Tag Archives: social liberal forum

What do do on the Friday night before Conference

Are you going to Lib Dem conference? Officially conference starts on Saturday 14th September, but if you look at the conference program you will also notice it starts at 9am on that day. For most people who want to be there at the start this means it makes sense to arrive on the Friday before.

If that is your plan and you are wondering what to do for Friday evening, then you may recall that last year there were 2 “unofficial” Friday evening events; Lib Dem Pint and the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) pre-Conference dinner.

If Lib Dem Pint is happening this year then I would happily promote it in this article, but my internet searches have not shown that it is. It was a very popular event last year and I would suggest keep a look out for it next year. UPDATE: There is a Lib Dem Pint and you can find out more here.

But there is an alternative…

the Social Liberal Forum Pre-Conference Dinner

The SLF ARE organising their pre-Conference dinner and our guest speaker will be Siobhan Benita, the Lib Dem candidate for the Mayor of London next year. It is worth bearing in mind that in the recent EU elections the Lib Dems “won” London with more votes than anyone else, so Siobhan stands a good chance of becoming the Lib Dem mayor of London next year.

If this is your first Lib Dem conference, then the SLF dinner is a great opportunity to get to meet other Liberal Democrats informally before conference has even started.

Last year the event was a complete sell out and people were allowed to turn up on the evening without pre-booking.

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D66’s Sophie in t’ Veld MEP confirmed as Keynote speaker at Social Liberal Forum Conference

We delighted to report that D66 MEP Sophie in ‘t‘Veld will be speaking at the SLF Conference and contributing our new book The Wolves in the Forest.  Lib Dem Voice readers who watch BBC’s Newsnight will be familiar with the contribution of Sophie in t’Veld who has frequently been brought on to patiently explain the reality of Brexit. You can register for the conference here.

The new Social Liberal Forum (SLF) book will shortly be on its way to the printers. The editorial group are reading through the contribution and we are impressed by the quality of writing. Lib Dem Voice readers may recall that this book, which we plan to launch at the Conference in Bournemouth, examines a Liberal response to inequality. 

I have just been reading Kirsten Johnson’s (PPC North Devon) really important contribution on ‘Inequality and the Arts’ and , as mention above, I am awaiting Sophie in t’ Veld’s essay (MEP from D66) to arrive in my in box. Altogether we have fifteen chapters covering the topic from a wide range of perspectives.

The title of this new publication is ‘Wolves in the Forest – tackling inequality in the 21st Century’ is taken from Lloyd George’s budget speech of April 1909: “we shall have advanced a great step towards that good time, when poverty, and the wretchedness and human degradation which always follows in its camp, will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests.

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Keynote speech from Tony Greaves and climate change feature at SLF AGM

All are welcome at the Social Liberal Forum AGM, in Manchester on Saturday 25th May with Tony Greaves, Jane Brophy, John Pugh, Louise Harris, John Leech.

I need a new pair of shoes. We have all been on the campaign trail for a long time-local elections followed by the European vote. The Social Liberal Forum AGM in Manchester on 25th  May provides an ideal opportunity to reflect and take stock before we set out for the next challenges. Personally I am looking forward to going back Brecon and Radnor, I was last there in 1985 for Richard Livsey’s outstanding by-election triumph. There seems every chance that 2019 will see another Brecon and Radnor by-election. 

We kick off at 1.00pm with a key note speech from Tony Greaves. I think we can guarantee that he will provide a stimulating commentary on the political situation. The Euro votes will have been counted and we will be awaiting the declarations. Jane Brophy, one of our leading NW candidates, will be joining us. During the afternoon there will plenty of opportunities for everyone to contribute with breakout sessions, one of which Jane will lead focussing on Climate Change.

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Part 2: If we want to win elections we have to denounce austerity

So I was hesitant to get into ideological discussions but the argument often gets made that even if austerity is unpopular we must defend the small government “Classical Liberal” tradition. That argument needs to be answered- yes there has always been a laissez-faire strand of Liberalism, however, the idea that Liberalism only means small government and free markets is an idea that dates from around 1980.

Liberalism has a quite complicated and wide-ranging history from being initially associated with generosity (as in the word Liberality, a liberal act meant a generous one), to the alternative association of the French revolution (describing someone as a “Liberal” was an insult intended to suggest they were radical revolutionaries, there was no suggestion that Liberals were aiming for small government as such, just that they were anti-monarchist.). Liberalism went on to include large sections of the early Socialist movement, including such hailed Classical Liberals as John Stuart Mill. Early Liberalism was actually not very much to do with economics at all and was more part of the Whig and Republican movements that were about moving from a feudal system to the beginnings of democracy. (I heartily recommend Helena Rosenblatt’s ‘A forgotten history of Liberalism” for more of that story.)

It’s because of these political instincts and aims that when it became clear that unregulated markets were hurting people in the late 19th century Liberals changed policy rather than changing ideology. That’s where the social reforms of Asquith and Lloyd-George came from, leading into the Social Insurance systems of Beverage and the economic theories of Keynes. That’s how the Liberal party ended up to the left of the pre-merger SDP and how the Liberal Democrats ended up to the left of New Labour. It’s not an aberration, it’s just the natural place that Liberalism ended up.

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Am I a Liberal?

On Monday 4th March at 7.30pm if you are in or around London the NLC is the place to be. The Social Liberal Forum is launching its new publication and Ian Kearns will be speaking. Admission is free. Full details are on the SLF website. Dr Seth Thevoz reviews the publication for Lib Dem Voice. The SLF will also be holding a fringe meeting with Ian Kearns about the book at the Spring Conference inYork.

The Social Liberal Forum has given us a very welcome republication of John Maynard Keynes’s Am I a Liberal?, alongside a new essay by Ian Kearns, asking that same question. Indeed, it’s doubly timely, as the piece by Labour defector-turned-Lib Dem Kearns asks some particularly topical questions, at a time when we are still trying to make sense of what the new Labour breakaway Independent Group stands for, or even seeks to do.

Keynes’s original essay prompted a serious assessment as to what liberalism means in the modern world – he argued that remaining Gladstonian shibboleths such as Free Trade and Temperance were not, in themselves, enough to sustain a mass ideology. Instead, he proposed five new dimensions that any Liberal should apply themselves to:

  • Peace Questions
  • Questions of Government
  • Sex Questions
  • Drug Questions
  • Economic Questions

The essay remains ahead of its time in many of its conclusions, and its vindication can be found in the number of ardent Liberal converts over the years, recruited on these very issues – although parts of the essay are also dated. The sections on women’s rights, for instance, are reminiscent of Bertram Russell’s Marriage and Morals (1929), in essentially being a feminist text, written by a man who does not reference any women or early feminist writers. Despite these serious setbacks, the essay is original, and buzzing with ideas; and it is well worth a read, 96 years on, for the sometimes-uncomfortable questions it raises.

Kearns’s essay is a more personal one, following on from some of Keynes’s themes – especially the passages excised from the original version of Keynes’s paper, as delivered at the 1925 Liberal Summer School. Kearns looks at much at other ideologies, and while he has nothing positive to say about conservatism, he focuses his real fire on the modern Labour Party, and its shortcomings as a vehicle for Liberal thought or action. 

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Things to do on the Friday night before Lib Dem Conference

Are you heading to Lib Dems conference in Brighton?  Are you arriving on Friday?

If so, then you may have noticed that the conference doesn’t start until 9am on Saturday 15th September.

Well once you’ve arrived on Friday and have settled down, you might wonder about what to do with your evening. Fortunately, there are two outstanding Lib Dem options for your evening:

  1. #LibDemPint

A popular choice, Lib Dem Pint runs from 7pm to 11pm at the Palm Court Restaurant on Brighton Pier. Tickets are £5 on the door or can be bought in advance online here.This is always a busy pub …

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Big ideas abound at SLF Conference

Yesterday was a fantastic day out at SLF Conference. This annual get-together is always thought-provoking food for the social liberal soul. At this point I should say a massive thank you to the organisers for a great day – and particularly to our own Mary Reid who does so much to make the event a success every year.

Layla Moran followed in the footsteps of the likes of Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and Vince Cable in delivering the Beveridge Memorial Lecture. She’s been in the papers a lot this week with talk of un-named people supposedly trying to support the idea of her being leader. There is no suggestion that these moves have anything to do with her and it seems very unlikely that a new MP with a majority of 800 would be preoccupied with such things. In the last session of the day, she emphatically and genuinely endorsed Vince, saying he is doing brilliantly and is “the grown-up in the room” of British politics. Actually, I think our Golden Dozen are probably the most united, together group of Lib Dem MPs I have ever known. They are all working really well together.

One of the many reasons it’s great to have her as education spokesperson is that you can tell how driven she is. She knows from practical experience what the problems are and has some great ideas about how to fix them. Her frustration at being told to concentrate on the average children and leave the bright to teach themselves and the ones who needed help most to flounder so that the school could do well in league tables led her to find another job.

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My passion for bold and radical Liberalism reaffirmed, as my time as SLF Chair comes to its end

Last September, Paddy Ashdown said that since the coalition, the Lib Dems had not managed to have even “one big, dangerous idea”.  He said in a blog for Lib Dem Voice:

Unless we are prepared to be realistic about where we are, return to being radical about what we propose, recreate ourselves as an insurgent force and rekindle our lost habit of intellectual ferment, things could get even worse for us.

 It prompted him to launch the Ashdown Prize in March this year, and the winner was announced in June—Dorothy Ford, who proposed an idea on food waste which will be debated at the Autumn Conference.  In a blog on Lib Dem Voice, Caron Lindsay said that though the idea was “worthy”, it was “neither radical or new”.  This dearth of new ideas has been besieging the Lib Dems since 2010, and little seems to be changing.

At the Social Liberal Forum, we have been keeping the flame of new liberal ideas burning since the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories in 2010.  We feel that new ideas and renewal/rethinking of old liberal ideas is vital to being the radical force that Liberalism should currently be and always has been.  

I have been known by my colleagues to have said on various occasions, since I became Chair of the SLF in 2016, that “there has never been a more important time for Liberalism than now”.  I passionately believe this, so as my time as Chair draws to a close, and as nominations to the new SLF council are underway, I am re-affirming the vital importance of new, bold, radical ideas that will keep Liberalism as the relevant and necessary force in British politics that it needs to be.

The book that the SLF published earlier this year, Four Go In Search of Big Ideas, was significant for several reasons: it showed that there are many progressive, liberal people out there thinking radically, coherently and sensibly about what we need to do next as a society; that we do not need to be tribal, but can work with others to generate progressive ideas; and that liberal and progressive thinkers are and always have been the people to move politics forward in this country.

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The inspiration for European integration is part of British history too

Two years on from the EU referendum and Walter Benjamin’s haunting observation that “the very past itself is at stake” seems appropriate.

What sort of future Britain will have depends, to a large extent, on how a working majority of voters and politicians understand her past. For, as the UK’s former judge on the European Court of Justice, Sir Konrad Schiemann, noted in a 2012 lecture on the EU as a Source of Inspiration, “what you find inspiring depends to a degree on where you come from and what you’re looking for”. Born in 1937, Schiemann was probably the last CJEU judge to have experienced the Second World War. Growing up in Berlin hiding from British bombs and then, via Poland and the Lancashire Fusiliers, landing up as a law student in Cambridge, Schiemann is clear where his generation were coming from and what they were looking for. His generation of Brits (and many of those that followed) understood the preamble to the European Coal and Steel Community as being part of their history too, despite Britain not having been a signatory to it.

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Kate Pickett to speak at SLF Conference

The Social Liberal Forum exists and campaigns to create a society where everyone has access to the wealth, power and opportunity to enable us all to lead full and rewarding lives, unfettered by social hardship.  We speak for and promote a vision for social justice.  So we are thrilled to announce that Kate Pickett, co author of The Spirit Level and the newly published book, The Inner Level, will be speaking at the annual SLF Conference on 28th July this year.

The Spirit Level, published in 2009, was a highly influential book, going on to sell 150,000 copies.  It demonstrated conclusively the pernicious effects of economic inequality. In more unequal countries, outcomes are worse for almost everyone in areas such as public health, education, obesity and social mobility.

In The Inner Level Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson posit that the growing level of anxiety in our society stems in larger part from increasing social pressures brought about by material inequalities—in effect greater status anxiety.  A recent meta-analysis of studies published in the Lancet Psychiatry concluded that rates of metal illness were higher in societies with larger income differences.  The UK and USA are at the top of the graph on both mental illness and income inequality.

We hope that this link between inequality and the growing tide of mental illness will be one of the focuses of Kate’s presentation at our conference.  However, there is much more crossover between the thinking behind Richard and Kate’s most recent book and the guiding philosophy behind the social liberal movement.  The co-operative model for workers, employee representation on company boards, and an education system that is inclusive and where the professionalism of teachers is respected are also discussed in The Inner Level.

We are sure there will be much food for thought and much to debate at this, our eighth annual conference.  

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The housing crisis – long overdue for some “big ideas”

You can tell things must be getting really bad when even the Conservatives are concerned about the shortfall of affordable houses. Survation recently polled 121 senior Conservative councillors, on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ahead of the government’s publication of its social housing green paper, expected in the next few months.  The poll found 71% were concerned that the £2bn Government set aside for affordable housing in the Autumn Budget will be insufficient to meet the needs of their constituents.

So what solutions do we need?  Alex Marsh, a housing policy expert, has set out some truly radical proposals n the Social Liberal Forum’s new book, Four Go In Search of Big Ideas.  After setting out the commonly accepted “truths” of our current housing crisis, he crucially asks, “Is it all about new supply?  He argues:

A more profound criticism of this approach to dealing with our housing problems is that it is based upon a misdiagnosis. The argument is that if we view the issue in terms of the amount of housing available relative to the number of residents then the country is not suffering from a significant shortage of accommodation. The issue is its distribution .  Some people are occupying a lot more housing than others, many households are squeezing into overcrowded accommodation and others are squeezed out of the market entirely. In this respect the problems of the housing market are in part a manifestation of broader social and economic changes, including changes in income and wealth inequality or welfare reform and increased use of benefit sanctions. We see problems in the housing market, but they are not necessarily problems of the housing market.

It is through these kinds of radical ways of looking at our current problems that we can generate new ideas and new solutions.  And Alex proposes some truly radical liberal ideas—ideas that should be of interest to any true Liberal.  He says: 

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Liberals and Neo-Liberals

Professor David Howarth, formerly LibDem MP for Cambridge, contributes to the new Social Liberal Forum book with a powerful, closely argued essay on Liberal economics. This an extract:

Here is a puzzle: if JS Mill, JM Keynes and James Meade were all Liberals and economists, what is a ‘neo-liberal’ economist? One might have thought that it would be someone who updated their thought to consider new facts and new problems.

In a highly successful example of propaganda and disinformation, ‘neoliberal’ has come to mean the doctrines of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman. But those doctrines are anything but ‘neo’. They hark back to the era before Mill. We need to rectify names. Instead of ‘neo-liberals’ the followers of Hayek and Friedman might be called ‘paleo-partial liberals’.

The next step is to reclaim the Liberal tradition. That was the avowed aim of the editors of the Orange Book, but what some of them seemed to mean was not updating Mill, Keynes and Meade but abandoning them in favour of paleo-partial liberalism. Admittedly the diagnosis was not entirely wrong. The Liberal Democrats, as a political party, had wandered a long way from the Liberal tradition and had succumbed to various forms of conventional wisdom.

But the most distinctive feature of Liberal policy was its stance on corporate governance. From Mill onwards, through the Yellow Book to support for codetermination, Liberals argued for a different way of organising firms, not as hierarchical structures dominated by the owners of capital but as partnerships between labour and capital, incorporating democratic representation. James Meade provided a continuation and deepening of this tradition that should have formed the basis of the merged party’s position.

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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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Radical, distinctive and quite possibly the start of something big

How do we get off 8%? We’ve been at or around that figure in the polls since well before the 2015 election, and despite our very clear and principled stance on Brexit, we’re still stuck.

Maybe we just need some ‘events, dear boy’. We’ve had precious few parliamentary by-elections, which were the lifeblood of the party’s momentum in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and we haven’t had the kind of Iraq War issue that puts us on the right side of public opinion and leaves the Conservatives and Labour on the wrong side. But do we just wait for such an event to arise?

No, we have to grasp the nettle and do something, and if you’re going to be in Southport for the Lib Dem conference, please come to a fringe meeting that involves doing just that. It’s only for an hour, and at 6.15pm on the Saturday night before the alcohol starts flowing. But it’s aimed at starting the ball rolling towards the party finding a handful of policies that can define us as a caring, distinctive and radical social force in British politics.

Entitled ‘Radical Liberalism – defining what we stand for’, it builds on a paper Paul Pettinger and I wrote in the autumn, and which was the subject of a piece we jointly wrote on LDV on 27 October. Many of the responses from LDV readers were very helpful, and have helped shape the meeting we’re organising in Southport in association with Social Liberal Forum and Compass.

The two central thrusts of that paper – which are also the two thrusts of our meeting – are that we need to be defined in policy terms, not in relation to other parties, and we need to frame our policies so others who support what we stand for in elections where we can win (and their preferred party can’t) feel able to vote Lib Dem. There is also an implied willingness to work with people of other parties who have a similar mindset to ours, be it pre- or post-election, public or behind-the-scenes. As elections get closer, the media will try to present a Lib Dem vote as a closet vote for another party; we will find it easier to rebut such coverage if we can say ‘We’re clear what we stand for – if you agree with it, just vote for us!’

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Latest Social Liberal Forum publication: Universal Basic Income as a tool for tax and benefit reform

At the recent SLF Annual Conference in July, a well-attended fringe session discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Basic Income.

My contention, as Chair of this session, was that we now need to be looking more closely at Basic Income, given increasing robotisation and technological change that will massively shake up conventional work, and given that our welfare system is creaking and needs modernisation. Basic Income is a policy that seems fundamentally socially liberal, and so it seems to naturally deserve attention from the SLF and all who are socially liberal.

Therefore the SLF is very pleased …

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Follow the Social Liberal Forum conference today

The annual Social Liberal Forum conference is always nourishing for the Liberal soul. There’s always some proper intellectual heft behind its discussions and deliberations.

It takes place today in London. By the time you read this, I’ll have been up since before the crack of dawn. That 6:25 flight from Edinburgh is not my favourite way to travel but I couldn’t justify the cost of the sleeper.  The last time I was on this particular flight, it didn’t even leave until after 11.

The theme of the Conference is “The Retreat from Globalisation.” That takes the morning and the afternoon will include a leadership hustings (free to all Lib Dem members to attend) and a look back at the General Election.

Here’s how the day will unfold:

Morning theme: The Retreat from Globalisation

10am: Refreshments
10.30am: Welcome
10.35am: William Beveridge Memorial Lecture “Is a liberal and democratic society compatible with globalisation?”, William Wallace
11.30am: Global conflict, Prof Sir Lawrence Freedman
12.10pm: Global warming, Ed Davey MP and Mark Campanale

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Leadership hustings – a chance to discuss the future of the party with Vince Cable

The first Leadership hustings will take place this Saturday in London.

Why a hustings, I hear you ask, given that there is only one candidate? Technically nominations close next Monday, so until then the advice is that we cannot assume that there will not be a contest (although, of course, the chances of a challenge are minimal).

The Social Liberal Forum Conference is holding the hustings at 1.30pm at Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA. Vince Cable has agreed to take part. If any other candidates do come forward before Saturday then they will, of course, be invited.

Whilst any party member is welcome to attend the hustings for free, we would love it if you could sign up for the whole day’s conference. In the morning the theme will be ‘The Retreat from Globalisation’ with some eminent speakers, while the afternoon will be devoted to more local issues including the Leadership election and a review of the General Election. You can register here: www.socialliberal.net/slfconf2017.

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SLF Conference London 15th July – all Lib Dems invited – we need to talk!

 

The theme for this year’s conference “The Retreat from Globalisation “ was conceived 6 months ago. The country had voted for Brexit and the US had elected Donald Trump, albeit on fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Since then however Liberals have seen off the threat from the far right in both Holland and France, but more recently in the UK general election both of the pro Brexit parties, the Tories and Labour, made big gains.

So how do we make sense of what is going on and where do we go from here? There are no simple answers so I would like to invite you to our day conference in London on Saturday 15th July. At the time of writing it looks like Vince Cable will be confirmed as our new leader soon unless a surprise candidate puts themself forward. Vince has confirmed that he will be attending and for most of us this will be the first opportunity we have to find out the direction he wants to take the party. In return we can ask questions which, depending on you, may or may not include a controversial matter that the Radical Association has (successfully?) campaigned on recently.

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Will it be a hustings or a Meet the New Leader event?

Sal Brinton has explained that:

There will be a series of official Leadership hustings around the country (they are currently being arranged, so watch out for details near you), as well as some online or streamed events. In the last Leadership Election these hustings were very popular, as well as the SAOs who may also have social media Q&As with the candidates.In the event that there is only one nominated candidate we will discuss with them continuing with some of these dates as Meet the New Leader events.

The Social Liberal Forum has been quick off the mark. Our annual conference this year will be held on Saturday 15th July in London.

We had already rearranged the programme to include a slot for a hustings, and this will become a ‘Meet the New Leader’ event if there is only one candidate.  The latter seems the most likely outcome at the moment, but not all MPs have declared whether they are in or out, and someone may yet put their name forward to ensure a contest. We will know for sure by next Wednesday.

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Latest Social Liberal Forum Publication Now Available: “Northern Discomfort: An Analysis of the Lib Dem performance in the 2017 General Election”

Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the Social Liberal Forum is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of  liberals—in particular social liberals– everywhere.

We are very grateful to Michael Mullaney for writing his excellent analysis of the General Election results, especially as it focuses on the fate of the party in significant regions of  England.  We now hold only one seat in the north of England (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and looking at the north, the Midlands, Wales and East Anglia combined, we defended only seven of the 16 second places we were defending, and lost our seats in Leeds Northwest, Sheffield Hallam and Ceredigion.

The story of this General Election is undoubtedly the fall in vote share to 7.4%–wonderful as it may be to have increased our tally of MPs by four– and the party facing irrelevance in large parts of the north, and other parts of the country.   This is particularly distressing, as our policies would make such a difference to people living in these regions of England.

At the end of his piece, Michael says,

….there is a large potential market place for centre-left progressive politics.  This gives us the opportunity at the next election to present the public with a progressive, social liberal agenda.

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Naomi Smith’s speech at the Progressive Alliance launch

Last night, a rally attended by over 900 people launched the Progressive Alliance’s campaign to support single anti-Tory candidates in a number of seats around the country.

The event was addressed by Labour’s Clive Lewis, Greens leader Caroline Lucas, Zoe Williams, Paul Mason and Make Votes matter. The Liberal Democrat speaker was former Social Liberal Forum Chair Naomi Smith. She has sent us her speech. Here it is:

I’m Naomi Smith, former Liberal Democrat PPC for this constituency (Cities of London and Westminster), former chair of the Social Liberal Forum and very proud Remoaner!

I’m not standing this time round, but am campaigning in St Albans where with a 63% remain vote, we’ve got a good chance of taking the seat from the Brexiteer, Anne Main.

Of course, we’d have a much better change if an electoral pact between the progressive parties have been brokered. I’m pleased, of course, that the Lib Dems have stood aside in two seats, but am disappointed it wasn’t more. I commend, as we all should, The Green Party, for having done so in a great number of seats. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

What has happened in South West Surrey, where the Labour Party and my own, failed to step down for the doctor running against Jeremy Hunt, tells us all we need to know about the culture changes needed in our parties.

SW Surrey, could have been the new Tatton, where if you remember in 1997, both Labour and the Lib Dems stood aside for the anti-corruption candidate, Martin Bell. This helped to highlight Tory sleaze and bring it under the spotlight during a general election campaign. How differently our parties behaved then. Had we not done that, Neil Hamilton may be restanding as the MP for Tatton in June. If we’d make like Tatton in SW Surrey this time, we could’ve made Tory under funding of the NHS a greater feature of the 2017 General Election.

To change those cultures in our parties is a longer term project. We need to engage in a process of building and reciprocating goodwill and trust. Milestones along that journey in my opinion, should include Labour moving its position on Brexit quite markedly, and for the Lib Dems to rule out working with the Conservatives.

Given the lack of leadership in our both our parties on this, it is now very much down to us, as progressive activists. But before I get on to what Liberal Democrat local parties can now do, let me just put in to context the vision and leadership shown by some:

On the other side of the debate, the organisation has been ruthless. The Regressive Alliance is real. UKIP are giving the Conservatives a free run in 41% of the seats the Tories are contesting. In 2015, UKIP stood 624 candidates. This time, they’re contesting just 377 seats. By comparison, our parties have managed to stand down for each other in around 40 seats. And while I highly commend those local parties that have managed to strike a deal, I sincerely wish it could have been more.

Let’s not fight fire, with dire.

It matters, because we know when we work together, we all benefit. The greatest periods of success for progressive over the last 100 years all involved some degree of cross party collaboration (1906, 1945 and 1997). Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. As long as progressive parties are estranged from one another, the Tories will always be able to present themselves as the providers of secure and stable government.

So what can we do now, right now, to help reduce Theresa May’s majority? Well, we have to try and offset the ill effects of the Regressive Alliance. I’m encouraging all Liberal Democrat supporters in marginal Labour/Tory seats to critically engage their candidates on the key issues of Brexit and that most progressive of issues, Equal Votes.

The reality for Lib Dem supporters is that the Conservatives are generally terrible on the things we care most about, from LGBT issues to internationalism and democratic equality. While we still have this horrendous first past the post system, we have to vote tactically and encourage others to do so  as well.

Tactical votes and non-aggression pacts are what we have left between now and 8 June. And it’s so important that we employ them. As the American philosopher Carl Friedrich said, ‘Democratic order is built, not on agreement of the fundamentals, but on the organising of its dissent’. Or in other words, what distinguishes the health of a democracy , is the vitality of its opposition. If Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders won’t yet collaborate, then we must. And it’ll be no coalition of chaos, but a rebel alliance, and I look forward to working with you all – tactical voting is now our key message, as we begin to build our progressive future. Thank you.

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New SLF publication on the European carbon market

As Brexit continues to hog the spotlight in the British media, there are still important issues being discussed and votes taking place in the European Parliament that Liberals everywhere should care about.

On the 15th February 2017, MEPs voted on a package of regulations intended to strengthen the proposed reforms to the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and added their own amendments.

Tellingly, the vote was welcomed by a number of high-emissions sectors as well as the European Commission but heavily criticised by a number of NGOs and advocates of carbon market reform, with Climate Action Network, for example, describing the compromise as a betrayal of the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. Next week (on Tuesday 28th Feb) EU environment ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss how EU member states will respond to the vote.

The environment and its stewardship have long been and remain part of the DNA of Liberals everywhere.  As part of its series of publications that challenge and progress thinking in a number of policy areas, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is pleased to announce the publication this week of “The European carbon market isn’t working – and social liberals should be worried”  by SLF Council Member Edward Robinson

The article looks at the history of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), analyses why it has not been working in the way it was intended, and looks at possible reforms to the system that would make it more effective at stimulating carbon price inflation and driving the uptake of clean technologies.

As Edward says:

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Follow the Social Liberal Forum Conference TODAY

If it’s a wee bit quiet around here today, that’ll be because most of us will be in London (that’ll be a 6:25 am flight for me) at the Social Liberal Forum Conference. 

It’s the first time a major party gathering across the UK has tackled the subject of Brexit. Party President Sal Brinton, peers Lindsay Northover and Jonny Oates and others will be discussing what to do next.

The theme of the day is Inequality and its various effects on welfare, housing, health, about inter=generational inequality. It’s been planned in conjunction with the Equality Trust which was set up to take forward the ideas in The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson.

Vince Cable will be delivering the annual William Beveridge Memorial Lecture at 1:20 pm.

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Inequality and Brexit

inequality street 4The Social Liberal Forum conference on Inequality takes place on Saturday in Holloway, central London and readers of LDV are very welcome to come along and participate. We have added a morning session on Brexit to give everyone an early opportunity to debate the implications for the party. Please register in advance via the Social Liberal Forum website.  Guest speakers include Vince Cable, Norman Lamb, Sal Brinton, Shiv Malik, Neil Lawson from Compass and Karin Robinson from Democrats Abroad.

So why are we focussing on inequality?

The EU referendum result came as a terrible shock. Just as we started to wonder where we go from here, news came in of the reactions this provoked, one of which is a huge increase in Lib Dem membership. This opens the possibility that the Liberal Democrats may become a major force in British politics again. Another of course is a huge increase in racially motivated violence and intolerance. So we have more Lib Dem members becoming active in an increasingly illiberal society.

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Inequality Street

inequality street 4Six years ago my ideas about inequality in society were given a jolt by the publication of a book with the intriguing title ‘The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone‘, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The authors – both academics – drew on research from many sources to show that societies in which there are huge variations in income are bad for everyone, rich or poor, and that more equal societies benefit all their members.

We might expect inequality to have an impact on factors such as life expectancy and educational performance, but the authors observed its effects in some surprising areas of life, from obesity (‘wider income gaps = wider waists’) to teenage births. And in each case the effect was seen right across the income spectrum. The sobering truth is that, amongst the developed nations, the UK is one of the more unequal countries.

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Opinion: SLF Conference – a brilliant day focused on social liberal ideas

img_8090The Social Liberal Forum is, sadly, a point of contention in the Liberal Democrats for some. The candidate who went first at the leadership hustings towards the end of the conference was chosen by how fast they could name the former special advisor to Nick Clegg who made the case that all Social Liberals in the Lib Dems should join Labour (it was Richard Reeves, by the way, & he said it here). Reeves’ comments  show how far up in the party those critical of SLF are & how scathing their attacks can be. Nevertheless, I do wholeheartedly identify as a Social Liberal, so despite claims of the SLF attempting to turn the Lib Dems ‘socialist’ that I had heard from other members, I attended the conference & discovered I couldn’t have made a better decision.

Firstly, I was struck with how damn trendy the conference building was. It was hosted in the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, & with all its exposed black bricks & flat-white-selling cafe’s I had to check if I was in the right building for a Lib Dem event. Thankfully it was, so I was escorted into the main room for the famous SLF Annual Beveridge Memorial Lecture, this year presented by Baroness Claire Tyler, but not before a quick remembrance to that champion of Social Liberalism, Charles Kennedy. It was done not with a 1 minute silence, but a 1 minute applause to recognise his achievements, which definitely captured his spirit & energy better than any mourning could have done. The Beveridge Lecture itself was intensely interesting, going over Beveridge’s 5 great evils in the modern day (squalor, ignorance, want, idleness & disease – the antiquated language of which was a large point of the lecture) & reminding us that a higher & higher GDP can’t alone tackle these issues, but national wellbeing should always be a priority too.

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Opinion: SLF Conference: Why social justice must be at the heart of re-booting liberalism

social liberal forumThe Social Liberal Conference was held on one of the hottest days of the year so far but not even good weather could have kept me away from joining fellow Liberal Democrats for a day termed as ‘Re-booting Liberalism’. I am a social Liberal because I believe strongly in social justice as a means of addressing the problems of inequality. This must be our fight as a party if the Liberal Democrats are to gain relevance and support from the electorate in the coming years.

The keynote speech was a William Beveridge memorial lecture and was delivered by Baroness Claire Tyler. The whole speech can be found here. Her words as follows set the tone for the day:

I think it is entirely appropriate to be revisting Beveridge at a conference entitled ‘Rebooting Liberalism’. It’s neither regressive nor intellectually lazy to be looking to the past as we seek to move forward. Far from it – we are fortunate to have an incredibly strong intellectual tradition within the party and in seeking to both clarify and communicate exactly what we stand for, we could do much worse than draw on the ground-breaking work of one of the grandfathers of modern Liberalism.

The morning sessions were split into roundtable discussions, open sessions and two fringe events. A very generous and yummy lunch was served. It was a great time to network, catch up with friends and be canvassed for GLA votes.

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LibLink: Claire Tyler delivers the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture

Baroness-Claire-Tyler-1Baroness Claire Tyler is our spokesperson for mental health in the Lords, and on Saturday she gave the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture at the Social Liberal Forum conference. The full text has now been published, but we can give you a taster here.

The title of the lecture was ‘Wellbeing – a modern take on Beveridge’ and she began by saying:

I think it is entirely appropriate to be revisiting Beveridge at a conference entitled ‘Rebooting Liberalism’. It’s neither regressive nor intellectually lazy to be looking to the past as we seek to move forward. Far from it – we are fortunate to have an incredibly strong intellectual tradition within the party and in seeking to both clarify and communicate exactly what we stand for, we could do much worse than draw on the ground-breaking work of one of the grandfathers of modern Liberalism.

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Social Liberal Forum holds hustings for Farron and Lamb

The Social Liberal Forum Conference ended yesterday with a 90 minute hustings between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both men turned up dressed in very similar clothes. As I tweeted at the time, if they had been women, we’d never have heard the end of it.

It was a lively event, not least because they did allow questions from the floor that hadn’t been submitted in advance – and they allowed supplementaries. The candidates were both put under more pressure than they had been at any other event I’d seen so far. There is nothing wrong with vanilla ice cream, but if the other hustings were that, then this one was Chilli and Dark Chocolate ice cream – rich with flavour and full of warmth. When I say warmth, I am not referring to the temperature in the room. The air-conditioning was broken, leading Nick Barlow to make one observation:

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SLF Conference – The Tweets #2

Here’s our second look at tweets from SLF Conference covering late morning and early afternoon. It’s a great day. Remember you can watch live below:

First up a session on how the Lib Dems rebuild featuring Sal Brinton and Mark Pack:

But at the end…

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