Tag Archives: liberalism

LibLink: Tim Farron – What Kind of Liberal Society Do We Want?


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Theos is an organisation which, in its own words: “stimulates the debate about the place of religion in society, challenging and changing ideas through research, commentary and events.”

This week, Tim Farron gave the Theos Annual 2017 Lecture.

It is an extremely thoughtful, nuanced and quite complex speech.

You can read it in full here on the Theos website.

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Liberalism at the crossroads in UK politics

One of the biggest hits the party took during the coalition years was not so much being associated with the Conservatives (though that was toxic enough) but losing so much of our identity. And if we want to have a future as a party, we have to get that identity back.

Our coalition years slogan ‘Stronger economy, fairer society’ was fine up to a point, but it didn’t provide us with much distinctiveness. Associated messaging that framed us as having more head than Labour and more heart than the Conservatives effectively defined us in relation to Labour and the Conservatives. It did not emphasis what we stood for and make clear what a vote for the Lib Dems meant. By the time of the 2015 seven-leaders TV debate, most people could have formulated in a few words what six of the seven parties stood for, but they might well have struggled with us.

In trying to re-establish our identity, there are two things that are essential. Firstly, we need to set out what radical liberalism means in today’s political context. When we’ve done that, we need to frame our policies in a way that both generates a sense of what the Liberal Democrats stand for that the general public can assimilate, and allows scope within that framing for the
formation of shared agendas with parties of similar outlooks.

As a first step towards getting the ball rolling, Paul Pettinger and I have written a paper The Place for Radical Liberalism in the 21st Century. It’s a short paper – just nine pages – because what’s important is to set out the bare bones of what we need to achieve; the flesh can come later.

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Liberals: a fresh message

 

Politics in the UK is changing faster now than ever before. This change gives us the opportunity to take our place at the heart of the UK by presenting a strong, passionate and persuasive liberal view of the world. It also means we may get lost among the crowd. We must make sure it is the former, and not the latter.

Clear, simple messages are crucial to how the country views us. Every opportunity to speak to people is a chance to present liberalism in its best light – distinct, valuable, and making our communities stronger.

The centre ground is stable, but it is also defined by what it isn’t. Strong messages must change that. The preamble to the Constitution of the party is a wonderful piece of writing; honest, inspirational, and clear, but it is not going to be read by 99 per cent of the population. What we need to do is distil its values: liberty, equality and community, and let that shine through our communications.

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

The country needs a new liberalism – the Liberal Democrats must provide it

Liberalism’s ideas, implemented either by Liberal Democrats or by others, have been wholly vindicated. This has been so on free trade and market economics; on the nature of social injustice and the need for a compassionate, intelligent state; on civil liberties and on foreign intervention. Whilst not always heard – and, let’s face it, often unpopular – our party has stood for the best of its traditions in the best interests of our country. With a leadership election almost underway, what is the political landscape in which we find ourselves, and what will our next leader (and the party) have to do to make an impact at the next election and beyond?

It is often stated that the politics of the 21st century will be centred around the merits of an open society versus those of one that is closed. This carries weight; indeed, any lessons to be learned from Emmanuel Macron’s recent victories in France should not ignore that it was on this basis that much of the presidential campaign was fought. The Brexit debate entailed similar arguments, with no prominent defence of liberal immigration, whilst the recent general election offered a choice only between Labour’s state socialism and protectionist, patrician Conservatism. It should, however, be noted that these visions for Britain, combined, won 82.4% of the vote.

A new liberalism, fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century, is required; one which recognises that Corbyn’s Labour Party and Conservative Brexiteers may have accurately diagnosed the UK’s disquiet, but knows their solutions have been found wanting time and time again. One which precisely because of its belief in the European ideal – rather than in spite of it – fights for as close a relationship as possible with the European Union instead of seeking to reverse, at this point, the decision made by last year’s referendum. Most importantly, this new liberalism cannot seek to face the problems of the 21st century with solutions from the 20th – fruitless ideological battles between left and right.

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Observations of an expat: I am a liberal

The Brexiteering Trump supporter narrowed his eyes, curled his upper lip, glared at me and sneeringly stuttered: “You..you..LIBERAL.

I removed the handkerchief from my pocket, wiped away what I believe was unintentional spit from just below my left eye, and gave him an infuriatingly rueful smile.

To many conservative-minded folk a liberal is a threat to their way of life. Liberal tolerance of other religions, genders and cultures forces conservatives into politically correct language which sticks in their throats. The liberal emphasis on equality threatens their supremacy and culture. And liberal generosity is seen as undermining livelihoods and threatening security.

The word liberal is derived from the Latin root liberalis which means noble, gracious and munificient; character traits which I would love to have. Liberalis is also the root for the word liberty which runs golden thread-like through modern western civilisation. “Give me liberty or give me death,” shouted Patrick Henry. The single word “liberty” was emblazoned on an early American revolutionary flag and it plays a key role in the Preamble to the US constitution.

Liberte is the first word in the catchy slogan of the French revolution, and in 19th century European liberalism was equated with parliamentary government and political reform based on equality.

Adam Smith regarded natural liberty as the highest form of human existence and liberal—or free—trade between nations was his ultimate aim. For the ancient Greeks a liberal arts education was the summit of learning and culture.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Blaming liberalism for the world’s political turmoil is just too easy

A powerful riposte from Nick Clegg to those who blame liberalism for all the evils of the world:

My schoolboy history taught me that while Mill was a man of the 19th century he also espoused remarkably progressive causes — free speech, feminism, the environment and workers’ councils. My guess is if he was alive today he’d be on the barricades in favour of a mass, state-funded housing programme while defending Britain’s long tradition of internationalism, including our place in Europe.

But I would say that, wouldn’t I? For much of my political career people have either ignored liberalism, falsely espoused …

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 14 Comments

“Liberal” means “radical” now. Embrace it.

I am a Millennial and I am a Liberal. The former just happened to me, like my skin colour, place of birth and shoe size; I take no pride in it, nor do I feel shame. The latter fact is something I chose for myself, and I am immensely proud of it. I reject hatred and violence as political tools. Why, then, am I writing anonymously?

I teach in a university. In the past few years I have seen more and more of my colleagues deliver lectures in which “liberalism” (not neoliberalism) is used as shorthand for exploitation and racism. Fewer …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 32 Comments
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