Tag Archives: liberal democrat values

A new framework: Ideology and Values

A leading Lib Dem politician was kind enough to embrace ideas l advocate to use the existing housing stock to create affordable, social, market tenancies. As for societising the economy using new corporate form, quite correctly he pointed out that social enterprise exists already. Result, disappear into a cosy bunker and write about the politics of society and develop a coherent narrative of market societism, a free-market economy which operates for the common good. As l approach my final chapter l determined to keep my own counsel, until yesterday when l read an article by Daniel Finkelstein questioning the point of our party.

In his article, using at times inflammatory language, he accuses us of being an obstacle to the creation of a coherent alternative to the Conservative Party. I disagree profoundly with this assertion but he identifies a foundational issue, that to be successful a party has to “represent either a distinct ideology or a significant demographic group”.

We are a party of values but eschew ideology, understandably so and for good reasons; as the historian Thomas Bartlett wrote, our forbear party, the Liberal party was conceived in “gentler times”. Our ’gentle’, humane and considerate view of a fair and just society chimes with modern notions of well-being and an instinctive understanding of need and the common good.

The politics of society are those of collective well-being without sacrificing the significance of the individual. This is the ideology suited to our modernity, not driven by power and control.

As individuals, we may not be shareholders, we may not believe the state has all the answers but we are all members of society. This is our demographic, what is called the Centre ground of British politics. Our demographic is identifiable, everyone who values mutual interdependence and asserts collective rights,

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Why be a Liberal Democrat and an ‘Orange Booker’?

A recent post in the ‘Why be a Liberal Democrat?’ Christmas competition on LDV had me nodding along in agreement for the first few paragraphs (yes, Labour are hopeless, and despite this our party is in a perilous position), but the nodding stopped at the abrupt veer into advocating for getting rid of ‘Orange Bookers’ in the party.

As a board member of Liberal Reform, which (fairly enough) is regarded as the pressure group for Orange Book fans, I’ve never really understood why some party members are so bothered by us. Though Liberal Reform members tend to be quite supportive of building more homes to lower living costs (and therefore sceptical of anti-development activism), see international trade as something to be encouraged, and take a dim view of attempting to regulate lifestyles (e.g. clamping down on vaping), these views are hardly anathema to liberalism. Nor do they constitute an excessively libertarian take on the role of government. You’ll find our board members advocating for restoring legal aid funding, as well as more ‘traditional’ Liberal Reform topics like taking a more permissive approach to drug policy and using competition to lower prices.

While the author of the post was happy to say he ‘respected’ Orange Bookers, the lurid claim that the book’s contributing authors (Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Susan Kramer, and Ed Davey among others) pursued market-friendly ideas to advance their own careers was an unfortunate slight on many of our current and former parliamentarians. I have no doubt that the Coalition damaged our electoral popularity, but can’t see how the electoral math in 2010 allowed for anything other than entering government with the Conservatives, with many of the policy compromises that came with this.

What matters now is how we position ourselves going forward. Wholesale disowning of our only time in government since WW2 is unlikely to bear fruit, so that leaves promoting what we got right (e.g. the pupil premium, lifting the lowest paid out of tax, and reducing carbon emissions), and crafting new policies on matters like legal aid access and immigration policy where we gave the Tories far too much say over.

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Ian Kearns: Why Liberal values are the answer this country needs

Ian Kearns joined the Liberal Democrats from Labour in the Summer. He gave a barnstorming speech to the rally at Federal Conference in Brighton. 

This Autumn, he has spoken at both the Yorkshire and London Regional Conferences. The speech below was the keynote speech at the Yorkshire and the Humber conference three weeks ago and Ian delivered a version of it at a fringe event at the London conference yesterday. 

The most powerful section of his speech is on what we stand for:

I’m here today because this is the party that is ready to fight the politics of division and hate, and I intend to be part of that fight.

I’m here because I know we won’t beat the extremists of left and right by mimicking their message or by defending the status quo, but only by radically extending the liberal commitment to equality of opportunity to the millions of people in our country currently denied it.

I’m here because I won’t stand idly by and watch the disaster of Brexit unfold.

We know the Leave campaign lied to the country; we know they’ve failed to deliver; and now the people must have a vote on the truth!

I’m here because our forebears didn’t see off the fascists in the last century so we could sit back and watch fascism rise again in this.

I’m here to fight for a patriotism that celebrates the divides we bridge and our achievements as a people, not for one that drives a wedge between one community or nation and another.

And I’m here because I want to look my children in the eye and know they have a good chance of a life of happiness and fulfilment in a country at peace with itself.

A country where they will be judged not by the colour of their skin, their race, religion, gender or sexuality but by the content of their character.

A country of free men and women where we all have equal rights and equal opportunities because if these rights and opportunities are denied to anyone, then none of us are truly free and our country is not truly free.

A country where politics is conducted in a civil manner, because between anarchy on the one hand, and the settlement of our political differences through violence on the other, liberal democratic politics is all there is; and the only ones who benefit from cynicism about politics are those with a vested interest in maintaining the status-quo.

I’m here too because I want my children to grow up in a country that doesn’t fear the outside world, but equips its people to go out into it, experience it in all its wonder, and work with others to shape it to humanity’s common cause.

A country where we take power out of the hands of bureaucrats in Whitehall, and put it into the hands of the people, who know what their challenges are and have good ideas on how to meet them.

A country that doesn’t fear new technology but becomes a world leading centre for the productive and ethical use of it.

And a country that was once the birthplace of the industrial revolution, seized by the climate emergency and geared up both economically and diplomatically to meet it with a new age of green revolution.

It’s powerful and inspiring stuff. Here’s the speech in full.

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Scottish Conference Countdown: The values document (relevant to all Lib Dems, not just Scots)

On Saturday October 24th, the Scottish Liberal Democrats hold their Autumn Conference in Dunfermline.

One of the items under discussion will be a Values document. This is an attempt to find that elusive melody, the narrative on which all our policies are based, a statement of who we are and what we’re for.

Have a look at it here.

A lot of this isn’t Scotland specific so even if you’re not Scottish, it’s worth taking a look. What do you think of it? Here’s a summary of the main principles:

Scottish Lib Dems Values Document

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Opinion: Non-Linear Values: The Z Coordinate

Since the General Election arguments have raged over whether we, or particular people in the party, are centrist, left of centre or right of centre, and, if so, how much left or right of centre.

I think we are getting this wrong. It is not a linear issue. If I am a kind person, am I left of centre or right of centre? If I am selfish, am I left or right of centre? Why do we limit ourselves by a linear construct?

Rather than see liberal values, and the placement of Liberal Democrats on the political map, as linear, my view is we must take a non-linear perspective. Values are overarching. Promoting liberty, equality and community might sometimes involve what might be called right leaning policy, at other times left, but whether it is one or the other or neither is immaterial. What is important is whether the policy achieves liberty, equality and community. Those overarching values should be the litmus test for any policy.

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Opinion: A focus on values


Prior to May 11th I had not read a manifesto, been on a political party’s website or looked for sites like LibDemVoice. My exposure to politics was limited but I had always voted LibDem, mainly because LibDems always seemed to resonate with me whereas other politicians, more often than not, had me shouting at the radio.

In this election I was taken in by the politics of fear and almost changed my vote, although at the last moment I stuck with my gut feel and voted LibDem again. I sat down to see what the exit polls were saying and could not rationalise my feelings of sadness and shock when I saw what was predicted. The next morning I watched Clegg’s resignation speech and felt I had to do something.

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Opinion: “Values” and Party

There has been a lot written about the importance of “values”. I’m not convinced.

Talk about values reinforces the idea that one can pick and mix principles and ideas – just as with policies, one can put together a package which suits your pocket or your likes and then decide which party at any one time best meets your need to vote. Or, indeed, you can just campaign on one or two which happen to strike you as most important.

This view encourages the idea that party is an outdated concept and often inconvenient if there happen to be some bits of your party’s policies which you don’t like – which there always will be in an open and democratic community. In this world of values, party affiliations are worn loosely and are often transient. I want to proclaim the importance of both party and philosophy.

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Opinion: Back to the core

A little while back, like many candidates, I responded to an email from simplepolitics.co.uk and made a 30 second video to encourage people to vote  for me as a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate. It mentioned a few policy headlines, not least that we were the only party committing to provide the additional £8Bn the NHS is predicted to need by the end of the next parliament.

In seemingly no time at all, the Tories made the same promise (I am spinning this as a Liberal Democrat policy victory even before the vote). Then The Economist ran a provocative article about how the Conservatives were seeming to appeal to workers and Labour to business, in a way that showed how confused the campaign was getting. I began to have some sympathy for people I was canvassing who said they couldn’t make up their minds “because all politicians are saying the same thing”. On that logic it is especially difficult for us as we are most likely to be delivering our manifesto commitments in coalition with another party, so things that are highly distinctive are also things we might struggle to get into a coalition agreement (as happened with tuition fees last time).

I’ve found myself moving from what we will do that is different, to what are the core values that animate us. That’s not to wriggle away from policy, but is to articulate something quite fundamental that we will bring to the process of forming a new government, from which the policy ideas flow.

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