• A 21st-Century Liberal Approach to Education

    June 08, 2018 1:26 PM

    Education has always been of special importance for liberals and Liberal Democrats throughout the ages. It has been one of the best vehicles for enabling individuals to obtain their full potential, develop their talents and make the most of the opportunities that they are presented with. It is with this in mind that Helen Flynn and John Howson’s chapter is so warmly received in the latest publication from the Social Liberal Forum, ‘Four Go In Search of Big Ideas’.

    Flynn and Howson rightly place great emphasis on the need to improve early years education. They call for a highly funded early years sector that is equipped with the staff necessary to develop the learning of schoolchildren and identify any potential barriers that they may face in future learning. These teachers would need to be well educated and properly trained. The authors identify that educational inequalities emerge even before children start their formal education at the age of five. The socio-economic inequalities faced by children from the poorest backgrounds need to be tackled with extra funding from the very beginning.

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  • Your Home, Your Power Station

    April 08, 2018 1:22 PM

    Ed Davey’s contribution (on the next steps to decarbonize the UK) to a new collection of essays from the Social Liberal Forum is a tour de force in strategic thinking. 

    One of the great strengths of Liberal thought through the ages has been an ability to find practical, scientifically and economically-sound solutions to pressing social challenges. For an excellent example of this, from someone who has held high office, look no further than Sir Ed Davey’s essay in Four Go In Search of Big Ideas, which not only provides a wide-ranging discussion of the challenges of decarbonising the UK’s economy in line with the aims of the Paris Agreement but also presents up-to-date policy suggestions to support the deployment of cutting-edge green tech.

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  • Liberals and Neo-liberals

    March 18, 2018 3:36 PM

    Professor David Howarth, formerly LibDem MP for Cambridge, contributes to the new SLF book with a powerful, closely argued essay on Liberal economics. This an extract:

    Here is a puzzle: if JS Mill, JM Keynes and James Meade were all Liberals and economists, what is a ‘neo-liberal’ economist? One might have thought that it would be someone who updated their thought to consider new facts and new problems.

    In a highly successful example of propaganda and disinformation, ‘neoliberal’ has come to mean the doctrines of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman. But those doctrines are anything but ‘neo’. They hark back to the era before Mill. We need to rectify names. Instead of ‘neo-liberals’ the followers of Hayek and Friedman might be called ‘paleo-partial liberals’.

    The next step is to reclaim the Liberal tradition. That was the avowed aim of the editors of the Orange Book, but what some of them seemed to mean was not updating Mill, Keynes and Meade but abandoning them in favour of paleo-partial liberalism. Admittedly the diagnosis was not entirely wrong. The Liberal Democrats, as a political party, had wandered a long way from the Liberal tradition and had succumbed to various forms of conventional wisdom.

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  • SLF announces the publication of Four Go in Search of Big Ideas in time for the Lib Dem Southport Conference

    March 08, 2018 9:32 PM

    The Social Liberal Forum is pleased to announce the publication of Four Go In Search of Big Ideas as an important contribution to a Progressive Alliance of Ideas, People and Campaigns. Contributors include leading Liberal Democrats and people from other political backgrounds and some from outside formal parties. But social liberalism provides the common thread which weaves its way through the entire book. In amongst strong analysis of what is wrong with the country now and why we need radical change, are bold and radical ideas for change that the SLF hopes will gain wide attention.

    The book is edited by Chair of the SLF, Helen Flynn, the first time a liberal publishing venture of this type has been led by a woman. The eponymous ‘Four’ of the title are: Helen Flynn, Iain Brodie Browne, Gordon Lishman and Ekta Prakash. They believe that the revival of progressive politics in the UK must be based on winning the battle of ideas. All four come from the North of England and their approach reflects their anger about the state of UK politics and particularly its effect on our country outside the South East.

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  • The Brexit vote and what it may mean for UK borders

    March 03, 2018 2:14 PM

    A new chapter of the continuing Brexit negotiations nightmare has kicked off, courtesy of Boris Johnson saying that the row over the border in Northern Ireland is being used to frustrate Brexit. It is therefore extremely timely that Nigel Lindsay, SLF Council member, has shared his insights and ideas on “The EU and the UK: The Liberal Case for Territorial Differentiation” in our most recent long-read publication.

    Nigel spells out the issues surrounding the vexed Ireland-Northern Ireland border conundrum, and describes scenarios where a possible border between Northern Ireland and Scotland, and even a possible border between Scotland and England, could arise if voters’ wishes are actually to be taken into consideration.

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  • The Hacked Revolution

    October 27, 2017 7:55 AM

    ‘Take back control’ and the demand to transfer power back to the people were apparently central demands of the Leave campaign during the EU referendum in 2016. These aims were regularly put forward as the main reason for walking away from the European Union. Who can deny these aspirations? The need to share power and reduce the influence of the executive has been a long-standing challenge in British politics. In fact these aspirations have been at the heart of progressive thinking for a number of years, so how was this agenda taken over by groups on the right and how can these principles be re-energised by Liberal Democrats?

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  • To Tackle Inequality, the Liberal Democrats must reach out to Working People

    September 14, 2017 11:11 PM

    Britain is deeply divided. The harsh economic realities of Brexit are beginning to be known. Years of austerity have weakened the public sector. Personal debt levels are out of control, while the financial sector appears to have failed to learn the lessons of the 2008 crisis. Even workers at McDonald's are going on strike. There is growing inequality across the country.

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  • The Dangers of Learning from History

    August 09, 2017 7:11 AM

    Conventional wisdom tells us if we don't know our history we're doomed to repeat it. But in politics the risk of fighting yesterday's battles means we should treat historical lessons with caution - and remember that the “will of the people” can change quickly. 

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  • 2017 William Beveridge Lecture: Is a liberal and democratic society compatible with globalization?

    July 23, 2017 12:03 AM

    First delivered at the Social Liberal Forum Conference on 15 July 2017

    Dani Rodrik, one of my favourite economists – a Turk teaching at Harvard – wrote some five years ago that we may be discovering that democracy is not compatible with unconditional globalization; and that if we have to choose, we must prefer democracy and open society to globalization.  I take that as my text, and will explore its implications for Liberals, who believe in open societies and international cooperation but also in individual freedom within settled communities.   I have a second text, which is President Macron’s declaration that France must support a market economy, but not a market society’ – which is a good phrase for us to adopt in Britain, when Corbynistas are close to rejecting the market as such and the Conservative right sees the market as governing social provision.

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