Tuesday, June 06, 2017
A Liberal Britain. A Brighter Future. My Hope.
I’m a Liberal and I want a brighter future.
This General Election hasn’t been about that. I’m sick at heart of the Theresa May—Jeremy Corbyn—Brexit bad trip to a meaner past.
But the hope of a Liberal future keeps me going.
My vote on Thursday will not be just to stop the Conservatives / stop Labour because though both are s**t I’m marginally more afraid of one than the other. I can’t vote to make Britain just a bit worse.
I’ll vote positively.
Here’s my hope of a future worth voting for.
Do you want a brighter future?
Because if you do, then I should warn you – it’s going to take all sorts of things. Making society be for everyone, so everyone can be free. Finding long-term funding for the NHS and schools. And not being afraid to reconsider when things go wrong.
It won’t be easy answers, fear and blame.
But I’ll tell you what it could be…
Britain, 2030. A Liberal Democrat government, and a decade since Britain voted against the mayhem of a disastrous bad Brexit deal and changed Britain’s future.
The biggest change was the one no-one expected. It was Brexit that broke Westminster. The Prime Minister no-one elected ordered everyone to obey. The government without a plan grabbed for more power than ever. But the more they tightened their grip, the more people slipped through their fingers. Their extreme Brexit mess brought Britain to the brink of disaster, yet they never took responsibility for their own incompetence and they still tried to stop anyone having a say. Labour just split four ways and fought each other. But with popular pressure (and all those Lib Dem gains), even MPs rebelled. A new hope. When Britain had another choice, we threw out the idea of government control too.
The Liberal Democrat government came to power to bring everyone together, admitting they wouldn’t always know best and promising to listen all the way. Principles first, then consulting people, testing plans out to make sure they work, building consensus – that’s how changes happen now. The age of imposition leading to massive screw-ups is over.
It’s much easier to be heard and make a difference. Britain’s nations, regions, cities and counties took back control from one-size-fits-all Westminster. With real power distributed, economies across the country are stronger. Fair votes mean you get what you vote for and can hold them to account. With the end of safe seats, some Labour and Tory MPs gave up, but now all parties have to work harder and listen more. And whether the best place to use power is locally, nationally or internationally, the most important place to take decisions is you taking power over your own life.
The NHS has the money it needs and now treats mental health as urgently as physical, but it’s also helped by preventative health and reducing pollution.
Schools have the money they need, but they’re also helped by tackling child poverty. Better education, training and apprenticeships enables everyone to have opportunity to realise their potential, whatever their background, whatever their choices.
At last there’s a government willing to tell it like it is. That people want to come to Britain because it’s a brilliant country with British values of tolerance, freedom and standing up for the underdog. That there’s no way to stop that without tearing down so much that’s good about Britain. And why should we want to? Openness and compassion have always made Britain a brighter country for everyone. And for the people for who still want Britain smaller and meaner, if you want the economy to thrive to support our NHS and schools – if you want the people to work in our NHS and schools – then we have to welcome migrants too.
At last Britain’s leaders are in tune with Britain’s bigger values. It’s made such a difference to have a government valuing diversity and inclusion, refusing to find groups to blame. The Liberal Democrats set their mission as freedom for everyone from poverty, ignorance and conformity. They tackled inequality and prejudice, saying whatever your sex, race, class, sexuality, gender identity, disability, belief or background, you were part of society, the barriers stopping you getting on must go, and we should all look out for each other when we need it. That was the turning point against the rise in hate crime a decade ago.
There’s more freedom and less crime. Everyone has the liberty to live their lives as they choose (without harming others) after scrapping victimless crimes that waste people’s lives, waste public money and waste police time. Now police get to chase the real crooks, far fewer young and ethnic minority people get criminalised, and the Cornish economy’s booming on the cannabis crop.
Remember when governments always acted like people were simple and taxes had to be complicated? That was the wrong way round. Now everyone pays their fair share and can see where the money comes from, and small businesses flourish because the wealthiest can’t find loopholes.
Britain is becoming more respected again in the world. It’s been hard work. After decades of shouting insults instead of wanting to make Europe work, a lot of our European partners were just fed up with us. But it helped that there was relief all round when Britain voted not to keep trying for a much worse deal than we had to start with by leaving, and instead at last to get stuck in and change the EU for the better. Making it more democratic, decentralised and open. Encouraging both free and fairer trade in and beyond the biggest single market in the history of the world. Standing up against racism and intolerance. And young people feel like they’ve got their future back.
Above all, Liberal Britain has turned to the future. Innovation and enterprise are getting results. Green jobs are leading the economic revival as internationalist Britain becomes a leader in zero-carbon technology to tackle climate change. With environmental and economic responsibility at home, we’ve stopped leaving problems for the next generation to tackle, and started addressing intergenerational equality.
Not everyone’s happy. For bullies, busybodies and bigots it’s much harder to push others around. But life’s better for most people who want control over their own lives, not control over everyone else’s.
A Liberal Britain by 2030 isn’t a certainty. It’s a choice. And you always have more choices. You can stay back and let things happen. You can complain there isn’t a better yesterday. Or, every new day, you can decide to get stuck in and help make a better future.
Why I’m Looking Forward To Britain In 2030
If you’re wondering why this isn’t totally on-message, it’s partly because I never am, partly because the election’s had naff all vision in it so I wanted to say something I felt, and it’s partly because although it’s about the future, it’s one I prepared earlier.
My health has been almost as crappy as the election campaign and I’ve not been able to do much. And the election’s not cheered me up, to put it mildly. I’ve not had the mojo to write.
But this January the inspiring people at Your Liberal Britain ran a competition to imagine what a Liberal Britain might look like by 2030, and I wrote something for them then. Here it is.
I hadn’t been expecting a General Election, either.
You might have recognised some of the words, some from unexpected places, but not from our Manifesto. The way I’m most on-message, it turns out, is that the Lib Dem Manifesto is Change Britain’s Future and the party’s been campaigning for a Brighter Future. What I’ve published above was almost all written in January, but after using “better future” a lot in mine I’ve decided that I like “brighter” better. So I changed a few of those.
The Your Liberal Britain competition asked for 500 words. I wrote nearly a thousand in one big rush and, having left it until the deadline, was hacking bits out all evening to try and reduce my word count. I remember deleting one paragraph at five to midnight just because it was the right length. I didn’t much like what I slashed down to 500 words, and I didn’t win with my 500 words. Now I come to share my words, I’ve kept the ones I liked.
More Liberal Democrat Values
Every day in the 2015 General Election, I chose an inspiring Liberal quote from a wide range of people. You can see all the variety of Lib Dems Believe here.
Me on video in 2015: Liberal Democrats Believe
Me on video this year: Another Vote – Another Disappointment?
Your Liberal Britain: all sorts of goodies, and worth coming back to after the election for more inspiration and more consultation. I’ve not had the spoons to do all the Lib Dem philosophy I want to over the last couple of years. I’m thrilled these new members have been doing way more than I ever could.
And of course the official version – the 2017 Lib Dem Manifesto Change Britain’s Future, free to download in a range of accessible formats.
Now, please, if you found any of this moving, or inspiring, or just some hope, go out and vote for it.
Sunday, June 04, 2017
Somehow I Doubt A Lib Dem Government Might Negotiate the Acceptable Face of Brexit
One of the many ways in which beloved husband is doing an amazing job right now as Liberal Democrat candidate for Macclesfield is answering approximately a gazillion emails a day. Some, by this stage, literally in his sleep.
I’m long past ever standing as a candidate again, not least with this year’s catastrophically unhelpful health getting in the way even of helping Richard anywhere near as practically as I’d like.
So imagine my surprise and delight on receiving my own email enquiring about an urgent issue of Liberal Democrat policy which must be worrying people up and down the land: with Lib Dems committed to a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, if we form the new government on Thursday, who would negotiate a deal we were bound to oppose?
To B and How To B, That Is the Question
Here’s the question I was asked:
“…if you propose a second referendum for people to decide on the deal, assuming a Lib Dem government was in office, how would this happen in practice? Considering the party’s historic support for EU membership, who would conduct the negotiations for a Brexit deal for us to vote on? Would the responsibility for negotiations be devolved to the Civil Service or some other external body?”
And here’s the main part of my reply:
“In practice, of course, whatever party is in government, the vast majority of negotiations are conducted by civil servants: they are huge and vastly complicated and require a vast team of people and a lot of hard work. Even if David Davis isn’t doing any of it.
“The answer is to be found in the first chapter of the Lib Dem Manifesto, in effect – that doesn’t just set out the party’s policy around a third EU referendum, this time on the terms of the deal, but the party’s priorities in Parliament for setting the terms for the negotiators. The primary one is of course to remain in the Single Market, which virtually all the leading No figures led people to believe before last year’s referendum and then swerved into such a damaging far right isolationist position afterwards.
“Should there be a massive political earthquake and the Lib Dems form a majority government next week, I would be delighted and I have to admit a little surprised. However, there’s no doubt that would mean Britain’s centre of gravity on Brexit would have shifted markedly, so I would expect to see a choice between remaining as a full member or an exit deal based on a much closer relationship than Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Nuttall’s – one, as the likes of Farage or Johnson said before the referendum rather than what they’ve said since, similar to the relationship the EU has with Norway or Switzerland. Ironically, that means that the Brexit deal would be much closer to the one voters were told about in advance.
“As I say, the party’s aims for mitigating the disaster of Brexit in negotiations are set out in detail as the first chapter in the Manifesto, which you can download for yourself here.”
With the election constantly framed as a ‘choice’ between two parties offering two identical destructive chaotic Brexits and neither offering to talk about any of the detail – because they’re dumb, but they’re not that dumb – and the Lib Dems mostly failing to get a word in edgeways, I wish the question of exactly how Foreign Secretary Nick Clegg would lead Brexit negotiations come the glorious Lib Dem landslide this week were one that was keeping me awake at night.
Still, in the happy daydream in which the Liberal Democrats sweep to power on Thursday, imagine the Lib Dem government, with painfully honest commitment to its manifesto pledge, negotiating a liberal Brexit. Come the day of the deal referendum, instead of being offered destructive chaos, loss of British power and influence, rights stripped away, food riots and catastrophic collapse in living standards by the Theresa May—Jeremy Corbyn—Paul Nuttall Brexit alliance, which the majority of Britons would be likely to look at go ‘No thanks,’ the Brexit choice is instead a middle way, keeping most of the goodies but being able to say we’re not quite in. And so only a Lib Dem Government’s positive negotiations could save Brexit by producing a deal which the majority could swallow and go on to win the deal referendum for (mostly) out!
What an irony, eh?
No, somehow I can see a few steps along the way that I don’t quite believe, either…
What Should Negotiations Try To Keep (but probably won’t)?
What certainly will happen after Thursday’s result, whatever it turns out to be, is that Liberal Democrats in Parliament will stand up for British voters to have the final say on the final Brexit deal. The Conservatives and Labour will both deny that. They’ve both already voted to stop people having a say. And as the negotiations proceed into the long and complicated reality and away from back of a fag packet insult your intelligence slogans, Liberal Democrats in Parliament will stand up for these priorities and more:
- Protection of rights for EU citizens and UK citizens
- Membership of the Single Market and customs union
- Freedom of movement
- Opportunities for young people
- Defending social rights and equalities
- Maintaining environmental standards
- Law enforcement and judicial co-operation
- British business and jobs
- Science and research funding
- Travel and tourism
- Respect for the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the people of Gibraltar
I really should’ve put these in my email, too. Sorry to the person who contacted me. Replying set my mind going, and it probably should have been the other way round.
The more Liberal Democrat MPs are elected this Thursday, the more votes there will be in Parliament to press for these priorities in the Brexit negotiations.
The more Conservative and Labour MPs are elected, with their Leaders’ identical commitment to a disastrous Brexit, the more certain it is that Parliament will throw all those priorities in the bin.
There probably won’t be any UKIP MPs elected on Thursday, but with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn following UKIP Brexit policy to the letter, that won’t make any difference.
Lib Dem voices in Parliament will probably only be able to make things a bit better unless we romp home. But a bit better is better than nothing. Why vote for parties that have promised to make everything worse?
I have a terrible feeling that all those priorities and so much that’s good about Britain will be thrown in the bin. And that the scale of what – to pick only the latest prediction I’ve seen – Will Hutton calls “an epic act of national self-harm” will only become clear not even when the details have been published but only once it’s all actually happened, everything’s wrecked and it’s too late to go back.
Which means that only after the economy has crashed utterly and Britain’s divided and unhappy will a Liberal Democrat government be voted in as the last resort to do the impossible job of fitting the broken pieces together. Tried a bit of that seven years ago. Can’t say we enjoyed it and were greatly thanked for it…