I'll start this blog with my first and most articles published on LibDem Voice - and avoid the temptation to edit!
This from September 2011: What's Your Prism
The perennial question cropped up again the other day, on the beach this time: “What do the LibDems stand for?” I replied that the Tories and Labour view British society through the same prism of class or socio-economic groups, but that the LibDems see individuals.
We don’t believe that your gender, the colour of your skin, religion, social background, the number of parents you have, your weight or body shape or ability, your education level or bank balance say anything at all about your compassion, your willingness to get involved in your community, your intelligence, your wisdom, your sense of humour, your creativity, your common sense, how content you are, the strength of your relationships, whether people smile when you come in to the room, your latent talents or your courage.
“Ah” came the reply. “But is that what the LibDems think or is that just you?”
And I was surprised to find myself a bit stymied. After all, that is what all LibDems think, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Let’s assume it is. Because if it is, there are some things we could be doing to free ourselves of the general sense that all policies from all parties look like educated middle class people trying to do things to other people who are less fortunate than themselves (for their own good of course).
First we could be banging the drum about the ideological difference between us and the other two parties and not just our policies and achievements in government – and finding a “one liner” to crystalise that difference. Any advance on my prism line much appreciated.
We shouldn’t be afraid of spelling out an ideology; of painting a very big picture. After all, policies are just a means to an end: what’s our end and how is it different?
So when it comes to Nick’s speech at Conference I hope he concentrates not on appealing to groups such as “alarm clock Britain” but on spelling out what we actually mean by the points he makes in his foreword to “Facing the Future” – our faith in people, distribution of power, capacity of the individual to make the lives they choose and our optimistic forward view.
In a rapidly changing world, we need to promote a vision of our society which makes sense to everyone and to which they are more likely to actively want to subscribe. And we should be looking voters in the eye and saying “we see you, not the boxes you tick”.
There is a holistic positive picture of Britain to be drawn, one where we have evolved a system which enables us to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘thus far and no further’ to bankers, journalists, MPs, rioters. We have a society in which people do not face famine or horror as a matter of routine. We face huge questions but we are equal to the challenge. We are not a country in decline, we are dealing with accelerating change in social evolution and international development but we have a framework of values, the basis of which is the sanctity of human life, the rule of law and democratic government, which has seen us through thus far and which will continue to see us through.
The other things we could be doing when writing and communicating our policies is to be mindful of the subliminal messages which go along with them and how we balance the much policied freedoms from poverty and ignorance with the freedom from conformity. For instance if academic education is so important, are we saying those who are less educated are worth less? If social mobility is so desirable, does this mean the community you are from is undesirable? (And what’s the impact of social mobility on community breakdown?)
Most of all, if people need empowering it must be because they have no power: a personal bugbear – please, please can we stop trying to empower people and instead tell them that in a democracy, they already have the power? We believe our role is to ensure they understand what it is, how to exercise it and remove any barriers but the power is already theirs: legally we are all equal and each vote carries the same weight.
We’ve all been looking through the Tory and Labour prism for too long. Let’s tell people what the world looks like through ours.