Following a recent post Tim Farron replied via Twitter and I had a brief twitter exchange in which he asked me to email him my ideas so here was what I sent:
Thanks for asking me to email you, it is a privilege. My ideas are my own and you may or may not find them useful but I hope they offer you something. These are difficult times for the party and I know you and everyone is trying as hard as possible.
These ideas are based around one theme, which I think is important in a Coalition: how does this act demonstrate that we believe in our core values.
As Nick Clegg says ‘I am asking, day in day out, Liberal Democrat[s] to vote on things that they wouldn’t do in a month of Sundays if it was a Liberal Democrat government’ so I wonder how we can demonstrate these values considering we are having to do things we don’t want to do. I go back to what worked for us before, which was to have someone who said something different to the Tories and Labour but made sense.
We spend a lot of time defending things now and I don’t think it has been working for us – the best way to kill a relationship is to become defensive. So we need to get that voice back and if it can’t be someone in Government then it needs to be someone else in the party. Your position could be perfect for that role but it means wading into the big debates – to demonstrate our core values that are being undermined while in Government. Even better would be to have a number of senior people who have approval to provide this voice together. We have worked best in Government when we have been publicly fighting to get what we think is best and speaking with more than one voice i.e. demonstrating our values (e.g. NHS, tax threshold) and worst when we have fought behind closed doors (e.g. tuition fees).
Next I think we need to get back to values: Danny Alexander said in ‘Why Vote Lib Dem’ we are a party who believes in collaboration. So how has this government demonstrated collaboration? Where we have done this, how has this been communicated? and where it has not been possible, how have we explained this to the public? Things I think we could do:
Support the Charter for Compassion: A grassroots movement bringing together charities, NGOs, religious groups and more which can make compassionate cities like Seattle and many others around the world see: http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/making-the-lib-dem-message-on-compassion-meaningful-ideas-for-a-distinctive-liberal-message/
Demonstrate collaborative governance: Call for a 21st Century Town Hall meeting from AmericaSpeaks to address issues such as the NHS and other reforms. How would this change perception of the party if we called all significant players together for 1 day which resulted in a policy/amended Bill etc. AmericaSpeaks have done this for the reconstruction of New Orleans, Ground Zero and for the US national budget (not in an official capacity though see: http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/a-radically-different-approach-to-the-spending-cuts/) see: http://americaspeaks.org/ I think we should have a policy of collaborative Governance as a stated aim – what better way to demonstrate we believe in collaboration and devolution of power? http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/what-is-collaborative-governance/ it would certainly trump the Big Society!
Another value of the party we could show more clearly is our anti-establishment one, as Nick Clegg said we needed to show when he was vying for the leadership position. I know there are a lot of things we have done in this area but there are other things we could do:
Come out against bonuses altogether: Research has shown time and time again that they do not work. Why don’t we listen to the evidence? Who doesn’t want us to move to a system that works better? Not that I suggest the UK goes it alone in banning bonuses but calling for the debate which will demonstrate our anti-establishment value http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/banking-reform-but-what-else-do-the-lib-dems-offer/ Isn’t this essentially the type of move Clegg did with his recent speech on the economy? Why not spell out some distinctive policy aspirations which show what we believe in? some here: http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/how-to-create-a-liberal-economy-tackle-bonuses-and-differentiate-in-a-time-of-austerity/
Call for reform of Civil Service: We need a significant change in the way the civil service is run. You only need to ask a public sector worker of the effects of policy which doesn’t match things on the ground. This is reflected in a lot of the things they do. http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/a-sad-tale-which-shows-an-urgent-need-to-reform-the-civil-service/
In terms of what we can do to improve how we work with the Tories I see things very simply:
http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/this-is-a-picture-that-shows-why-we-are-doing-so-badly-and-what-we-can-do-to-improve-things/ I asked people to help out with this and this was the updated version which shows how we could focus work with the Tories in a more beneficial way and this was the result http://solutionfocusedpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/what-would-be-a-success-for-the-lib-dems-in-2012/
I know I have probably gone overboard with links but my project looks at what works and then amplifies it as well as looking at what isn’t working and then stopping it. These are some ideas but the overarching theme is about demonstrating values, which is not coming across to the members/public as well as it could. There are many other ideas and things I think we should do but it is getting late. I hope this makes sense. I am happy to elaborate if you want to know more.
Keep up the good work and best wishes
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
Thanks very much indeed for these ideas. I’m not 100% sure I agree with all of them but I do think they are extremely interesting and worth investigating and so I’ve forwarded them to Nick Clegg’s office and hope they’ll get more attention there.
It’s great to have this kind of input from grassroots members, and it’s an inspiration to the rest of us.