As I covered in Liberal Democrat Newswire #74, a group of Liberal Democrat members is pioneering a new way of engaging with members and supporters about what the party believes and why. Here one of their number, new member Jim Williams, provides an update on their project is going:
We often hear people tell us that we already live in a liberal country. Liberalism is mainstream, we’re told, across our communities and our political parties. In fact, the argument goes, we live in one of the most liberal societies in the world.
This kind of conversation always builds up to one question: “So what’s the point of the Lib Dems then?”
There are many reasons why the 2015 election was such a catastrophe for the party, but this is one of them: many voters don’t know what we stand for. Each of Britain’s other major parties offers a clear and memorable picture of the society they want to build. In the minds of voters, the Lib Dems do not.
It’s not enough for us to simply abhor our rivals’ visions, nor to delineate ourselves as moderates compromising between them. We need to set out a vision of our own.
Your Liberal Britain (website / Facebook / Twitter) is an initiative to do precisely that. We’re a team of five volunteers: we met at Lib Dem Pint and at Spring Conference, and resolved to create a grassroots platform inviting all members of the party to help form a Liberal Democrat vision that explains what we stand for.
Since last conference we’ve been preparing the ground, and we’re now ready to launch. We’ve partnered with Agenda 2020, the Federal Policy Committee (FPC) group reviewing our party’s values and direction, so every contribution that comes to us will help them form the party’s new vision statement.
This is our chance. We have an opportunity before the next round of elections to get the whole party talking about the society that we exist to build. We know it’s fair, free and open, but what concrete changes would it bring to Britain? The new vision won’t be published until Autumn Conference, but you’ll know what you want Liberal Britain to be, and that could make all the difference on the doorstep.
For this to work – to produce a vision that the whole party truly owns – we need as many members as possible to take part. The best way you can get involved is to grab three or more members, and discuss your answers to our four discussion questions. To run your own discussion group at home, you just need three or more people, a living room and access to a printer! And every online entry [now closed] will go straight to us and the Agenda 2020 committee, helping us form the party’s new vision statement.
Your Liberal Britain is at heart about members coming together and discussing what Britain would like if the Lib Dems had their way.
What would a truly Liberal Britain look like, and what improvements would it bring to people’s lives?
If you want food for thought, we’ve gathered the Agenda 2020 essays and many of the party’s descriptions of our values and purpose here on our website.
At our pilot events, and online, members of the party have started sending in their own ideas. Here are just some of the many answers we’ve received in response to our prompt, “For me, Liberal Britain is a country where…”:
- Everyone counts
- We’re all in it together
- We celebrate altruism, and give help without taking away dignity
- We stand as a beacon of fairness, equality and opportunity
- People live their dreams, respecting the community and others
- Education matters, and opportunities exist for all
- The weak aren’t scapegoated for political gain
- Young people will have a voice in politics
- People will have the tools to fashion fairer outcomes for themselves
- The boundaries that hold people in place have been removed
We’ll be launching Your Liberal Britain at Conference on the Saturday – 12:45 to 14:15 in the main hall. Come and hear different visions from across the party, and pitch your own!
Finally, if you’re coming to Conference, why not help us out? We’re a group of five volunteers: all new members of the party, all doing this on our own time. If you want to help invite the party to shape a new vision together, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.