Recently 30 prominent Liberal Democrats signed a letter to the Guardian about the failure of the Liberal Democrats to make an impression on voters. SLF chair Gordon Lishman was one of the signatories and explains the problems the party is currently facing as we approach the 2024 election year;
The Guardian Letter
A few weeks ago, 30 members of the Liberal Democrats wrote to the Guardian. The group included 9 members of the Federal Policy Committee. The message was concern about the blandness of the Party’s public offering and the failure to project a strong, clear Liberal identity as the foundation for radical policies which capture people’s attention and then their hearts and minds.
The criticism wasn’t new. It was what many people in the Party have been saying for a few years. That includes the FPC members and the SLF.
Some of us who signed the letter expected a serious response from the Leader, President and others. Experience of other leaders suggested that there might be some dialogue and engagement to talk about the issues. In fact, it appears that the reactions were angry, defensive and weak on the substance of the issues. That explained why the original drafters had decided eventually to choose the Guardian letter as their way to raise their concerns.
The SLF agrees with the approach of the letter’s authors and their call for a distinctive and Liberal vision. We agree on the importance of a strong message on the Single Market and the threats to Liberal democracy in the UK and worldwide. We want to see a much stronger emphasis on poverty, the failure of many public services to reach even a minimum acceptable standard, and the need for a shared public commitment to paying what’s necessary for a stronger society. Underpinning these principles, it’s time to challenge the confines of the conventional wisdom of economic orthodoxy.
We agree with the Party’s concentration on the issues that matter to most people, including the cost-of-living crisis, the failing health service, and the failure of care services. These issues need radical policy answers and not just negative whinges and unconvincing slogans.
Even in the run-up to the next General Election, there’s still time to bring out our strong and distinctive Liberal messages. There’s still time to project the Liberal Democrats as a national Party with something to say to people throughout Britain. We want to see that change of emphasis and we shall be asking SLF members and others to agree with us in making that case.
After the General Election, there will be a more thorough debate about Liberal identity and national strategy. The SLF will be contributing strongly to the case for greater clarity of purpose and ambition in strategy.