The hopes and dreams of the 21st century have faded away. Britain awaits Theresa May’s hard Brexit, Donald Trump is American President and fear of nationalism is sweeping across continental Europe. The Western world is in the grip of a huge identity crisis. Identity politics is the nationalistic fuel behind both Brexit and Trump. The populist right present themselves as anti-establishment, while traditional social democratic parties sink into the electoral abyss. Decades of market fundamentalist policies have hollowed out our politics and our communities.
Into this crisis of progressive politics and liberal democracy come social liberals. Internationalism is under attack and British society continues to have vast inequalities of wealth and power. Social liberals have the ability to revive progressive politics, but in-order to do so we must change the political narrative and reclaim our biggest and most radical ideas.
Whilst the Liberal Democrat Brexit Policy is a good short-term policy, it is one that will have to adapt as the fast moving situation changes. The Liberal Democrats are in danger of becoming a single-issue party with Tim becoming a Brexit bore.
One of the saddest things about the lurch to extremism and the right wing of the political spectrum over the past few years—and especially these last few months—has been that attention has been taken away from the significant problems with capitalism and its reliance on continued growth that the 2008 crash had exposed.
The Classical Economists, in particular Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, had already theorised centuries ago that growth could not go on forever and that eventually states would enter the condition of being a “stationary state”. John Stuart Mill wrote that the “increase of wealth is not boundless….the end of growth leads to a stationary state”. In addition, John Maynard Keynes thought that economic growth should not be infinite and that eventually we should reach a place where we could focus on more spiritual issues.
I must start with a confession: I am one of those people who voted for Brexit. However, I am not racist, nor am I uninformed. My reasons for voting to leave is that I have come to view the EU as an anti-democratic force imposing a neoliberal agenda that causes economic injustice and inequality for working people in member states.
I am not anti-European, in fact, I am a Europhile. However, I will refrain from using the age-old argument that 'many of my best friends are Europeans' and instead note that I speak passable Spanish, Italian and French. Indeed, being from County Kerry in Ireland, and having a Glaswegian father, some would argue that it's my English that needs improving.
Green Party activist, Clifford Fleming, writes a guest post for the Social Liberal Forum
Almost exactly one week ago today Sarah Olney became the MP for Richmond Park, ousting the Brexit-backing Tory (turned Independent) Zac Goldsmith. The story that dominated the headlines: ‘voters had rejected a hard Brexit; Liberal Democrats were back in business’. But what really happened in this by-election and why did Olney win?
On Friday 4th November the Green Party made a decision not to stand against Olney. Following decisions from UKIP and the Conservatives to back Goldsmith, the ‘regressive alliance’, the local Green Parties (Richmond and Kingston) chose not to stand a candidate. Caroline Lucas even came to visit and support Olney, causing division amongst Greens. In the 2015 General Election the Green Party candidate Andrée Frieze came in 4th place, polling 6% with 3,548 votes. Sarah Olney won Richmond Park with 1,872 votes.
Saying that 2016 has been a bad year for liberalism is a huge understatement. From Britain voting to leave the European Union to the election of Donald Trump; illiberal forces are rising around the world. Across continental Europe the populist right continues to gain support from France to Austria, from the Netherlands to Hungary. All of these examples have at their heart a wish to undermine liberal freedoms and equal rights, as well as a determination to oppose internationalism and immigration.
In Britain, Brexit triumphed on the back of dog whistle politics, fear, mistrust of political elites and communities who felt left behind. Theresa May appears to be sliding towards a hard Brexit, while at the same time indulging in a touch of populism that is only surpassed by the incoming President of the United States. Trump’s campaign was blatantly misogynistic, xenophobic and even disablist. Despite this, he still triumphed, primarily due to the quirks of the Electoral College system. The result was met with members of the so-called ‘alt-right’ hailing Trump’s victory with Nazi salutes. But the worst may not yet be over, as the French Front National seems likely to make it to the second round of next year’s Presidential Election.
Richmond Park was the Progressive Alliance's first real test – and it passed with flying colours.
Lester Holloway submitted the following article and SLF Vice-Chair, Gordon Lishman, responds
The latest Social Liberal Forum newsletter encouraged members to vote for SLF candidates who are standing for federal party committees. Nothing wrong with that. Apart from the fact that all eleven candidates are white.
I raised concerns only to be informed that the previous SLF newsletter had included a call out for any SLF members who were standing to respond, and the promoted candidates list had not excluded any responder. That missed the point entirely.
Promoting an all-white slate for internal elections is a problem. Not noticing it is a bigger problem. Having the problem pointed out and still not seeing the problem… an even bigger problem still.
Which begs the question: on the issue of lack of racial diversity in the party, is the Social Liberal Forum part of the problem?
While some of the announcements in yesterday’s Autumn Statement were welcome, it also included much to be concerned about.
Extra money to encourage private house-building and the abolition of letting agent fees are welcome, but expecting the private sector alone to make up the shortfall in housing is completely unrealistic. With interest rates and gilt yields at historically low levels, the Government could, and should, borrow significantly more to invest in the social homes our country desperately needs.