Monday, May 11th, 2015

miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
So, apparently, there are well over seven thousand of you guys now. Welcome! In order to help you acclimatise to the culture of the party there's a couple of things you ought to be reading.
  1. The back of your membership card* is the first and most important thing for you to read as a new Lib Dem. The front will have some sort of pretty picture on it, and your name, and your membership number. The back will say on it:
    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
    which is an extract from our Constitution and is something that is graven on most of our hearts. Regardless of the fact that I have recently called for a constitutional convention, and I genuinely think that we should rebuild from the ground up (hopefully with your help), the idea that the words "no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity" won't be a part of that is unconscionable.

  2. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. You can read this online, but my favourite version** is this 1912 edition which also contains two more of Mill's essays - on running the government and on feminism - and an Introduction by Millicent Garrett Fawcett. You might be a bit put off the idea of reading a dry work of Victorian philosophy, but I promise you, it's worth it.***

  3. The Liberator Songbook. You can buy a copy here and there are some extracts online here, for example, or here. You don't have to attend Glee Club at conference - and indeed, many Lib Dems look upon it with total embarrassment - but a read of the songbook will give you an idea of the culture of the party. We like to extract the urine. We extract the urine out of ourselves, each other, other political parties, the political system, and ourselves all over again.

  4. The Electoral Reform Society's Guide to Voting Systems. The one thing everybody knows about the Lib Dems is that we are in favour of "PR". Most people don't know what PR is. Most people think we had a referendum on PR in the last parliament. We didn't, we had a referendum on AV, which is not a proportional system. You, as a new Lib Dem, are going to get asked about "PR" a lot. Familiarising yourself with the various voting systems is probably a plan. The favoured system of the Electoral Reform Society, The Liberal Democrats, and myself is Single Transferrable Vote, which is known everywhere else in the world as The British Proportional System, because we invented it. We like it because it gives the most power to voters. We use STV for all internal elections, and it's in use in various parts of the UK, but not yet for general elections. If you are pushing for proportional representation, please specify that we want STV, not nebulous "PR".

There are lots and lots of other things you can read as a Lib Dem. An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism by Conrad Russell is one I would fully recommend, I am very fond of The Journal of Liberal History, many people would recommend the free back issues of Liberator magazine, and I'm sure the people in the comments will have many many more recommendations; but I would say the four listed above are the absolute essentials.



* when it arrives, which will probably take a while because there are a lot to produce and the new ones are actually quite fancy
** I like this edition so much that I keep giving it to people as a present ;)
*** The bit most often cited by Lib Dems is The Harm Principle: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant." - we often discuss the implications and applications of it, but few of us don't think it is a guiding principle.
miss_s_b: Peter Falk as Columbo saying "just one more thing" (Fangirling: Columbo)
As well as my own post on this matter, lots of other people have written long and/or interesting posts on this, not least on Lib Dem Voice. As much for myself as for you, gentle reader, I'm going to collect the links to my favourite ones here.
  • Nick Barlow is a proper political scientist, and you can tell this reading his article which is logically structured and argued, and contains a lot of clear and understandable points, most of which I thoroughly agree with.

  • Anders Hanson, former chair of the Yorkshire and Humber regional Liberal Democrats, has a very long, thoughtful, considered piece here. I think he's particularly right about the need to own a policy area or several.

  • The fabulous Mortimer posted her five* ideas quite quickly, but I think they are all good ones. Plus, she's even swearier than me.

  • Andy Hinton, in the midst of linking to lots of other people, points out that perhaps the problem last week was that we hadn't given the voters anything to vote FOR. His whole piece is worth reading, though, not least for the fact that he admits he's just setting out thoughts as they occur to him.

  • I've ummed and ahhed about linking to David Howarth's piece on the SLF because I think the very first point is absolutely dead wrong and couldn't be wrongerer. But the rest of it is very good indeed.

About This Blog

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.



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