Post-COVID Politics

Thursday, 26 March 2020

POST-COVID POLITICS
By Trevor Smith

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A New Dawn After The Coronavirus

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Things can change quickly in life. The security of one moment can quickly become impermanent before we have chance to realise it. This is certainly the case with the crisis that has resulted from the global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Thousands in the UK have been infected and over a hundred have already died from the outbreak. The general public is advised to remain socially distant from one another and to regularly wash their hands. The economy has gone into freefall, a recession, if not a depression, now seems likely. Panic buying in the shops is rife. But most of all people are scared.

What seemed certain only a couple of weeks ago, no longer does. People are worried about the most basic things in life; putting food on the table, keeping a roof over their heads, being able to see friends and family members. People are fearful about losing their jobs, not to mention becoming unwell due to the virus. They want to know that they and their loved ones will be safe. And this is before we mention the looming emergency facing our National Health Service and all the brave doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, hospital cleaners and many, many others in the NHS who will be putting themselves in harm’s way to serve the public and the common good.

Prior to the emergence of this virus, the NHS was already stretched to breaking point, many worked in insecure, precarious employment and the living standards of the poorest had been reduced after more than a decade of austerity. Things cannot go back to the way things were prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Things have to change. This needs to start with the nature of our economy and our society. It should not take a new deadly pandemic virus for people to be kind and compassionate towards one another. It should not take a major crisis for the government to think about protecting those in low-paid employment. It should not take a global virus for us to drastically reduce our carbon emissions internationally. 

There needs to be hope at the end of this crisis. Hope is what will get people through this crisis and will make the many enormous sacrifices easier to bear. In 1942, at the height of the Second World War when victory against the Nazis appeared far from certain, William Beveridge released his radical and comprehensive report into social security. The Beveridge Report became the founding document of the modern British welfare state. It helped to forge a new progressive consensus, based on clear social liberal principles. Its ideas informed the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee, one of which, the introduction of a free universal health service, became the NHS in 1948 following the great work of the socialist Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan.

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UBI to save us from a virus, does it make sense?

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Coronavirus is a complicated and difficult problem for any government, let alone one with leadership as out of touch and incompetent as the current UK one, so I’m not going to cover all aspects of how we should respond here, just whether we should give people cold hard cash.

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Liberal Britain 2035: Health, Wealth, and Power

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Join us for the Annual Conference of the Social Liberal Forum, Saturday 18th July, 2020

London Resource Centre, London

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Beyond The Tribes

Thursday, 05 March 2020

The Social Liberal Forum (SLF) has a meeting at York ‘After the shambles what is to be done?’ The Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael is kicking off the discussion and I am told he has robust views. If the debate to date is a guide it runs the risk of being conducted in an endless stream of clichés: heads must roll, people must fall on their swords, difficult conversations have to be had….I understand and share the anger. There were mistakes and our party underperformed. I know significant changes must be made at both an operational and political level but I do not intend to dwell on the operational issues in this article.

What is to be done? The place to begin is with the ideas, the values and the principles -the strategy will follow. There are three big issues that urgently need our attention: Britain’s role and purpose on the world stage, the Climate Emergency and the maldistribution of wealth and power in our society.

We are faced with another five years of Conservative rule. This is not the party of Major, MacMillan, Maudling or even Baldwin. This is a ruthlessly ideological group who owe more to the American Republican right with their culture wars and crude nationalism than to One Nation Conservatism. In the face of that challenge we cannot sit on the side-lines.

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Carthago Delenda Est

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Liberal honeymoon of the 1990s and early 2000s is now conclusively over; Brexit has happened and the only – horrific – question is what will happen next?

Following a cat-and-mouse (really Tom and Jerry) December General election in which flag-waving (Union Jack, Red and blue-crossed) extremists accrued by far the larger part of the vote one needs to ask whether there remains any room at all for centre politics in the UK? This is not a rhetorical question, either; much action is needed, and quickly.

What is the British electorate seeking? Surprisingly, possibly not Conservatism; but definitely not socialism either. A majority does however, at least on the surface, to slaver after a ‘greater Britain’ option in which for some (unexplained) reason other states are imagined to wish to be at Britain’s beck-and-call. Remaining a moderately-performing economy, part of a similar group of nations – some of whom are already outperforming Britain and will utterly outstrip us once all ties are broken – is no longer enough for many UK residents If we can’t match Germany, Scandinavia et al economically then at least we’ll outdo them in terms of isolationist belligerence appears to be the new watchword. This is most worrying, replicating a routine fallback position for dictators in less-developed countries everywhere. In reality our own land is, however, in full-scale social, even if not yet economic, retreat. Brexit – especially if there’s ‘no deal’, will aggravate both.

So why did our electorate vote the way it did in December?

Extreme nationalists can sometimes be crafty too, knowing that more poorly-educated citizens may turn to them in times of crisis, when internal and international completion and success, and harmonious community relationships, may be in jeopardy. Such a situation redounds in Britain today and nationalists such as Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Gove and Farage have capitalised thereon. It’s not a new phenomenon. Hitler (let’s be clear), Mussolini, Franco and Putin have all exploited it/come to power in similar circumstances. However we are right to share alarm about how far the borders of the new UK nationalism now extend, and their seemingly endless flexibility. Many of its backers are quite ruthless enshrining utter contempt for good societal relations in their pell-mell rush to ‘reconstruct’ their image of former Empire glory. Take Johnson’s prorogation of the UK Parliament in September 2019, carried out with utter disregard for constitutional delicacy; or the entirely casual way ‘settled status’ has merely been dangled before EU nationals resident here.

On the doorstep, following a period of comparative post-2015 tranquillity with relatively-inept moderates David Cameron and then Theresa May at the helm. Liberals are now again seen by many suspicious and tabloid-informed voters, egregiously in urban but also in rural areas, as ‘enemies’. We uphold and try to preserve values of freedom and friendly collaboration, both of which it seems are inimical to the Brexit ethos and to the world of ever more run-down, automated, illiberal, facebook-styled claustrophobia they both inhabit and yet now feel accustomed to. Complaints are raised against Lib Dem activists in some cases simply for their being liberal or even for daring deliver socially-liberal material. Those who do so are deemed to threaten the predictable inevitability of ongoing UK chaos. If we still care what might we do?

The Labour party is currently (Feb ’20) in absolutely no position to contribute sound advice. Leaderless – at least for the meantime -and with half its membership overall still supporting reductionist far-left dialectic, it offers little today even to its traditional working class, let alone any more enlightened, educated middle-class following. Labour has just gone berserk! But this should turn to stone those who recognise that there is now no tangible opposition to unrelenting, escalating British nationalism. Dialogue amongst all on the left is essential yet it has been strenuously avoided by Labour’s own leadership.

And let’s not imagine Brexiters will stop at merely leaving the EU – they won’t Further scapegoats will be sought on whom to offload responsibility for ‘blemishes’ in progressing the cause of ‘Greater Britain’. In Nazi Germany it was ‘first the Jews, then the Communists…’. Who might it be next in Britain once the EU is ‘out of the way’? Because of course the rhetoric claims that the 2016 UK- EU exit referendum was the only time this our ‘great country’ ever evinced (or seemingly even needed) democracy…

So once more, what can be done? We must challenge Britain’s electorate, even at this late stage, to think once more, and more clearly too, for itself. Yet how easily can this be done when education itself – that universal connector and well-founded disciplinarian – is being so relentlessly and inexorably worn away by Conservative government policies? Perhaps some people will see for themselves what needs to change and socially-liberally minded folk will need to seize on all opportunities to furnish our somewhat bewildered population with more truly accurate information.

We must never give up. We must work with anyone who is prepared to listen and to co-operate. If even Winston Churchill, who like Lloyd George shifted to the right for pragmatic reasons later in life, could usefully deploy the terminology of resistance then so certainly can social liberals, even post-Brexit.


Ancient Carthage, that imperial city of conquest, took centuries to fold from within. We don’t have such time on our hands and we must hence expedite a more rapid solution to modern British imperialism.

 

 

 

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Rethinking Economic Liberalism

Thursday, 19 September 2019

A mission statement for Liberalism should start from the very simple basis that has defined and redefined Liberalism over the centuries: power should be dispersed and everybody matters. The subset of Liberalism that is referred to as Economic Liberalism has long held that to achieve this we must push for deregulation of markets and a minimum of redistribution, where redistribution is a means of ensuring equal opportunity but not necessarily equitable outcomes. What we now know about economics and society leads us to a point where we should reclaim and rethink economic liberalism, pushing instead to maximise redistribution of wealth as far as it is possible, rather than minimise it to only the minimum we believe necessary.

The starting point for British and European political Liberalism was in breaking up monarchies and old aristocratic feudal orders and replacing them with democratic representation. It is in the breaking up of concentrations of power that Liberalism lies. To understand how to take the next step forward on that course today we must understand how our economy works and what a liberal view of economics would be. My pitch here is simple- Liberal economics in the 21st century must be redistribution economics. If we start from the position that Liberalism is about breaking up concentrations of power and that each individual matters then what we now know from our history, and what we have learned about economics and society, tells us that the element currently missing from our political economy to make society one step more Liberal is embedding maximising redistribution into our economic systems.

Why?

The answer lies in the interplay between the current doctrines of what is called economic Liberalism and in free-market economics itself. Market economics, both at the end of the 19th century and at the end of the 20th, when pushed towards a more deregulated and a more anarchic model, produced, in practice, very large inequalities in wealth and power. This is both shocking and not shocking for economics as a discipline. In an economic model of an absolutely perfect free market it is more or less impossible to make profit of any kind because any opportunity will be seized on instantly by an infinite number of economic actors and competition will drive prices down exactly to meet costs. This includes labour markets and so when you hear people tout CEO pay that is many, many times median earnings as fair because “that’s how much value they produce” alarm bells should ring. After all, we don’t use that argument with doctors or nurses, teachers or cleaners. If a doctor generates £5 million in value each year but will do the job for £70,000 then we pay them £70,000. If a CEO generates £5 million in value but would do the job for £70,000 then why are we paying them £5 million? When the “that’s the value they create” defence is used for the wealthy the implication is always that it is in support of a free market and yet, mysteriously, low wages for people at the bottom of the income ladder are justified as the market simply minimising costs… well, which is it?

Is the job of the market to pay the total amount of value someone creates to that person or is it to pay them the minimum that is required to persuade them to undertake the role?

The irony is that the defence used for CEOs, that they should get the full value of the results of their labour, is actually Marx’s point in The Communist Manifesto! It’s also a bad point because it simply isn’t universalizable. It is virtually impossible to construct an economy where we could even measure the full and accurate value of the results of everyone’s labour, let alone then allocate resources accurately to that amount. That’s why free-market theory takes a different approach.

Free-market theory instead argues that we should pay all economic actors (people or corporations) the minimum required to get them to undertake a task. In an absolutely perfect free market this will result in all prices being driven down by competition to exactly match costs. The result will be that society will produce as much as it is capable of producing (that people want) and where each person ends up having equal purchasing power. This is because if something paid more then an infinite number of people would switch to that activity driving its premium over other jobs down to zero. When we pay people the minimum required to persuade them to complete a job the surplus beyond that, plus the value of everything already created, ends up automatically shared between everyone equally. At least it would if markets functioned perfectly.

This is where the real world starts to peek in. Economics is well aware that this is not the case in reality for a number of reasons. Real-world markets are not perfect and people are not equally able to switch to any job, anywhere, instantaneously. On top of that because markets aren’t perfect profits are not, in fact, zero and so owning capital does usually provide a positive return.

The way the ideology we traditionally call “economic Liberalism” interacts with this reality is as follows:

It starts from the proposition that, as concentrations of power are bad, any concentration of state power is bad and so we should push for as small a government as possible that is consistent with equality of opportunity- the idea that each individual is given an equal starting point and then will succeed or fail based on their own merits. This is often known as a meritocracy, which is ironic because the term ‘meritocracy’ was coined as a name for this idea by someone who thought it was dystopian and horrifying but it is usually now thought of as a positive thing. It is important, I think, to reword this idea in more plain but less positive language: economic liberalism, as it currently stands, argues that we should set up society as a fair race that then ranks individuals according to their worth and creates a hierarchy of wealth and power based on the results. This, I believe, is where the current economic liberalism paradigm breaks down and must be reordered to correct its problems.

While it is a valid ideology to be pro-meritocracy so that each individual can be ranked according to their worth it does not live up terribly well to either “breaking up concentrations of power” or to “everyone matters equally”. It also fails on a number of technical points- in practice, it is virtually impossible to achieve equality of opportunity with large inequality in outcomes. As outcomes diverge opportunities also diverge and so a meritocracy is almost impossible to achieve. Secondly, markets just don’t work this way, markets are designed to push prices down to match costs, not to assess total value created by each individual, so even if the only value we cared about was economic (which is clearly not the case) markets would be simply unable to achieve the goals asked of them in the current economic liberal paradigm. Third, what is called rental or monopoly income exists in all markets that are not perfect and as no market is absolutely perfect all markets have some “unearned” income.

This presents significant, and I would argue insurmountable, problems for economic liberalism as currently constituted along meritocratic lines. Before suggesting reforms, however, I would like to cover some alternatives I do not endorse but want to acknowledge.

The first is ‘One Nation Conservatism’. One nationism argues that we should see society as one organic whole and that everyone matters but that structure and hierarchy are necessary for human society, even if that hierarchy is somewhat arbitrary. It is essentially an appeal to order as an ideal even if the cost is some people being arbitrarily lower on the social and economic ladder. This can adapt economic liberalism by rolling back on absolute equality of opportunity and merely offering to alleviate (or even eliminate) poverty with welfare programs and offering education and opportunities for advancement knowing that this will never be enough to overcome the barriers of economic inequality alone but it will, at least, introduce some level of meritocracy into the system even if it is imperfect.

There is also what could be termed the ‘Ayn Rand’ view. Sometimes known as right-Libertarianism or what could be called individualist-Conservativism or perhaps market-Conservatism. This takes a harsher view than One-Nationism and has no interest in maintaining an effective welfare state or in the government providing opportunity at the cost of the taxpayer. There may be a willingness to provide basic law and order to ensure property rights and perhaps even some government-backed loan programs for those who are willing to try and improve their lot but not the taxpayer-funded programs that ‘One-Nationism’ might be willing to countenance.

Finally, it is worth suggesting that defenders of the current economic liberalism model may argue that meritocracy doesn’t have to mean everyone gets the full value of their labour but instead that market prices are correct and we are trying to minimise costs. However, as different people will have different skills and different willingness to engage in economic activities those that are in short supply will be rewarded for their willingness to engage in them and their rare/in-demand natural abilities accordingly. Therefore we should simply provide opportunity and let people make the best use of their natural skills and their willingness to work. This, clearly, is far closer to Liberalism than the previous two options and is the first description I feel comfortable saying matches what self-identifying “neo-liberals” might be comfortable with. It is this version of economic liberalism that I believe reformers should be content with because it is the argument closest to liberalism for a meritocratic movement and it is the dominant model amongst those who would clearly self identify as Liberals but not Conservatives, i.e self-identifying neo-Liberals.

So what objection would Liberalism have to this last view?

Firstly that it takes insufficient account of monopoly income and the effect on opportunity. This might initially seem solvable by taxing the more obvious forms of monopoly income such as land rents but there is a further source of monopoly income embedded in the logic of neo-liberalism/the current ‘economic Liberalism’ model that we must contend with. If markets are imperfect and contain monopoly rents of numerous kinds we can not catch them all, and that is a problem generally, but one specific example that leaps out is the monopoly rents in labour markets. If we accept that some will earn more because of their unique skillset we must acknowledge that this is a form of monopoly rent. This model asserts that that is fine because it is comfortable with meritocracy, but it conflicts with Liberalism in two important ways: it means that we no longer consider everyone to matter, instead now they are ranked, and it allows concentrations of power amongst the individuals lucky enough to be able to access those streams of monopoly income. While this does work in the “negative Liberty” mindset the cost of that mindset is both of the core Liberal sensibilities, we inevitably see concentrations of power and we do not consider every individual to matter/to be allowed the full range of choices they might have. It does not, however, yet contradict the meritocratic motto of “equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome”.

This is where the second point of contention arises: by definition, those monopoly rents do not function according to free-market rules. They pool up and reinforce themselves. In short, they erode equality of opportunity. This is seen in the way countries that have large inequality of outcomes universally also have poor social mobility while countries with much closer equality in outcomes have much more social mobility. This is a devastating problem for the current model of economic liberalism because it blocks the possibility of each individual earning only based on their own skills and willingness to sacrifice. In a market that was perfect save for people’s individual ambition and skill, meaning a shortage of some types of labour that those with the right skills and willingness could exploit for higher wages, could initially be meritocratic (by this definition of meritocracy at least) but upon gaining the advantage of higher incomes those people would immediately see those advantages begin to compound over time so that the system was not meritocratic from that point forward. We must, inevitably, share the fruits of previous work as equally as is possible in order for current work to provide income that is anything resembling meritocratic. Meritocracy, in effect, eats itself.

Thirdly as providing a welfare net and educational/employment opportunities that give equality of opportunity is impossible we are forced to judge the “appropriate” level of the welfare net, as well as it’s composition, plus the size and composition of the educational and employment programs of the government, on an ad hoc basis. Essentially without any objective measurement to fall back on, and with equality of opportunity being proportional to equality of outcome anyway, we are forced to ask society to judge the trade-off they are comfortable with. At this point, it is unclear how this judgement is not essentially society judging where it is within a left-right spectrum of Social Democracy vs One Nationism with Liberalism nowhere to be seen. With individual empowerment through opportunity not being an accessible goal, and instead being a social decision where society chooses the aggregate life chances and social order it is comfortable with (rather than focusing on maximising opportunity for each individual) economic liberalism has fallen away. If, as we have observed, equality of opportunity is tied to equality of outcome through rents and monopolies affecting opportunity then the true meritocracy neo-Liberalism’s version of economic liberalism strives for is simply impossible.

Inequality itself interferes both socially via eroding equality of person and economically by eroding equality of opportunity. These are the philosophical and Liberal arguments against the current model of economic liberalism which are only reinforced by the economic problems we see at the high points of economic inequality. Each time inequality has spiked demand for goods and services has eventually been unable to keep up with the savings accumulated by the wealthy while simultaneously financial instability through stock market and debt bubbles have wrecked the economy. We need redistribution to stabilise these causes of instability and to stave off the violent and cruel populism that follows. Both socially and economically we need the stability created by redistribution. The only alternative is stability through harsh hierarchical order. In short, whether it be Ayn Rand market-Conservatism or economically liberal Neo-Liberalism we will face enormous instability economically and socially. The only options available to us are to reject Liberalism and accept a Social Democracy/One-Nationism political paradigm or else to embrace Egalitarian-Liberalism as not just a social but an economic model. That is why I am proposing that rather than abandon economic liberalism entirely we simply refold it back into Liberalism as a whole via redistribution economics. The only viable route to Liberal free-market economics is not with the minimum of redistribution but with the maximum of redistribution possible that is consistent with stable prices. This provides economic stability and continuously maximises the amount of economic surplus and existing capital stocks available to everyone equally, as consistent with an idealised free-market distribution. The closest we can get to a perfect free market requires us to accept markets bidding down prices to close to costs and so minimising what we pay people to the minimum they will accept for their labour while redistributing the surplus value generated and the monopoly rents from existing capital to all equally. This is limited by redistribution allowing workers to demand higher wages in return for work, hence the need to alter redistribution based on price stability. This can be both redistribution in society, between those who are better or worse off, and redistribution in time, using taxation to remove spending power during periods of high inflation and returning that cash to consumers during periods of low inflation or deflation. I look forward to building up policy solutions that achieve this goal, that, I believe, is the task of Liberals and economic Liberalism in the 21st century. For Liberals, I argue, it is egalitarian-Liberalism or bust.

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Unite to stop No Deal Brexit

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Over the past week we have watched with increasing alarm as tribalism between progressive activists in different parties has grown following Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for a ‘caretaker government’.

We call upon all MPs to support a motion of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government and its relentless pursuit of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. We seek a government under any leader who can command a majority in the House of Commons against a No Deal Brexit on 31st October, as well as allowing for a ‘People’s Vote’ Referendum on Brexit, which would include the option to Remain in the EU.

We are open to the possibility of a new General Election taking place, if there is not a common agreement for a People’s Vote amongst the different parties and MPs.

If Jeremy Corbyn can assemble the necessary independent and rebel Conservative MPs to become Prime Minister, including with Liberal Democrat support, then we call upon the Liberal Democrats to support him.

We welcome the media reports of Liberal Democrat sources which state that the party has ‘no objection in principle’ to supporting Jeremy Corbyn in-order to stop a No Deal Brexit.  We encourage the Liberal Democrats to keep saying this.

If Mr Corbyn cannot assemble the necessary MPs to command a majority in the House of Commons, then we call upon the Labour Party and other political parties and MPs to find an alternative unity candidate.

Jo Swinson’s proposed candidates of Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman are entirely sensible, we should also be prepared to consider other candidates for Prime Minister.

The priority is to stop a disastrous and socially unjust No Deal Brexit. The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, as well as other progressive parties, must work together to stop No Deal.

The time has come to put aside tribal differences and to put an end to the looming catastrophe facing this country and the social hardships that would come with it.

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Open Society Alliance revisited

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Recently we published a blog post: "An Open Society Alliance must be founded now". We have received an important response to that article and as a result we have created a new section in this website: "On the Left", which you can find on our top navigation menubar. So to read that article and the response it got you can click on that, or this link here.

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The Lib Dems need to Seize the Opportunity of a Political Lifetime

Monday, 22 July 2019

By Paul Hindley

The Liberal Democrats have a new leader, congratulations Jo Swinson. Jo takes over the party at a crucial time in British politics. In a matter of months, the situation of the party has been transformed. It has over 700 new councillors and for the first time in over a century defeated Labour and the Conservatives in a nation-wide election. The party has gone from polling in single figures to polling in the late teens and early 20s, even topping an occasional opinion poll.

British politics is in flux. For the first time in British political history, both Labour and the Conservatives are simultaneously having existential crises. This is coupled with the Brexit crisis which continues to undermine our country, its standing in the world and our economy. The Liberal Democrats are faced with the opportunity of a political lifetime; the first realistic opportunity to break the mould of British politics since the 1980s.

We Liberal Democrats must seize this opportunity to become the biggest progressive party in British politics and replace Labour. Most Remain voters are on the left of politics. If we want to consolidate our position with Remain voters, then we must adopt more centre-left economic and social policies. In the European Election, for example, 15% of paid-up Labour Party members voted for the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are a radical social liberal party, not a conservative-lite party.

If we are to seize this opportunity, we must embrace a clear centre-left identity. Yes, the party has won over many progressive voters with our opposition to Brexit, but what is there to keep these voters once Brexit is no longer a major issue? Britain is still a country which is riven by social hardship from precarious employment, to stagnant wage growth, to squeezed living standards and millions using food banks. We have to acknowledge the role that the austerity economics of the Coalition Government had in making these problems worse. To this end, the Liberal Democrats must be unequivocal in their opposition to austerity and their support for Keynesian economics, as well as reversing the cuts to welfare spending and local government.

Beyond this the party needs to embrace clear radical policies that will advance social justice and will help to keep and win over further left-leaning Remain voters. These should include support for a universal basic income, as well as a universal inheritance. We should support policies to increase workplace democracy by giving employees greater rights to establish worker cooperatives. We need to continue our policy of increasing funding for the NHS and the education system. At a time when our planet is facing a climate emergency, we must be in the vanguard of advancing green politics and combating climate change. Now is the hour for radical political reform not just of the voting system, but of where power lies within the United Kingdom. We should seriously consider supporting a written constitution and a vision to federalise power to the nations and regions of our great country.

There are some basic steps that we can take right now as a party. We need to do more to make the social case for our membership of the European Union. This includes defending the workers’ rights protections that come from the EU, as well as the regional development funding which is vital to the poorest parts of Britain. We also must make the big picture case that the EU is first and foremost a project to ensure peace between the nations of Europe, which had only known war for most of the last two millennia.

An alliance between Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would endanger many of the liberal and progressive values that we have taken for granted for many years. The extreme right is on the rise in multiple countries; Britain must resist the rise of the populist alt-right. Only an “Open Society Alliance” can achieve this; the Liberal Democrats must work with other progressive Remainer parties to forge a new movement which is pro-European, pro-electoral reform, green and anti-austerity.

If you take anything away from this blog article it should be this; after our policy of wanting to Stop Brexit, our next most important policy is wanting to end benefit sanctions. Liberalism is not just for fortunate middle class people, it is for everyone. Benefit sanctions are Draconian and leave the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country destitute and reliant on food banks. They are authoritarian and are the enemy of social justice. It is already Liberal Democrat policy to scrap them. This policy (alongside our opposition to Brexit) should feature in every one of our campaigns and be on every Focus leaflet.

The time is ripe for a political realignment with the emergence of a new radical centre-left party. Only the Liberal Democrats are in a position to achieve this. The party must embrace its radical social liberal history as well as new progressive big ideas. Liberal Democrats must strive not only to end Brexit, but also to end poverty and powerlessness within British society. This is the perfect recipe to reach out to the majority of Remain supporters.

Jo Swinson clearly has big ambitions for the party. The Liberal Democrats must seize this moment to become the political embodiment of progressive liberal Britain. We must become Britain’s leading progressive party. Our opposition to Brexit and social injustice demands nothing less.

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