Tag Archives: liberalism

Mods and Libs – who are we?

Some enterprising organisation at our conference, my money is on Liberator, will be selling ‘I’m a Liberal not a Mod’ badges, although I’d be careful not to wear one outside the Brighton Centre for fear of upsetting the Scooter fanatics.

That old rocker Vince Cable has certainly captured the attention of the Party with his March of the Moderates vision, but before it is dismissed out of hand by those who see dangers from opening up decision making powers to non-members, it’s worth looking at how some of this vision is already working in practice, and why fears that Lembit Opik …

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So, what does being an English Liberal mean?

One of the things about being an Englishman by birth, but not by parentage, is that your perspective of what it means to be English can be slightly different from that of those whose English heritage can be traced back through generations.

For me, at least, with an Indian father and a Scots mother, there is a desire to fit in to some extent, and that manifests itself in a generalised belief that people are broadly reasonable, given the opportunity to be so, and that the eccentricities of life here – queuing, cricket, …

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Four Go in Search of Big Ideas

The Social Liberal Forum is publishing this book to contribute to a Progressive Alliance of Ideas, People and Campaigns. Contributors including leading Liberal Democrats and people from other political backgrounds and some from outside formal parties.

The Four are Helen Flynn, Iain Brodie-Browne, Gordon Lishman and Ekta Prakash and the book addresses major challenges facing progressives in the 21st Century. They believe that the revival of progressive politics in the UK must be based on winning the battle of ideas. All four come from the North of England and their approach reflects their anger about the state of …

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


Embed from Getty Images

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.

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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 …

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“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 …

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Brexit, Trump, this will keep happening again and again until we realise our own failings as Liberals

I love being a Liberal. Liberals are smart, we embrace logic and reason and apply it to our everyday lives. Our Liberalism is an international brand, with our liberal friends in many nations, all striving to promote liberty and human rights. We also have a sense of civic duty, which compels us to get involved with politics and seek to try and change the world around us. These are all good things, things that led us to get involved in the first place, however they can also lead us into a self-indulging arrogance that results in an opaque view of the world.

The problem with being a Liberal is that I am too often part of a well-educated, middle class elite, who frequently often mistakes failures or loses with ‘people just not getting it’. We saw it with Brexit. If only the 52% understood they were being lied to – if only they could see past their parochial nationalism – if only they could be more engaged with understanding the arguments and with politics in general. We have now seen it with Trump – how can so many Americans be so stupid?

So let me put across the other side of the coin to my opening statement.

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Lord Malcolm Bruce writes… Liberalism revitalised

I want to respond to the challenges issued by Paddy and Vince during our conference.

Paddy said the party was “intellectually dead.” Vince said our position on another referendum was disrespectful to the electorate.

Let me take on Vince first. We and our predecessors supported UK membership of the European Community from its inception. The SDP was created largely because of Labour’s equivocation over British membership. We campaigned unstintingly for Remain and we remain convinced that the UK ‘s interests are best served by being a key member of the European Union.

Yes, by a narrow margin the country voted Leave but we have not changed our view and, given that there is no clear idea of what kind of relationship people want – in or out of the single market – let alone the hundreds of cooperative agreements built up over the last 43 years.

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LibLink: David Steel: We need liberalism more than ever

David Steel has written an article for the Scotsman explaining why liberalism is needed more than ever in the face of both domestic and international challenges. He praises both Tim Farron and Willie Rennie and urges liberals to “re-assert themselves and support them.”

His comments about the SNP also struck a bit of a chord with me. It’s not just that they stitched up the Scottish Parliament with their majority, giving themselves control of the committees so that they couldn’t be effectively scrutinised, it’s their general attitude to politics. They are reminiscent of Labour in the ’80s and ’90s, with such a sense of entitlement to power and objection to even the mildest, most evidence based criticism. Yesterday, we had three shouty nationalists in the space of a couple of hours in our office. Clearly such intimidatory tactics are designed to spook us. Actually, we enjoy the fact that they are clearly rattled by the scale and success of our campaign. It is very like the days in Derbyshire when Labour thugs would shout at you as you delivered leaflets and it’s sad to see that kind of politics.

Anyway, back to David’s article. He wrote:

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Is Liberalism Dead?

Every day as I read the news and listen to the radio I dread the erosion of Liberal principles across the globe and there seems to be an increase in extremism and antagonistic attitudes toward the most seemingly inoffensive issues. Due to the growth of fascism both in the UK and particularly across Europe it feels as if Liberal ideology is utterly at threat.

The LibDem fight back is about more than a party but an ideal. We need to convince people that we can moderate as well as keep the door ajar to our left wing allies. We must fight the corner for workers and the poor and those lives that have been utterly ruined by the Conservative party cuts. We must keep a balance of sensible politics and reject extremism in any form, right or left. It is not a healthy route to achieve political, social and geopolitical cohesion. Liberal ideas must be kept alive and not end up squeezed out and squashed into nothingness.

The ideas of being Liberal must be at the nucleus of our thinking, behaviour and actions. We need to embrace our historical “founders” Erasmus, Montesquieu, John Locke, Simone de Beauvoir or whoever else you choose as your own personal poster person for liberalism. We need to keep the best of their ideas alive. If we don’t, we risk losing the liberal ideal and getting left behind.

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Agenda 2020 Essay #21: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party has been running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions was in November and the winner was announced at Spring Conference. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

Some things do not change. Liberalism is always, everywhere, about freedom. Historically this was freedom from – from political or religious authority; from the king, the church, or foreign power. In the west many such freedoms have been won, or rewon. But, though freer, are we free from want and sickness, custom and convention, from the pressure of the norm, from worry, fear and hate, from ignorance and prejudice? There are many battles still to be fought.

The test for a liberal is always freedom for an individual, not a sect or class, nor group nor gender – but freedom for the person, however they term themselves. We judge our freedoms by ever-changing benchmarks; as each summit is reached we see distant horizons, further freedoms beckon. Gaining political freedom, we seek social, sexual, economic freedoms now. We are ambitious for our selves. We treasure personal liberties. Being free, growing in freedom, is a process, not an achievement; a journey, not an ending.

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What it is to be a Liberal

“I really mean it when I say that I’m not sure I fully understand politics right now, which is an odd thing to say when I’ve spent my life in it.” So said Tony Blair in a recent interview. A bunch of mavericks and challengers everywhere have turned politics on its head. Why are they being so successful?

What ordinary people everywhere can see and feel in their bones and their everyday lives is that our current political and economic system is unsustainable. Yet the established parties seem to be offering them just more of the same – with the odd little tweak here and there. The electorate seems hungry for something else.

What the mainstream has lost is the ability to re-imagine the world. Mavericks like Trump and others have stepped into that space. We may feel that the new world they imagine is dystopic at best, horrifying at worst – and unacheivable. But more and more of the electorate seems be leaning towards taking a punt on their vision.

After so many years in power, Blair also seems to have forgotten the key to his own early success. He too, when first elected, presented – and embodied – a vision. A vision of a fresh start. A modern, forward looking Britain that was young in spirit and could break out of tired right vs left arguments to find a Third Way. Just like Margaret Thatcher before him had offered people a vision of a post-imperial Britain that could be effective, productive and great again after a disastrous, if well-meaning, Labour administration that culminated in the winter of discontent.

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Jim Wallace’s inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture: Charles’ legacy should be a call to refresh our radicalism

Five days before what would have been Charles Kennedy’s 56th birthday, Jim Wallace, who entered the Commons on the same day as Charles in 1983, delivered the inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture in Fort William. Seeing Charles Kennedy and Memorial in the same sentence still freaks me out slightly. It feels very wrong.

Jim has very kindly provided us with a copy of his lecture so that those of us who couldn’t make it up to Fort William can hear what he had to say. His subject was Charles, the legacy he left of internationalism and an example of always conducting his politics with respect and how his values were shaped by his highland background. He talks about the challenges we now face as a party and how we can learn from Charles as we deal with the challenges we face.

Here is the lecture in full. It’s long, over 5000 words, but, do you know what, every single one is worth reading. Go make yourself nice cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy.

In keeping with many public lectures in the Highlands, albeit of a somewhat different nature, I start with a text: from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 51, verse 1 –

Look unto the rock from which you are hewn.

It is an enormous privilege to have been asked this evening to deliver the inaugural Charles Kennedy memorial lecture; to speak about one of my closest friends in politics, Charles, and how his politics were shaped by his roots in this Highland community, and the Highland Liberal tradition.

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Agenda 2020 Essay #6 What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderEditor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

To be a Liberal Democrat today is a bit like being part of an endangered species. We no longer appear in the media, opinion poll ratings are still low, and we are treated as a former political party. It was ever thus.

In my nearly fifty years as a member of the Party I have seen our fortunes ebb and flow regularly. This is our third dive to the bottom. We have always managed to come back up, and I believe we will do so again.

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Agenda 2020 Essay #5 What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Libby - Some rghts reserved by David SpenderEditor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected]

What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today to me is to promote three basic, yet fundamental, principles to help place in people’s hands the tools they need to make the most of their lives: Freedom, Democracy and Community. I believe that, when achieved, a person can reach their full potential and in turn can help others reach their full potential too.

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Agenda 2020 Essay #4 What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected] 

Liberals by their very nature are people with inquiring minds who want to know as many facts as possible about whatever it is we are considering.

You will rarely see a Liberal reading say the Daily Mail or Daily Mirror because they are little more than propaganda sheets to us. We don’t like our …

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Agenda 2020 Essay #3 What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party is currently running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions is 2nd November. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected] 

I am a Liberal Democrat because I have a sense of justice. Justice means everybody getting a fair chance without the playing field being tilted against them throughout their lives. Justice does not mean everyone being treated the same all the time. Equality before the law is a sine qua non, but equality …

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An Ideology for the Liberal Democrats?

agenda2020aThe new Agenda 2020 consultation on Liberal Democrat Philosophy appears on a special page of the Libdems website which provides the consultation paper and a box for members to submit comments. However, these would then seem to disappear without trace, so that only the privileged will see what anyone else has said. Not a very liberal start. LDV provides a better forum for open discussion, so – here’s my shot.

The consultation paper says:

All political philosophies are based on a view of human nature. … We believe in the essential goodness and improvability of humankind.

Deep breath. Well, OK, I do believe that humans are capable of doing good as well as evil, and that much of the time they don’t really do either. But – surely this is far too unworldly, too trusting, too out-of-touch with life’s harsher realities?

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Occupying the Liberal Ground

In May 2015 Labour were flattened. The Liberal Democrats were washed away. Both parties stunned by surprise collapses and a Conservative majority the polls just didn’t predict was supposed to happen. But whilst the Liberal Democrats fight to rebuild and the Conservatives dig in to their newfound control of politics how can we prevent ourselves moving to join Labour in their denialist quagmire that elected Corbyn?

Corbyn is not a bad person, he is simply the wrong person. Labour’s denial is rooted in the incomprehension that New Labour was a runaway electoral success for the same reason that Ed Miliband was a flop – New Labour was a broad church, extending well beyond Labour’s heartlands on policy and was seen as pragmatic and efficient. Even the Iraq War could not dent that success, leading to another election win in 2005. Labour is delighted to have elected a “real” left wing leader but in doing so it has abandoned its chance at a broad appeal that brings in votes beyond the party’s core. It has abandoned the political centre where elections are won. It is the same reason the Conservatives have leapt out to adopt some previously left-wing causes such as the Living Wage, tax devolution and equality. Cameron and Osborne, bolstered by the mandate of a majority and a Labour Party fleeing left, are setting about building a political dominance not seen since the heyday of Blair.

The reason this is working is simple. The Conservatives have learned how to appeal and approach people who do not think the same way they do. They wrap their innately conservative aims in language and imagery that appeals to non-conservatives. They use their developing foundation as the party of pragmatism and security to push the entire social system to the right – whilst veiled in a centrist screen.

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The case for muscular liberalism

libby on the wall3The Liberal Democrat bird of liberty has never before flown this low. It has been a long 45 years of pride as the only real third party in British politics. Now liberalism has been driven into the wasteland. Politically irrelevant and utterly ignored by the British media. You’d have hardly guessed there’s a new leader with how little has been seen of him.

Back in 2010 the Liberal Democrats stood for three things – The hopes of the young, the distrust of the authoritarian tendencies of the major two parties, and the protest vote. The first they lost in the PR catastrophe that was student tuition fees, the second they lost as a party of power which sided with the Conservatives, the last they lost to the booming popularity of UKIP and the Greens.

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

Liberal Britain?

Your Liberal BritainWe’re told that Britain is a liberal country, that Liberalism is mainstream. After all, every party supported same-sex marriage, the gender gap is narrowing, and even the class system is slowly, slowly, so painfully slowly on the wane.

The state’s attempts to impinge on privacy are rebutted time and time again – or have been up until now – we keep spending on international development even when we’re hurting at home, and each Parliament is more diverse than the last.

We have much to be proud of, and rightly so.

But in a truly liberal Britain, there would be as many women sitting round the directors’ table as men. The best students from our state schools and from our private schools would have the same chances on results day. Our police would look just like the people they work so hard to serve – as would our soldiers, as would our politicians.  

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“Opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind.” Willie Rennie’s liberal values for today’s Scotland

On Sunday night, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made a speech in St John’s Church in Edinburgh. He talked about his vision of liberalism and what it means for today’s world. He looked at the consistency of liberal values in practice through the ages and quoted Charles Kennedy on finding the way forward from the history books.

There’s nothing particularly new in there, and I’m not sure about this “militant for the reasonable person” phrase. Reasonable, is, after all, a very subjective phrase. I’m sure Nigel Farage thinks he’s being reasonable, but generally liberals find what he says deeply unpleasant. Nor am I sure about militant. Maybe that’s because I remember the Labour lefties in the 1980s. We liberals are passionate, certainly, but militant? I’m not so sure. I prefer his summary of liberal values – opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind. Those are very consistent themes for him and he’s been talking about them ever since he became leader. What he now needs to do is show how these values underpin all our policy ideas.

I also liked the bit where he praised the Church’s strong support for equal marriage, saying that they had shown that tolerance, faith and love were “comfortable allies.”

He also talks about how he and Tim Farron come from similar backgrounds and have similar perspectives on liberalism. He ended with a list of things that his small team had done. What he needs to add when he does that is to say how these have actually persuaded or provoked changes in SNP government policy. It’s not a bad record for a small team of 5 MSPs out of 129.

Here’s his speech in full. What do you think?

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A liberal century

In many ways the 20th century could be described as a socialist one.

Internationally parties using that label emerged gaining electoral strength, or in some cases,notably Russia, lead successful revolutions.

In Britain, Labour overtook a Liberal Party wracked by division and by 1945 they appeared totally dominant.But as the century ended the collapse of the regimes in Eastern Europe left socialism of the authoritarian variety totally discredited and the democratic socialist parties in the West struggling to define themselves.

Here Blair created New Labour, dropped Clause 4 and built a new philosophy that turned out to be ideologically hollow. A temporary rise in their electoral fortunes has now given way to what looks like another long period of opposition and the inevitable soul searching that goes with it. Their current current leadership election could even bring about a split.

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Opinion: Liberalism – a modern answer to a classical question

Liberalism.  “You can’t define it.”  “It’s too wishy-washy. “Too centrist. “Too woolly.”

The words of my A level students when they begin their course on Political Ideologies each year. The good news here is that there is a definitive answer. One that students have to learn for their exams.

Firstly, the common values to all sorts of Liberalism. Liberalism is a centrist ideology which is based on the twin values of individualism and a negative/selfish but rational view of human nature.

All liberals also believe in democracy in some form, tolerance, some rights, freedom (see below), and limited government. Not the size of Government, but the fact that all liberals are suspicious of government. Therefore, they believe in check and balances such as codified constitutions, and a separation of powers and devolution, for example.

Liberalism’s first form was classical liberalism. When it came to the size of government, this was very small – the nightwatchman state.  Government should be like a security guard, only awake at night, to preserve our liberty.  This nightwatchman state had 3 functions:

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Opinion: Is faith a problem?

One of the themes which has recurred in the leadership election debates is the question of faith, which I have been hearing in terms of comments on Tim Farron’s Christianity, whether this is a good or a bad thing, how Liberal it is to make an issue over that, and how that places him in relation to Norman Lamb describing himself as agnostic.

This territory is very familiar. For some years I was Secretary of the East of England Faiths Council and very much involved in the engagement of faith and governance. But I have also spent some years doing one-to-one spirituality work, which leaves me very conscious of how much more complex these things are in the realities of an individual.

Religions in general, and Christianity in particular, cover a wide range, from those for whom “believing” something makes it a “true” to those for whom faith is about a deep rootedness which lets them be both resilient and flexible. Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are shining examples of the latter — Nelson Mandela might be an even more striking example of someone whose Christian faith enabled him to step well beyond that label.

I’ll pick up two contrasts:

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LibLink: David Hall-Matthews on Liberalism in anxious times

David Hall-MatthewsIn its quarterly journal Juncture, IPPR has published an article by David Hall-Matthews entitled “Liberalism in anxious times: Constructing a clear, positive liberal vision for society“.

David’s starting point is Nick Clegg’s resignation speech in which he said that liberalism was under threat, and not just in the UK. Is that true?

Globally, Putin’s neo-dictatorship and ISIS terror are fundamentally illiberal – but they are no more significant than recent liberal turns in international relations, such as the increasing economic strength and political integration of the BRICs.

In the UK context, is the astonishing success of the Scottish Nationalist party (SNP), with its broadly social-democratic approach, really a threat to liberal values? For Clegg, having fought a centrist, makeweight campaign, all radicals are a threat. He went as far as to cite ‘unity’ in his speech as a fundamental liberal value, though it could be argued to be the opposite of liberal respect for difference. Ed Miliband, too, found himself forced to decry the SNP as a nationalist danger, primarily for tactical reasons. Both ultimately found it difficult to convince floating voters that their differences from the SNP were greater than their common values.

After the general election debacle, and with a Lib Dem leadership campaign underway, there is an opportunity, as well as a necessity, to set out a clear, positive liberal vision for society.

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