A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Archive for the ‘Lib Dem Party’ Category

Why I am a Liberal Democrat

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

Thousands of people have joined the Liberal Democrats since the election. Several friends interested in joining the party have asked me why I am a Liberal Democrat.

allianceWhat Prompted Me To Join In The First Place

I supported the Lib Dems and Liberal/SDP Alliance in the late 80s and early 90s because I thought UK politics needed something different from the old Labour/ Conservative swapping of government. At the time, they were economically between the two – a moderating position I favoured. They also had more detailed policies than the other parties, which gave me a clear idea of what I was supporting.

The first time that I was able to vote, there were no Liberal Democrats to vote for! The St. Neots Town Council Election for Eaton Ford ward of 1990 had 3 Tories and a Green to choose from. I realised that the way to ensure there was always a Lib Dem candidate was to stand myself or encourage others to do so – and that was achieved by joining the party.

A Liberal Political Education

I joined in 1991, although I had no particular idea what Liberalism was. My formal education was scientific not political. I read John Stuart Mill and articles about Social Liberalism to understand the party’s philosophy. The core principles that attract me to Liberalism are:

Individuality over the “tyranny of the majority”. Mill identified the need for government to safeguard the rights of minorities in society. This is why representative, as opposed to delegated, democracy is so important. This point is closely linked to the next one:

Control of authority.  Liberals are suspicious of authority. Power and decision-making must be scrutinised and exercised with due consideration. Rights of citizens must be protected and strong constitutional checks put in place. The issue of individual rights is reflected in:

The Harm Principle: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against (their) will is to prevent harm to others.”

These ideas from Mill have been complemented by the advent of Social Liberalism – a belief that the state has a role in redistributing (particularly unearned) wealth and opportunity thereby helping every citizen to realise their full potential.

The Preamble and How the Party Works


stvThese liberal ideas are summarised in the above statement, taken from the Preamble to the Federal Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. Many members and supporters, including myself, use it as a touch-stone for our political thinking.

I soon discovered that the Lib Dems are very keen on internal party democracy. They were one of the first parties to have one member one vote to choose the party’s leader.

Policy is formed by dedicated working groups and are often evidence-based. Policy papers and motions from this process are then debated by Federal Conference twice a year and by Scottish, Welsh and Regional Conferences where appropriate. Conference representatives from each constituency can propose and amend policy at Conference, as can local parties. The party then compiles a manifesto from these policies for a particular election.

As happened in 2010, any coalition agreement has to be debated and passed by a Special Conference of over 2000 representatives.


Policies were the first thing that attracted me to the Liberal Democrats. Here are they key ones that still resonate with me today:

Proportional Representation for Westminster Elections using the Single Transferrable Vote: vital to empower voters and stimulate new political ideas and policy. Our existing system in deeply conservative. Parties are able to govern on unrepresentative minority vote shares by targeting small sets of swing voters to the exclusion of the everything else.

A Written Constitution: The UK is governed by precedent. Mill identified the dangers in this approach and the need for strong rules to control authority. A written constitution would deliver this.

human rightsDevolution and Federalism: This enables power to be exercised by the most local and relevant democratic bodies, whether it be local councils, regional or national assemblies, Westminster or the EU. Federalism may be the only answer to nationalism in Scotland and the need to bring balance between the nations of the UK. Replacing the House of Lords with an Elected Senate is a key part of this solution.

A Human Rights Act. Continued support for this against the Conservative threat is needed to protect individual liberty.

The Environment. The Lib Dems have been historically strong on the green agenda, applying Mill’s Harm Principle in the light of Climate Change. The coalition era saw some weakening of policy but I expect to see things improve over the coming years.

Financial Policy: The party has redistributed, and continues to look at redistributing, unearned wealth. Examples include the Mansion Tax, increasing Capital Gains Tax and closing tax loopholes (both implemented by Lib Dems in the last government) and clamping down on tax avoidance (netting £8 billion during 2010-15). I expect the party to look at lifting very low earners out of National Insurance and combining Income Tax and National Insurance to simplify the tax system.

The Individual: The Lib Dems successfully legalised same sex marriage in the last government. They have long argued for LGBT+ rights and equality and there is still a lot of work to do in this area.

Internationalism. The Liberal Democrats support international institutions such as the UN, EU and the rule of international law. They are strong supporters of International Aid and achieved the 0.7% of GDP target whilst in the coalition government.


So this gives you some idea of why I am a member of the Liberal Democrats. I am not closed-minded or tribalist. From time to time I look at the other parties but it seems that I am a liberal and the only party for me is the Liberal Democrats.

If you are a liberal too, you can join online at www.libdems.org.uk

Telegraph, Financial Times & VoteSmart say Vote Lib Dem in Harborough

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

1430418162More good news this week for Lib Dem Zuffar Haq‘s election campaign in Harborough, Oadby and Wigston. The Liberal Democrats are already ahead in winning local elections since 2010, with 33 councillors to the Tories’ 17. They have been further boosted by the  news that on 7th May, the Lib Dems will have more local election candidates than any other party in the constituency.

Zuffar’s campaign now has the backing of both The Telegraph and The Financial Times no less.  The Telegraph’s tactical voter guide says voters who want David Cameron “to lose the election” should back the Liberal Democrats in Harborough, Oadby and Wigston.

Harborough 2010b

The result last time in our area (Harborough)

Yesterday’s Financial Times said that in areas like ours where the Lib Dems are the main challenger, “we would vote tactically for them.

The paper also states,”The country would benefit from … Lib Dem moderation at Westminster,” and “Only Nick Clegg … has occupied the centre ground. He has argued persuasively that the Lib Dems contributed to sensible fiscal consolidation and tempered the wilder Tory impulses, particularly on Europe.
Finally, VoteSmart, an independent campaign with the aim, “to increase the success of left-of-centre parties” at the election also encourages people here to vote for Lib Dem Zuffar Haq as the best way to beat the Tories.

telegraph tactical voter

The Daily Telegraph backs the Lib Dems for voters in Harborough who don’t want a Tory majority

votesmart recommendation

The Independent VoteSmart campaign backs the local Lib Dem candidate

9 Questions for Lib Dem Candidate Selections

Friday, July 26th, 2013

I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 22 years. I was usually happy to vote for the Lib Dem candidate on the grounds that if they had made it through the selection process, then they must be OK.

OK. Naive I know.

The Coalition and Nick Clegg’s leadership have rudely jogged me out of my complacency. Put simply the coalition has implemented too many policies that should never have made it into law. Leading Lib Dems have made poor tactical decisions and appear to be as out of touch with the impact of these policies as their Tory counterparts.

Yet I am still an active member because I am a liberal and because there are many other members who feel as I do.

Indeed, my analysis of House of Commons Divisions shows that many Lib Dem MPs have a record of opposing these policies. No doubt many potential candidates in 2015 would too.

There are also future issues to consider: Trident, deficit reduction, tax and the Living Wage, some or all of which may feature at Federal Conference in September as this Social Liberal Forum article discusses.

Soon my local Lib Dem party will start choosing our candidate for 2015. As a member, I will have a vote in that selection. More than ever, I need to make sure that I support candidates who reflect my views on liberal democracy.

Based on past troubles and the above coming debates, here is what I think we should be asking potential candidates:

A) Had you been elected in 2010, which of these coalition policies would you have supported?

    1. Increasing VAT to 20%;
    2. Localising Council Tax Benefit;
    3. The Spare Room Supplement;
    4. Free Schools/ Academies;
    5. Tuition Fees;
    6. Secret Courts.

B) Considering to the future, what are your views on:

    1. Replacing Trident;
    2. Introducing A Living Wage;
    3. Deficit Reduction.

Looking at the Coalition Policies, 1-3 have badly hit those on low incomes. 4 is causing confusion and wasting staff and volunteers’ time. 5 is a high-profile broken pledge. 6 is an attack on fair trials. This is not an exhaustive list. Just the worst of a bad bunch.

Trident II D5 Missile Launch

Trident II D5 Missile Launch – By Unknown (United States Navy) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the future issues, the party must oppose replacing Trident. Most EU nations don’t have or need nuclear weapons. They are an expensive hangover from the Cold War. The Living Wage would help to end government subsidy of low wages through Tax Credits. And I do not believe the Liberal Democrats can be a distinctive alternative at the next election if they endorse Conservative economic policy from 2015 onwards.

The 2010 intake

How do our current MPs fare against these questions? There was no separate Division for the changes to Council Tax Benefit but all the rest are in Hansard. These 15 MPs either abstained or voted against at least half of the measures:

Greg Mulholland
Mike Hancock
Annette Brooke
Andrew George
David Ward
Michael Crockart
John Leech
Adrian Sanders
Julian Huppert
Bob Russell
Jenny Willott
Ian Swales
Tim Farron
Charles Kennedy
Simon Hughes

The list is ordered by agreement with the 5 questions that had Divisions. So Greg Mulholland and Mike Hancock top the list with 3 votes against Coalition policy and 2 abstentions each.

So, if you are a Lib Dem member / supporter as frustrated with the leadership of the Liberal Democrats as I am, take an active role and get like-minded candidates selected for your constituency.

If I have any time or money to help the 2015 Lib Dem campaign, I will be directing it at those candidates or the above MPs.