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John Marriott replies to Paddy Ashdown

September 13, 2017 1:11 PM
By John Marriott
Originally published by South Lincolnshire Liberal Democrats
John MarriottDear Paddy,

Combative as ever! Your four ideas for the future of Liberal Democracy are ten short of Woodrow Wilson's fourteen points for world peace from January 1918 and all the better for it. I say 'Liberal Democracy' and not 'Liberal Democrats' as I consider the former to be more important than the latter.

Something you said in your first piece struck me as crucial. You are right that there is far more to life than "winning by elections and delivering FOCUS leaflets". I'm afraid that appears all there is for many members. For them the exhilaration of the 'campaign' is probably more important than the result. You have to think about what you are going to do if you actually win in sufficient numbers to do something. Campaigning will get you so far; but it often feels as if you have to run just to stand still, especially now the Lib Dems have dipped their toes into the turbulent waters of national government and are no long pure. As someone who has been 'campaigning' for decades, I think I know how Sisyphus felt when that bolder rolled down the hill again! I shall not now be joining the effort to push it back up again.

I suppose I was lucky in that I won the first election I entered in 1987 (and kept on winning for the next 26 years). The difficulty I have always found is that, when you become a councillor at whatever level, you have to learn to compromise to get things done and to work with others. Confrontation will only get you so far. To stay an 'activist' and a representative of electors of all political persuasions, and many who claim to have none, is a tough call.

Now they are no longer the 'new kids on the block' as far as political parties are concerned the Lib Dems have got to get smart if they are to have any meaningful influence on events in the uncertain future into which this little country of ours is staggering.

It was Lord Healey, I believe, who once said rather condescendingly that "the Liberals" existed to provide the ideas which the two "main" parties could eventually claim their own. I've not got much to say about "Dangerous Idea 2" but here are my views on the other three.

Number 1

When you say "Tertiary Education", why not include vocational education? Stop obsessing with students studying 'ologies'. After all, you never went to university and it didn't seem to do you any harm. That 'pledge' the NUS got us to sign up to back in 2010 was a cross we had to bear ever since. In my view we are now encouraging too many students to attend traditional universities offering degrees of dubious surrender value.

Number 3

In some ways we are entering a post political party era. Most people are too busy keeping their heads above water financially to get excited about joining organisations that seem more obsessed with hierarchy and image than with dealing effectively with the concerns most people have. Just look at the agenda for this year's party conference! Fine for political anoraks but that's about all. We took our eye off the ball regarding the EU and look what happened.

Number 4

You are right. Brexit is NOT the only show in town. In or out we have a life to lead. So, what about fair votes, devolution of real power to the English Regions, restructuring and streamlining Local Government, reforming Local Government Finance? There's a few more for starters (and why I joined the Liberal Party back in the 1970s).

John Marriott

Lincolnshire County Councillor 2001-2017

North Kesteven District Councillor 1987-1999 and 2001-2007

North Hykeham Town Councillor 1987-2011

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham 1997

Now retired

Paddy has replied - "Good thoughts"