it sets. Though there are plenty of books about politics in general and also about organising community campaigns, what Colvin’s book tries to do is carve out a niche by looking specifically at how to influence politicians and (despite their omission from the title) businesses. Whether it’s saving a local Post Office or dealing with a customer service disaster from an airline, his book sets out how to go about getting the result you want.

Helped by his own background in …

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The party strategy debate: rolling highlights

Note: If you’re catching up with this post after it was published, read it from the bottom up.

Final result – both amendment and motion passed overwhelmingly. The overall tenor of the debate was more good natured than might have been expected – people did not take the opportunity to express any unhappiness in strident tones, and the party being in coalition with the Tories until 2015 was accepted and expected, explicitly or implicitly, by all speakers. Tuition fees and NHS got mentions, but brief ones. Norman Lamb’s comments about the health debate (see below), however, were unexpected and welcome.

James Gurling, …

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Conference preview: party strategy

When I last made a broad-brush comment about how many conference strategy motions pass without leaving much of a trace behind, Tony Greaves pointed out the major exception to that: the Community Politics strategy motion of 1970. When it comes to details mattering, the triple lock mechanism from the No Glass Ceilings strategy paper also turned out to be important, as we saw last year.

The prime author of this year’s strategy paper is one of the founding fathers of Community Politics and the author of the triple lock, Gordon Lishman. The related motion being debated on Sunday morning at the Liberal Democrat spring conference may be lengthy but is unlikely to have the same impact of either of those two other texts. It can be summarised as, “We’re an independent party and we don’t want any pre-election deals”.

The motion rules out pre-election pacts or any preferences for post-election partners and sets out a five point list for how the party should decide who to make any future post-election deal with. Unlike the triple lock, this list is likely to have little lasting value as the political and media pressures to have a simple, clear one sentence answer to such questions means the list will be stripped down to a much shorter position as the next election nears – and it’s the debate over that which is what will really matter.

Tempting though it is to find reason to object to the motion calling for the party to win elections … I suspect the motion itself will not be controversial (unless there is an amendment submitted which kicks off a dispute). Rather, it will give people the opportunity to talk on a wide range of matters and it is the tone and balance of those contributions which will be the more revealing and, possibly, the more influential.

An overwhelming vote for a motion that says no to pre-election pacts and no to picking a preferred post-election partner may also be useful in both quieting some of the more fanciful speculation in the Conservatives and the media, and also in reminding one or two Liberal Democrats what the party overall thinks.

The full text of the strategy motion (F16) is in the conference agenda and directory embedded below.

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference Agenda and Directory 2011

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The Liberal Democrat challenges for 2011: using members and supporters as a campaigning resource

Over the festive season we’re running a series of posts on the main Liberal Democrat challenges for 2011. You can find all the posts as they appear here.

Looking back through the emails I have received from the party centrally since the formation of the coalition, very few have asked me to do anything. Some have asked for money, requested I come to conference or suggested I go and help in elections – but even those, whilst being good stuff, have been drawn from a very narrow conception of what members and supporters can do. When it comes to policy areas, campaigning …

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Strategy consultation: one cheer and one boo

As Ed Maxfield wrote about last month, the LibDem conference in Liverpool will see a consultation session on the party’s strategy and priorities. Penned by Gordon Lishman, the paper is a good starting point for debate and goes through the obvious yet important questions, such as how does being in government change the party’s approach. Being a paper from Gordon it also places many of the questions in a broader context, with nods towards history, community politics and the variations in political perspective across the UK.

Reading through it, there was one section I found particularly welcome, and one rather too conventional.

The particularly welcome section was this:

How can we create a liberal movement?

The liberal movement goes beyond party, asserting our leadership on a wide range of issues and themes, including climate change; civil liberty, equality and human rights; political reform; rural affairs; and many more. This is partly a matter of working with other campaigning organisations, think‐tanks and popular movements where our goals coincide; it should also involve Liberal Democrats in leadership of such organisations: what better role for Parliamentarians outside government and other competent members of the Party? For instance, how do we build on Liberal Democrat overall responsibility for human rights: in the Foreign Office, Home Office and Ministry of Justice?

Gordon LishmanGordon’s absolutely right about the need to place our electoral campaigning and our work as a political party in a wider campaigning context. The debate we will be having at conference about marriage being open to same-sex couples illustrates this. It’s a cause dear to many liberal hearts, but is by no means exclusive to Liberal Democrats. Cross-party support is often a key ingredient in securing legislative change. Moreover, the issue is not just about what Parliament does or doesn’t legislate. Parliament decides whether same-sex marriages result in the same legal entitlements as traditional marriage. What Parliament cannot directly do is make society hold same-sex marriages in the same esteem. The emotional and cultural parts of equality come from how we all feel and behave. That requires broader change and campaigning than the MPs of one party trooping through the right lobby in Parliament.

The part of the document that struck as me as far too conventional is about regional parties in England:

The English Regional Parties should have a key leadership role in supporting and motivating activists, representing the Party publicly, influencing the UK Party and ensuring that we have the right candidates in place at the right time.

Those are roles that regional parties have had for a long time and overall they have a very mixed record in many respects. The context in which regional parties operate has changed significantly. It used to be rare in most regions for there to be significant elected Liberal Democrats outside of local government. Now we have MPs and MEPs right across England, with GLA members in London too. Our membership and its perspectives has also changed, along with society more generally, with people often having looser geographic roots and interests and instead placing themselves more firmly in non-geographic communities which share particular interests. At a time too when many councils are looking to share large amounts of their back office organisation with neighbouring councils, to simply restate those roles for regional parties misses out the bigger questions of what they should be for.

Do regional parties really have a role in representing the party publicly? When there are Lib Dem MPs and MEPs in their patch could they ever hope to do so effectively? Are regional conferences best organised by many separate teams working independently in each region? How effective really are regions at maximising the number of local council candidates (a very important question in my view)? The list of questions goes on and a good review should address the role of regions rather than work on the basis that the old model is still the right one to try to make work.

Here is the full document:

Liberal Democrats: Party Strategy and Priorities Consultation

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