Monday, March 04, 2013


What the Lib Dems Stand For 2013.2 – a Challenge and a Meme #LibDemValues

Liberal Democrats! What would you say the Lib Dems stand for? How would you inspire members to stay with us? How would you persuade voters to agree with us? How would you link our philosophy to our achievements in government – and make it clear which bits of government are distinctly Lib Dem? Here’s my go at saying what we stand for. Does it make sense to you? Inspire you? Irritate you? Is it good enough, or could you do better? Then look below and join in the meme, sharing your own vision, your own enthusiasm in time for Conference.
The Liberal Democrats stand for freedom for every individual – freedom from poverty, ignorance and conformity.

To make that freedom real needs both fairness and economic responsibility: an economy that works, that encourages enterprise, and where everyone pays their fair share.

So freedom from poverty requires responsible spending, not debt, built on fairer taxes where lower earners pay less tax and the wealthiest pay more, and building green jobs for the future.

Freedom from ignorance needs better education and training, so people have the opportunity to realise their potential.

And freedom from conformity, supported by freedom from poverty and ignorance, means everyone should have the liberty to live their lives as they choose – without harming others; with equality before the law; with a better say, because no government always knows best.

That’s why Liberal Democrats are working for a stronger, greener economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.

Yesterday, marking the Lib Dems’ twenty-fifth anniversary, I offered an older version of my ‘What the Lib Dems Stand For’ and explained in detail what the idea was about and how I’d used and changed it. So, today, I’m just giving the main ideas, and a challenge to you.

The Meme

OK, Lib Dems – can you tell me what I’ve got right, or got wrong? More importantly, can you do better?

So I’m starting a meme. Blog it. Put it in the comments below. Email me (contact in the sidebar). Tweet it (hashtag #LibDemValues). If you come up with your own version by Wednesday evening and let me know, I’ll do a round-up post with all of them on Thursday, to give us all something to go off to Conference with, inspired.

And if you blog your own version – please do – then please also tag three other people to take part. The more the merrier. And should you wish to nudge any MPs, Peers or other party grandees…

I hope you’ll think about What the Lib Dems Stand For just from reading this and not need a personal invitation, but to get the ball rolling I’m tagging not just three but six people:

What’s It For?

The Bits I Think Work Best

The Bits I Think Probably Need More Work

Stronger Economy, Fairer Society: The New ‘Core Message’

But that’s enough from me. Over to you – what do you say the Lib Dems Stand For?

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So how has this glorious Liberal world-view been affected by our MPs' decision to vote through Secret Courts in Parliament yesterday?
after Yesterday's vote and with various ongoing things, I think it's best I don't do this at the moment. I would almost certainly end up in a frothing rage and say stuff everyone would regret :(
It's reinforced it - all the more reason for the rest of us to make it clear what the party stands for, if even our MPs have forgotten.

We've stopped talking about Freedom and tried to just split the difference between Labour and Tory - well, last night proves that's not good enough.

So, one of the least happy days to ask this question, but one of the most important, surely?
Yes. Unfortunately my inability to do it is not about the importance of the day but my ability to perform the task.
Here's my not very good and over long version.
Here's my attempt at 150 words. First off, I think "freedom from" (negative liberty) is by definition not as inspiring or positive as, er, positive freedom ("freedom to").

Also, the party message about letting people "get on in life" seems such a low bar, so grey and unexcited. What about wanting people to be the best they can?

Here's my 149 words:

Liberal Democrats place the highest value on freedom of every kind: social, economic and personal.

Social freedom means that your potential is not defined by the circumstances of your birth. It means that education, healthcare and public safety are available to all people, no matter where or how they live.

Economic freedom means a country that can afford its own standard of living and that the public good requires us all to pay our fair share. Economic freedom means that the country will not fall under the power of a narrow interest group or industry.

Personal freedom rests on the simple proposition that the government should not intrude or regulate the private lives of citizens. Political systems should ensure that the people’s voice is heard.

That is why Liberal Democrats are working for a fairer society built on a stronger economy, enabling everyone to be the best they can be.

Hi Alex,

I like your summary (and I know that, for you, keeping it down to 150 words is a huge challenge :o)

I’m not so convinced by “building green jobs for the future”, though. I think that “green jobs” might be a fashionable but meaningless concept. The “greener economy” bit I’m not so concerned about, though I still don’t like the language.

Liberals ought to try to find a language for environmentalism that is less about Almighty Gaia and more about the intergenerational bargain. For too long we have been living high off the hog at the expense of future generations; we’ve depleted natural resources but spent the money on jam today rather than investments for tomorrow. The same is true of climate change.

The above makes it a lot harder to evoke a powerful image in a few words than the “green” stuff does. But if we focus too much on the “green”, we risk begging the question “Why not just vote Green?”. We’ll never hug more polar bears than them anyway, so we need to make our environmentalism more intellectually honest and robust.

I realise this is probably a minority view, of course, and it’s hardly a stinging critique of your whole narrative. On the whole I think it’s very good and I also commend you for starting this meme. Good luck with it.
Hi Tom, and apologies that your comment languished for so long in the spam trap: I’m revisiting these posts now and happened to catch it!

Thank you for the positivity, and I’ll try to deal with a few of your “Green” concerns. Like much of my, er, supercondensed message by my standards, it’s trying to do several things at once. And for me, the problem was that I didn’t manage to fit nearly enough in there, rather than too much.

For a lot of us, though I realise not for all Lib Dems, it’s a crucial part of what the party’s about, though in things like this it’s slightly hampered by not having a word of the same order as “Freedom” or “Fairness” to strike an instant chime with people (“ecology” being rather too scientific and “greenery” about shrubs). If you find a language about the intergenerational bargain that gets it across in a couple of words, I’d love to have it.

One of the things I tried to do was to take our principles – the green agenda is a crucial part of them – and our priorities – just yesterday at his monthly press conference, Nick Clegg reiterated that the economy must become not only fiscally but environmentally sustainable – and express them not in the most detailed or the most absolutist but the most appealing ways. I made some choices about language through instinct about what would appeal the most, and some influenced by polling I’ve studied about which ways of putting across particular ideas people most warm to.

That’s relevant in two key ways about my green mentions. One is that for a significant number of voters, as well as Lib Dem members, the green agenda is important on its own and not to mention it as part of what we stand for would be a turn-off – and for over twenty years, the environment has been the main and usually the only issue on which polling shows the Lib Dems are seen as the best party. The other is, as I said, how I mentioned it; for those who don’t care, as you put it, “about Almighty Gaia,” to show why the green agenda is important by linking it to something they do care about. Over the years, I’ve usually done that by talking about the impact of the environment on health or the economy or both. And as the economy is our biggest priority at the moment and not just me but the Deputy Prime Minister has consistently talked about rebalancing it in a more sustainable way, the simplest, most relevant and definitely most populist two words are “green jobs”.

All that means I’ve already answered indirectly your fear that mentioning it means “Why not just vote Green?”: it’s what we stand for; it’s one of the few popular things we’re recognised for; it’s one of our main priorities in government; it would be dumb to throw any of those under a bus. The direct answer to that question is that we’re better for the environment than the Greens are because our plans are realistic and can work – working with the market and the EU rather than pretending they don’t exist and having to rip everything in the world up and start again, not so preachy in telling you what to do – and not only can our plans work, but they are working, with the Lib Dems delivering in Coalition Government and with thousands of councillors in local government. We’ve not just got the realistic ideas – we’ve got the power to really do it.

You might like to read how I address these points in more detail in my previous articles Green Liberalism, The Green Vote and British Politics and Stick ‘Green Action’ on Every Leaflet Ever (guess what that one’s about).
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