Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The Liberal Democrat What Do We Stand For Challenge 2013.6 – Another Eight Answers #LibDemValues

Half-way through Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow, I’m turning from the hotly argued policy votes to essential principles and eight Lib Dems’ own individual, diverse, but unifying rallying cries on What the Lib Dems Stand For. Some are shorter, some longer, some I’ll link to for more, but all are recognisably Liberal Democrat. Here’s what Sam Phripp, Prateek Buch, Andrew Tennant, Dave Page, Maelo Manning, Nick Barlow, Andrew Brown, Chris Richards – and me – have to say: which inspires you? Try some in your local party, or on the doorstep, or your leaflets and speeches… And share yours, too!

I last published a round-up of responses to my What the Lib Dems Stand For Challenge immediately before our last Conference in March. Most of the responses below were published not long after that, so a particular thank you to all contributors who got in fairly quickly, and apologies for taking so long to compiling them all. Once again, don’t wait to be asked – if you think you can do better, or more personally, or simply more to your own taste, please send me your own idea or publish it yourself (and ideally let me know, so I don’t miss it). I originally challenged other Lib Dems to come up with roughly 150 words – though that was just for ease of use, so whatever length they fancy, really – summing up what the Lib Dems stand for, after first coming up with my own for people to borrow or blame, a synthesis of the Preamble, the party’s achievements in government and the party leadership’s latest messaging. You’ll find mine below, again, and once again, feel free to borrow it wholesale for your own leaflets, speeches or pizza and politics nights, or to say where I’ve gone right or wrong (or say that about the others, but I’m more comfortable inviting potshots at me than at guests). So here are the next eight, a good mix from across the party, some from people I know well and others I don’t, some more to my own taste than others, but every one a rallying cry from the Lib Dem tradition…

Sam Phripp – “A Voice For the Voiceless”

So Sam said… is the most recent “Why I’m a Liberal Democrat” piece I’ve read – Sam prepared it to form part of his selection speech as Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North East Somerset, but I read it, liked it, so introduced myself to him at Conference the other day and asked if I could reprint some of it. You can read the whole thing on Sam’s blog, but here’s a crucial part:
“The reason I’m a Liberal Democrat, is because I believe Liberal Democrats are a voice for the voiceless - and I know it because I’ve been there.

“When I was young, successive Conservative governments vilified single parent families to the point that mothers including my own were given enough money to feed their children but not themselves.

“When I was growing up and realising that I wasn’t like other boys, Labour legalised Civil Partnership but still didn’t believe that I should be able to marry – actually, properly, marry – the person I love…

“The only people who come to bat, every single time, for people like that, people like me, people who are marginalised are the Liberal Democrats…

“If we don’t do it, nobody else will do it for us. That’s why I’m a Liberal Democrat, and that’s why I’d like to be an MP, because people deserve a voice and people need to have someone on their side.”

Prateek Buch – “The Freedom and Means To Live Fulfilling Lives Free From Poverty, Ignorance and Conformity”

As part of a series of articles on “Putting social liberal values into action”, Prateek gives his own short statement of values as an opening contribution:
“We believe the political economy should empower all citizens with the capability to secure for themselves the freedom and means to live fulfilling lives free from poverty, ignorance and conformity – and that where it falls short, we should promote social justice and tackle barriers of inequality in wealth, voice and power.”

Andrew Tennant – “An Individual’s Right To Self-determination and Control Over Their Own Life”

Andrew Tennant‏ tweeted a shorter version still:
“Believing in an individual’s right to self-determination and control over their own lives, as well as how governed.”

Dave Page – “Increasing People’s Freedom To Enjoy Their Own Potential”

The ever-so-lovely Dave expands on a previous post to hone his appeal both to Lib Dems and to other people of a liberal cast of mind (and potentially Liberal cast of vote). While I’d urge you to read what he has to say in full, here’s his key message:
“The Liberal Democrats stand for increasing people’s freedom to enjoy their own potential, helping everybody to get on in life. We believe in meaningful representative democracy to balance people’s conflicting priorities, and in ensuring protection for the individual from the State and other powerful organisations.

“We believe that nobody should be constrained by lack of opportunity, particularly by the circumstances of their birth. We believe that Government should set the rules by which society operates, so people are rewarded for hard work and innovation, but not for exploitation or pollution. We believe that people should be respected as individuals regardless of their gender, colour, wealth, sexuality, or any other quality – not as homogeneous groups defined by those qualities.

“We believe in accountable, democratic institutions giving people more of a say in their immediate lives and local communities, as well as more of a say in the issues too big for one person, or one country. We believe in solutions which get to the root of the problem rather than just addressing the symptoms.”
Dave’s title for his piece, “This Is What the Lib Dems is About”, always puts this fab track into my head. ‘Moo moo! Moo moo! S-L-F!’ as Dave would no doubt sing. “All aboard, all aboard, woah-oh!”

Maelo Manning – “Fairness, Equality and Community”

I’ve pulled out of the “LibDem Child” blog some of her positive case for the party:
“I believe the party stands for: ‘fairness, equality and community’… For Fairness, I am extremely thrilled at the decisions taken like raising the tax threshold and a commitment to green issues… For Equality – Everybody is given a fair start and supported in the necessary way for them to be able to participate in society. For example, schools in poorer areas are given extra support and guidance to help the pupils have a fair start in life, and the equal marriage bill… For Community – demonstrated at local levels by our superb councillors who are in tune with the needs of their local communities; and party campaigners.”

Nick Barlow – “Maximise the Happiness and Potential of Every Individual”

I recommend reading Nick’s full exploration of the party’s key areas and overall themes, but here’s the coherent message he hones them into at the end:
“We believe in a society that works to maximise the happiness and potential of every individual, one that works to give everyone the opportunity to live their life as they want, providing they do not harm others. We seek to create an open, liberal and democratic world, where power is spread around, people have a real say in decisions that affect them and fair and impartial justice is available to all. A liberal society should protect the environment, promote education, create opportunity, reward enterprise and encourage innovation. Everyone should be free to participate in society and we seek to both tear down the barriers that restrict them and help people to overcome circumstances that limit them. In a liberal society everyone should be free to live their lives, free of restraint by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

Andrew Brown – “Promoting the Freedom of the Individual Within A Society In Which All Can Achieve Their Potential”

Andrew on The Widow’s World offers his own Lib Dem statement of belief:
“Liberal Democrats exist to promote the freedom of the individual within a society in which all can achieve their potential.

“Liberal Democrats have a fundamental belief in the equality of all regardless of income, wealth, status, gender or gender identity, disability, personal capacity or sexual preferences – and that this should be enshrined and supported in law.

“Liberal Democrats believe the role of the State is to facilitate the ability of individuals to reach and exceed their potential and to provide an underpinning of support for those who fail to do so. They believe that spending to meet these aims is of benefit to all and that the burden of taxation should be progressive but not punitive.

“Liberal Democrats are pragmatic, concerned with outcomes not methodology and resisting traditional dogmas of left and right in favour of evidence-based policy which demonstrably support our aims.

“Liberal Democrats support these aims in the UK, in Europe and internationally.”

Chris Richards – “It’s About Freedom”

Chris Richards takes an interestingly different approach, not starting from scratch, from the Preamble to the Lib Dem Constitution or the other inspirations others have taken but looking to a favourite Lib Dem publication, the ‘Values Paper’ It’s About Freedom. I recommend it, too, with co-authors including such impressive names as a long-pre-Leadership Nick Clegg and, er, Alex Wilcock (best to ignore a couple of recent defectors in there, though).

Chris chooses the opening of the paper’s conclusion to champion what the party stands for and I print that first, but I recommend also reading his whole piece, where he chooses many of his favourite passages and highlights some of those he thinks are particularly relevant today. I’ve picked out a small selection of those, too:
“It’s about freedom. That one word is the call for all Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrats believe that maximising personal freedom is fundamental to a liberal society. We believe that freedom means the opportunity to make the most of our lives, while recognising that our actions must not prevent others from sharing those opportunities and that we may need to take active steps to extend freedom to all.”

“The freedom of the individual is, however, limited or non-existent if he or she is prevented by economic deprivation, lack of education, disadvantage or discrimination from exercising choices about how to live or from participating in the democratic process… Institutions are required which keep markets free and prevent monopoly. Other mechanisms are needed to ensure that individuals have access to the things which markets are unable to provide.”

“We reject the use of the state or the law to enforce beliefs… Liberal Democrats do not have a blueprint of how life should be lived, but we do have a set of principles with which to approach problems and decisions.”

“Our first political duty – particularly if we are ourselves in power – is to ensure that mechanisms to protect freedom are in good order, and power is as widely shared as possible.”

Alex Wilcock – “Society Should Be For Everyone, and Every Individual Should Be Free”

I started this whole thing with my own short rallying call, carefully crafted for consensus from the Preamble, our priorities in government, the party’s key message and a bit of me. Very on message, in volume and over time, and so that’ll be up again in just a minute. But last week, I decided to do what several other people have done and write a longer, much more personal story, of how my life experience led me to being a Lib Dem and how the golden thread of Liberalism runs through my life. So I’ve now done what I’ve done to other people’s personal pieces, and filleted it to pull out some of the key ideas:
“My first political memories are of shouting at bullies… With all the division in society, a political party should be for everyone, not hating half the people all the time – or even hating other countries – and that with what I was experiencing personally, everyone should have the freedom to live their own life, too. And that naturally led me to the Liberal Democrats, who were not just appealingly internationalist but, to their core, the only party saying that society should be for everyone, and that every individual should be free…

“Liberalism means that if you start with every individual, you can’t put any person on the scrapheap or hate them for who they are. The founding principles of Liberalism over the centuries – of individual freedom, equality before the law and controlling arbitrary power – are living, breathing, vital ideas that I’d discovered for myself in the desire to choose my own life, my belief that everyone should be treated the same, even as a little boy knowing that you had to stand up to bullies… Part of not favouring any one ‘side’ is realising that anyone can be a bully, or can be bullied – or, in philosophical terms, any sort of power can threaten liberty, but any sort of power can protect it, too. Whether it’s the state, or big business or big unions, or just other people, any of them can boss you around and anyone can help stop you being bossed around. So you can’t do away with any of them – and you can’t say any of them are right all the time, or be in their pockets. Which means aiming to create The Perfect Society will always be a disaster, but working at making a better society means there’s always more real life to be listened to and more work to be done…

“That’s why for me saying what we stand for is more important than any single policy. It’s important because unless we keep sight of why we bother, there’s nothing to inspire us. And it’s important to remember that we’re for everyone, that everyone should be free to live their own lives, and so we’re here to bring everyone together, as far as we can, and to stop people being pushed around, as far as we can… We’re still the only party that says society should be for everyone, and that every individual should be free.”

The Liberal Democrat What Do We Stand For Challenge (so far)

A very big thank you from me to all those who’ve taken part so far – both in today’s contributions, and back in March. I hope you encourage and inspire many others not just to read but to think and come up with their own versions of What the Lib Dems Stand For in turn. If that’s you this time, dear reader, please do! And then I might publish a third collection.

Once again, feel free to borrow my own message – below – and use it yourself. It’s my contribution to open-source Liberalism – getting across what we stand for in something more meaningful than a soundbite but still short enough to be no more than a minute’s speech or a box on a Focus leaflet. If you do make use of it, I’d prefer it if you let me know, but that’s not compulsory (I imagine the other contributors above feel much the same, but it’s probably polite to ask them first). So, synthesising the Preamble to the Constitution, the party’s priorities in government and Nick Clegg’s repeated mantra, here’s my on-message message again:
“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 greener, stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life.”

Happy 25th Birthday, Liberal Democrats – and What the Lib Dems Stand For 2013.1

Why we should sum up What the Lib Dems Stand For, and how it’s developed over the years.

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

Setting out my ‘What the Lib Dems Stand For’ based on the Preamble, practice and core messaging, and challenging other Lib Dems to come up with their own.

The Liberal Democrat What Do We Stand For Challenge 2013.3 – Eight Answers (so far) #LibDemValues

After receiving the first set of responses, rounding up eight different Liberal Democrats’ versions of what we stand for.

The Liberal Democrat What Do We Stand For Challenge 2013.4 – What It’s All About #LibDemValues

Inviting people to use my short declaration of ‘What the Lib Dems Stand For’ and explaining what each bit of it means.

What the Lib Dems Stand For 2013.5 – Why I Am A Liberal Democrat #LibDemValues

The long version of my personal philosophical story, as quoted in brief above.

Two last points that suit this sort of round-up. Simon Titley of Liberator has been one of the party’s more outspoken critics of “a stronger economy in a fairer society”, though not conspicuously proposing any alternative. However, on the cover of last month’s issue, Liberator offered “one simple amendment” to make it “Fairer Economy, Stronger Society”. I don’t have a problem with the first part of that, but the second sends shivers down my spine. Together, they sound more like the authoritarian left to me than any kind of Liberalism; on its own, the second half could be any communal bully from the state to a village to unbreakable ‘tradition’, reactionary, conservative and the enemy of the individual. Maybe “Stronger Society” just has a different ring to those of us a strong society has almost always wanted to push around than to those society’s always privileged, but I’d want no part of that oppressively authoritarian, illiberal combination.

I do, though, recommend Lib Dem Blogger of the Year 2013 David Boyle – congratulations, David – in his look back at Jo Grimond’s most famous speech on its fiftieth anniversary, and well done to Simon Titley, this time, for reminding David of the hero of the Liberator crew back when they were exciting Young Liberals. I’d had it in my diary to cover too, but as I’ve been knackered, and ill, and it’s Conference, and as most importantly David’s written a much better article than I would have anyway – look out for the less famous (merely infamous) words of a Labour councillor – I’m very glad that rather than writing it up for one of my own ‘Liberal Mondays’ I can simply point you to David’s excellent “The Sound of Gunfire revisited”.

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I really like Dave's way of putting it: you hear so much about achieving your potential, which kind of stresses me out (did I achieve my "potential"? well I failed out of college, my parents don't understand my job and I think they're disappointed they have no grandchildren...doesn't look good so far!). I much prefer the idea of enjoying my potential, which isn't about accruing all the societally-mandated markers or milestones (or subculture-mandated; it's easy for "alternative" types to sneer at job/house/kids but then they'd all be shocked that I don't have tattoos, or make my own hummus, or worship pagan goddesses, because they all have their own markers and milestones too), but just about finding what I enjoy and getting more of that.
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