Thursday, 18 October 2007

If I were standing for Lib Dem leader, I'd say something like this:

Liberal egalitarianism is the future. The 20th century was a century of war, physical and philosophical, between the authoritarian socialists of the left, and the authoritarian free marketeers of the right. The battle between left and right has been resolved, the result a draw, the conclusion that each needs the other.

"'New' Labour" and the "'Modern' Conservatives" - what a contradiction, modern, Conservative - are out of date. Watch them stealing policy clothes from each other as each stand on the centre ground between left and right. They are not parties of conviction or of ideology any more. They have no story to tell. Their time has passed.

The battle of the 21st century is between the musty old authoritarians struggling to remain relevant and the liberals who are speaking sense on so many issues today. Who is to defend the cause of liberty in this century? And not just defend it, but take it to the people, show them why liberalism is better than authoritarianism, for everybody.

That task falls to us.

Authoritarianism has provided the basic services that people now take for granted - schools, hospitals, policing and so on. But on the substantive issues of the 21st century, authoritarianism has failed to deliver. Failed on poverty, failed on inequality, failed on education, housing and the environment. Failed on freedom.

Now it is time for liberalism to shine. We should be making the case for traditional libertarian policies - small, simple government, local power, land value taxation, the legalization of drugs - and showing people how and why these policies work. Challenge the received wisdom that is so often misguided. Hand in hand with this liberalism goes the egalitarian policies of citizen's incomes and stakeholder grants.

As leader of this party, I would campaign tirelessly to bring these issues into the public eye. To make the case for liberal egalitarianism as the solution to the problems caused by a century of authoritarianism.


Problems of poverty - 2(?) million people in poverty in this country.

Problems of inequality - in which the richest ten percent control 35%(?) percent of the money.

Problems of societal breakdown, ASBOs, single parents, slums, a spiralling prison population of 80,000(?).

Problems due to pollution through inefficiencies, overconsumption and poor regulation by past governments.

Problems of poor service and quality in the police, the health service, education.

Problems of corruption and rent seeking in a vast government looking to justify its own flabby, shabby existence, spending 45%(?) of the UK's GDP last year.

Make no mistake, the authoritarianism of the last century has provided basic systems to provide shelter, food and clothing, and fair health. But it has done this barely, at great cost, and with varying success. Liberal egalitarianism can fix these failing systems.


A citizen's income, a breadline income for every person in this state should be a core plank of liberal party policy. An income that would guarantee basic freedoms to all, equally, with dignity, instead of the degrading and stigmatizing means-tested, inspected, examined and regulated indignity of the mess that is the current benefits system.

Coupled with the egalitarian policy of a stakeholder grant - a grant for every person as they reach the age of majority, to spend how they wish, and recouped via a capital tax, we could bring unprecedented equality of opportunity for generations to come. These two measures alone would vastly increase the quality of life for every citizen in this country.

But we can go further.

By putting administration of schools, hospitals and police forces into the hands of local people, and letting them decide how money is spent, we can further guarantee the equal freedoms due to good health, a good education and good policing, and ensure that those freedoms are delivered at a reasonable cost to all. It's time to end the culture of targets and misreporting upwards.

By shrinking the central bureaucracy by these measures and by the elimination of QUANGOs, the Department for Trade & Industry, the failed Child support Agency, and many, many benefits agencies besides and replacing them with small, simple government with good oversight and good governance, we can provide everyone the freedoms guaranteed in the bill of rights at a reasonable price. It's time for an end to rent-seeking bureaucrats.

By legalizing narcotics and prostitution, we can reduce crime due to their domination by hardened criminals. We can free police to solve more violent crimes, the sort of crimes that do the most damage to our society. We can reduce harm done to addicts and streetwalkers and reach out to help these damaged people take their place in our society. It's time to end the stigmatization of those in need.

By giving every citizen in Britain the right to a clean and healthy planet, we can ensure that we limit our impacts on the environment, so that the freedom and equality of our children, and our children's children can be guaranteed.


Six radical policies for a liberal Britain - on income, wealth, localism, small government, crime and the environment, form the cornerstone of my offering to the party, and to this country.

I'll be honest, many of them sound like "vote losers", unpopular with mainstream voters. Many of you are sitting out there thinking "this man is a mentalist, and will drive this party into the ground. Can you say '0%' already?".

But every policy is sellable on a practical level. What parent would refuse a forty-five thousand pound grant for their child? Which worker would forsake the security of a breadline income, giving them the freedom to change jobs or to demand better conditions? Which hospital nurse would refuse more local control? Which teacher would not want to be freed from the millstone of our curriculum? Which taxpayer would argue for a larger, more bloated state in exchange for less money in their pocket? Which police officer would rather spend time arresting youths smoking cannabis than chasing real criminals? Which citizen wants a dirtier planet, a shorter lifespan?

None of them want any of them. It is up to us to show people that liberal egalitarianism provides the answers to these problems, not more, bigger government with more centralized control, more targets, more spin, more corruption and more lies.


It will be difficult. The print media seethes against this party. We have to show the newspapers that we will be good for them too. They may ridicule these policies at first, but as businesses they stand to benefit from the freedom and equalities granted by liberal egalitarianism, through a better quality workforce that is better motivated and paying less tax and so on. Every business is made up of people. One would have thought that newspaper owners would be very much "for" the party of small government, elimination of red tape, and so on. We are that party. The Tories are no longer. One would have thought that the traditionally Labour papers would see that our principles of egalitarianism are better for their readers than the broken promises of Tony and Gordon. If given time. If we go out there and engage with them, if we make the case for a free and equal Britain.

As party leader, I will take it upon myself to begin that engagement and to drive it ever on, with the media and with the people, in every way and on every level. Through old media, new media, through lecture tours like Al Gore has so effectively done, through meeting people, through blogs and adverts, radio and television, books and magazines.

We will have spokesmen for our core policies speaking on them and shaping their details together with the party, in public, so that we can show people that we are not only enthusiastic, but intelligent and inclusive too.

We will raise our profile in the national eye through advertisments, articles and debates on our ideology and our core policy.

We will court endorsements by respected public figures, from scientists to singers, firefighters to film stars.

We will show ourselves to have human faces, cares and worries like everyone else with TV appearances, magazine articles and so on. People love people, so these are a great way to engage with people. Show them that we are kind, honest, thoughtful, interested people who really want to make a difference. And who are not stuffy and humourless, too!

Through these means we can bring the battle for the 21st century to the fore, and show that we are the people with the right answers, not the vacuous, vacillating politicians in purple.


So, on a clear ideology, radical and right policies, and an unprecedented level of public engagement, I put myself forward as leader of this party. Except I don't, because I'm not an MP. Damn.


Jock Coats said...

A goodly lot of sensible policy - especially of course on LVT and Citizens' Income.

One small quibble I'd have though - near the beginning you talk of a century of warfare between authoritarian socialism and authoritarian free marketeers. I would not argue that both left and right have been authoritarian and centralizing, but I would quibble with the idea that the Tories, whom I presume you mean by the latter, have been "free marketeers".

Free Trade is a liberal banner, protectionism was the Tory banner, at least until 1979 (and by the sound of it recently again in the noughties of this century). Our economy is riddled with protectionism - even I'd suggest the WTO is about protectionism rather than free trade as it unfairly advantages large scale trans-rnational suppliers.

I believe we must also rediscover that "Free Trade" agenda - that brought Churchill to our party and which led Lloyd-George finally to bow out of coalition government in the thirties when the Tories reasserted their protectionist agenda.

If you have't already, have a read of one of Henry George's other works - "Protectionism or Free Trade" for the full SP on it.

Mark Wadsworth said...

SB, I'm not sure if that's a spoof or not, but it all sounds pretty good to me ... apart from the 'stakeholder grant'. Big Yes to Citizen's Income, big No to 'stakeholder grant'. If you remove that bit, I'll link to this under my "Words of wisdom" section.

Tristan said...

I agree with Jock here - Free markets are liberal, you cannot support them fully and be authoritarian.

I would go further on one key point - we should put the spending power in individual's hands.
What's the point of transferring it from central politicians to local politicians? It doesn't give the individual more say.

I would say in policing that this has to be handled collectively, but health and education? Nothing says they must be except prejudice against liberal markets and desire for power over others.
Give individuals the power to control their own lives and spend money directly as much as possible (their own for most people, benefits from general taxation for others).

I also quibble with your claim that 2million are living in poverty - do you mean that 2 million cannot afford to eat, clothe or house themselves? Or do you mean 2 million are below an arbitrary relative line defined as poverty? The former is a scandal, the latter is less worrying.

Poverty of opportunity however - there I'm sure we'd agree - but is that a function of less wealth or not? Partly it is, but its largely down to government enforcing social rigidity.

Other than that, CBI I can go for easily, LVT I would too. Shrinking the state - I'm 100% on board.

Having a clear set of ideas founded upon liberty and freedom - that is the key. Even if I disagree with some conclusions it would be fantastic to have this sort of leadership and I would be happy to follow (and try to persuade on those few points I disagree with)

sanbikinoraion said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Er, on all of the numbers, I confess that I pulled them out of my arse as placeholders (that's why they are all followed by question marks - I just forgot to go and insert the actual numbers!)

Jock: you're right on free market = liberal. I was trying to capture the sense in which the Tories are right-wing authoritarians to contrast with left-wing authoritarians. Can you suggest a replacement for "free marketeers" in this context?

sanbikinoraion said...

Mark, what's your quibble with the notion of stakeholder grants? I'd like to debate the idea with someone who is opposed to them, but if you could give me a rundown on your stance then I'd be grateful for the brain-fodder.

sanbikinoraion said...

Tristan - I am not quite sure where I stand on the privatization of education and health, because I do not know an awful lot about either issue, so I tend to steer clear of making any definite pronouncements until I'm better informed. I can see why privatization could work, but I could also see how it could be problematic. Further reading required, I think!

Mark Wadsworth said...

S, I have replied on previous thread, where it's more in context.

Jock's not happy with 'free marketeers' and historically I must agree. But I glad he has to think up a better word, and not me!