The days to come are going to be a severe test of the mettle and nerve of the party as we try to impress and connect with our voters. We are still a party of reasonable, idealistic souls set on improving our community, our nation in a way that balances individualism and free expression with the need to promote social harmony and the sheer joy of human togetherness. We are in a word still “Liberals”.
But we have been through some strange experiences that have scarred us and blurred the public view of who and what we are - so we fight under a burden. I am not talking about the perils of government and having to make tough decisions in severe financial circumstances. Nor am I talking about the misapprehension of those who formerly thought we were a brand of “Labour-lite”. I am glad people know we can make tough decisions and are not closet socialists. If our burden was just that, it would be not be heavy at all.
What slows our footsteps, weighs us down and holds us back in the polls is the result of the party falling under the spell of two dangerous enchantments or delusions.Read more
As we draw closer to the general election it is important to remember the big ideas of social liberalism. Here are five big social liberal ideas to inspire Liberal Democrats and social liberals over the next few months.
1. Land Value Taxation
Social liberals have long championed the taxation of accumulated assets. We often talk about the mansion tax but it is important to remember that for 100 years British Liberals have advocated land value taxation (LVT). At the heart of LVT is the transition of taxation from income to land.
David Lloyd George originally proposed land taxation in his famous People’s Budget of 1909. Liberal Democrats recall the great campaign for land taxation by singing the party anthem "The Land" at Glee Club.
In an age of vast economic inequalities, land value taxation will ensure that wealthy landowners are properly taxed and that the great wealth accumulated in land is redistributed and used to fund welfare provision and public services.Read more
An all too familiar story has dominated the headlines in recent weeks. Queues are mounting up at Accident and Emergency Departments across the country. Apparently A&E performance is now at its worst for 10 years, with hospitals missing their target that 95% of patients are seen within 4 hours.
Labour’s Health spokesman, Andy Burnham, blames the crisis on government cuts, while the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt maintains that he has given the NHS the £700m that it asked for to tackle rising demand. Nick Clegg has responded by pledging an additional £8m for the NHS.
So, here is my question: is lack of money really the problem here? Pumping in more money doesn't seem to have had the desired effect so far.Read more
It is encouraging to be part of a Lib Dem chorus from across the party denouncing Osborne’s damaging, ideologically inspired, proposals for further deep cuts in spending on public services throughout the next Parliament.
Being in coalition means that we have to go out of our way to differentiate ourselves clearly from the Tories on the central issue of economic policy. The Tories want to create an election narrative of Tory competence versus Labour incompetence (with the LibDems portrayed either as marginal to the story or cheering the Tories on). Next week’s parliamentary debate on a fiscal charter makes the issue of differentiation particularly topical.Read more
Commenting on Nick Clegg’s decision to appoint Danny Alexander as Lib Dem Treasury Spokesman for the General Election Campaign, SLF Chair Naomi Smith writes:
“Vince Cable has a long and proven track record of sound judgement on our economy, whereas having been resident in the Tory-led Treasury for the past five years, Danny Alexander is much more closely associated with some of the Coalition’s least popular policies including the austerity agenda.
Few pundits are prepared to call the outcome of the General Election, but another hung parliament is expected. While it looks likely that the current coalition government will limp on until May, Liberal Democrat campaigners should continue to hit the campaign trail in our nearest target seats, to emphasise our progressive achievements, and once finalised by the Federal Policy Committee, the social liberal parts of our manifesto. Norman Lamb’s radical work on mental health policy deserves special mention.Read more
The vote on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (CJCB) on Monday 2nd December has received much comment for Liberal Democrat MPs failing to support amendments passed in the House of Lords and supported by Lib Dem Peers. Those amendments aimed to row back some of the Justice Secretary’s attempts to curtail the Judicial Review process – and with it, so the Government’s critics say, the Rule of Law and the right of citizens to challenge the decisions of public bodies in the Courts.Read more
Two nations divided by a common language. So goes the quip about the differences between the two sides of the Atlantic. So too, when it comes to elections, are there striking similarities and differences in the US and in Great Britain. Former New York Mayor Mario Cuomo once said that ‘you campaign in poetry and govern in prose’, and, equally, British political operatives tended to divide the art of campaigning from the science of governing. But US political campaigning has undergone an almost-Copernican revolution of exacting campaigning to the scientific method. The dark arts have been opened to peer review and campaigns are reaching new levels of sophistication. Those who don’t keep up with the changes will certainly fall behind. British campaigners not plugged in to the changes in the US might well become the equivalent of doctors treating patients with leeches and offering snake oil, rather than those who can truly claim to be operating in the best interests of those who depend on them. While statistics can’t replace compelling messages (although they can test them) or a convincing candidate (although they can test whether they are convincing anyone), they can and do yield insights into who your voters are, how to narrow the universe of which ones to target, and yield insight into the type of messages that might persuade them to vote, or change their partisan choice, or both. In May, after the inevitable drubbing of the General Election, the Lib Dems will need to borrow liberally from the lessons easily discernible from the US, if liberalism has any hope of a brighter future than a slow and steady extinction.Read more
At the heart of any political party must be big ideas and a strong message. The Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party before them have a long political history. In that time the party has had many messages and slogans. Perhaps one of the best was the one used by David Lloyd George in the general election of 1929. "We Can Conquer Unemployment" was the Liberal Party mission statement for their new Keynesian industrial policy. To sum up a difficult concept like liberal Keynesianism in four words is impressive. The Liberal Democrats today need to convey a similar sense of mission in the slogans that the party uses.
The current situation for the Liberal Democrats is utterly dire. In the recent Rochester and Strood by-election, the Lib Dem candidate received only 349 votes and 1% of the total votes cast. To put that in context the Green candidate polled four times as many votes. This has been described by the New Statesman as the "worst-ever by-election result for a main party." Clearly a lot of things will have to change in the Liberal Democrats between now and the general election in May 2015.Read more
Clacton-on-Sea is going nowhere… This is Britain on crutches. This is tracksuit-and-trainers Britain, tattoo-parlour Britain, all-our-yesterdays Britain
- Matthew Parris, The Times
Matthew Parris’s dismissal of poor, coastal Essex adorned thousands of UKIP leaflets in Clacton. It served only to justify UKIP’s rout of the Tory party.
Inadvertently, Parris came close to the truth: Britain as a political entity almost ceased to exist in September. Despite the eventual result in Scotland, the strength of the yes vote saw victory in Glasgow, quadrupled the membership of the SNP and caused Scottish Labour to implode. The high turnout alone belied the modern complaint of political apathy.
From Clacton to Dundee, Britain is discontented. Instead of demurring from hard politics, it’s time to look at the facts and act.Read more