• Now is not the time for a progressive alliance with Labour

    June 08, 2016 8:30 AM

    by Energlyn Churchill

    Who are the Liberal Democrats and what are they for? It's a question that the electorate has struggled with, not least because different party members are likely to give differing answers. If all political parties are broad churches, then ours is broader than most. Classic Liberalism, Social Liberalism, Economic Liberalism, Social Democracy; you name it and I've probably encountered it during my 22 year association with the Party. It goes some way towards explaining why we have often been accused of trying to be all things to all people.

    The historic failure of Liberal leaders to nail any definitive colours to the mast has not helped the situation. Instead, we have relied on the 'cult' of well known local candidates who 'get things done'; on being the party of protest; on being the party that does a good job locally. Other than perhaps having the vague sense that we are a 'progressive' party, very few vote Liberal Democrat because they have a clue what Liberalism is. Frankly, we've never really told them.

    Read more

  • Our diversity is our greatest strength - don't let the 'leavers' divide us on this issue

    June 06, 2016 8:30 AM

    "Immigration has been a blessing for our country". 

    "This country was built on the back of hard work by migrants".

    I wish that during the course of this referendum campaign we would hear more statements like these from our leading politicians and thinkers - because it's the truth.

    Like me, I'm sure many of you are thoroughly depressed by what at times seems like constant immigrant bashing on our televisions sets and in our newspapers. Those who want us to leave the EU on 23rd June, are resorting to the 'immigration' card because they have lost all credibility on the economics of Brexit, which would be disastrous. I'm sad to say that the Remain side have not pushed back hard enough on all the false claims that the 'leavers' are making. If they want to make immigration an issue in this debate, let them. It'll give our side the opportunity to present the facts about how good immigration has been for the UK.

    As the grandson of refugees from Cyprus, I know how much migrants to the UK from all around the world have contributed to our society. I know because my family have given back to our economy and our local community. Because my neighbours’ families have, my friends’ families have. I come from one of the most diverse parts of the country, the London Borough of Brent. Here, people from all around the world live and work side by side. It works in Brent and in communities up and down the country because we view our diversity as our greatest strength. 

    Read more

  • The tenant as customer

    June 04, 2016 10:30 AM

    by Andrew Toye

    It has been the mantra of modern times: an unquestionable article of faith – “The customer is always right”.  We are all supposed to be “on the side of the consumer”, against big and powerful vested interests that would rip us off given half a chance.

    Given that the Customer is King, I wondered why, in His realm, that there is one huge gaping hole that the free market is failing to fill?  By this I mean housing.

    Despite all the rhetoric, the consumer of private rented accommodation is being ripped off mercilessly.  Rents are going up well above inflation, but the quality of the product that they pay for stays the same (and in some cases deteriorates).  Powerful vested interests (landlords) even have the law on their side.  You want to double your money?  No problem; as long as there are people who are rich enough (and stupid enough) to pay the rents, you can.  Some local authorities have a landlords’ licensing scheme, and often serve correction notices on those whose property is sub-standard, but there is no consumer watchdog as in other markets - the customer is always wrong.  It all goes back to Magna Carta: wealthy barons protecting their property interests from bad King John.  (Democracy came later).

    Read more

  • The Progressive Case for EU Membership

    February 25, 2016 8:30 AM

    David Cameron has finally announced the long-awaited European Union Referendum for Thursday 23rd June. Much of the media coverage has focused on the divisions within the Conservative Party, especially between Cameron and Boris Johnson. This is an argument about the future of our country. The pro-European case must not be restricted to moderate Tories; there is a centre-left progressive case for Britain’s EU membership that needs hearing.

    The arguments so far have focussed on the economic case for Britain’s membership of the EU. Britain does much of its trade with the EU. This is the economic life blood of our small and medium-sized businesses, and with it the thousands of jobs that depend on them. A threat to our free trade with Europe would increase the price of everyday goods, what the Liberals a century ago dubbed “stomach taxes”. However, there’s much more to our membership of the EU than just economics.

    Read more

  • Charles Kennedy Award for Social Justice

    February 15, 2016 1:07 PM

    This post details the criteria, judging panel and timeline for the inaugural Charles Kennedy Award for Social Justice.  

    The Social Liberal Forum launched the Charles Kennedy award for Social Justice at the SLF Conference held a few weeks after his untimely death in 2015. Nominations were officially opened at the subsequent Liberal Democrat Federal conference in Bournemouth in September 2015. 

    Nominations will remain open until Sunday 13th March 2016 - please contact us for a nomination form.


    The award will go to an individual or group which has:

    • campaigned tirelessly to deliver social justice or to raise awareness of particular groups affected by it

    • devised innovative and creative approaches to tackle particular issues, overcoming barriers to support

    • built cross party or cross sector relationships in order to further social justice

    • challenged or investigated social injustices in a way that has made a difference

    • engaged in policy advocacy to protect and promote social justice for the most vulnerable

    Read more

  • Naomi Smith steps down from Social Liberal Forum - new Interim Chair appointed

    January 11, 2016 5:04 PM

    Naomi Smith steps down from Social Liberal Forum - New Interim Chair appointed

    Naomi Smith is stepping down as Chair of the Social Liberal Forum as she is starting a new role that requires political neutrality.

    At its Council Meeting on Saturday 9th January 2016, the SLF Council decided unanimously to appoint current Director, Gordon Lishman, as interim Chair, effective immediately, until the next set of SLF council elections take place in the Summer. 

    Read more

  • In favour of a fairer economy in a stronger society

    January 08, 2016 4:02 PM

    SLF Executive Director, Gordon Lishman, writes about a new Economics motion the Social Liberal Forum will be submitting for Conference to debate.

    For the past few weeks I have been working closely with colleagues - including Vince Cable - on an Economics motion to be submitted to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York.  

    Throughout the coalition years and despite efforts by some of our Ministers and spokespeople, Liberal Democrat economic policy was defined in the eyes of the electorate by George Osborne.  This is our first opportunity to agree a new, distinctive policy on broad economic issues for an independent Party.

    The motion re-states existing policy in important areas and puts it in the context of a new overall economic policy for the Liberal Democrats.  It also puts the Party firmly in its traditional, social liberal approach to the economy as set out in the Preamble to our Constitution.  That includes our commitment to social justice, the enabling State and to tackling growing inequalities.

    Read more

  • Naomi Smith's New Year Message

    December 31, 2015 8:00 PM

    Dear fellow Social Liberal, 

    Instead of talking about securing Liberal Democrat electoral successes, I wanted to use this New Year’s message to talk about the importance of the task we face in securing the UK’s place in the European Union.

    2016 could bring us an in-out referendum. The leave campaign is storming ahead. They are well funded, focused and are feeding the tabloids, The Telegraph and The Times, with daily EU scare stories. 

    Read more

  • What the Liberal Democrats need for 2016: a strategy

    December 30, 2015 3:22 PM

    Last week I tried to focus three months' growing frustration at the lack of focus (or focus) from a Liberal Democrat party still shell-shocked from its May cataclysm.  It ended up, half-jokingly, being a parody of a tired party campaign-by-numbers format: the 'Six to Fix'.  As so often with such a device, I quickly realised, it missed the point. It doesn't matter if you fix the internals of the engine if the thing doesn't move.

    The three months have coincided with a bigger challenge I had set myself.  While I had just about held onto my party membership under Clegg, unlike many other social liberals, I had cancelled my direct debit.  So any actual renewal involved positive physical effort.  My membership was due in September.  Three months on, and such is the chaos in the party HQ operation (one of the six) that it hasn't even emailed out a reminder.  After Syria, I am a lot less likely to renew, although the Federal Policy Committee's deliberations and adoption of a motion I authored has tempered the position somewhat.  

    It is as much about the political as the moral judgment.  The Syria vote was for Parliamentarians an exercise in voting for people to be killed - whichever way you voted.  The most difficult choice of all.  However, it is one of a set of recent decisions (I will not repeat what I've previously written) in which positioning appears to have triumphed over a Liberal analysis of the issues at hand.  And in the politics of 2015, when trying not to upset anyone is neither realistic nor attainable as a political strategy, second-guessing your opponents is a strange response to an existential threat to your party caused by a failure to connect with the electorate.

    Read more