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.
Having had something of a break over the General Election period, the SLF is back with its nose to the grindstone, publishing new content to stir the interests of liberals – in particular social liberals – everywhere.
OK, not every part of the Labour manifesto was Social Liberalism, that’s true, but it’s worth pointing out that while Corbyn may talk the talk of Socialism the Labour manifesto didn’t walk the walk.
The 2017 general election has delivered one of the biggest upsets in modern British electoral history. Far from winning a landslide majority, Theresa May just narrowly failed to get any majority at all. Now the Conservative Party is in hock to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Britain is now being governed by a right wing regressive alliance.
One of the lesser-known stories of this campaign was the impetus to try and create a progressive alliance between the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and other smaller progressive parties. First Past The Post is a broken electoral system and yet the major progressive parties keep playing by its rules. Both Labour and the Lib Dems historically have been obsessed with standing as many candidates as possible even though this could help to split the progressive vote and get the Conservatives elected.
Talk of progressive alliances is all around us. The fear of five years of right-wing Tory rule with the prospect of a hard Brexit, regressive environmental policies and growing inequality, and all the serious social and economic consequences that will bring has been the stimulus for the initiatives.
As the SLF statement asserts:
“We believe agreements should be based on common aims. In our view, these must include a cast-iron pledge that progressive candidates will vote to keep Britain in the single market and support the introduction of a proportional voting system for Westminster election.”
For some time I have been pondering; what else do we bring to the party? Speaking at the SLF fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference Lisa Nandy, the impressive Labour MP, acknowledged our policy contribution in civil liberties and constitutional matters, people often do when they are trying to be nice to us, but I would argue that there are some other key areas where we have much to offer.
As the most important General Election for a generation approaches, the Social Liberal Forum are calling on people across the UK’s progressive parties to work together to stop a Conservative landslide victory and the hard Brexit that would follow.
We call on members of the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Nationalist parties, the two Green parties and the Women’s Equality Party to explore and forge progressive alliances at a local level.
We recognise that such arrangements could be made within seats or across a cluster of seats. We believe that whether parties step down for each other or merely plan non-aggression pacts – targeting their firepower on the Tories and not each other – this must be decided locally, with parties and candidates planning what works best in their areas.
With an early general election called for 8 June, it is vital that the Liberal Democrats offer a radical policy platform to the country. Europe will obviously be a central issue in the election campaign. However, it is not enough just to be an anti-Brexit party. The Lib Dems must once again be an anti-establishment party, which draws on the radical liberal heritage of Mill, Lloyd George, Beveridge and Grimond.
Here are five radical policies that will transform Britain and gear it more towards opportunity, empowerment and social justice.
Even though the Liberal Democrats were defeated on the final Brexit Bill, they showed themselves, in both Houses, to be united and principled in their opposition. A far cry from most Labour MPs and Peers.
Liberal Democrat Spring Conference will debate nuclear weapons again on Saturday. David Grace has tabled an amendment to end Trident and cancel its replacement, below he explains why.
Would you buy an explosive, poisonous device to protect your house against intruders (when there aren’t any) or would you first fix the roof, repair the boiler and get a new car? If it was hard to make up your mind, what if you were told that the device would take 10% of your income for 30 years and might not work? No brainer, eh? So why the hell do the Tories, Labour and the establishment of the Liberal Democrats want the device? It’s called Successor and it’s the replacement for Trident.