Whither or wither moderation after Party Conference

I’ve been a bit busy since I left Brighton. Two health conferences; a meeting with a Minister; full Council and picketing the Labour Conference have kept me fairly occupied!

But the inevitable train journeys and waiting times have given me the time to reflect on what I saw and heard in Brighton.

Firstly, I heard no-one who described themselves as a moderate. Good, because neither am I! The fact that we are neither loony left or loony right does not make us moderates. We are a Party with fundamental principles that would cause a much greater upheaval in our society and in particular our governance than any proposals from either Labour or Tory Parties, both of whom believe in the centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster.

Secondly, I heard lots of discussions about how we should describe ourselves. Actually, I am quite content with our current name. Liberal Democrat seems about right for me because I am both a liberal and a democrat. If an adjective is needed to define us further I would use the word radical because it implies fundamental changes of the type I mention above.

Thirdly, I heard no-one argue against the idea of a supporters grouping. More than half the delivering that gets done in my Ward is by non-Party members. Some of them do far more than many of our members. If that is the arrangement that suits them – fine. I welcome their involvement. I let them know everything that we do in the ward and City and involve them in most of the things that a member does. Of course, they cannot vote for the manifesto or candidates but in all other ways they can and do contribute to the Party.

Fourthly, I heard no-one talking about what to do with the supporters who have signed up. Apparently, 10,000 signed up in two days. Are we going to let them languish or try and involve them in the ways I mention above? I really would like to know who they are in Liverpool because I would then ask our Executive to start a programme of commencement with a questionnaire to them asking them why they want to be a supporter; what that means to them and what they see to be the difference between membership and active support. I strongly suspect that no-one did think about what to do in the short term with these newly semi-committed.

Fifthly, I hear talk that there would need to be a special conference to make the constitutional changes necessary to bring a supporters group into effect. DO NOT GO THERE!! We have just seventeen Saturdays between Christmas and the biggest set of local elections In England. One goes out for the Party Conference and we cannot afford to lose another one. It does not take constitutional change to set up a Supporters Group nationally or locally. That is only needed if we accept the more outlandish ideas that were proposed of non-members having votes for leadership and policy and immediately being able to stand for elected office. That is already too late for the next local elections as anywhere that can win is already adopting candidates.

Sixthly, let’s just get going. Set out some drafts of what a supporter’s group could do, and set us free to start delivering and helping one. We are all keen and will not, in most cases, need asking twice!

Lastly, I am going on my travels. I rashly suggested that I would be pleased to come and meet people and talk about why moderation doesn’t meet the needs of a City like Liverpool. I had not realised how few people were available to talk at Lib Dem pints, Councillor’s adoption meetings and the like. I still have a few slots available provided I am not forced to eat chicken drumsticks. You can contact me at 07885 626913, or at [email protected]

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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12 Comments

  • Neil Sandison 24th Sep '18 - 11:13am

    Well said Richard .i suspect that will be the general feedback we will get from the membership .Can i suggest we park the pre-registered supporters in a suitable location .Survey them on what sort of organisation they want to be involved in and do this incrementally for example do they want to be consultees on policy, local supporters involved in local activities ,financial contributors local or national ,or other .rather than hold a special conference to amend the constitution .Over promising could lead to disappointment and we need to balance any arrangement for supporters with enhanced rights for membership .

  • Just to give a party political context to Richard’s “If an adjective is needed to define us further I would use the word radical”…..the Labour Conference, which is not being allowed to vote for remaining in the EU (thus giving succour to Tory Brexiteers) is getting excited about compulsory profit sharing and co-partnership, which the Liberal Party voted for in 1949. How unradical is that?

  • Tony Greaves 24th Sep '18 - 2:03pm

    Richard Kemp is basically right. I have no idea what is meant by the new phrase “Liberal pint” but I have (against my own self-interests!) agreed to do four local meetings in different places in the rest of the year. I shall be talking about radical campaigning Liberalism not middle-of-the-road moderate mush.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Sep '18 - 3:31pm

    The really irritating thing about comments like those Richard makes here, is the know all aspect of his certainty about what or who, we, are as a party. Lord Greaves does this and with the usual mean put down.

    I respect these men, but would like their views and approach more if they would respect others in their own party.

    Parties are gatherings of individuals. Maybe Richard and Tony are not Liberals, as well as not moderates, because they seem to not understand, individuals like to describe themselves and not be described as one thing.

    I am radical . I am moderate. On some things we need one, on most, the other.

    Sorry Richard, I do not want upheaval, and nether do you nor Lord Greaves on most things. I favour the abolition of the hideous TV licence and a real public BBC, that broadcasts education, arts, science and drama, not a huge corporate giant that is highly commercial and expects monopolistic funds from people imprisoned if they do not want to or cannot afford to pay it.

    As our excellent colleague Martin shows, most people do in fact consider themselves more of a moderate than otherwise. Most people in polls are against the TV licence.

    How come if suggest my policy above, those on the supposed older , radical wing of the party, call me right wing and I as the moderate therefore am the radical, they, rather conservative, as they favour no change to their favoured institutions. Ditto NHS reforms whether left leaning or right.

    I shall not describe any member as not Liberal, if they stop describing any of our members as, not moderate.

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Sep '18 - 3:57pm

    Lorenzo is right, Richard, there is nothing wrong with declaring ourselves moderates, who can identify probably with most of these new supporters. (How do you know there are at least 10,000 by the way?) But as you have been so busy, you may not have noticed that there is one fun term arising from Conference which alleviates the feeling of mushy moderation – calling ourselves Extremist moderates! See my posting here of September 20 under that title.

  • Katharine , as always a voice of tolerance and imagination. I must add that we really should be as she says. The greatest , in much of his effort, Liberal, John Stuart Mill, is sometimes alluded to as a reasonable extremist, my heroe also, Sir Peter Ustinov, called himself a militant Liberal, but, here the radical left colleagues might not realise, he meant, in the centre, but very definitely , because he said, ” I do not see why the central position should be reticent, I am a liberal, but a militant liberal! No extreme fascinates me. ”

    We’re radical, progressive, moderate, centrist, left leaning, right leaning, liberal conservatives, liberal socialists, Liberal Democrats!

    On most issues we are centre left, on a few or in attitudes we might drift off or be more one of these than not, but my friends are any on the centre left and increasingly centre right, who are humane, kind, good, open minded, yes , often, moderate.

    We are faced with horrible extremes, world class, horrible.Progress in the Labour party, and the Fabian tradition, Bright Blue in the Tories and the Tory Reform Group, Gaitskellites, Macmillanites, are the friends today of the Grimondites, and anyone who says not, are different. They are not being moderate. They are not being very liberal!,

  • “Knees bend, arms stretch, rah, rah, rah…………………

  • Katharine Pindar 24th Sep '18 - 9:32pm

    Well said again, Lorenzo! I am happy to be thought a reasonable extremist or militant liberal, as well as an extremist moderate. Yes, David, let’s have a marching band, as we learn to lead the huge majority of the British public!

  • David Evershed 25th Sep '18 - 11:35am

    There are no barriers to the 10,000 people who have signed up as ‘supporters’ to become members unless they can not afford the £12 pa.

  • You might see yourself as a radical, Richard though many I suspect will be put off by that characterisation of our Party. We need to change the culture of moderate. It used to be a positive word, decrying all extremes. I am proud to be moderate, balancing various values. The silent majority is still a valid clarion cry.

  • Gordon Lishman 27th Sep '18 - 3:02pm

    If the occasional use of the word moderate enables me to talk with people who use the word without much idea of what it means and gives me a greater opportunity to promote liberalism that’s fine. As I said years ago: “start from where people are”. The challenge has been using that start to socialise and persuade people into liberalism. Similarly, I’d much rather Vince was talking with people who want to spend a lot of money on new parties than if he was standing back and letting them go ahead: the SDP option, that might be called.

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