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.

But we realised that to get across what we stand for, you simply need to tell people how their lives would change for the better if the Lib Dems had their way. You just need to tell them what opportunities they’d have, what chances to grow and live as they chose, how their schools and hospitals and councils would work better, how we’d support the unlucky and welcome the downtrodden. Understand that, and you understand what the Lib Dems are for – and all without once mentioning fairness, or equality, or opportunity, or any of the other fundamental values that drive us.

So five of us founded Your Liberal Britain: an initiative inviting every Lib Dem to help shape and communicate the party’s vision in concrete, accessible terms. For us, Your Liberal Britain is about tapping the inspirational visions that we Lib Dems each already have: of the future of our society, and how liberalism can improve peoples’ lives. We founded the initiative to draw all these ideas together, to celebrate them, and to showcase them to the world.

Since last Conference we’ve been preparing the ground, and we’re now ready to launch. We’ve convinced the party to make Your Liberal Britain an official initiative, and we’ve partnered with the FPC’s Agenda 2020 committee so every contribution that comes to us will help them form the party’s new vision statement.

This is our chance. We have an opportunity before the next round of elections to get the whole party talking about the society that we exist to build. We know it’s fair, free and open, but what concrete changes would it bring to Britain? The new vision won’t be published until Autumn Conference, but you’ll know what you want Liberal Britain to be, and that will make all the difference on the doorstep.

For this to work – to produce a vision that the whole party truly owns – we need as many members as possible to take part. You can do that here on Lib Dem Voice by writing a blog post in response to the question:

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

Before we’d thought of this initiative, I wrote a post here on Lib Dem Voice entitled ‘Liberal Britain?’. That’s my vision. What’s yours?

Send it to [email protected], and we’ll also publish it on liberalbritain.org. All contributions will be read by Your Liberal Britain and the Agenda 2020 committee, and all of them will directly help to inspire the party’s new vision statement.

If you want food for thought, we’ve gathered the Agenda 2020 essays and many of the party’s descriptions of our values and purpose here on our website. Why not look through some of those before writing your post?

At our pilot events, and online, members of the party have started sending in their own ideas. Here are just some of the many answers we’ve received in response to our prompt, “For me, Liberal Britain is a country where…”:

  • Everyone counts
  • We’re all in it together
  • We celebrate altruism, and give help without taking away dignity
  • We stand as a beacon of fairness, equality and opportunity
  • People live their dreams, respecting the community and others
  • Education matters, and opportunities exist for all
  • The weak aren’t scapegoated for political gain
  • Young people will have a voice in politics
  • People will have the tools to fashion fairer outcomes for themselves
  • The boundaries that hold people in place have been removed

What would your Liberal Britain be?

Writing for Lib Dem Voice is just one thing you can do. Your Liberal Britain is at heart about members coming together and discussing their answers to our four questions. To run your own discussion group at home, you just need three or more people, a living room and access to a printer! And every online entry will go straight to us and the Agenda 2020 committee, helping us form the party’s new vision statement.

We’ll be launching Your Liberal Britain at Conference on the Saturday – 12:45 to 14:15 in the main hall. Come and hear different visions from across the party, and pitch your own!

Finally, if you’re coming to Conference, why not help us out? We’re a group of five volunteers: all new members of the party, all doing this on our own time. If you want to help invite the party to shape a new vision together, email me on [email protected].

* Jim Williams is the founder of Your Liberal Britain

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13 Comments

  • “But we realised that to get across what we stand for, you simply need to tell people how their lives would change for the better if the Lib Dems had their way. ”

    Sorry that isn’t the case. And there is nothing “simply” about changing the public’s perception of the party. This is a worthwhile initiative (and well thought through and structured in a way that lots of places can do it and it may well engage and enthuse new members – or older ones without my levels of cycnism and disillusionment). But if people think that a new values statement is all that is needed chances are they will end up in the same place.

  • Peter Watson 7th Mar '16 - 4:19pm

    “What’s your vision for a truly Liberal Britain?”
    Ooh, I know this one!
    It’s having a leader who unilaterally overturns a policy voted for by a conference, and it’s also about deciding centrally that some people are not allowed to be parliamentary candidates because they are men.
    Apparently.

  • “For me, Liberal Britain is a country where…”:
    Everyone counts
    We’re all in it together
    We celebrate altruism, and give help without taking away dignity
    We stand as a beacon of fairness, equality and opportunity
    People live their dreams, respecting the community and others
    Education matters, and opportunities exist for all
    The weak aren’t scapegoated for political gain
    Young people will have a voice in politics
    People will have the tools to fashion fairer outcomes for themselves
    The boundaries that hold people in place have been removed……………….

    Very Liberal ideals. However, where were these ideals between 2010-15? We had Nick Clegg’s “New Politics” perhaps we should, like the old washing powder ads, write “New Improved…….”

  • Phil Beesley 7th Mar '16 - 5:37pm

    The original post is about idealism isn’t it? I appreciate Hywel’s comment but I reckon it is wrong to bash idealism following a bad experience in real politics. Separate out the two.

    Ralf Dahrendorf was often on the telly during my youth. He was a social democrat but liberalism — even during the Thorpe mayhem — was a stronger instinct for me. I knew that I was a liberal and that social democrats were my next best friends. Good friends.

  • Barry Snelson 7th Mar '16 - 6:34pm

    I agree with the sentiments entirely but it is motherhood and apple pie in spades.
    None of our opponents will campaign on unfairness and on deliberate scapegoating.
    Where do you stand on tax, for example? Lots more?

  • paul barker 7th Mar '16 - 7:06pm

    Geat idea, ignore the 3 miseryguts above, some people just seem to enjoy moaning.

  • Unfortunately, to make the hospitals, schools and councils work better you need more money. You also need policies on immigration, housing and fighting poverty and it all costs money and you have to explain how you will raise that money. Will you scrap trident, raise taxes, make cuts in the prison service or the social security budget? If all you offer is a vague liberal vision and a view on a a few minority issues the voters they will laugh at you – in a nice way – but they will still laugh.

  • Idealism is one thing. Saying “that to get across what we stand for, you simply need to tell people how their lives would change for the better if the Lib Dems had their way.” is wanting the world to work in a way other than how it does.

    If you don’t recognise that the the energy and idealism that the influx of new members brought – which have generated great ideas like the one talked about above – will disappear like early morning mist in the first reverses.

  • My vision for a truly Liberal Britain certainly excludes EU membership.

  • Political parties can be small and monochrome, or they can be larger and hybrid. Being larger and hybrid brings the possibility of sharing or gaining power, but the internal tensions can be considerable. We have known this in the coalition when our economic liberal element dominated through closeness to the Conservatives. The ‘social liberal side’ felt sidelined. We have a lot of work to do to harmonise these elements in our hybrid party – just as the Labour party has. As the Conservative has gone further right, without the restraint we offered, our opportunity improves, but it needs work: yes, we need a strong economy, but we also need social justice.

  • Jim Williams 8th Mar '16 - 10:31am

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! Glad to see disagreement: after all, my particular vision’s not the point. Who on earth am I? The point is to find as many different visions as there are within the party, and then to debate them.

    Think I’m being naive? Great! Write up what you think would be more realistic. Think the party’s going in the wrong direction? Now’s your chance to help us change tack. Write your vision in 500 words or less. Send it to [email protected].

    The question to answer is: “What would a truly Liberal Britain look like, and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives?”

    We’re talking generational change here. Be ambitious. A vision isn’t about what we can achieve right now: it’s about what we aspire to achieve. It will in turn inspire and guide policy, campaigns and the manifesto – and this is your chance to help us write it.

  • Most people in the mainstream parties share a surprisingly similar vision of what sort of Britain and world they would like to see although this is easily obscured by political name-calling and because they use different words to describe it.

    So, as others say above, vision is almost entirely motherhood. What differs, what makes politics, is that people have very different ideas on how best to get to the better world of their vision. Those ideas in turn rest on a framework of beliefs about how the world works and how it could work which in turn guides their political choices. Is state ownership the answer to almost everything (Labour circa 1950) or the market (Tory post 1979)?

    What has become very clear recently is that the existing belief system has failed badly. Hence the strong support for Trump Sanders and Corbyn among others. They are all groping towards a different understanding of how things work – and therefore how they could be made to work better.

    The tragedy of the Lib Dems is that they are institutionally and culturally incapable of rising to the occasion even when presented with an open goal. Institutionally because the policy-making process is deeply dysfunctional, divided into silos and treated as a ‘black box’ process designed to find the lowest common denominator (to avoid splits) from a vast and incompatible range of ideas from ultra-corporatist to sub-socialist. Culturally, because, absent a meaningful lead, some take refuge in fundamentalism – harking back to policy solutions dating from the party’s Victorian heyday when Britain ruled a global empire and that introduces a strong vein of political correctness which compounds the problem. The instinctive answer to any setback is to pull up the drawbridge and huddle down defensively – as we have seen since the general election.

    To succeed the party needs to describe the scene in terms that make sense to people in terms of their experience. Forget the vision and instead ask why things don’t work too well, why we have to import labour when we have many unemployed (which almost no-one wants), why nearly everyone wants growth (yet again, a widely shared vision) but somehow it doesn’t happen. These and many others like them are hard questions and for that exact same reason they are important.

    Answers are ‘out there’ but the party is institutionally blind. Find a way to open it’s eyes and everything will change.

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