Worth Reading 161: A stoic in purple

Doorsteps, Dogs and Doughnuts – A Dozen Worst and Best Election Moments – I think many of us will have sone election memories similar to the ones Alex Wilcock recounts here.
Could a ‘citizen’s income’ work? – A long and detailed report looking into the issue from the Joseph Rowntree foundation.
Global warming and the death of a magical sports tradition – How a change in the climate has made an epic Dutch ice skating challenge very unlikely to ever happen again.
Wherefore art thou, Honest Abe? – It’ll take more than a few words from a Great Man of history to keep the United Kingdom together, according to Lallands Peat Worrier.
Why UK politicians could learn a lot from the Pirate party – I personally think the Pirate bubble has burst (not that it ever inflated much in Britain) but the wider points Paul Mason makes here about the people having vision while the politicians are obsessed with minutiae are good.

Thoughts on Liberal Democrat values

I was challenged a while ago by Linda Jack as part of Alex Wilcock’s Lib Dem Values series. Never being one to respond to a prompt quickly, it’s stewed in my mind for a while, but now I think I’m ready to take a stab at it. In a truly liberal way, I’m going to ignore the rules and write about what I think the key areas and overall themes for the party should be, then see at the end if I can hone them into a coherent message.

Liberty – freedom and justice: This is the freedom to do what you want, as long as it harms no other, and the freedom from oppression and aggression by the state. We oppose authoritarianism, be it the security state or the nanny state. Liberty is the cornerstone of justice, and the law exists to protect freedom and liberty from those who would infringe upon it.
Democracy – power and equality: We believe the best way to control power is to divide it and share it around. That’s why Liberal Democrats support devolution and real localism, seeking to create a system where power flows from the bottom up, not the top down. We seek to give real and meaningful power to individuals, regardless of circumstance, giving them the power to control their own lives and a say in decisions by the wider community that affect them. We want to remove barriers that prevent people using that power.
Liberty and democracy are inextricably linked within our values, for they mean nothing without each other – no matter how much power might look like it has been devolved, proper democracy can’t exist if people don’t have real freedom to live lives of their choosing, and liberty needs the safeguards of democracy to prevent it from being corrupted and abused.

These two are the core values, from which others flow, but other important principles need to be stated to explain some practical implications.

Environment: This could, perhaps, be up with liberty and democracy as a core value, as a healthy environment is necessary for liberty and democracy to flourish. One can harm others indirectly by polluting the environment, and the threat of climate change is a massive external threat to liberty that will need individuals to work together to combat and adapt to.
Internationalism: We believe that liberty, democracy and the rights that go with them are universal, applying to everyone. A free world is a safer world, and we seek to encourage the spread of liberal values. Decisions need to be taken at the level where they’re most appropriate, which can range from the individual to the global and to enable this to happen in a liberal and democratic fashion we will engage with multi-national and super-national bodies to encourage transparency, openness and democracy.
Society and economy: We seek to create a society where everyone can fulfill their potential, removing barriers to participation and encouraging access to education and training for all throughout their lives. We want to see a diverse economy that supports a diverse, tolerant and open society.
Science and education: We believe politics should be evidence-based and would seek to make policy based on fact and evidence, not belief and prejudice. Education and understanding is vital for a thriving democracy, but that education has to be about developing the individual, not forcing them into moulds to fit the world. To protect the environment and create a developed economy that’s vital for protecting liberty and democracy, we will invest heavily in scientific research and development.

Not sure how much of that is values, and how much comes across more as the introduction to a manifesto, but that’s my initial thoughts which, as ever, are subject to change, clarification and expansion as and when I have egregious errors and omissions in them pointed out. They key test, though, is whether I can get the important information from that into Alex’s target of 150 words that explains what the Liberal Democrats are for. Here’s my attempt:

We believe in a society that works to maximise the happiness and potential of every individual, one that works to give everyone the opportunity to live their life as they want, providing they do not harm others. We seek to create an open, liberal and democratic world, where power is spread around, people have a real say in decisions that affect them and fair and impartial justice is available to all. A liberal society should protect the environment, promote education, create opportunity, reward enterprise and encourage innovation. Everyone should be free to participate in society and we seek to both tear down the barriers that restrict them and help people to overcome circumstances that limit them. In a liberal society everyone should be free to live their lives, free of restraint by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

It’s still rough, and no doubt needs editing and tweaking, but what I’ve tried to do is make it a statement about liberal values and principles, rather than specifics. I’ve also tried to emphasise the importance of creating a liberal society as a key value, and so haven’t made much reference to economics. I think we often get too bogged down in talking about economic issues (though it’s not too surprising, given the moment of history we’re in) as though they’re an end in themselves rather than as a means to create a liberal society. I joined the party because I wanted to work for a liberal society, and I think we often underestimate the potential power there is in the vision of that society. Our values and principles shouldn’t echo the ‘we’ll tweak the current system better than them’ managerialism of the other parties, but should emphasise how and why we’re different. There is a strong radical strand running through the history of the party that we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace and promote.

So that’s my statement of Liberal Democrat values, what’s yours? I’m not going to tag anyone, but if this piques your interest, then feel free to chip in with your vision.

Worth Reading 52: Pick-up

All three parties and some Human Rights Act too. It’s like Question Time in here.

Gay Marriage – Never expected to be linking to a Tory MP’s post on equal marriage, but here’s a well though through and Christian perspective in favour of it from Desmond Swayne.
How my riots tweet landed me in hot water – at taxpayers’ expense – And after a Tory MP, we have a Labour Councillor in Lewisham, talking about the iniquities of the Standards Board regime.
And I am not making this up… – Wiggy explains the Human Rights Act, and how criticisms of it are usually based on people not understanding what it means.
Case for snooping powers backfires for Theresa May – What? A Government minister using erroneous evidence to argue for more powers to snoop and censor us? I’m shocked – shocked! – to discover such things happening.
Happy Birthday to the Libera-Tory Coalition? – Alex Wilcock looks back on two years in Government from a Lib Dem perspective.

Who can follow Vince?

Just when we thought everything was settling down – is it really only three weeks since the election? – comes the news that Vince Cable is standing down as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in order to concentrate more on his new role as Business Secretary.

It’s a surprising announcement in that there hadn’t been any rumours – or at least none that I’d heard – that he was planning this, but now it’s happened it’s quite a logical decision for Vince to take. The job of Deputy Leader is quite an odd beast within the party – while the official role is not quite the same as the American Vice-President (enquiring each morning as to the Leader’s health, then retiring to your office for the remainder), there’s little in the way of formal responsibility, and as it’s elected solely by and from the MPs there’s little connection to the wider party especially compared to the Party President.

So, the position is pretty much about whatever the incumbent and the party choose to make of it – it could be anything from the simple safe-pair-of-hands-in-waiting-just-in-case to something much more substantial and complex. My idea of what it should be is very close to what Alex Wilcock suggested earlier today:

1: a fairly fresh face. Some experience, but not an old hand who gets it as a consolation prize. Someone to make a mark!
2: someone who’s simply brilliant. A charismatic speaker, good on TV, quick brain – not just seen as ‘one wing’ of the party.
3: not a minister. Even Vince is too busy, & Deputy needs to speak for the party, not bound by collective responsibility.
4: OK, first 3 qualities are must-haves for me. But I’d also prefer a woman: electoral lottery means we’re very lacking.

Unless they make a conscious choice to hide in the shadows, whoever gets the job is going to become very high-profile, in that they’re going to get the call to speak for the party much more than any of their predecessors ever did simply because the rules have changed. Nick Clegg can no longer be the default person the media go to for the Liberal Democrat view and so they’re naturally going to go to the Deputy Leader for comment. Just as several Cabinet ministers over the years have been the ‘minister for the Today programme’, so the Deputy Leader will become the same for us.

This is where Alex’s four points come into play – the person who gets the role has to be an engaging and charismatic public face for the party as a whole, as well as being able to put over the Liberal Democrat view rather than the Government view. It’s also a chance for us to promote a newer face for the party, someone who could go on to be leader of the party (with all the possibilities that now opens up) not just someone getting it as a thank you for long service. For those reasons, I agree with Alex that Jo Swinson is the obvious candidate for the job.

The King over the water

There’s an interesting discussion between Alex and Mark in the comments on this post about Daniel Hannan’s latest bit of controversy.

However, beyond the question of whether Hannan was using the name of Enoch Powell as a codeword or dog whistle for various people on the hard right, there’s an interesting question of what his overall aim is. Is he just riding the fifteen minutes of fame he got from his YouTubed rant about Gordon Brown, grasping all the wingnut welfare he can before the short attention span moves on to someone else, or is he trying something more?

It’s interesting to note that Hannan is remaining as an MEP, with seemingly no designs on going to Westminster in the near future – one certainly can’t imagine Conservative Central Office risking the furore that parachuting him into a seat for the next General Election would cause – yet will that necessarily harm him? Being an MEP rather than an MP offers him a lot more freedom to build his profile and champion the causes of the Tory Right without getting sidetracked by constituency business or being silenced by becoming Under-Secretary of State for Grass Clippings in a Tory Government. He can keep capitalising on his fame – and doesn’t have to resort to the rubber chicken circuit of speaking to local parties anymore – and build himself a reputation as the true standard-bearer for the Tory Right, the King over the water waiting for the call from his people, especially if/when Cameron fails in office. (He’ll certainly have noticed that one of his fellow former South East MEPs was a challenger for his party’s leadership less than a year after being elected to Westminster.) He can get adulation without power or responsibility, and if all else fails there’s always Fox News.