Welcome to my day: 6 March 2023 – it’s beginning to feel a lot like Conference…

It’s been a long time since I attended a Federal Conference, or even a Regional one, in person, and the world feels like a somewhat different place post-COVID. But I don’t have a role or function, and it’ll be nice to simply try to take the pulse of the Party less than two years before a General Election.

I suppose that my key question will be, “does the Party offer a sense that it has a destination in mind?”, and it isn’t clear to me yet that there is one, other than give an impression that we’re better than the Conservatives. That’s a pretty low bar, if we’re being honest.

And yes, I support the Party’s line on the issues it has chosen to feature – river pollution, carers and competence in government are all worthy causes. But are we talking about the issues that engage the wider public? We’re cautious (at best) on Europe, even though it’s now widely acknowledged that the trade barriers between the United Kingdom and its nearby markets are the cause of slower economic growth and thus less resources to share around. We’re keen to offer financial support to those struggling with higher mortgages, heating and food bills. But that’s reactive rather than strategic.

We’ll be talking about a fairer society too, which vaguely troubles me, as fairness is a deeply subjective term, very much an “eye of the beholder” concept. But the motion to be debated on Saturday week does offer some meaningful choices, as long as we campaign on them after they’re adopted. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention Europe at this point…

I’m not close to the decision making heart of the Party, and I have no idea what guides its strategy these days. I’m also honest enough to acknowledge that, without that awareness, it’s probably easy, and lazy, for me to criticise the Party leadership for the failure to make progress in opinion polls – we appear to be stuck in a holding pattern just below 10% – but I guess that a little reassurance that there is a strategic game plan might help. Either that or a stack of gains in May!

But there will be many of you who will be playing an active role at Conference, either in the auditorium or elsewhere, and it would be nice to hear from you in terms of what you’re looking forward to, what your hopes are, or of the fringe meetings or training sessions you want to attend. Why not write something for us if you have a view on a fairer society or a caring one? Of course, many of you will be working through the gears as 4 May gets ever closer and the prospects of gains act as an encouragement to greater efforts.

Elsewhere, it was nice to see fellow liberals do well at the weekend, and I guess that we’d probably find Estonia’s politics to be more comforting than our own, where our three sister parties (yes, three!) managed nearly 60% of the vote between them. There’s little doubt that a voting system which offers value to every vote makes for a different type of politics, where voters don’t have to compromise their beliefs at the ballot box or, increasingly in the case of Estonia, at home or as they travel – this was the first election where a majority of voters cast their ballot online.

Something to think about, maybe…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and a member of the Party’s delegation to ALDE Party Council.

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One Comment

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Mar '23 - 5:37pm

    Perhaps two prime attributes of a well run society are its being benign and secure?

    Perhaps these qualities depend upon the society’s foundational socio-economic policy/policies?

    As our society seems to be neither very benign nor secure, might our party develop and promote socio-economic policies which have healthy, motivating and enabling effects on our whole society?

    Might we develop the theory and practices of using a resource based economy which enables all to be well fed, healthy, decently housed, well educated, dynamically employed and so be part of an efficient and cheerful society?

    Might the attached article present interesting and practical details which we could/should adopt as policy and promote as we approach the next election?


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