Nick Clegg's Liberal Moment
Just prior to the Lib Dem conference, Nick Clegg published a pamphlet called "The Liberal Moment". The most reported part of this document was the section that argued that the Liberal Democrats should be seeking to replace Labour as the main "progressive" party in British politics. I think this is exactly the right attitude to take, we have a surfeit of small-c conservatism between the main parties in this country. The principles that were set out in the rest of the pamphlet as being the basis for a liberal agenda were exactly right as well. The problem is that we have become used to politicians making overblown rhetorical statements about fairly inconsequential changes in policy. Rhetoric alone is massively devalued because there is no expectation that action will follow. If The Liberal Moment is to be taken seriously in years to come then it needs to be backed up with hard policy.
The single most exciting section in the document is the one where Clegg anounces his intention to give workers a right to a stake and a say in the running of their companies. This was a key plank of the Liberal program from th '30s until the '60s. It was radical then, it's never been implemented and so it's still radical now. Transferring ownership of schools and other parts of the public services to the service users would be a logical way to extend the approach and start delivering "Ownership for All", as this agenda was originally styled.
My hope is that the party leadership go for this and the membership back them. Ashdown made noises in this sort of direction, but never followed up with policy. Clegg must go further, or the Lib Dems will stagnate.
Labels: liberalism, mutualism, radicalism