Can we emerge as the party of principle?

It seems to me that the Conservatives and particularly Labour are mired in the class-warfare of the last century. Labour still think of “entitlements” and the Conservatives still preserve the interests of the rich and powerful. Worse, both parties seek wedge issues and nakedly grub for votes, running lowest common denominator campaigns seeking to bribe the voters.

With the rise of home ownership, consumerism and the increased aspirations of everyone, this class-based politics feels increasingly dated. In particular, voters are sick of the grubby bickering, and want politicians to work together to provide good government. So I think they want to understand what motivates policy and why such-and-such a policy is a good thing.

With our long Liberal tradition based on the fundamental principle that everyone should be as free as possible (so long as you don’t impinge on others freedoms) and the four pillars of individual, economic, political and social liberalism flow that from this, we are in a great position to frame policy in terms of principle. Consider some our current goals within the coalition:

  • Addressing the deficit. To not do so would impinge on the freedom of our successors: if our legacy was a mountain of debt, they would struggle to merely pay the interest leaving little room for spending choice.
  • Promoting localism. Decisions about policy should be made as close to those affected as possible, with those affected having a say.
  • Increasing the tax thresholds and reforming benefits. If you are poor, and worse, trapped in poverty by a benefit system where there is a disincentive to work, it is difficult to improve your lifestyle and enjoy the other freedoms we espouse.
  • The same motivation – enabling people to make the most of their abilities and to enjoy their freedoms – lies behind our policies on education; to make sure everyone has equal opportunity in education – whether vocational or academic – so they can earn to the best of their abilities and better enjoy their freedoms.
  • Climate change. Again, to not tackle this impinges on the freedoms of our descendants. They would live in a world subject to more extreme weather with rising sea-levels and a worse environment.

In summary, I think we can show what motivates all our policies and that they flow from principle rather than being mere grubbing for votes. Such an approach has the potential to change us from a party of protest where we are defined by what we are not into one with a strong identity and growing core support.

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