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Agenda 2020 essay #11 - What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

November 12, 2015 12:11 PM
By Peter Wrigley in Liberal Democrat Voice

Liberal Democrats LogoFor me, being a Liberal Democrat today implies sympathy with and a willingness to work for the following beliefs.

LIBERTY comes at the top of the list, with the John Stuart Mill constraint that we are free only to do what doesn't harm others. This means that we value variety, welcome people with different cultures and religions and believe that diversity enriches society. We resist unjustified and indiscriminate state surveillance into our private lives. Where the preservation of liberty clashes with our other beliefs, such as equality, then we try to put liberty first.

In the fields of EQUALITY AND WELFARE, we believe that all individuals should be equally valued as human beings. Hence we believe that the state has the dual function of both preventing some people becoming too rich (by progressive taxation) and providing a generous safety-net for the poor, so that all have the ability to reach their potential and participate fully in the norms of the one society. We believe access to a social security safety-net sufficient to secure a decent standard of living is a right. In the past we have favoured a citizen's income and may well do so again.

Faith in DEMOCRACY is at the root of ourvalues. Liberals Democrats believe that people can be trusted. (Both Conservatives and Socialists alike believe at heart that we need to be coerced). We want to see parliamentary reform, so that the people's representatives have genuine control over the executive; reform of the electoral system by the introduction of proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies; an elected second chamber representative of the nations and regions, to which power will have been devolved; and vital local government. All political power should be exercised at the lowest possible level. We are devolvers, not centralisers.

On the ECONOMY, we believe that our government has a responsibility to use fiscal and monetary policies, along with other measures, to try to achieve full employment, stable price levels, and balanced external payments. In the short run we share the majority consensus which regards economic growth as necessary to sustain full employment , but in the long run, and before we really are all dead, we must work hard at finding ways of achieving prosperity, as liberally defined, without growth.

We believe that public, private, mutual, not- for- profit and charitable organisations can all make valuable constitutions to our economic, social and cultural lives, and we do not accept that any is inherently superior or more efficient, however defined, than the others. We believe, however, that personal public services (especially health, education, care and incarceration) should be run in the interests of the recipients rather than for private profit, and that there should be a varied and free press along with a strong but independent public service element in broadcasting.

Our trust in individuals extends to the WORKPLACE, where we believe that employees should have a share in the decisions their firms make (which often have a bigger influence on their daily lives than the decisions of government.) We have advocated and pioneered schemes of profit sharing (Theodore Taylor in my home-town of Batley, for example) and industrial democracy. Our belief in the value of variety means that we would not lay down a single pattern. The concept of "Stakeholder" firms and, indeed, a "Stakeholder Society", is essentially Liberal Democratic.

In the INTERNATIONAL sphere we believe that our values shouldextend beyond the shores of this country. As Liberals/Liberal Democrats we are the only British political party to have consistently supported full, enthusiastic and committed membership of the European Union, not simply because we feel that to stay outside, or semi-detached, condemns us to fourth rate political and economic significance, but because we see the EU as a bold and exciting adventure. The more idealistic of us even see it as a step on the way to world government. We believe that any coercive international action should be taken through the United Nations, which should be reformed to reflect present day political realities.

We believe that we should play a constructive part, based on international law, in the acceptance into our society of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. We campaign consistently for economic justice in the world through the reform of the world trading system to benefit the poor as well as the rich, the cancellation of unpayable third world debt, and a substantial flow of development aid from the rich to the poor countries as long as this is necessary.

We believe in a lifestyle that is SUSTAINABLE. We reject the concept that further continuous economic growth in the developed countries is the be-all and end-all of politics and life. A more equitable sharing of what we have is far more important, with consideration for the quality of the environment through the conservation of energy, the development of sustainable energy sources and economic processes, and emphasis on greater happiness thorough involvement in art, leisure and the community rather than the accumulation of further private material wealth.

We see fairer TAXATION not asa burden but our legitimate subscription to a decent and civilised society in which all can live comfortably, both physically and socially. We have long believed in the effective taxation of land values

To us EDUCATION is a major liberating experience. We reject the restrictive link between education and employment and believe that every individual should have access to and the opportunity to enjoy education for its own sake throughout their lives.

We do not, however, believe that the Liberal Democrats have a monopoly of political wisdom, and we look forward to CO-OPERATION with those of other parties who share our aims, even though their priorities and methods may differ from ours.

That's why I've been a member of the party for over half a century. If you can subscribe to most of it, come and join us in our fightback.

* Peter Wrigley is a former candidate in both Westminster and European elections and is currently president of Batley and Spen liberal Democrats

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