Thursday, August 06, 2020
Layla Moran Answers on Lib Dem Values and ‘Mean’ Questions
What do the Liberal Democrats stand for, and why vote for us?
Liberal Democrat Leadership contender Layla Moran MP highlights “Education, the Environment and the Economy” as her three key priorities on my lead question.
Last month I sent three questions on Lib Dem values to both Layla and Ed Davey – plus two individually tailored ‘mean’ questions each. Layla and her Correspondence Team have replied to me in full, and you can read all five answers below (I will continue to nag Ed and his team).
Layla Moran’s Answers to my ‘Values’ Questions (asked to both Candidates)
People say all politicians are the same. Lib Dems have often seen moderation, working with others and compromise as virtues, to the point of the caricature that a Liberal is someone so fair they don’t take their own side in an argument. So what really motivates you?
When someone asks you on the doorstep, the hustings or on TV to sum up in a sentence or two what the Lib Dems, uniquely, stand for – and why anyone should vote for us – what do you answer?
Layla has said on many occasions what motivates her is the need to make a case for a fairer, greener and more compassionate society, driven from the bottom up, that will champion small businesses and seek to tackle discrimination.
An issue we have regularly faced is the question of what we as a party stand for, at the last general election we were seen as the party of Stop Brexit. We now need to redefine ourselves as a party, we need to be a party with liberalism at its core, and as Paddy Ashdown used to say, ‘fizzing with ideas’. Layla wants the Liberal Democrats to have a clear vision, with a progressive green agenda highlighted by three key priorities; Education, the Environment and the Economy. This is what Layla wants the party to stand for. In the coming months, and possibly years, liberal ideas could be more popular than before, because Covid-19 has exposed the deep inequalities in our society and a clear majority are open to change – this is a huge opportunity.
Two of the most heartfelt Liberal Democrat instincts are ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ and ‘Stand up to bullies.’ Whether you call those ‘moderate and Liberal’, ‘caring and courage’, ‘love and liberty’, the party feels both, needs both, but they’re often competing as well as complimentary, so our balance between them changes with the times.
Which do we need most to lead on right now?
Quite frankly, we still need to do both, in different ways. In terms of defeating the Conservatives, Layla has said she will work with anyone who shares her progressive liberal values. She is open to working with Keir Starmer and Labour on an issue by issue basis – though she would strongly encourage and push for an end to Labour tribalism and hostility in some local areas, as well as fully eradicating the antisemitism that is still prevalent in certain parts of their party membership.
Right now, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens share a similar vision for the society we want to see, one which contrasts sharply with the inward and backward looking world of the Conservatives. For us to overcome the injustices in the system, we must look to engage with other parties to take forward our shared goals. In Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla was supported by the local Green Party, who she still meets with regularly to update them on what she has been doing as their MP.
However, we are still different parties with different views on how change should be achieved. We have to be careful how we communicate our distinct identity, while allowing voters to see the common ground. In future, Layla believes a more respectful discourse between respective leaderships would show voters that an alternative Government to the Conservatives could be possible. This is all the more important for us as there are now around 90 seats in which the Liberal Democrats are the main opposition to the Conservatives. If we are to win these seats, we must regain the trust of Labour voters.
Layla has often stood up to bullies and has stuck up for the underrepresented. The Build Back Better policy paper, spearheaded by Layla, shows that the Liberal Democrats can be radical and progressive and campaign for the country to go in the right direction; an equal society, strong social justice and getting across our liberal values to the wider public. The Liberal Democrats are at our best when we are ‘fizzing with ideas’, as Paddy used to describe it. We need to show that we have the new ideas that can transform Britain after the COVID pandemic, and create a fairer and more inclusive society. We should also continue to call out the Conservatives for their illiberal and quite frankly offensive views on social issues, whether that be on racism or LGBTQ+ rights.
Ask what the core of Liberalism is and the answer’s obvious: “It’s About Freedom”. So obvious, that was the title of the Liberal Democrats’ 2002 philosophy paper. Look at our other positioning papers and manifestos under Charles Kennedy – “Freedom In A Liberal Society”, “Freedom, Justice, Honesty” – Freedom led*. Our constitution leads with “Liberty, equality and community”. But Leaders and campaigns since have made Freedom or Liberty invisible. Afraid it’s not popular, not relevant, or just ceded it to the illiberal Right?
Neither of you chose Freedom as a buzzword or even talk about it in your values. Why not?
Layla has often used the word freedom when discussing her vision for the country, and her reasoning for entering politics. In an interview in the New Statesman just last month Layla said that the party must emphasise that liberalism means “freedom to” as well as “freedom from”. She explained that this means talking about education and climate change, but also about business and the economy. Layla understands that liberalism is all about freedom, and she continues to advocate for greater freedoms for those who need it most.
Layla Moran’s Answers to my ‘Mean’ Questions for her
Last year Lib Dems surged on a pro-EU campaign. It wasn’t enough – but it was the one thing people knew about us and drew votes to us. I’ve read your “Vision”. There is no mention of Europe or working with other countries (a two-word afterthought: “and abroad”). Why have you completely dropped our one selling-point?
Layla’s heart has never left the EU, she is a European. However, that is not the feeling of the majority of the country right now, as demonstrated by the outcome of the 2019 General Election. Right now, the Liberal Democrats need to regain the trust of the electorate, and that starts by changing the hearts and minds of the country. Layla believes that we will rejoin the EU at some point in the future, but we need to reflect on when we start to promote those ideas, and how we do it. We cannot say to the electorate ‘we told you so’. Currently we should do all we can to avoid a No-deal Brexit and to campaign for as close an alignment as possible with our European friends and neighbours.
People need to feel good about their vote to vote for us again. How can the party stand unequivocally against bullying and domestic violence when the question keeps coming back to you and you’ll always be on the defensive with ‘Yes, but…’?
Thank you for raising this and allowing us the chance to address this issue. Layla understands the concerns of members about the incident which happened seven years ago in Glasgow.
Layla first spoke out about this last year. Though it wasn’t universally reported this way, she made it clear that she acted defensively – Layla acted in self-defence because she felt threatened.
As you may have heard her partner at the time and her were both arrested in line with Scotland’s zero-tolerance policy. She was initially charged but the charges were dropped when there was no case to answer. Layla has forgiven her former partner but nevertheless, she is keen to make sure her side of the situation is clear.
Layla is ready to state this categorically should she be asked about this by the media. Though, despite appearances on Sophy Ridge, BBC, SKY, ITN – broadcasters are yet to raise the issue.
There has been an election since she spoke out about the incident. Word from the campaign team was that it was barely raised on the doorstep in Oxford – and it certainly didn’t impact her vote share as she increased her majority by over 8,000.
Politicians are people with pasts. Layla has been open and honest about this awful incident. She is completely supportive of the zero-tolerance policy. She does not believe this diminishes or undermines the qualities and vision she would bring to our party as leader.
Our enemies will always try to hurt us, and pick apart our MPs’ lives looking to attack them. Layla knows that her honesty on the subject and her strength of character means she is prepared for this and will do all she can to ensure she embodies our values. Layla hopes members will support her in doing so.
Lib Dems Believe – More Answers
I’m grateful to Layla and her team for answering so comprehensively.
You can read my original post here, where I asked these questions to Layla and more to Ed (from whom I am still hoping for some reply). I also talk there in detail about why I chose the questions I did. I believe we need to be both distinctive and sharp to break through, and that politics-free politics won’t cut it. Post-Brexit, post Covid-19, I don’t feel I know the answers, and I want a Leader who will inspire me. But I want to avoid another Leadership self-destructing by hoping that nasty questions they don’t want asked will somehow just go away. Liberal Democrat Leadership elections are nice and wish the best for everyone, but actual election campaigns are not – I’ve attempted to test the two candidates a little harder. You can also read two utterly terrible answers to what the Lib Dems stand for that I’ve previously heard, one in a complacent local party and one from a very senior Lib Dem…
As a bonus, I also asked my Lib Dem values questions to several other current senior Lib Dems. Party President and Acting Co-Leader Mark Pack sent me his own answers, which you can read here. For that post I included some of my own answers, and several of the best answers I’ve previously heard or read, going all the way back to David Lloyd George and including a link to my very favourite – and very long even though I’ve abridged it – speech by Paddy Ashdown.
I hope some of them inspire you, too.