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Fringe Event: “Why aren’t the Liberal Democrats more liberal?”

By Editor
September 15th, 2013 at 8:00 am | 1 Comment | Posted in conference

Looking for a good Conference fringe event for Sunday evening? Look no further. Topical debate, lively speakers.

“Why aren’t the Liberal Democrats more liberal?

Date/Time: Sunday 15th Sept 1815-1930

Place: Alsh 2 Room, SECC Conference Centre.

Chairman: Mark Littlewood, Director General, IEA

Speakers:

Jeremy Browne MP

Emma Carr, Deputy Director, Big Brother Watch

Julian Huppert MP

Chris Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics, IEA

Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of LibDem Voice

Hosted by Liberal Vision and the Institute of Economic Affairs.

See you there we hope!

 

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Liberalism: Is the tide turning?

By Editor
June 1st, 2013 at 1:28 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Libertarians

An exciting couple days for all us liberals out there. Not one, but two hat tips:

First, the good news that “we are not alone”. Liberalism is not just alive in the UK, it is positively thriving. A major feature in the Economist, of all places, states “Britain’s youth are not just more liberal than their elders. They are also more liberal than any previous generation“.

Young Britons, it turns out, are classical liberals. The Economist reports:

“…as well as prizing social freedom, they believe in low taxes, limited welfare and personal responsibility. In America they would be called libertarians.”

This totally uplifting piece goes on to say

““Every successive generation is less collectivist than the last,” says Ben Page of Ipsos MORI, a pollster. All age groups

Graph courtesy of YouGov/Economist

Graph courtesy of YouGov / Economist

are becoming more socially and economically liberal. But the young are ahead of the general trend. They have a more sceptical view of state transfers, even allowing for the general shift in attitudes”

And it isn’t just IPSOS MORI saying this. The same article reports

“Polling by YouGov shows that those aged 18 to 24 are also more likely than older people to consider social problems the responsibility of individuals rather than government. They are deficit hawks.  They care about the environment, but are also keen on commerce: more supportive of the privatisation of utilities, more likely to reject government attempts to ban branding on cigarette packets and more likely to agree that Tesco, Britain’s supermarket giant, “has only become so large by offering customers what they want”.”

Do go read the article in full to get a warm fuzzy feeling all over.

But what to do about this?

Second: Mark Littlewood (who get’s a mention in the above Economist item as will be noted by conspiracy theorists everywhere) seems to have the answer. Writing in the Times [paywall] on Friday he suggests “The Lib Dems should try being real liberals“. In his hard hitting comment piece Littlewood (former spin doctor of the party and LV founder and blogger) points out the all-too-obvious malaise within the party:

“There is no acute leadership crisis, just a general sense that they are sinking. It is near impossible to discern what their recovery strategy is. Mr Clegg and his close advisers encourage the party faithful to “hold your nerve”…. But that sounds more like psychotherapy than a plan.”

Front Cover of the Economist : June 1st 2013

Front Cover of The Economist : June 1st 2013

Well said. But, this isn’t just a piece pointing out the parlous state of the party right now, he has a sensible, practical solution. Here are the key bits:

“First, they (Lib Dems) need to stop doing and saying things that have little resonance outside their declining base of party activists.”

“Second, the Lib Dems need to take a leaf out the books of many of their sister parties on the Continent. Many European politicians rightly view them as rather an odd, mixed bag with a left-leaning social democratic agenda. Not very liberal at all, in other words.”

“…the Lib Dems often come across as no more coherent than a confederation of residents’ associations. Few voters understand any driving philosophy behind their policy, merely that it is “middle of the road”.

“The party does have a strong commitment to civil liberties hardwired into its DNA, but on lifestyle issues, such as smoking, drinking or reading magazines with airbrushed photos of female models, it can’t resist the urge to agitate for greater state intrusion and control.” [see a previous post on LV "Norman Lamb: Doh!" for more on that one].

“…this actually makes a strategy of being a small state, pro-business party even more attractive — mainly because most Lib Dem MPs find themselves in close fights with the Tories”.

“A consistent, clear, genuinely liberal narrative, in which the State plays less of a role in our lives, and individuals have greater freedom to keep their own money, run their own affairs and make their own choices does not guarantee electoral success. But it surely offers a much better prospect for the Lib Dems than anchoring their ship somewhere in the centre of the ocean, as they slowly slip beneath the waves.”

Whether the appearance of his comment piece in the Times on Friday is coincidence, or deliberately timed to coincide with the Economist report, only Littlewood will know. But taking those two articles together we see not only that there is a real, and growing appetite, for classical liberalism in the UK, but there is a compelling case that Lib Dems should not just be spectators to this upswing, but capitalise on it. Britain looks ready to embrace a real liberal party – but is the party ready to be it?  Here’s hoping so.

(PS Young liberals out there might like to find out more about Liberty League and Freedom Week by clicking on the links.)

 

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Cracking edition of Question Time

By Editor
March 25th, 2013 at 11:54 am | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

If you missed Thursday’s edition of Question Time, do take a moment, if you can, to catch up on iPlayer. On the panel last week were Michael Gove (Con), Emily Thornberry (Lab), Natalie Bennett(Greens), Anthony Horowitz (writer extraordinaire) and Mark LittlewoodQuestion_time_logo (IEA).

Many will know that Mark Littlewood was founder of Liberal Vision so we were especially pleased to see him on the panel doing just a grand job – most particularly on the issue of press regulation. Though to be frank he served up aces for every question posed (budget/press regulation/education/Cyprus).

Many on twitter report that it was one of the finest editions of QT in a long time – and we certainly wouldn’t argue with that one.

ps Anthony Horowitz occupying the usual lefty writer slot was a very pleasant surprise indeed – sounded like a good liberal through and through. His comments on Hacked Off were truly top drawer.

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The Littlewood Plan: An interesting piece of kite flying?

By Angela Harbutt
October 23rd, 2012 at 2:30 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Conservatives, Election, Liberal Democrats

 

Conservative home has got hold the November issue of Standpoint magazine, (released on Thursday), which, they say, carries an article by Mark Littlewood, (formerly of this Parish) advocating a pact between free market Lib Dems and Conservatives after the next election.

The Littlewood Plan would see Conservatives stand down in a Lib Dem seat where the Lib Dem MP agrees to pursue deficit reduction and free market policies, and signs up for a new coalition. He says (presumably addressing Mr Cameron) :

“The arrangement he should seek with free market-leaning (“Orange Book”) Lib Dem MPs should be unilateral but not universal. It would essentially amount to an offer to withdraw the Conservative candidate from those seats in which an incumbent Liberal was willing publicly to take a pledge to continue the work of the coalition beyond 2015, specifically in regard to swiftly completing the process of fiscal consolidation, preferably at a rather more rapid pace than at present.”

Con Home reports that Mark Littlewood argues this arrangement would particularly suit those Lib Dems in ministerial office since they will find it harder to distinguish themselves politically from their Coalition partners, and also have less time to spend campaigning out and about in the constituency. He also suggests that such a scheme would benefit the Conservatives – allowing them to focus their firepower on target Labour seats.

This idea has clearly caught Con Home on the hop. Unsurprisingly they dismiss the suggestion (as do those commenting on the blog) in quick order. Yet they can’t quite articulate a reason why they are against the idea, beyond the fact that any Lib Dem seat in electoral peril should be seized by the Conservatives at all costs. That’s it so far. Hardly a compelling reason to dismiss out of hand. Maybe they will have a bit of a think about it and come up with a somewhat more robust set of reasons to say no.

For our  part we like this out-of-the-box thinking. This far out from an election, it is little more than a  fascinating piece of kite-flying. But there is plenty of time for variations on the Littlewood Plan to be kicked about and mulled over.

Of course what we really want to see is Ministers on both sides knuckling down to the job of getting growth going with some thoughtful ideas that will actually work. But if Vince can engage in cross bench flirting with Ed Miliband, via text or behind closed doors, we should expect, nay demand, a little flirting within the coalition too, surely?

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Battle of Ideas: a day well spent

By Angela Harbutt
October 22nd, 2012 at 2:08 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

 

H/T  I was at the excellent “Battle of Ideas 2012” event at the Barbican on Sunday. I was going to write up my thoughts on the sessions I attended, but then read this excellent summary of events over on The Last Ditch.

I came away from the day realising that there is a very clear split between those working in, or at least receiving funds from, the state, who unapologetically kneel before the god that is regulation, and those that live in the real world, dismayed at the stifling effect over-regulation can have on every aspect of our lives – our spirit of adventure, individuality, personal responsibility and enterprise.

One academic (and former special advisor to Gordon Brown) stated with a totally straight face that “all the regulation over the last 50 years were necessary and had been effective” (what planet has he been living on I wonder) .

Meanwhile a certain Dr Michael Nelson, director of research and nutrition at the Children’s Food Trust, announced in a later session that parents simply could not be trusted to make the right choices on food for their children ” …we know from experience (parents) do not themselves have the the power of executive decision when it comes to their own diet…” I suppose that, by now, I should be getting used to the high and mighty in academia looking down their noses at the rest of us and tut tutting at our dreadful parenting skills, appalling nutritional choices, refusal to keep to the “safe” number of units of alcohol etc . But there is something extremely chilling, hearing them say such things out loud, and knowing that it is almost always they, rather the the electorate, that the politicians actually listen to.

On the upside we were thoroughly entertained by Mark Littlewood’s wit and innovative solutions to the problems of over regulation; humbled by Josie Appleton’s knowledge of, and fight against, the regulation that is eating away at the heart of civil society; uplifted by Chris Snowdon’s probing questions on where the assault on smoking, drinking and eating would actually end; and found ourselves cheering on Christine Thompson from SABMiller who asked in a simple heartfelt way that we don’t always focus on the negatives of alcohol, but remember the many more times alcohol forms part of a happy family event, gathering of friends, or celebration.  Her commonsense, down to earth, balanced view of life was a timely reminder that if left to our own devices we don’t always turn into a pack of savage animals destined for a late night visit to A&E.

On that note a large group of us headed to the pub to engage in what can only be described as a session of binge drinking -or in old language – had a few pints and a jolly good natter with some old, and several new, friends.

Speaking of which, if you can spare the time, do head over to The Last Ditch to read his superb and much fuller review of the day.

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