The SLF reached out to each of the Presidential candidates with the same set of questions. The answers below are from Sal Brinton.
If I am elected President, my own personal policy views on matters must be put to one side, because the President is there as the spokesperson for the party, and the policy voted on by the members.
Q1) Please give three examples of where you have supported SLF
1. The Liberal party and now the Lib Dems have always had a wide policy perspective, and the SLF is an important opinion forming group, willing to stand up and challenge any threat of the party moving to the right. The work that the SLF did in pushing forward changes to the Health and Social Care Bill in 2011, persuading our senior politicians to get the Tories to moderate Andrew Lansley's worst excesses was exceptional, and gave us some good wins in the Bill, including Health and Wellbeing Boards, and the stronger involvement of local authorities in delivering public health, are core to our beliefs in a national Health service. I was also supportive of the move to prevent secret courts, and welcomed the strong SLF opposition to it. I rebelled in the Lords on it. Thirdly, I supported Kelly-Marie Blundell's motion on welfare reform - one of the things that the party has hated. Specifically, the part to eradicate the Bedroom Tax, echoed by Andrew George's Bill, I was keen to support, and did so from when it first came to FCC in July.
Q2) Did you support SLF's campaigns at Conferences such as those on the NHS Bill and on the economy?
2. There is a very clear message from those working in the NHS that they do not want to see major restructuring, so I do not support those elements of the SLF NHS Bill that propose it. However, I do support the core principle of an NHS free at the point of delivery, and with limits on privatisation. The EU Directive on NHS Procurement which came into force this time last year, changed the Labour mantra of always having to take the lowest tender: this directive has Lib Dem finger prints all over it: from now on the best tender for delivery of the service, including community, social and environmental, not price, can be selected. On the Economy, I think that the SLF proposals for a fair and socially prioritising economy, trying to protect the weakest in our society are good, but I am not sure the balance between that and growth is right. I am not an Orange Booker, nor an SLF member, but my sympathies are more towards the left. For example, I admire Helen Flynn's 2012 paper on reforming education, and want to see a return to good local comprehensive school systems, accountable to their local authorities. I want to see an end to Academies and Free Schools.
Q3) What are the values of the Liberal Democrats in 2015? Are these being communicated clearly enough?
3. Our values in 2015 are, I believe, those in our founding Constitution. The words of the Preamble to the Constitution still encapsulate our values. With my own interests in education, the freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity lie at the heart of all we stand for. Communicating our values next year is going to be tough, but I do believe that there are people wanting to hear about what we stand for, including past Labour and Conservative supporters who despair at the illiberal and xenophobic paths they they are both taking at the moment, erroneously thinking that they can out ukip UKIP. If we can repeat our message loudly, we will attract support and be the voice of liberalism against a country moving towards right wing intolerance.
Q4) How does the party need to reform?
4. Whilst the mechanisms are in place to keep the power of the party in the hands of the members, the reality is that this is hard to do. On disciplinary matters, the English Party systems has been seen to be too complex and opaque. The level of proof was too high, and it is right that this has changed. But I think we have to have a serious look at our structures to simplify them, and ensure that anyone involved in disciplinary matters is properly trained. The relationship between the FPC, FCC and the parliamentary party/leadership remains a constant tension and whilst I don't think we need reforms, FPC and FCC need to remain constantly vigilant and work with members to make sure that party policy enacted in government reflects party policy made at conference (and where policy in Government is not ours, we should say so loudly and clearly: Coalition is a contract not a marriage).