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A miscellany of Liberal Democrat (and liberal) ideas and history

  • Baroness Sally Hamwee (
    Article: Sep 13, 2016

    Our guest speaker at the last AGM of Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrats, back in November, was Baroness Sally Hamwee. In the House of Lords recently, Sally and her fellow Liberal Democrat peers Brian Paddick and Paul Strasburger have been scrutinising the Investigatory Powers Bill. The scrutiny is ongoing but, so far, particular elements of concern include the Bill's authorisation of bulk interception, bulk equipment interference, bulk acquisition of communications data and bulk personal datasets, constituting an intrusive and inefficient collection of data about individuals. In the course of her argument, Sally quoted a recent Edinburgh Fringe work by playwright Tim Price, which offers food for thought:

  • Autumn Conference 2016 - Nuclear Weapons policy consultation paper
    Article: Sep 9, 2016

    One of the main features of Liberal Democrat conferences is the debate and discussion of party policy. Before a policy paper is presented for debate to be voted on by members, there is a long consultative process. And one of the topics to be discussed in this process at next week's Autumn Conference is nuclear weapons.

  • EU Lib Dem signpost to future
    Article: Sep 7, 2016

    It's all very well to criticise when government ministers parrot the empty chant of "Brexit means Brexit" but, on the opposite side of the fence, what exactly do Liberal Democrats mean when we say that we want to stay in Europe? This isn't just an academic question posed by journalists and politicos - it has cropped up in conversation at recent Lib Dem meetings and social events in Suffolk Coastal.

  • Your Liberal Britain logo
    Article: Sep 4, 2016

    The Your Liberal Britain team reports that more than 6000 people have completed their questionnaire so far. But how do you rank so many replies, to ensure that the recommendations accurately reflect the views of the participants? The team have come up with a solution -- the "Great British Face Off".

  • Liberal Democrat Policy
    Article: Aug 12, 2016

    One of the distinctive features of the Liberal Democrats is that the members get to vote on the party's policies, and also have an opportunity to be involved in working groups for developing those policies (if they are selected to take part, from amongst those volunteers who apply). So which policy areas are currently under consideration?

  • Your Liberal Britain - card 1
    Article: Aug 10, 2016

    At Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrats' recent sessions for Your Liberal Britain, we considered the social problems faced by the UK today. Here is a list (in no particular order) of the main areas of concern that participants identified, and which we think should be accommodated in Liberal Democrat policy:

  • Your Liberal Britain - card 2
    Article: Aug 8, 2016

    Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrats held a very successful Your Liberal Britain event this weekend, over two sessions. Twelve members turned up early on Friday evening, and Saturday morning saw an attendance of sixteen, making a total of 23 individuals altogether (since some of us were so keen that we turned up twice). The first session had an equal representation of very new, new-ish and long-standing members, and the second session comprised mainly long-standing members with a scattering of new-ish ones.

  • Nick Clegg
    Article: Aug 1, 2016

    At a recent committee meeting of a local branch of the Liberal Democrats, our party's support for Europe cropped up in conversation, with some expressions of uncertainty about what our pro-Europeanism can hope to achieve in the wake of the Leave result, and about the nature of any steps we might hope to take. What exactly are we asking for when we say that we will continue to fight for Europe? Are we asking for a second referendum? Are we denying the outcome, or proposing that it be ignored? Now that the dust has settled a little after the referendum, what can pro-Europeans do as the Government starts to formulate its plans for Brexit?

  • Lib Dem conference stage
    Article: Jul 28, 2016

    It's time to book your place at the Liberal Democrats' autumn conference, to be held in Brighton (17 to 20 September). Information can be found at The outline agenda has already been announced. As well as topics related to party governance and administration, internal reporting, and Q&A sessions, the following items are lined up:

  • Liberal Hopeful International Rational
    Article: Jul 17, 2016

    More than 17,500 new members have joined the Liberal Democrats in the three weeks following the referendum. So what's next for the party?

    Tim Farron, the party leader, has reiterated that at the next general election, our party's manifesto will contain a clear commitment to take us back into the European Union. In the meantime, we will fight to guarantee the future of EU citizens living in the UK, and we will hold the Brexiters to account as the government embarks on its plans and negotiations. "Together, we will build a new modern breed of politics - liberal, hopeful, international, rational - driven by real British values."

  • Words from the preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution
    Article: Jul 16, 2016

    With so many new members having joined Suffolk Coastal Liberal Democrats in the past three (tumultuous) weeks since the referendum, perhaps now is a good time to think about what it means to be a Liberal Democrat. With that in mind, here is the full preamble to the Liberal Democrats' party constitution:

  • 15,000 new members since the EU Referendum
    Article: Jul 6, 2016

    The Liberal Democrats are fighting for an open, optimistic, hopeful, diverse and tolerant Britain, within the European Union. Our numbers are growing, and 15,000 new members have joined us since the Referendum. If you haven't already done so, join us today:

  • Article: Jun 27, 2016

    While respecting the democratic outcome of the referendum, the Liberal Democrats' commitment to the European Union continues, and Tim Farron has announced that the party will fight the next general election on a policy of membership of the EU.

    In an email sent to members on Saturday evening, Tim Farron wrote as follows:

  • Proud to be part of the 48% who voted to Remain in the EU
    Article: Jun 25, 2016

    The outcome of the European Union referendum was not what the Liberal Democrats wanted, as a party. As individuals, the majority of us are still reeling with disappointment, grief and anger. But although the verdict was devastating, we are heartened to see that our inclusive, open and outward-looking values are shared by the 16 million people in the UK who voted alongside us to remain in the European Union. We stand proudly with the 48% of voters who believe in a co-operative, internationalist approach, and who reject the politics of division, isolation and self-interest.

  • Article: Jun 25, 2016

    I am devastated and I am angry. Today we woke to a deeply divided country.

    Nigel Farage's vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I accept.

    An institution that we built, that delivered peace, that promoted equality, kept us safe and opened the doors of opportunity, will no longer play part of Britain's future.

  • Shirley Williams at retirement
    Article: Jun 1, 2016

    Baroness Shirley Williams gave a speech at the National Liberal Club last week, discussing the European Union and the upcoming referendum.

    She began with an assessment of the press coverage and public debate so far: "I am very disappointed with this referendum -- I will make no bones about that at all. I think some of the key questions have not been raised, not been discussed and not been argued. It has become increasingly, and particularly in the last few days, a referendum about who should be the next leader of the Conservative party. That is not what the referendum subject is about. It is about the next forty years in Britain, and the next forty years in Europe, and the relationship between the two, and many of us realise that the next forty years will be decisively altered and changed by the outcome of this referendum. And you wouldn't really believe that if you followed the press very carefully - you would think it was essentially about a battle between two elderly white gentlemen against two other elderly white gentlemen who wrest succession in one single party in this country. I find that very depressing."

  • Tim Farron 2016
    Article: May 3, 2016

    In Suffolk Coastal, this week's election is to select the Police & Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, and we have no council elections at the same time. But elsewhere in the country there are local elections as well, for which the Liberal Democrats nationally have produced party election broadcasts. These focus on a core tenet of Liberal Democrat policy -- the importance of community politics, and the genuine effort made by Lib Dem councillors to improve the lives of people in their local areas.

  • EU flag with
    Article: Mar 27, 2016

    On Easter Sunday, why not settle back and watch some videos of Liberal Democrat party leaders (past and present) talking with passion and commitment about their views on Europe.

    Firstly, Tim Farron, speaking at the opening rally of the Spring Conference in York earlier this month, with his message that "This is likely to be the biggest vote you will ever cast" and "Britain must not leave -- Britain must lead". The speech doesn't appear to be available separately on YouTube, but you can view it from the Liberal Democrats' website at Just select the video called "Spring Conference in York - Friday" and fast-forward to the 1-hour, 10-minutes and 30-seconds mark. If you would prefer to read the text, you can find it here:

  • Article: Mar 19, 2016

    On the morning after the night when Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his position in the Cabinet, citing ""indefensible" cuts to disability benefits as his reason for leaving, there is much discussion about Duncan Smith's real motivation in resigning over this particular policy at this particular point in time.

  • Your Liberal Britain logo
    Article: Mar 18, 2016

    An interesting consultative session at the party conference in York last weekend saw the launch of "Your Liberal Britain", an initiative to identify what we all mean (individually) when we envisage a truly liberal and social democracy in Britain.

    The organisers ask:

    • What kind of society do we want to create here in Britain?
    • How would it be different to the country we live in today?
    • And, crucially, what improvements would a Liberal Britain bring to people's lives?

    The results will feed directly into the Liberal Democrats' Agenda 2020 consultation. To take part, just visit to find out more, and fill in the form at to communicate what a Liberal Britain means to you personally. You can get a feel for what liberalism means to others at

  • Article: Mar 18, 2016

    A proposal for a devolved East Anglia features in the HM Treasury's report* of the budget presented to the House of Commons on Wednesday by George Osborne:

    "This government is fundamentally changing the way the country is run, rebalancing the economy for the next generation through a devolution revolution. Local leaders are taking on radical new powers and responsibility for driving local growth through historic devolution deals, retention of business rates and further targeted investment in response to local priorities."

  • Spring Conference 2016, York - sign
    Article: Mar 15, 2016

    "Against the politics of division, our message of hope & optimism is needed now more than ever" -- Tim Farron

    From the very first Fringe events on Friday afternoon before the opening EU Referendum and conference rally, to Tim Farron's closing speech at lunchtime on Sunday, the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in York was varied, interesting, thought-provoking and engaging.

  • 2020
    Article: Mar 11, 2016

    The "Agenda 2020" consultation process aims to build a framework for the Liberal Democrats' policy-making for the duration of this parliament. It seeks to:

    • describe the core beliefs and values held by the Liberal Democrats
    • identify the key challenges that policies will need to address, be they political, economic, social, environmental or international
    • apply the Liberal Democrat approach to the expected challenges, to prioritise issues for policy development
    • encourage debate and discussion within the party on these issues.
  • All Women Shortlists ?
    Article: Mar 8, 2016

    On International Women's Day, it seems appropriate to reflect on the position that women hold in politics, and (particularly) in the Liberal Democrats. On the face of it, the problem looks simple - there are no female Liberal Democrat MPs in the current parliament, and in the interests of diversity and of fair representation, this is something that needs to be corrected in the next parliament.

  • Spring Conference 2016
    Article: Mar 6, 2016

    The Liberal Democrats' Spring Conference is being held in York next weekend. This is a shorter conference than the main one in the autumn, but a lot is crammed into the agenda. From the opening Conference Rally on Friday evening (with party leader Tim Farron and EU Referendum campaign leader Catherine Bearder) to Tim Farron's closing speech at lunchtime on Sunday, there is a jam-packed programme.

  • Article: Mar 4, 2016

    The Liberal Democrats are an internationalist party. Our outlook is embodied in the preamble to our party constitution, which you can read online here: The preamble ends with the following words:

    "Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services. Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles. We will contribute to the process of peace and disarmament, the elimination of world poverty and the collective safeguarding of democracy by playing a full and constructive role in international organisations which share similar aims and objectives. These are the conditions of liberty and social justice which it is the responsibility of each citizen and the duty of the state to protect and enlarge. The Liberal Democrats consist of women and men working together for the achievement of these aims."

  • Tim Farron
    Article: Feb 22, 2016
    By Carl Sacklen (interviewer) in Disclaimer magazine (online), 15th February 2016

    Interviewed by Carl Sacklen for Disclaimer magazine, party leader Tim Farron was asked: "What does being a Liberal mean to you, socially and economically?" Tim's reply included the following:

    "Liberals of every shade should support the free market - but the Thatcherite consensus that has had its hold to an extent on all of Britain's parties, is fundamentally anti free market. Laissez faire and the absence of regulation, the privatisation culture in the broadest sense, is a betrayal of the free market. It is the triumph of the oligarch and the monopoly, it is the defeat of the little guy, it is the roadblock to innovation, it has led to the economic disaster that in government we are trying to fix.

  • Article: Feb 14, 2016

    The very first Lib Dem Pint event was initiated by a small group of new members in London, who had joined the Liberal Democrats in the wake of the General Election in 2015 and were keen to discuss liberal ideas and politics in an informal setting. To their surprise, their planned LibDemPint captured the imagination of new members (and existing ones), and Twitter and Facebook exploded with support and promises of attendance. One Lib Dem Pint followed another, and the phenomenon spread. Lib Dem Pint sessions have fast become a feature of Liberal Democrat local branch activity, and you can find them all across the UK.

  • Fast Forward
    Article: Feb 7, 2016


    From a speech* given by Nick Clegg on 8th May 2015, in which he resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats following the party's devastating knock-back in the general election:

    "Fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it."

  • Paddy Ashdown on a chair in a pub in Bournemouth 2015
    Article: Feb 6, 2016

    From a correspondent... The 2015 Lib Dem autumn Conference took place in Bournemouth in September. My experience of such events was limited to soundbites on TV and articles in the national press, so it seemed like an excuse to spend five days on Bournemouth seafront, seeing what the political folk got up to - or to spend the time sightseeing if it turned out to be too dull.

  • Article: Jan 31, 2016
    By Jo Grimond, A Roar for the Lion (1976) in "The Dictionary of Liberal Quotations" by Duncan Brack (Biteback Publishing Ltd, London, 2013)

    "Political power should reside in the individual. The individual does not live in isolation but in a community. All political institutions must be viewed as the means by which the individual in the community can realise his or her full potential, exercise as much freedom as is consonant with the freedom of others, and be able to lead a full and secure life under the law."

  • Shirley Williams at retirement
    Article: Jan 29, 2016

    As Liberal Democrats we claim a long political heritage through the Liberal Party that preceded us, but the current incarnation of the party did not take shape until the late 80s. Shirley Williams (now Baroness Williams of Crosby) had been one of the four founder members of the Social Democratic Party, formed to take a more centre position in UK politics after a split from the Labour Party in 1981. Later, the Social Democratic Party spent some time in an electoral alliance with the Liberal Party, and in 1988 these two centre parties merged formally. The following year, the new party was renamed as the Liberal Democrats, adopting the familiar "Bird of Liberty" as its logo. Throughout the history of the Liberal Democrats, Shirley Williams has been a vibrant figure in the party. It is with both fondness and sadness - and a great deal of respect - that we see her now poised for retirement. You can watch Shirley's retirement speech in the video link on the BBC News website.