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.

The ‘Four’ have came together 60 years after George Watson’s book The Unservile State unleashed a host of radical, liberal and distributivist ideas and they believe the time has come for a new initiative, building on those ideas and new ones for the world we now inhabit.

Their introduction says:

“Challenging conventional wisdom is hard work, particularly when it’s embedded in public opinion or party stereotypes. We need to break down the barriers between political tribes which inhibit open discussion on big policy issues such as those addressed in this book. Many of these ideas are broadly shared by people of a progressive perspective across party boundaries. Our goal is not just to win political office and to manage the system within the constraints of existing opinions and prejudices. We want to create a shared analysis of problems and a new political narrative so that we can forge a new future based on very different attitudes. We know that social liberalism can make a major contribution to that campaign; it might even lead it”.

There are essays on three main themes – Towards a New Economics, The Welfare Society and Climate Change, with a final essay on European Integration by Richard Corbett MEP, Labour Leader in the European Parliament.

Vince Cable, Ed Davey, Rebecca Taylor, David Howarth and Duncan Brack are amongst the Lib Dem contributors. Graham Allen, formerly a Labour MP and Chair of the Commons Political & Constitutional Reform Select Committee has contributed on the importance of early intervention and Norman Warner, a former Labour Health Minister now a cross-bench peer, has written on the choices to create a sustainable NHS.

Each section is introduced and put in context by an SLF thinker.

Iain Brodie-Browne introduces the economics section and essays by David Haworth on Liberal Economics, Stuart White on Alternative Liberalism, David Boyle on Trying to Remember what Liberal Economics Meant, and Vince Cable MP on Regulation and Competition in the World of Datafication.

Gordon Lishman introduces Norman Warner’s essay on the NHS, his own essay on the failure to reform Social Care, Rebecca Taylor on Health Inequalities, Paul Hindley on Social Rights and Left Behind Communities, Helen Flynn and John Howson on Twenty-first Century Learning, Graham Allen on Early Intervention, Alex Marsh on the Housing Crisis, and Tom Holden on Universal Basic Income.

Edward Robinson introduces Ed Davey on Next Steps to De-carbonise the UK, Suzanna Carp on Climate Change, Migration and Human Rights, Duncan Brack on Greening Government, and Paul Hoggett and Chris Robertson on Climate Psychology.

David Grace introduces Richard Corbett’s essay. Ekta Prakash rounds off the book with a Social Liberal summary of the whole book and how we can move forward.

Four Go In Search of Big Ideas is available here for £9.50 including postage and packing.

A version of this blog was first published on the Lib Dem Voice website on 5th March 2018.

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