Tag Archives: liberalism

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.

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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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Opinion: Three opportunities for us to do better as a political party

Understanding what party membership and political volunteering really means to people in 2015

I have always felt that we have missed on all the learning from the voluntary sector about how to motivate and engage volunteers, but in 2015 we need to go even further than that. Just like the electorate we need to know a lot more about our members, their motivations, their skills and the ways they want to be useful.

Technology allows to engage all our members in different ways that are not bound by geography (which bearing in mind our lack of organisation in many local parties this …

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Opinion: Politics as if we were in the 21st century

 

So, we’ve had a bounce of new members. The fight back begins and we’re planning how to make the Lib Dems strong again. All great stuff.

But hold on a minute. This is the biggest opportunity in my lifetime to change progressive politics for the better, and drag parties that were born in the 19th and 20th centuries into the 21st. But if we’re to grasp that opportunity, surely we need to think beyond just our own party?

I’ve written elsewhere about how the Liberal brand is weak – see: The Lib Dems need to appeal to people’s hearts, not their heads  – but more fundamentally, politics is weak. About a third of people don’t vote at all whilst many (a majority?) view politicians as self-serving, elitist or irrelevant to their lives. Even those who vote often do so without enthusiasm. Will all this be changed by a resurgence of the Lib Dem party alone? I doubt it will be sufficient.

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Opinion: The Flame

phoenixWe are rebuilding.  Nick Clegg said in his resignation speech that we face the task of nurturing the flame of British Liberalism.  But as we rebuild, what does – what should – British Liberalism mean?

This seems like something worth discussing.  We are a broad church with many roots: our forebears were Liberals and Social Democrats, but we incorporated the Pro-Euro Conservatives too, and many more of no former alignment.  So, we’ve got this flame of British Liberalism, and if the attitude of the party members and our spectacular membership surge are anything to go by, it shouldn’t be going out any time soon.

Right.  What does British Liberalism mean to me?  For me at least, two things spring immediately to mind before all else.

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Opinion: Do voters really know what Liberalism is?

 

Nick Clegg’s resignation speech made me cry. It really hurt. As a result, I became part of the post-election #goldsurge. The speech made me realise that I needed to do more than just vote and join the party, in order to support the cause for liberalism.

But wait… support “liberalism”?! I’ve never uttered that word before.

Before that speech, I didn’t identify with the word “liberalism”. From a marketing perspective (my professional experience is in social media marketing and content branding), the key “Unique Serving Point” of the liberal democrats is our fight for liberalism. That’s our contribution to the issues our country and the world face. Yet, I never once heard the word “liberalism” used throughout the whole 2015 campaign.

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Sheila Ritchie tells Scottish Lib Dems: Let’s reach out to the the internationalist, the iconoclast & the thrawn individualist

Back in the day, I learned how to campaign and how to be a liberal from Sheila Ritchie. She is a bit of a party legend but hasn’t been wildly active in recent years. However, she came back to run Christine Jardine’s campaign in Gordon and she was brilliant. She spoke to the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ members meeting last Sunday and I know that her words about liberalism, the future and the national campaign will interest you. She has given her permission for me to share her words with you. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy:

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Opinion: The Liberal Democrats, liberalism and me

Ok, So I have heard many people asking what do the liberal democrats believe? What is Liberalism? and where do I fit into this? Well, I am going to attempt to answer these questions the best I can without boring you all to sleep. From the Preamble to the Constitution:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.

So that’s the basic stance on the party’s views and where the Liberal Democrats are different to other parties. They believe that everyone has the right to live a good life, and where everyone has the opportunities to be the best they can be, regardless of age, colour, gender, religion, location or how wealthy you are, and we all know that currently and previously, these things do alter our paths and rights to achieve in life. I personally know how this feels as i’m sure many of you do too. If you are not lucky enough to be able to afford to go to a good school your opportunities are lowered, or if you are from say rural areas then your opportunities are greatly different compared to those living in city centres. I believe the same opportunities should be available to all people in all areas of the country (even the world). But, we can not achieve this level of equality if those in charge are not in favour of equality.

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Opinion: We need a positive and distinct liberal identity. And then we must burn it into the consciousness of the electorate.

Voters have rewarded parties with strong, positive messages and punished those with more equivocal positions.

The two clear winners of the election were the Tories and UKIP, which more than quadrupled its share of the national vote compared to 2010.

Most voters pay very little attention to politics, but even they knew what these two parties stood for.  Vote Tory for an economic plan that is working and to avoid instability under Labour and the SNP.  Vote UKIP to cut immigration and reclaim our national sovereignty.

Labour and the Lib Dems, the two main losers, both had messages that were in some sense equivocal.

Labour spent five years vacillating between the Blairite centre ground and being the party of the Left that Ed Miliband clearly wanted it to be.  And in the pressure of an election campaign, it settled for being an ‘austerity lite’ option, reluctant to confirm that it would spend more than the Tories.

The Lib Dems deliberately chose an equivocal message. We said that we wouldn’t focus only on the economy or on addressing inequality, but rather would do a bit of both.  And we defined ourselves by reference to the two main parties and largely negatively; we aren’t cruel like the Tories, and we won’t trash the economy like Labour.

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Opinion: The next 5 years will bring a much greater appreciation of what we did in coalition

For the last seven years, I have had the privilege of working for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

So I’m sure you can understand that the last 48 hours have been pretty tough. Whatever you think of the party, our politics or the decisions we took, there are currently thousands of individuals who have given blood, sweat and tears in the name of our cause who have been bluntly and brutally rejected at the ballot box.

It is a tragedy for the party and for the political cause we believe in: the belief that Britain is at its best when it is open-minded, open-hearted, tolerant and generous.

My job until Friday morning was to be Nick’s speechwriter. It’s the best job I have ever had and will probably ever have. I cannot begin to express my admiration for a man who did the right thing, took a vicious public lashing for it every day and took it all with good grace, good humour and the conviction to keep going because we had a vital job to do.

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Opinion: Where now for liberalism?

Over the next few days, weeks and months there are a few grim but necessary processes which the Liberal Democrats (not to mention Labour and UKIP also) will have to go through: electing a new leader, debating the purpose and ideology that guides the party, and ultimately regrouping to lick our collective wounds.

Perhaps more important than the theatrics of these things unfolding, is the question well what’s next? The decimation of the party as a parliamentary force – following on from the sustained loss of local government Liberal Democrats over the past five years – has disrupted the status quo, and now more than ever a new generation will need to rise up to carry the torch of Liberalism.

Unlike Labour and the Conservatives with their safe seats even when relegated to the opposition benches this does not simply mean a new leader, a new direction and “rising stars”. For the Liberal Democrats we really are back to building ourselves up as a party of local and national government.

In re-building the party we have a stark choice: change versus more of the same. I suspect  this phrase will be banded about plenty in the ideological and strategic battles for the party’s soul and direction, but change must come in the ‘who’ as much as the ‘what’ and ‘why’.

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Opinion: Liberal Youth’s ambitious liberalism

Last weekend I attended Liberal Youth’s excellent Conference in Leeds. This is a regular event that allows members to meet, debate and – this time especially – campaign.

The final item on the agenda was a debate on “Ambitious Liberalism: a Radical, Liberal Voice for the Future”, which I proposed.

Although there are plenty of policy items in the motion, this was not primarily a motion about policy. Most of the individual items were already Liberal Youth policy. As we head into the final weeks of the General Election campaign, it is worth taking a few moment to reflect on what unites us as a party, and that is what this motion set out to do.

In putting together this motion, I took inspiration from the excellent mission statement published by Liberal Reform. In particular, Liberal Reform identifies four key strands of liberal thought, which form the basis of the text Liberal Youth adopted this weekend.

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