Why We Still Need The Liberal Democrats

Those of you who read this blog when you have nothing better to do will know that I came out as a Liberal Democrat, and even went as far as joining the Liberal Democrats at the worst possible time in their short history.

I joined the Liberal Democrats because I believe that Liberalism still has a part to play in our country and can offer in many ways the common ground between the differing political views in our country. I probably come from the social liberal side of the debate. I accept that we require a market economy, but I want to see one that puts decency and fairness at the top of the agenda not the bottom. While the Conservatives, and to a degree Labour were/are happy to see the markets dictate and be left to their own devices, I believe that we need the state to provide much need security and protection from poverty, from crisis, from unemployment, and from the markets. The state can provide the opportunity to education that facilitates an environment of empowerment, where the individual can succeed by themselves, by their own efforts and reach wherever they wish to get to, but also recognising that we need to ensure that they have the same rights as everyone else. The Liberal Democrats should be there to protect people from the worse excesses of the markets using the state for the betterment of all.

The Liberal movement is here to protect your right to believe what you want to believe, to protect your right to free speech, to sexual orientation, to political beliefs and to religious beliefs. I believe that we need to trust people to come up with the solutions to their own concerns and problems, that involves devolving as much power as practical to the lowest possible level. I have commented before that I believe that lets say a local authority wants to borrow 50 million pounds to build new schools, given that the local tax payer will pick up a large chunk of the bill in local taxes the local authority should have to consult and have the explicit support of the community before they can do that. There are many Liberals who are against referendums, they are wrong. The danger is not in giving people the right to choose, the danger is in the vested interests who deny the right of people to make an informed choice. The Liberal Democrats can work to make sure that happens.

I believe in proportional representation where every vote counts. I don’t accept the view that this system removes the MP from the constituency. How many MPs even live in the constituency they represent, a lot don’t and in local government it is even worse. We have to work to engage people in politics, it’s too important to be left to the politicians, as we all know, they more often than not get it badly wrong while representing the minority over the majority. The Liberal Democrats should be fighting every minute of the day to bring about this system. I believe that devo max or full federalism, whatever you want to call it, has to be part of the debate. I personally have no issue with independence but recognise that many people desire federalism and I would be happy to accept that system. The Liberal Democrats can fight to keep this issue alive, to ensure that the debate is not just between independence and the union, there is more to it than that and people need to be able to make an informed choice based on the facts. Not lies, not fear, not some utopia, the facts.

The Liberal Democrats can and should be there to hold people to account. We should be promoting the politics of respect, of supporting the good ideas and pointing out the flaws in the not so good ones. We should never look at things through the prism of everything is BAD and look to find common ground while working to try and keep Government honest. But to do that we have to be honest ourselves, hold ourselves to account and not accept a fall in our own standards, that will require change but the Liberal Democrats can play a positive role in our country, can reach out to our communities. We can talk to people and we can listen with respect and with dignity. We can show people that everyone has a part to play and a responsibility to play it.

The Liberal Democrats can and should be out there protecting the poor and vulnerable, while also protecting those with the most from themselves, while encouraging them to appreciate that they have a responsibility to those with the least. The Liberal Democrats can be the party that enriches the lives of every man, woman and child through a politics of hope, a politics of fairness, of honesty and of decency.

I believe that being a Liberal is not about being to the left, to the right or slap bang in the centre. Being a Liberal is about knowing what is right and what is wrong and acting accordingly. I want and believe that the Liberal Democrats can be that party in Scotland, but as I have said the party requires to change. It has to accept that it has made mistakes, that it has to be accountable, that the politics of lies and deceit, of hate and rejection of other political beliefs will kill it stone dead from which there will be no fight back, no resurgence in it’s fortunes.

The Liberal Democrats still have an important role to play in Scotland and in the UK. It’s not about SNP social nationalism with a small n, it’s not about the Conservative/UKip right or Labour right of centre, it’s about equality, it’s about dignity, about liberty, about freedom, it’s about human rights and the knowledge that everyone can play a full role in their community. So while many out there want to see the Liberal Democrats die as a party, Scotland needs a reformed and re-focussed Liberal Democratic Party.

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10 comments

  1. Sue Varley

    Interesting post – and a huge topic for discussion.

    Hmm, decency and fairness at the top of the political agenda. But you can’t have a party that stands for only decency and fairness – they have to have an aim, a goal for society as a whole. Then they should pursue it with decency aiming for the goals that they believe to be fair.

    This is what is wrong with Lab – no plan for the future of the country, simply what stands the best chance of getting them into power, and with Con – well they have a clear direction but neither decency or fairness. LDs used to have policies that seemed fair but when they got a chance at power they dropped decency from their agenda.

    I would argue that people in general believe in decency and fairness, and therefore in an engaged populace under a fair voting system (well we can dream) only parties seen to be acting with fairness and decency would command much following. UKIP would be there for the others. Political debate, and electoral choice would then come down to deciding which policy set would bring about a society nearest to ones own ideal.

    For instance, some people believe “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is fair and decent. Personaly I don’t, but it’s a good starting point to come up with a better ideal. I do think that everyone should have an opportunity to reach their full potential, and no-ones needs should go unmet. On the other hand I do believe that drive and initiative should be rewarded, since people in general are not total altruists. So there is plenty of scope for parties to have distictly different policies that can be argued to be fair and decent. What should never be acceptable as mainstream policy is “might is right and the devil take the hindmost” which is what the Cons are giving us.

    People are slow to trust a new or untested party, but I would like to see a new party that is totally commited to wholesale electoral reform: pr, reasonable gender and other minority balance, de-centralising away from London, serious penalties (including recall) for MP misconduct, open and transparent government, expenses brought into line with typical industry practice, replace HoL with much smaller elected chamber, and so on.

    It should exist for one term, put in place all that lot, while mitigating the worst excesses in poverty imbalance and beginning to lay the grounds for social justice. Then it should disband, members free to (re)join the other parties, who meanwhile could be working out what they stand for and putting together their pitch for the next election. I would be prepared to wait five years for normal party politics to resume if we could be sure of a wholsome arena for them to be played out. I really, really wish the LDs could have been that party, and even though limited by coalition, could have made some of the above red-line issues instead of the pathetic compromise of AV.

    Having just re-read your post, I sem to be have fairly similar aims to your last paragraph, just a totally different way of bringing it about.

    • grumpyscottishman

      Sue

      I accept what you are saying, of course a party has to have strong policies and an overall vision of where it wants the country to be. However, I think right now the party needs to decide what it stands for as in it’s ethos and how it will operate as a movement. I think if the SNP have shown the unionist parties anything it’s that dirty politics are no longer welcome, they no longer resonate with the public and that is a good thing.

      The maturity of many of the Scottish people in relation to politics in the last 3 years is something to be proud of. That many were able to rise above the tactics of Better Together to educate themselves, to see past the lies and the fear is something that the YES campaign should be proud of and the other parties should take note of. As I have said before I will never take cheap shots at the SNP or any other parties any longer, those days are past and we have to work to do what is best for our country no matter which party you are in.

      I would like to see the policy of PR and electoral reform as a priority of the Liberal Democrats. I would like to see an honest and open commitment to local government funding reform, my preference would be a local income tax or a land based local tax to replace council tax. I would like to see more done in relation to educational bursaries for young people and a decent child care system. I want the Liberal Democrats to come out against draconian sanctions and a reviews of social security to be a system that lifts people up. I want a policy of that puts into law severe penalties for tax avoidance.

      There are other areas but I’ll be honest I need to learn more about the party, how it works, what it believes in before I can really make an informed opinion and try to influence in my own tiny way. I must admit that I have read things from members this weekend that demonstrate there is a long way to go but I have read things this weekend on the other side that show we all have a way to go.

      I hope this is the start on of interesting journey for myself and a new start for the Liberal Democrats.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  2. YESGUY

    Interesting Grumpy.

    Not meaning to sound offensive but that is some wish list. Too good to be true at the moment.

    I agree all parties should do much better but there is one point you have overlooked. The indendence question..

    Nothing will ever change with WM whilst Scotland is in the union. WM are resistant to anything and they have the English vote . We now know this as fact.

    The people of Scotland have given the SNP a mandate to fight for them and trusting the unionists parties now is a no no . A Lib/dem SoS has resorted to smear and lies and been caught. Your party say so what ?? Trust . Long memories Grumpy and this one only happened a couple of weeks back. Folk are angry.

    I think things have changed too much Grumpy. Even PR won’t save the Libs in 2016. Your up to date with what’s happening here. The political changes here , and there are many still evolving .

    I don’t believe we need a Lab/ Con/ or lib party in Scotland anymore. Common weal and SSP along with Greens are growing in support. The members are moving the parties to suit. The usual crowd are old news now. We can do better.

    And finally nothing will ever make me believe the Libs are sincere as they have sold their souls far too many times to get to power. That’s the unionists mantra ” Power at any cost”. They have too many ties to WM .

    For over a hundred years the Libs championed home rule.

    When we got the chance to vote on the issue they joined up with everyone and set phasers to kill at the YES movement. Now i know there is a difference from Home rule to independence but like the whore party it is the lIBs joined the establishment. Duggie Alexander. and wee willie were a disgrace. Ali he’s just been shown up for what he is … A LIAR.

    Never ever be forgiven for that. FIB DEMS

    Grumpy you should pop out to RIC or Commmen Weal rallies and speak to folk. There are many with views like yours and they don’t need the LIBS to do the work for them. They are organising themselves into opposition at the Hollyrood seats. Why have Libs with all their baggage when a new Scottish Liberals party could be formed. Your party as it is now is dead Grumpy.

    Your going back to a bunch of failures buddy and they don;t deserve your vote.

    Shame . We need more like you

    • grumpyscottishman

      YESGUY

      I am under no illusion about how difficult the challenge is, and this post is really about I suppose what I see as a Liberal and is extremely aspirational. We have also seen over this last few days how far this party has to go to even remotely start to get Scottish people to even consider that it is worth even half listening to. Like I have noted it is a long way back.

      It’s fair to say that while I was a member of the SNP I was never active and just never felt comfortable, none of that takes away from the incredible work of the SNP and it’s members. They deserve all the credit that comes their way, however they now have a level of expectation on them that will be very difficult to achieve and given that they are for the time being a one party Scotland they have to exercise care in how they govern. An honest and robust opposition is more important now than it has ever been and I hope that I can help influence the Liberal Democrats to be just that. It won’t be easy though and I suspect that next year the Liberals and labour will take a pounding at the Holyrood Elections, but again I am under no illusion about how much that may well be deserved.

      But I also think that people like ourselves having these debates and discussions is a huge part of the recovery of the Liberal democrats as we will all learn from each other and that is a good thing for all of us and especially how we hold politicians to account. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues with yourself and everyone who kindly comments on my blog.

      I don’t think the Liberal Democrats are dead but certainly on life support at this time with a long slow painful recovery on the cards with no doubt as we have seen this weekend a few relapses.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

      • Sue Varley

        Hi Bruce

        Further to your exchange with YesGuy. I think the general rank and file membership of the LDs are still genuinely liberal, and hold the values of fairness and decency we were discussing earlier. It’s just the leadership and what you might call the “corporate structure” of the party that is out of step with them.

        It seems to me that very few with power in the “main parties” have any principles, they are just in it for a career/whatever they can get. The only parties with decent standards seem to be the ones that have not been seen as career vehicles. As yet the SNP have not suffered from this, and I don’t think they will at least as long as the indy question remains unsettled.

        The parties themselves don’t need to die, and they shouldn’t, they need all the heads lopped and fresh leaders and policy makers to rise from within the membership.

        In Scotland it may be too late for lab. It’s not too late for LD but they have to use this Carmichael thing as a catalyst. They should force him to resign, fight a by-election with new blood from within the constituency, use it as an exuse to sack Rennie as leader, deselect those supporting AC as candidates for 2016, and concentrate on cleaning themselves up for Holyrood. It’s plainly ridiculous to say he should stay on because they are a party of second chance.

        I know nothing of LD organisation. Do the membership have tis power over the party? Do you go to branch meetings, can you affect party policy? Scope for another blog post pethaps?

        • grumpyscottishman

          Sue

          I suspect, from what I have seen this weekend online, that the Liberals like all parties have people from all sides. There are those who just refuse to accept that NS did not say what she is reported to have said, that it’s a giant Scottish and French conspiracy.

          The Carmichael affair will damage the Party, I have no doubts about that. While I actually agree with Willie Rennie that people deserve a second chance, the second chance should lay with Carmichael s constituents. It’s up them to decide who represents them and I am all for the right of recall. I would also like to know who knew about this in the leadership of the LibDems, I suspect there is more to this and people are trying to sweep it under the carpet.

          I think the SNP are so far un tainted but that won’t last without decent opposition in parliament. They also brought in all female short lists and strict rules on members being able to criticise the party or be disciplined. They need to be careful also. Different debates I know but power needs to lay with the members and not totally with the leadership.

          It will be interesting to see how much power Libdem members have as they are supposed to have the most of any of the parties. I suspect though that the LibDems have some way to fall yet as we have seen with the Carmichael affair. If they don’t act then they will pay next year at the Holyrood elections and could find themselves with only 2 or 3 list MSP s. I think Scotland will have virtual one party government for the next few years and that is not good but is totally the fault of the other parties.

          Thanks for commenting.

          Bruce

  3. YESGUY

    I have an awful good feeling that politics has changed for the good here. The SNP landslide was an incredible event and i believe it signalled to the world that Scotland was moving from the norms. I know movements all over the world are doing their thing but this job in Scotland is to fix our system. If we can fix our corner maybe others will be given a boost.

    Our young and old talk politics now. It’s not a touchy subject it’s your right to speak and we want to hear what you have to say.

    I wandered around during the rerendum talking to strangers and making new friends and many spoke like you Grumpy. And the fun . never saw a grumpy YESSER. ever. A fantastic experience . And the young are hooked.

    They have the energy and drive and hope . It’s catchy. They have ideas and they want to contribute.

    have a wee look around for get togethers and give it a try. You might find the party your looking for among the new enlightened Scots.

    I can’t see any party with ties to UK surviving now. We can vote for Scots who put us first. People know this and they also know that the SNP have an really tough time ahead. We don’t expect miracles . Spin goes straight to the bin we know the language now. Every small victory for the SNP will be trumpeted out for the world to see.

    They cannot lose . 600 against 56 or soon to be 57 ( cheeky aye 😉 ) Interesting to hear what you might concider a good report for the SNP. What would they have to do to prove they are a credit to us.? Many believe it won’t matter unless we have more powers so if they cannot get the powers they require they cannot be judged.

    Folk will not go back to what it was before and if the SNP cannot win what we want others will come in their place. Times are a changing my friend.

    • Anonymous

      YESGUY

      I agree with you that things have changed in Scotland. It’s what Labour, the Liberals and the Conservatives don’t get yet, Scotland has changed and is not going back in it’s box. From people I have spoken to, even people who voted no and would vote no again, the old ways are no longer acceptable. That’s what makes the Carmichael affair more interesting, Liberals talking about 2nd chances and burying their heads in the sand is not going to be good enough. I actually agree with second chances but the second chance in this case would be a bye election for Alistair Carmichaels constituents to decide, that is why I am all for recall.

      It’s also the reason why I have not called for his head, I feel that I can express that what he did was wrong, that the Liberal Party response has been poor and that some Liberal members are way off the mark with their attacks on the SNP and it’s members but I really feel that now is the time to set a precedence with recall. It’s time that politicians from all parties understood who they work for now, and if they fail to meet the standards that we now expect from elected representatives then they will face the voters, that’s is only fair.

      I would live to get more involved in things but it tends to be very difficult for me due to the nature of my job. I a CLD Worker and work with young people, so that means I work a lot of evenings. I have recently just taken on a new role in Fintry/Whitfield but for the previous four years I was responsible for involving young people in decision making and supported both Dundee Youth Council and our members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, I can honestly say that it was some of the most enjoyable work I have ever done. Young people are the future and their idolism needs to be promoted and encouraged but also guided by old farts in our communities as they need support to learn.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

    • Anonymous

      Political Tourist

      I always considered myself a Liberal and suppose many do, I joined the local party and I fight my corner for constitutional change. The local party I find are very open minded and willing to debate but nationally the lib dems continue to disappoint overall. The party is small now , but it still fails to fight for things like real federalism and I suspect in the long term will suffer a slow death if it does not change. It feels like a bit of a protest party now.

      But there are things I agree with like being against the super NHS database, the centralisation of services without local accountability such as Police Scotland and things more decision making by local authorities. But what I have found is that the leadership are unionist to the core and that is really what needs to change. The party needs the Renniea of the world gone for real change to take place.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

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