Moving on, moving forwards

October 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

For the last 12 months or so I’ve been de facto, (and for the last 8, de jure) running the Radical Association – the radical pressure group within the Liberal Democrats. I, and others, created the association to help research and campaign for ideas like a guaranteed minimum income, land value taxation, and other new ideas to move liberalism toward solving the problems of the 21st century.

In the last few months, this has included:

  • Constituting the association and running two committee elections (our initial one, and one now – October will be the time for all future elections, which are done online and fulfil the functions usually ).
  • Building the membership to around 140 members from all parts of the country
  • Building social media reach, with nearly 900 Facebook followers and over 1100 on Twitter (making us one of the fastest growing LD pages/groups for social media impact, and thus creating a long-term campaigning infrastructure that we can use in future).
  • Running the RA’s general election campaign, in which we selected an agreed set of campaign policies and I designed a micro-targeting system to advertise radical Lib Dem policies – on civil liberties, social security spending, cannabis, and electoral reform – to voters in target areas of the country. (Outside the RA I also ground campaigned in Cheltenham and Cambridge and provided research work for a constituency in London – campaigns are hectic things).
  • Working on setting up two policy research groups – an in-house group on housing policy, and supporting an upcoming independent group on minimum income systems.
  • Two conferences, the latter of which I was trying to run things at without being physically present, including writing and promoting briefings on policies ranging from higher min wages on non-guaranteed working hours, to sex work, to our stance on the EU and helping forcing the party leadership to explicitly call for an Exit from Brexit in policy documents for the first time.

I find it hard to say how well it’s all gone – I don’t know what one should expect – but I think I can reasonably say that I did the best I could, and that the RA… well, exists, which was a rather more doubtful prospect last winter. Now, though, I’m living in Vienna, and the last few months have taken a lot out of me – and so I decided that this autumn election was a good point at which to step down and hand the baton over. The work of the RA in the coming years is going, I hope, to be an important part of building a Liberal Democrat party that can stand proudly on the core values it was constituted to work for – a world in which no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance, or conformity, a world with freer movement of people, a democratic and co-operative business sector, a safe and stable environment and strong community organisation. In the age of the internet, automation, climate change, mass misinformation, and rising authoritarianism, refocussing on these goals and building our own path towards them, rather than fearfully protecting the rapidly disintegrating status quo for fear of something worse around the corner, has never been so important for a liberal party.

The elections are ongoing, but whoever wins I’m confident that the new RA team has the skills necessary to keep our association going (and I’m looking forward to supporting them as a volunteer). Based as I am halfway across Europe, though, my relationship to politics is about to get rather less frontline, and a new chapter is coming along.

In the next few weeks and months, I’m going to try and post several more blogposts, firstly to discuss my time on the front line of politics and where the Association might want to head next, and secondly to start help providing some of the ideas frameworks for a 21st century Radicalism. I do believe that radical liberal thought should be seen as a strand of political theory in its own right, and that it can form the core of a future political consensus on the left flank of politics – and perhaps across the political spectrum too. The breakdown of the post-Thatcher consensus in Europe and North America means that the call for big new ideas has never been greater – yet politicians across the spectrum are currently shadow-boxing mythological migrants or denying the scale of the problems they face. Breaking these narratives and showing that a new policy direction is possible outside a reversion to Butskellism or trying to shore up the creaking hulk of Thatcherite economics is vital. The RA’s existence, I hope, will be one important contribution to that debate: I’m hoping that my writings and work over the next few months might help comprise, in their own small way, part of another.

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