Tag Archives: liberal movement

Former Conservative Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell joins the Liberal Democrats

Stephen Dorrell was Health Secretary in John Major’s government and as recently as 2014 was Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee.

Tonight, in an article for The Times (£), he announced that he had joined the Liberal Democrats.

However, we belittle the distinct political traditions of Liberal Democrats, social democrats and liberal Conservatives if we pretend that voices in the “centre” are all the same. The argument for realignment is different. Democratic politics requires its practitioners to build coalitions of people whose views are not identical, but who share political objectives and a commitment to see them translated into reality.

Brexit is the immediate illustration of the issue. Liberal Democrats, liberal Conservatives and social democrats share a strong belief that the UK’s interests are best served by remaining a member of the EU and building in Europe the world’s most effective champion of liberal values. These values, enshrined in the EU treaties, are not, as Vladimir Putin says, “obsolete”; they are the essential ingredients of the success of western civilisation, and liberals should organise to defend them wherever and whenever they are threatened.

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Finding our way again

What was it like becoming an activist in 1978? Well, you were given a bundle of newspapers to deliver. No change since then apparently?  You might also be lent a copy of The Theory and Practice of Community Politics, which you thought about, discussed and, importantly, set about acting upon in all the communities to which you belonged.

Neither the people who had developed this new form of Liberalism and fought for the Party to accept it, nor those who followed this theory and practice in the 80s and 90s, would have thought  that forty years later they would be accused of having no values or philosophy and of just callously saying anything to get elected, which is how this kind of activism is attacked today.

The idea of Community Politics was to create a movement.  It was sufficient in many areas to campaign directly in the many communities to which people belong, at work, at home, in their neighbourhoods and in wider non-geographically based communities.  But it also adopted a second avenue (in what was called the Dual Approach) which was to seek election to councils and parliaments where policy could be changed so as to help achieve the central objective – which was to help people take and use power in their communities.

Our philosophy went back to Mill and especially to T.H. Green and from him to the New Liberals.

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  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 19th Feb - 9:41am
    David, I bought a copy of Plato's Republic in a jumble sale many years ago and still have it on my bookshelf. It is Plato's...
  • User AvatarAndy Hyde 19th Feb - 9:25am
    TCO: Like Dave I sat CSEs instead of GCEs, and yes I failed my Eleven Plus. At 16 I went on to a Student Apprenticeship...
  • User AvatarJohn Bicknell 19th Feb - 9:22am
    I can empathise with some of David Warren's comments. I passed my 11 plus (my parents were told later that my scores were amongst the...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 19th Feb - 9:16am
    Joe, Please try to be helpful. If you think it is particularly relevant, perhaps you could provide a summary for those of us who studied...
  • User AvatarCatherine Smart 19th Feb - 8:56am
    I am surprised there has not been any mention of the ways people can return to learning, including the Open University - but many other...
  • User AvatarAndrew Tampion 19th Feb - 8:31am
    @Martin. Agreed the EU meeds to build bridges by acknowledging that the aspiration of ever closer union is a mistake. that it is too centralised,...