We must remember who we are fighting for

I’m a man. I’m cis. I’m gay. I’m middle-aged (oh come on…approaching!). I’m middle-class (yes, I can de-stone an Avocado without cutting myself).

I am also a liberal. I am also a Liberal Democrat.

We must, as liberals and LibDems, absolutely remember the most famous part of our oft-mentioned pre-amble to our constitution:

“…no one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

No one. No ONE person, shall be enslaved by any of those facets of liberalism.

Every time I’ve gone to quit the party, or cause an uproar with a fiery post, I keep coming back to these 3 areas, where we believe no ONE shall be enslaved.

I oppose libertarianism, because whilst it favours the individual, it does so without a social context.

I oppose socialism, because I don’t believe it’s right for a group of people to decide what’s right for society, and then pass laws so that the rest of us do what we’re told is right for us.

I do support, and will always support, a social liberal focus on society, the being enslaved at all is wrong. Imagine being enslaved simply because you’re a woman, a man, or a gender of X or none, that you’re LGBT+, or not, of a set faith, or not. If you’re rich or middle-income, or poor, or in poverty, or homeless. Whether you are facing a mental or physical illness, or of good health, of being short, or tall, or fat, or thin, or the dreaded “in-between”, of any skin colour, race, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes us to be…human.

We support human rights without question. We are all human. So, let’s be liberal. Let’s be Liberal Democrats. Let’s ensure that no one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity.

The state must always answer to the people. And the people are made up of “ones”.

It’s time we stopped tolerating the ones, and started accepting, loving and cherishing them. Even if, and especially if, they are different to us.

To quote a favourite tv show of mine, “The universe speaks in many language, but only one voice.”

We are that one voice. It’s time we understood that.

Let’s be liberal. Let’s be Liberal Democrats.

Please, let us be – ONE.

* Lee has long campaigned on mental health in and out of the Lib Dems, he is the PPC for Birmingham Ladywood and speaks for the Party on Health, in the West Midlands.

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  • Frances Alexander 18th Jun '17 - 9:41am

    I admit I find it difficult to accept, love and cherish the Brexiteers in our society.

  • I find it difficult to love Tories. Why because their policies appeal to the inner spiteful, greedy, selfcentred person we all can be. I’d rather not be that person but I can see the appeal and it’s something I feel I need to fight against.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Jun '17 - 10:49am

    “It’s time we stopped tolerating the ones, and started accepting, loving and cherishing them.”

    No, not really. I’m never going to love and cherish everyone and I find it bizarre to suggest that I’m somehow not a liberal if I don’t. In fact, I’m going to find some people and some practices weird, or distasteful, even morally questionable, without feeling a need to outlaw them. (No, I’m not talking about gay sex – I don’t give a f— about that.) Some people are going to find me and my practices all those things too. Tolerance is exactly what is needed to make society bearable and I’m fed up of it being presented as somehow not good enough.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Jun '17 - 10:53am

    A wonderful, inspirational article, Lee

  • I’m with Malcolm (above) on this. Loving and cherishing is an unotainable utopian aim for most, whereas tolerance is a fundamental liberal requirement. Try as I might, I will never love and cherish everyone and every point of view, and I’m not even going to try. I will however do my best to tolerate, and maybe even respect (as best I can), those who I don’t like or who’s views I disagree with.

    I also state the obvious caveat that my tolerance and respect does not extend to those that harm others.

  • Brian Robinson 18th Jun '17 - 12:43pm

    I agree very much with most of what you’ve said, Lee. I’ve recently set out what I called a Manifesto for Progressive Politics – but which was about values and principles rather than specific policies, and similar to what you’ve suggested in your article – see http://www.the48movement.uk/2017/06/a-manifesto-for-progressive-politics.html for my version.

    I think it gives the Lib Dems a problem, though, in trying to “own” a distinctive set of principles, because I think most Greens and many in the Labour Party would share those principles (although they may well want to put them into practice in a different way; but there is that sort of difference *within* political parties too).

    Also, I find the disagreement in the comments fascinating (see Malcolm Todd, above), because I agree, in part, with both!

    Lee says:

    “It’s time we stopped tolerating the ones, and started accepting, loving and cherishing them.”

    Malcolm says:

    “I’m going to find some people and some practices weird, or distasteful, even morally questionable, without feeling a need to outlaw them.”

    I think it’s possible to accept, love and cherish people who – or whose practices – I find weird or distasteful or even morally questionable.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jun '17 - 1:14pm

    A very overdone and posturing negative and unnecessary reaction to a lovely article from Lee, made tolerable by the terrific comments from Catherine !

    It is about Mill ! The harm those individuals Lee talks about loving is non existent. He does not talk of loving the wicked , those doing harm even low level !

    I do not think we should even tolerate let alone love those who are doing things that bother others directly.

    Mill said , your right to swing your fists stops at my nose !

    Mess with me and I can turn into Dirty Harry .

    Otherwise , Santa Clause, not Scrooge … is what we want…

  • Sue Sutherland 18th Jun '17 - 1:36pm

    I think accepting difference is crucial in our politics at the moment and cherishing seems to be about looking after the different, which is where policies come in, but I think love is difficult but something that my Christian faith expects of me rather than my Liberalism. I like your reasons for disliking libertarianism and socialism.

  • David Evans 18th Jun '17 - 1:56pm

    The article puts forward an interesting view, but one that to me and probably many long standing liberals, know is a pipe dream. I think a lot more thought, vision and experience needs to be put into it before it could come close to a viable approach to any mainstream political philosophy.

    You suggest “It’s time we stopped tolerating the ones, and started accepting, loving and cherishing them. Even if, and especially if, they are different to us.”

    Do you really mean that? Like the ones who exploit the weak? Like theones who believe that it is OK to kill animals without stunning them (not just religious groups)? Like the ones who believe that their driving skills are so good that they don’t need to obey speed limits? Like the ones who supply legal highs to children? Like the ones who believe that they should be allowed to play their music as loud as they like in a block of flats? Like the ones who prevaricate and cut corners over matters of public safety? Like the ones who support carte blanche the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank? Like the ones who oppose the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank by means of indiscriminate bombing?

    I don’t even tolerate any of them. Do any of us? Perhaps someone could create an argument to consider where one of them could be tolerated, but it would be tough.

    I think you are forgetting the full part of the preamble to our 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.”

    The key words to a Liberal Democrat are the quiet ones “where we seek to balance.” They are the difficult ones, the ones that need hard work considering options and choices, rights and wrongs, responsibilities and freedoms. We all drive on the Left along the road, we all obey one way streets, except for a few idiot cyclists who think it’s all right to risk their own life, but don’t consider the impact on the poor car driver who might mow them down.

  • Mick Taylor 18th Jun '17 - 2:11pm

    And from a Christian perspective. Love thine enemies, do good to those that hate you. Good advice for Liberals

  • Peter Martin 18th Jun '17 - 2:12pm

    I oppose socialism, because I don’t believe it’s right for a group of people to decide what’s right for society, and then pass laws so that the rest of us do what we’re told is right for us.

    Isn’t this an an argument more against representative democracy than socialism? The “group of people” in our system are our Parliamentarians at National level and Councillors at local level. They pass laws saying we can’t hold firearms or we have to pay 20% VAT or whatever. That may not be be right for the individual concerned but it is right for society as a whole. Or it is right that we have to pay some taxes and that we aren’t allowed to walk around with loaded AK47’s slung over our shoulders. At least most of us think that.

    This “group of people” are elected by another “group of people” who are the electorate. Occasionally the electorate has a direct say as with EU membership, or AV voting but that usually doesn’t work out to be to Lib Dem liking in any case.

    So I’m not quite sure how Liberalism can be as distinctive as you’d like. It’s about essentially about making capitalism work for the benefit of everyone rather than just the 1%. Many democratic socialists would say the same thing too.

  • John Littler 18th Jun '17 - 2:35pm

    I disagree with Socialism in it’s more fundamental form, because of it’s tendency to restrict individual liberties, the scope for tribalism and because of it’s demotivating aspects, such as a lack of incentives or sometimes lack of the price mechanism to allocate resources, which often end in worse outcomes for most people, or very many.

    But the hybrid moderate version, Social Democracy can bring better handling of natural monopolies, run more efficiently at lower cost and in the interest of users rather than shareholders. However, it s not a foregone conclusion that public ownership of monopolies and oligopolies ( near monopolies) is always better. They have to be properly set up and resourced with motivated staff, or they can become dismal, over stretched and under performing.

  • Thank you everyone for your comments, I very much appreciate your time.

    I really like reading replies, including those that disagree with me – as that’s sometimes the best way to learn.

    Thanks 🙂

  • paul barker 18th Jun '17 - 3:48pm

    I agree that Tolerance is only a start, it should lead on to welcome & Respect, love is for next week.
    We should begin with each other. A lot of us feel hurt over the way Tim was pushed to stand down now, rather than being given some space. I was hurt & angry but its time to put that to bed. With the whole Country grieving & angry about The Deaths of so many innocents, we need to stop focussing on ourselves. Lets try & forgive each other & look forward.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jun '17 - 4:06pm

    @ Frances Alexander,

    “I admit I find it difficult to accept, love and cherish the Brexiteers in our society.”

    Surely that depends on their motivation? The main problem I have with the EU generally is its lack of a workable democracy. In the UK or the USA when there is a big problem the Govt takes charge. In the EU, Angela Merkel and her Govt takes charge even though it has no democratic mandate outside German borders.

    The economic rules imposed, in a quite undemocratic way, on the people of the EU leads to economic recession and even depression. The only antidote to those conditions is to be mercantilistic in trade as are the Dutch, the Germans and the Danes. They like to run a big surplus in trade. But their surplus has, penny for penny, eurocent for eurocent, to be someone else’s deficit.

    Either way the EU countries aren’t a good market for UK exports. Naturally workers will want to move away from the depressed countries.

    So , look, we aren’t necessarily seeking your agreement, or even your “love”, but I would ask that you show at least a grudging acceptance that those of us who haven’t fallen in love with a neoliberal, or ortholiberal, EU are somehow lacking an intellectual argument.

  • Peter Martin 18th Jun '17 - 4:21pm

    @ John Littler,

    I disagree with Socialism in it’s more fundamental form ………….

    I think we can agree that we aren’t suggesting modelling our economy on North Korea. But some of us would like to get it back more towards the kind of society we had before Mrs Thatcher started to take a hatchet to the mixed economy of the post war years.
    The Liberal Party and Social Democrats used to be in favour of that. At least they said they were at the time.

    Do Lib Dems ever want to change the mix or is what we have at the time always the perfect balance and shouldn’t be altered?

  • I feel myself to be a liberal democrat by virtue of the fact that I am an inveterate fence sitter.
    I want society to protect the vulnerable, reward the talented and ‘hard working’ and expect those with more to respect and support those with less.
    At the same time it seems logical and right to me that society should live ‘within its means’
    I feel that a major underlying problem with our society is that the ‘duty of care
    ‘ offered and provided by our government, (however well or badly) is vulnerable to those who feel it is an ‘entitlement’ rather than a ‘privilege’.
    On that point, one reference in your article does not sit well with me.
    Surely society should embrace, protect and support those less able, or more vulnerable.
    But society must also expect, if not demand, that it’s cictizens support and contribite fairly.
    And here, and I honestly seek not to offend, but if a person allows themselves to be overweight, and indeed allows that they become ‘obese’, are they not failing to uphold their side of the deal?
    Are they not risking a ‘cost’ to society that must be paid at the expense of others, with fewer options or choices?
    The NHS is a priveledge, and a blessing few in this world can turn to.
    But it comes at a cost to everyone. And rightly so.
    But in all but a very few cases, is not every £ spent caring for some one who is overweight, who’s lifestyle choice is to be overweight, not a £ stolen from those who have no choice over their illness, or no choice over how the universe has chosen to affect their lives?
    I can’t help but feel that The NHS should be free at the point of need, but should expect that that need is not a lifestyle choice and/or self inflicted.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '17 - 9:37pm

    Lee, nice to see that you really like reading replies. I do too. :). I sense quite a lot of unity at the moment on here, surprisingly. Yes people are divided about Tim’s resignation, but overall there seems to be a big gap between the Conservatives and Labour that most liberals fit into. Even radical liberals have a different version of radicalism to socialism.

    Best regards and thanks again to the editors of the site for making this blog so compelling.

  • Peter Watson 18th Jun '17 - 10:13pm

    @Eddie Sammon “I sense quite a lot of unity at the moment on here, surprisingly.”
    I don’t think I’ve seen this site more divided. Even during the EU referendum and #LibDems4Change.
    Tim Farron’s resignation seems to have reignited atheist vs. Christian antagonisms that had even managed to remain relatively subdued during recent debates over faith schools while at the same time stoking disagreements about the Orange Book vs. social liberalism and highlighting divides between ordinary members and “grandees”, elected MPs and unelected Lords. The ensuing discussions have also dragged up memories of the treatment of Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell (with some appalling comments about the former), the voting record of individual MPs during the Coalition, Alistair Carmichael’s court case, and the suitability or otherwise of prospective leadership candidates.
    Tony Greaves has posted some excellent articles about why and how the party should and could rebuild its reputation but they risk being overlooked or made redundant as the party fractures along some pretty serious fault lines.

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