Tag Archives: your liberal britain

It’s not enough to open up the party

Millions of people know that Britain is heading down the wrong path. Very few know what they can do about it. The Lib Dems have to become home for the despairing liberal millions. It’s now or never.

What’s so wrong with Britain today? Well, we can’t find room for even 3,000 child refugees for starters. We let freeloading multinationals take us for a ride. We’re not doing enough to stop climate change. Millions of families struggle to afford to eat. The young have to earn twice as much as their parents did to afford a house. Women and minorities earn less than white men for the same work.

Focus on this one for a second: the UK is so transphobic that last year a British trans woman was granted asylum in New Zealand. Seriously.

The list goes on and on – and that’s not even to mention Brexit.

Millions of people in the UK today are horrified about exactly these causes. We all know them: our family, our friends, our colleagues.

Take a second to count them – how many do you know? Ten, twenty, more?

Now ask yourself this: how many of them do you think would do something – as small as to sign a petition perhaps – to help tackle any one of those problems listed above?

Fewer, right? But still a good number. Let’s think of these people as liberal activists in the making.

Final question: how many would want to think of themselves as a card carrying Lib Dem? I’m guessing very few

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18 Bold Ideas from the Ashdown Prize

More than 1,140 people entered the Ashdown Prize, organised earlier this year by Your Liberal Britain. Only ten of these ideas could make it onto the shortlist – but there were so many brilliant entries that we decided we had to celebrate and promote more of them.
 
The following are a list of Commended Entries. They are the personal picks of our shortlisters: ideas that didn’t make it to the final ten, but that are worthy of special praise.
Here they are, arranged alphabetically by author:

·    Mental health assessment before military demobilisation – Adrian Grant

·    National post-secondary learning entitlement – Alastair Thomson

·    Link corporation tax to fair pay – Alex Wasyliw

·    Compensate individuals for use of their data – Bansri Buddhdev

·    Set up an NHS national lottery – Brian Morrison

·    Prisoner voting and prison parish councils – Callum Robertson

·    Establish a UK-wide Care Service – Charlie McCarthy

·    Freedom of Information over public contracts – Dave Page

·    Phase out non-recyclable plastics – Dave Parton-Ginno

·    A new capital city for Britain – Drew Durning

·    £1,000 trust for every child – James Thellusson

·    Low-risk prisoners can keep their jobs – Jonathan Hunt

·    Legal aid for suing the state – Jonathan Wilson

·    Legalise a non-binary third gender – Natalie Bird

·    Universal suffrage for all taxpayers – Richard Gregson

·    Introduce credit cards that fund the NHS – Steve Grosvenor

·    Calculate retirement age by life expectancy – Stuart Thompstone

·    Tax relief on investments in the Developing World – Tom Arms

Congratulations to all!

If you’d like to help take any of these ideas forward, come to our Policy Lab at Autumn Conference. We’ll invite you to help putt ideas such as these (and any ideas you come prepared with) through their paces, so that we can all work together with other Lib Dems to polish radical ideas into practical policies.

 
We’re also going to launch later this year a forum to help Lib Dems develop policies together online. If you’d like to stay posted about that, sign up for our mailing list right here.
 

We’re now re-designing the Ashdown Prize for next year. You can read our review of what worked and what didn’t here, and you can send us your ideas for how to run next year’s competition here.

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What would you change about the Ashdown Prize?

Last year, Paddy Ashdown and Your Liberal Britain decided to set up a policy innovation prize. Paddy and I both knew that there thousands of Lib Dems out there who were bursting with good ideas but didn’t know where to send them or what to do with them. We wanted to see if we could help.

Why? Well, Your Liberal Britain aims to convince the Liberal Democrats to become a powerful and inspirational political movement, above all by empowering its members and supporters. We want the party to say to its members: “you share our passion for building a Liberal Britain: we’re here to help you do it”.

The Party’s definitely moving in the right direction: from the new strategy agreed at Spring Conference, to the extremely impressive people-powered Exit from Brexit campaign, to the many ways in which the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) is working to involve members in policymaking, to the greater use of competitions, interactive content and digital campaigning. 

But there is still much to do, and we want to help the party out where we can. We don’t think it’s all that useful – or particularly fair – for us to just stand on the sidelines and criticise the party. The challenge we’ve laid down is difficult, after all, and no-one has all the answers (including us). So instead, we’ve decided to run some experimental projects aimed at helping the party make the most use of its members, and at helping members get the most out of the party. Many of these projects have worked; some of them haven’t; all of them provide useful lessons.

Policymaking in particular is one area where the gap between members’ desire to do something and the party’s ability to use them is particularly wide, despite the great work going on in the FPC. To help out, Your Liberal Britain runs a number of projects designed to help members get more involved in policymaking. We distribute free motion summaries at Conference, to help cut through the jargon; we run high-energy policy brainstorm events, getting Lib Dems to work together in groups to hash out big ideas; and we have an online forum in the works that will help people polish these ideas into robust policy.

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WATCH: Vince’s Q and A at Launchpad North

Those nice people at Your Liberal Britain put on Launchpad North in Sheffield today. Billed as an event for party members to share policy ideas and have campaign training, it was well attended and had some VIP visitors.

Here is Vince Cable’s Q & A:

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Online Champions – an election initiative from Your Liberal Britain

Those nice people at Your Liberal Britain have already changed the way we do things as a party. Their initiatives  to help us create our vision of what a Liberal Britain could look like have been incorporated into the policy making process.

Now they are turning their hands to a new challenge for the General Election.

When you share something on social media, and it’s been liked by loads of people, have you had a look and seen whether it’s actually been liked or shared by someone who isn’t already a Liberal Democrat?

Social media can be a bit of an echo chamber. That’s why Your Liberal Britain has decided to tackle that to widen the reach of Lib Dem messages.

YLB’s founder Jim Williams told me:

The thinking behind the initiative is that thousands of Lib Dem supporters work hard every day to make the case for the Liberal Democrats online – but all too many struggle to break out of their echo chambers. And they often lack access to the party’s messages, not knowing which topic to best tackle at any one time.

The Online Champions community empowers these activists to break out of their echo chambers and speak directly to voters, not just to their friends.

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Britain in 2030 essay competition: And the winners are…

It’s been a busy few weeks! Your Liberal Britain’s competition to write the party vision statement closed in early January. Since then we’ve had 30 volunteers reading and re-reading the 197 entries we received to produce a shortlist, working from a rigorous set of criteria rooted in the ideas contributed by the 7,000 members we consulted last year.

Now our group of seven judges – including Lib Dem Voice’s very own Caron Lindsay – have selected our winner and runners-up.

But first – why do we need a vision statement? As a party we struggle at times to explain what we stand for: our values mean the world to us, but they can be hard to communicate. Tim Farron is energetically rebuilding the party as a social movement with a common purpose, and our determined stance on Brexit is building support and momentum both.

At the same time, our opposition to Brexit does not in itself explain who we are or what we want to achieve more broadly – nor will it continue to be the defining issue in politics indefinitely.

To support Tim’s work, we need a party-wide conversation about what we stand for. Your Liberal Britain has worked to provide that conversation, hearing from more than 7,000 people and running 67 events up and down the country.

Our approach is simple: to best explain what we stand for, we should describe how Britain could be different if we Lib Dems had our way.

Blair and Thatcher each had more than a decade in government to remake Britain. We can still feel the consequences today. What would the UK be like after a decade of Lib Dem government?

We need a short, simple, inspirational description of how life in Britain would be better if the Lib Dems had their way. Your Liberal Britain’s ‘Britain in 2030’ competition is our effort to write that vision statement.

The authors of the winning and runner-up entries will now form a writing group, along with four established writers in the party who we’ve invited ahead of time. Working from the winning entry, these seven writers will collaborate to produce a vision statement that the whole party can get behind.

We’ll start work in mid-February, and take as long as we need to get it right. If we do our jobs well, this document could guide our policy making, inform our campaigns and communications, inspire our members, and support our candidates and elected representatives.

So who are the winners? First up, here are the authors of the nine entries we shortlisted:

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Last chance to submit your entry for ‘Your Liberal Britain’

What would Britain look like in 2030, if we Lib Dems had our way? That is the challenge set by Your Liberal Britain.

Before Christmas Sal Brinton reminded us in an email:

If we do this well, we’ll not only inspire manifestos and campaigns for years to come, but we’ll also inspire the people in this country who are looking for leadership through difficult times. Your ideas could help give them that leadership.

The authors of the winning entries will be invited to join Your Liberal Britain’s writing group, who’ll work together to take a shared vision to Conference in 2017. If it passes a vote, your contribution could become the official party vision.

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What would Britain be like in 2030 if the Liberal Democrats were in power? Your chance to shape our vision

Last year, Your Liberal Britain was founded by five new members who were keen to set out a clear statement of what a Liberal Britain would look like.

Their work has been supported by the Federal Policy Committee and they have already conducted a wide-ranging consultation. You can read some of the contributions made on this site here.

Now they are taking their work to the next stage with a competition, for which the closing date is 23rd December. Members are asked to set out what Britain would look like in 2030 if the Liberal Democrats were in power. Your Liberal Britain says:

As a party we struggle at times to explain what we stand for: our values mean the world to us, but they can be hard to communicate.

To overcome this we need a short, simple, inspirational description of how life in Britain would be better if the Lib Dems had their way. We need to supplement the preamble to our constitution with a temporary vision statement that helps communicate its statement of our permanent values to the people of Britain today.
We can then use this document to guide our policy making, inform our campaigns and communications, induct our new members and support our candidates and elected representatives.

I am going to be one of the judges and another, party president Sal Brinton, explains a bit more about the competition.

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Your Liberal Britain – Oxford East Event

Your Liberal BritainWhen asked to chair a meeting in Oxford East for the Your Liberal Britain initiative my heart sank. Having been through all the Lib Dem soul-searching last year, written a post-election blog, My Vision, and an Agenda 2020 essay, the last thing I wanted was more philosophy and discussion on values. But I agreed to host and I’m glad I did!

The event attracted a room full of people, more than our usual events, and the majority of the audience were new members. They hadn’t yet gone through the existential angst of figuring out our party’s identity and the way forward. They were fresh, full of ideas and raring to go!

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The ‘Your Liberal Britain Survey’ and One Liberal Vision

Not long ago, I responded to the ‘Your Liberal Britain’ survey.

I am pleased with this kind of democratic engagement. When I look at what (as it seems to me) is a high degree of engagement with grassroots Liberal Democrat members, I see some difficulty or constraints; there is a degree of uncertainty about what our party stands for, and what goals and ideals it should pursue. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, this constraint is also an opportunity: to provide an alternative to the Conservative Party’s wrecking project against the foundations of this society; and again, it can …

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What should be in the Lib Dem manifesto if there’s a snap general election?

How would you spend £2 billion?

That is one of the questions in a survey to party members asking for their opinions on our platform for a snap general election.

My answer was on house-building. If people have somewhere safe and secure to call home,  that has such a huge positive impact on every other area of their lives.

The difficult bit was then explaining where you would get the money from. That, for me, was easy – take it from defence and most especially the budget line that goes “like for like replacement for Trident.”

Many people think that the prospect of a quick poll has now receded, but if Labour are still imploding next Spring, would Theresa May resist the temptation to kill them off for good and aim for a much increased majority? Of course, that gamble may not pay off – and it’s our job as Lib Dems to make sure that it doesn’t. Making sure we have a strong message is a good exercise to complete anyway so even if there is no election, this is very important work.

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Your Liberal Britain: It’s not about the words: it’s what we mean by them

Your Liberal BritainA Liberal Britain has to be three things

It has be free, is has to be tolerant, and it has to be fair.

But those are dangerous words. Not because people disagree openly with them, but precisely because hardly anybody does. They are safe happy fluffy words that everyone nods along to, but then take to mean many different things and can use to justify more or less anything.

So what do I mean by them and what do they look like?

Freedom clearly must include a lack of state interference in area where the state has no business, like reading my emails or dictating my lifestyle choices, for example if I want to choose to use cannabis, or to choose to end my life, or indeed to eat sugary food. I should add in fairness that eating sugary food is the only one of those choices that I intend to exercise whilst writing this article, but that is not the point. We must allow people choice and not insist that everyone values the same thing or pursues the same goals.

However this negative freedom, the lack of legal limits to actions that primarily affect yourself, isn’t enough. A liberal Britain must also value positive freedom, tackling Beveridge’s five giants of poverty, idleness, ignorance, disease and squalor so that everyone has equal opportunities. This requires a government role: a locally accountable education, a National health service, a rehabilitative justice system. A Liberal Britain must not fall prey to the temptation to radically strip back the state on the grounds that it increases choice. For many people it doesn’t.

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Liberal Britain – Changes for the better

Your Liberal BritainA Liberal Britain cannot simply consider this country alone. The picture must include Britain in Europe and the wider world. The vision should be long-term, not simply the life of the current Parliament. I suggest:

  1. A United Federal Kingdom. The existing Parliament suffices as a federal one, provided voting on matters of sole concern to England is restricted to English MPs. At present many issues relate to the ‘four nations’ but the more powers are devolved to Scotland etc the more likely federal concern will be limited

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Liberal Britain

Your Liberal BritainPolitical democracy; what does this actually mean? In 1948, Winston Churchill in a speech stated ‘The government is the servant of the people and not its master.’ Let us look at what that statement means today.

Pressure groups form or back a political party with the sole purpose of getting that party elected and getting the policies that they want enacted put into place. Policies are packaged into a bundle along with others and sprinkled with ‘glitter’ and put to the public to vote upon. Election campaigns consist of each party telling the public that this bundle of policies is ‘the only way for Great Britain to prosper’, what a terrible set of proposals the opposition have and that their leader is not a very nice person. Recognise the scenario?

And where do the wishes of the body of the public fit in?

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Your Liberal Britain: What would a Liberal Britain look like?

Your Liberal BritainHow many times have you heard it? “What do the Lib Dems stand for?” I mean, it’s not as though Labour have been socialists for the last 20 years. There is clearly no such thing as one-nation Conservatives, or fiscally responsible Tories, or compassionate Conservatives. Yet the public seems to think they understand the main parties’ positions.

The typical voter thinks it’s the Lib Dems who have no stance, the piggy in the middle that invited the Cameron treatment for five years. Not a party of government, as our failed campaign slogan confirmed last year. Our position as a party is one of the reasons the Your Liberal Britain group was created. So, here’s my two penn’orth.

I joined the party because I believe that government is about nurturing and investing its citizens’ talents, not putting the fear of God into them, not reining them in or nannying them and certainly not spreading anxiety and mistrust.

Fundamental to our system of justice is the presumption of innocence. We are supposed to trust each other. But recent legislation doesn’t reflect that.

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The vision for a Liberal Britain needs to be ours!

Your Liberal BritainAs a dyslexic, I am probably not the best person to write anything as others are often much more gifted and fluent with the written word than me. As someone educated at a comprehensive school, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a fairly well rounded education. As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I have gone through some struggles, and I know I am not the only one who has had to overcome impediments in order to cope with life. I really appreciate those who, for whatever reason, have had barriers (that I know in a truly Liberal Britain wouldn’t be in their way), and have been able to overcome and unlock their potential.

So many people in the Liberal Democrats have stories of overcoming adversity and making a difference. I believe that this is why many of us are part of Team Lib Dem. A good start to making a Liberal Britain would be to celebrate our Lib Dems members’ achievements and then invest in helping them to advance to whatever their next level is. We are the party of education and our human capital is our most precious asset. We have often worked our volunteers hard at by-elections, but if we give more thought to investing in them, then we can expect to earn dividends of a more Liberal future.

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Baroness Claire Tyler writes….A Liberal Britain has equality and social justice at its heart

Your Liberal BritainThree facts reveal starkly to me that we don’t yet live in a ‘liberal Britain.’ First, overall income inequality hasn’t fallen since the early 1990s, but share of income held by the top 1% has soared. Shockingly, the richest 1% of UK households have more wealth than the bottom half of the population put together. Second, at the top end, the majority of the Cabinet, senior doctors, judges and journalists still come from independent schools. And at the bottom end, 17% of Britons lived in absolute low income households in 2014 ( 23% after housing costs), while 19% of children still live in absolute low income households. Finally, new figures show that the zero hours workers now approaches one million.

My contention is that in a Liberal Britain we’d revolutionise policy by refocusing our party on equality and social justice and use the concept of individual wellbeing as a way to find new solutions to longstanding social problems. The preamble to our constitution sums up our fundamental and enduring values of liberty, equality and community.  My key message is that we mustn’t forget equality – and tackling inequalities – and need to talk more about it.

Being liberal means we have an ambitious idea of what freedom entails, the sort outlined by liberal thinkers such as Thomas Green and Leonard Hobhouse, which sees real liberty as a positive freedom—being empowered to make meaningful choices about the sort of life you want to live as well as contributing to the common good. It also means showing real compassion for the worst off. High levels of inequality in housing, education, employment and a sense of financial security are at odds with a society in which everyone is free and are bad for our health and well-being too As Wilkinson and Pickett demonstrated so powerfully in The Spirit Level, societies with the largest inequality between the rich and the poor tend to have higher levels of crime and less trust and social cohesion. In short, inequality damages our whole social fabric and sense of belonging.

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How can we tell we don’t live in a truly liberal Britain?

Your Liberal BritainOften with questions like these, people use their own experiences to illustrate the lack of (in this case) liberalism in the country. I’m going to do the opposite. This won’t be an answer with figures and alternative models behind it, but it’s this personal experience that motivates me to fight for the Liberal Democrats.

I was brought up in a regular middle class household; both my parents had secure jobs and owned their own house (albeit with a mortgage). My parents were from working class families who struggled to make ends meet, but they were classic examples of showing hard work pays by securing places at university and then respectable careers as a classical musician and in the civil service.

Because of this stability and complimentary working hours, they were both able to encourage my intellectual interests and support me in my work. This meant I secured a place at a great state secondary school in London, and then a place at Oxford University.

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What would a truly Liberal Britain look like and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives?

Your Liberal BritainA truly Liberal Britain would be based on the concept of freedom of the individual and the understanding that this freedom can only be fully realised if everyone is supported to maximise their potential.

So.

It would celebrate diversity rather than stigmatising it. This would enable everyone to develop without suffering from the fears, frustrations and indignities which discrimination brings.

It would continue to skew spending on education towards poorer pupils, improve support for childcare and make it easier for children from modest backgrounds to get the best possible higher education or vocational training. This would give the best chance for every individual to fulfil their potential not just in terms of their career but also as participating members of society.

It would have comprehensive public health programmes and treat everybody needing medical help equally. This would reduce the life expectancy gap between rich and poor and, for example, greatly improved support for people with mental illnesses.

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Liberal Britain is a country where vocational education is taken seriously

 

Your Liberal Britain‘Good for Youth, Good for Business’ is the title of a publication by the European Alliance for Apprenticeships that contains a small selection of organisations, examples and projects linked to apprenticeships in the EU, including examples from Britain.

What makes this relevant to a truly Liberal Britain?

In my view you can tell we don’t yet live in a truly Liberal Britain because:

Apprenticeships are still seen as “second class” in relation to a conventional degree.

Why does it matter?

The word liberal is often associated with freedom of choice, with tolerance, with personal liberties.

I believe strongly that young people in particular should feel free to choose an educational and career path that provides them with fulfilment in line with their interests and talents. In a truly Liberal Britain there are no occupations that are more respectable than others.

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What would a truly liberal Britain look like?

Your Liberal BritainWell, let’s begin with this, it won’t be heaven on earth, but it certainly wouldn’t be hell on earth either.  Liberalism is not in my view, utopian, it is pragmatic and ethical, stemming from a set of principles for governance that tend towards the capacity for any society to thrive.

Britain is class ridden, and economically and socially divided, naturally these groups collude and come into conflict, a Liberal Britain would prevent these special interest groups from overpowering the rights and responsibilities of each and every citizen in law and opportunity. Harnessing to the greater good, the productive capacity of competition through regulation, rather than allowing conflicts to simmer into a demoralising morass through indifference or monopolies.

The different endowments in society suffer if political representation is skewed away from something which reflects the situation on the ground, and that in turn chokes our capacity to thrive, it turns people towards authoritarian solutions. So, a Liberal Britain would have an accessible political system that proportionally represents the will of the people, lives with the compromises that it produces and engenders something more tolerant than we now see. It rests on good will, rather than the desperate and often immoral striving for self assertion. 

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What’s your vision for a truly Liberal Britain?

Your Liberal BritainWhat would a truly Liberal Britain look like, and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives? You can help shape the party’s vision by writing a post for Lib Dem Voice of around 500 words in response to that question.

We all know the Lib Dems exist to create a society based on liberalism and social democracy. We call it Liberal Britain for short. But what would it actually look like?

When I joined the Lib Dems last year, I knew that many of my friends didn’t know what the party stood for. Chatting with other newbies at Lib Dem Pint and at Conference in Bournemouth, we knew this was one of the reasons why last May was such a disaster. Talking together, we realised how hard it can be to explain liberalism: to really get it across to people. Liberalism and social democracy can seem abstract, philosophical.

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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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