Friday, 31 January 2020

Farewell EU. Hello Little Britain.

             In a few hours Britain will leave the European Union after 47 years of membership. This is a seismic moment in modern British political history, which will have an impact for years and decades to come. This brings to an end the first phase of the Brexit process with a transition period about to begin and the likelihood of a long trade negotiation with the EU ahead.

            While millions of Brexiters today may be happy, millions of other Britons are losing their EU citizenship, not to mention the impact on the 3 million citizens of other EU countries which currently live in the UK. As the clock strikes 11 tonight my EU citizenship shall be taken away from me against my will. For me and millions of other pro-Europeans this is not a moment of happiness, it is a moment of sadness, even anger. It represents the loss of a part of my political identity.

            What ‘Brexit Day’ truly represents is that Britain is turning its back on its responsibilities to be a leader of Europe alongside countries like France, Germany and Italy amongst others. The Brexiters point out of course that we are not leaving the continent of Europe, the British landmass is not about to magically move to another part of the globe. However, for me as a European my identity is not just defined by the fact that I happen to live on a bit of land which is called Europe, but that my country is a part of the political community of Europeans, that of the European Union. Europe is a part of my political identity and the EU is my political family.

            I am proud to be a Lancastrian, a Northerner, an Englishman, I am proud to be British and proud to be a European too. However, there is no escaping the fact that by the end of today a piece of my identity shall no longer be acknowledged by the British government. My rights as a European as a result will become more limited.

            Brexit was won on the back of right-wing populism and nationalism and insecurity about the future. Not to mention the Leave campaign’s misleading claims about money that could be given to the National Health Service and the potential of immigrants to enter this country from Turkey (a majority Muslim country), which has no realistic short-term prospects of becoming a member of the EU. Sadly, the Leave campaign capitalised on fears about NHS funding as well as standard dog whistle politics towards immigrants. The truth that EU migration has been a great benefit to this country has been largely overlooked by Brexiters.

            As for ‘taking back control’ this is a pipe dream and a delusional fantasy. In the age of globalisation, it is extremely difficult for any nation to truly have ‘sovereignty’. Ironically, our membership of the EU allowed us to amplify our sovereignty by pooling it with 27 other nation states striving towards collective common goals on the international stage. This enabled us to have effective international action on everything from combating climate change, to properly taxing big corporations, to securing workers’ rights. Britain’s political power in the world will be reduced because of Brexit and with it its international sovereignty will also be reduced.

Now Britain faces what is likely to be the farce of the coming trade negotiations with the EU and America. The British government will have to decide whether to closely align with the EU or move away from them towards US trade standards. Britain risks becoming a pawn beneath the umbrella of American hegemony. Corporate America is renowned for being a ruthless operator when it comes to demanding certain trade standards and when we see the potential opportunities for American corporations in everything from British food markets to health services, there are plenty of grounds for concern. Brexit will open up a far bigger challenge to Britain’s sovereignty than the EU could ever have posed.

After 1945, Britain had an obligation to work with the other nations of Europe in a political community to ensure that liberty, democracy and human rights would continue to thrive on the continent. Britain after all did more than any other Western European country to defeat fascism in the Second World War. At a time when nationalism and populism are rising in many countries in Europe again, it is vital that Britain would have remained committed to that political community as dark clouds were beginning to gather. But we have chosen to turn our backs on our European responsibilities. We have chosen to turn our backs on our nearest allies. We have ultimately chosen to turn our backs on an economic superpower with an economy almost as big as America’s and still far bigger than the economy of China.

From the times of the Roman Empire; to the Viking raids and the Norman Conquests; to the emergence of kingdoms and global empires; to the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation and the wars of religion; to the rise of Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin and the forces of nationalism, fascism and communism which would tear the continent apart; all that united Europeans was killing and death. Prior to 1945, generations of Europeans grew up knowing that they would inevitably be sent to kill other Europeans in distant parts of the continent. From the 1950s, starting with the European Coal and Steel Community, then the European Community and now the European Union, Europeans became united by more than just war and mutual hatred as they had been for time immemorial.

Now to be a European means freedom, democracy, social justice and equal rights for all. But above all the shared cooperation and free trade, there was one essential idea, peace. The EU first and foremost is the world’s most successful peace project. Where once Britons and Frenchmen were sent to kill one another; where once Germans were sent to kill Poles; where once Italians and Austrians killed each other; and where once Spaniards would kill Dutchmen; today they sit together as brothers, as Europeans. The former French President, Fran├žois Mitterrand once famously stated that “nationalism is war”. If nationalism is war, then a united Europe is peace. Surely the idea of a united common community of Europe is worth fighting for.

Tonight, I will lose my EU citizenship rights. I will see my country betray its national destiny and its obligation to be a leader of a free, democratic and peaceful European political community. I hope my European brothers and sisters will continue to keep the dream of a free and united Europe alive. While Brexiters crow and cheer tonight, I remain hopeful that one day the UK will rejoin the EU and fulfil its obligation to be a leader of the European community of nations.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Stepping Back from Party Political Activism

Two weeks ago, on a train journey back from Bournemouth, I spoke with a fellow Liberal Democrat PhD student. He is a student in Vienna and was considering stepping back from party politics. It is safe to say that both PhDs and party politics take up considerable time.

Last year, I had hoped informally to step back from party politics when I started my PhD. Over the previous 12 months, I have not been successful at this. Amongst other things, I attended several conferences, stood as a paper candidate in the local elections and helped to edit two Lib Dem related books (including writing a chapter in one of them).

This week, I am starting my second year as a Politics PhD student at Lancaster University. So far everything is going well, I successfully passed my first-year panel and was upgraded at the first attempt, a few months ago. My workload is likely to increase this year especially as I am starting teaching first year Undergraduate Politics seminar classes, which is an exciting opportunity to somebody who aims for a career in academic teaching.

This naturally means there will be extreme limitations on my time. Earlier this month I stepped back from my position on the Social Liberal Forum Executive, as their Vice-Chair North, the Chair of their Editing and Publishing Board and the Social Media Manager. However, I have now decided that I will stand down from the Social Liberal Forum Council next Summer when the Council is once again up for election.

In addition, I will be stepping back from using Twitter. My days as a “keyboard warrior” are gradually coming to an end. Twitter currently tends to reflect the echo chamber of our contemporary political crisis. This in turn reinforces tribal party positions and facilitates aggressive partisan trolling. Such an environment is not healthy for my personal anxiety levels, especially as someone who has a pluralistic approach to politics. So, I will be limiting my presence on Twitter to my new Twitter account devoted to my academic work, teaching and research.

However, I have also now decided that it is right for me to take a step back from most aspects of Liberal Democrat party politics. This is especially the case given the likelihood of a general election in the next couple of months. In the previous two general elections I was the election agent for the Liberal Democrats in Blackpool South; however, my participation will be limited at best to an odd afternoon of leaflet delivering for the party at the next election.

I am not leaving the party, of course, but my involvement in party related activities will be very limited for the next 2-3 years while I complete my PhD. It is also likely that my attendance at party conferences will be limited over the next couple of years. I wish the best of luck to all those who remain active in the Liberal Democrats during this time, I am extremely hopeful that several of you will be elected MPs in the near future. You will undoubtedly serve your constituents, your party and your country exceptionally well.

The party currently has the ideal policy in relation to Brexit; Revoking Article 50 following the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government, or in the event of a hung parliament, negotiating for a People’s Vote referendum where the party would campaign to Remain in the EU. I would encourage the party to make the social justice case for the EU not forgetting the vital protections for workers and the poorest regions of the Union, as well as arguing that the EU is the most successful peace process in world history. 

The party must be a vehicle for social liberalism and social democracy and I hope the party’s ambitious new welfare policies are not side-lined during the upcoming general election campaign. Social justice needs to be at the forefront of any future Liberal Democrat campaign, alongside our commitment to “Stop Brexit”. I encourage the party to reconnect with its radical political heritage, build on the big ideas of the past and develop new and imaginative narratives for the present.

As a lifelong social liberal, social justice and its capacity to advance individual freedom has been consistently my driving passion in politics and will continue to be so. It was after all the ideals of that great social liberal, Charles Kennedy which originally drew me into the Liberal Democrats in the first place. I would plea with the party to reach out more to working class communities and to recognise that the Remain cause is not just limited to middle class areas. In my native Blackpool for example, despite the high Leave vote in the EU Referendum, almost 22,000 people voted Remain. It is votes like these which could prove pivotal in any future People’s Vote referendum.

I hope my close Liberal Democrat friends will forgive me if I appear a little distant over the next couple of years. I will of course remain easily contactable on E-mail, Facebook and Twitter. I may be taking a break from party political activism, but my involvement in the study of politics as a social science is only going to increase. This is an exciting moment in the history of the Liberal Democrats. I will continue to be with you in spirit and wish you all the luck, good fortune and success over the next 2-3 years.

Monday, 25 June 2018

The Three Possible Outcomes of Brexit

At the weekend I joined over 100,000 other people marching for a ‘People's Vote’ in London. This marked the second anniversary of when Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. Negotiations to formally leave the EU have been ongoing for the last 15 months. As things currently stand, Britain will Brexit on 29 March 2019.

Forget soft or hard Brexit, neither seems likely to happen. There is hardly any sign that Britain is heading towards a soft Brexit, where Britain remains inside the Single Market and the Customs Union after Brexit. The House of Commons recently rejected the opportunity to stay within the European Economic Area (EEA). The Conservative Government appears reluctant to commit to any kind of customs union, especially since the Labour opposition now support ‘a customs union’. The linchpin of any soft Brexit is membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, there is no sign that either the government nor the opposition is considering EFTA membership, let alone actively putting together a formal application to re-join EFTA.

As for a hard Brexit, the EU is unlikely to grant a Brexit deal that allows for all of the current benefits with none of the costs. Tory Brexit fantasists who dream of a ‘Global Britain’ are living in a previous century. With the rise of right wing populists in central Europe from Italy to Austria and potentially even Germany; there is even less chance of Brussels conceding to the wishes of hard Brexiters. Added to this, the lucrative trade deals that were promised by hard Brexiters seem currently next to non-existent. Hard Brexit was always a delusional fantasy and as reality begins to dawn this is especially the case.

There are only three possible outcomes to the Brexit negotiations; No Brexit, Free Fall Brexit and Zombie Brexit.

No Brexit

A No Brexit scenario is where Britain doesn't leave the EU after all. It may be the case that after two years of negotiations, given the looming impact on the economy and businesses quitting the UK, that government ministers pull the plug on Brexit. It may also prove to be the case that due to a mixture of government incompetence and unrealistic expectations that the Brexit negotiations fall flat. Should the issue of the Northern Ireland border prove to be insurmountable, then the government could choose to abandon Brexit as the best way of maintaining peace on the island of Ireland.

There would be an obvious political cost to a government that has devoted itself to the project of Brexit. Right wing newspapers would be merciless in their attacks on the government. The Prime Minister may be forced to resign and the Conservative Party itself could fracture. The potential political chaos of a No Brexit scenario would be minuscule compared to the potential economic and diplomatic chaos caused by the next possible Brexit outcome.

Free Fall Brexit
Unlike with the No Brexit scenario, where Britain steps back from the cliff edge; this event is where we collectively jump off the cliff. This is when negotiations fall flat and come to nothing and we choose to Brexit regardless. No transition deal, no economic safety net, no protection for citizens' rights, no open border on the island of Ireland, no trade deal and no preparation for the loss of EU rules and regulations. In other words, Britain goes into free fall.

This could potentially be the biggest political crisis in modern British political history. The worst-case scenario would be like the Suez Crisis and the 2008 Financial Crisis rolled into one. This would leave lasting (and possibly permanent) damage to our economy, our living standards and our diplomatic relations around the world.

There is another potential fear attached to a Free Fall Brexit and that is the rise of political extremism. Far from undermining the hard right, a Free Fall Brexit could embolden them yet further. Take for example the rise of hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote in 2016. An uglier, more hateful and nationalistic form of politics could emerge if we collectively jump off a cliff edge.

Zombie Brexit
The final possible outcome of Brexit is a Zombie Brexit. This is where Britain is kept in a perpetual limbo state many years after officially leaving the European Union. This is the fudge of a never-ending Brexit transition deal; where Britain is neither officially inside nor outside the Customs Union and the Single Market. Britain would be unable to strike trade deals with other countries and membership of EFTA would be impossible. Britain would be utterly powerless, both politically and economically; nothing more than a voiceless piece of flotsam and jetsam on the periphery of a European economic superpower.

The effect on the country would be a state of semi-permanent political and economic paralysis. Uncertainty for business would be rife and as a result Britain would be over-exposed to any future economic crisis. This Brexit of the living dead would achieve one unexpected outcome, which is managing to enrage A.C. Grayling, Anna Soubry and Jacob Rees-Mogg in equal measure. This zombie-like fudge of a Brexit would satisfy neither Remainers, nor soft Brexiters, nor hard Brexiters.

A People’s Vote: Our Last Hope?
As the Brexit deadline looms ever nearer, one of these outcomes seems extremely likely. None come without consequences, however the No Brexit scenario is by far the least damaging. There may however be one way for the government to limit the potential risks and that is to hold a ‘People's Vote’ in early 2019. Ironically this could offer the Tory government the only meaningful way of saving face when confronted with the potential calamity of Brexit. Should the Tories refuse to give the people the final say, then their electoral prospects look dire regardless of which outcome comes to pass. However, this is nothing compared to the lasting damage of a Zombie or Free Fall Brexit. By accident or design Brexit must be stopped. Britain's place in the 21st century depends upon it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Bombing Syria is a Mistake

Today, Parliament will likely vote to start British air strikes in Syria. This is a mistake. Britain should not get entangled in yet another Middle East war without a long term plan.

No-one knows how to actually defeat ISIS or end the Syrian Civil War. Do we have a timetable for a long term plan or for starting peace negotiations? No. Do we have an exit strategy? No. This war will take years, perhaps even decades to resolve.

Bombing alone will not defeat ISIS, we need strong ground forces. Is there anything that British bombs will achieve that American, Russian or French bombs can't achieve? No.

The Syrian Civil War is five-sided conflict between the Assad Government, the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Kurds, ISIS and smaller Islamist groups. Currently America, Russia, France, Australia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Qatar and Bahrain are all involved in Syria. In short, Syria’s complex.

Are ISIS just in Syria and Iraq? No. ISIS are also in Libya and Nigeria, with affiliates in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are we going to bomb all these countries? Probably not.

I’m not a pacifist, I want to stop ISIS. But bombing will not achieve this, primarily because western air strikes have been going on for months in Syria with very little results. Instead of bombing we should use our resources to arm and train the Kurds.

The Syrian Kurdish ideology “Democratic Confederalism” mixes libertarian local democracy with secularism and feminism. The Kurds are well-organised and they have been effective in combating ISIS in Northern Syria. Unfortunately, many groups like the Assad Government and several Islamist groups are almost as bad as ISIS. Also it’s unclear how many of the Free Syrian Army are still “moderates”.

I encourage all MPs to vote against British air strikes in Syria (especially Liberal Democrat MPs). Instead, we should arm, train and equip the Syrian Kurds. We also must start to negotiate a long term peace plan for Syria, post-ISIS. Britain must not bomb Syria, it would be a mistake on a par with Suez or Iraq in 2003. Wars are very easy to get into, they are much more difficult to get out of.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Why I oppose British air strikes in Syria

Westminster is gearing up for war in Syria. Following the horrific Paris Attacks, a couple of weeks ago, the war against the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) has intensified. IS are a fascist death cult using one of the world’s great religions to try and justify its crimes. The need to challenge IS is fundamental, however I am opposed to the United Kingdom joining air strikes in Syria.

It is clear that David Cameron wants Britain to join other Western Powers in bombing the so-called “Islamic State”. However, air strikes are an ineffective military strategy. Air strikes have been going on in Syria for several months with only a minimal impact. Air strikes might be able to destroy some IS ground targets, but ultimately IS will have to be defeated on the ground. A military force will have to march into IS’ territory and take it from them. Of course, there are already ground forces in Syria; the Kurds, the Syrian Government and the Free Syrian Army.

Air strikes in Syria won’t defeat IS, primarily because IS are not just in Syria and Iraq. IS also has a presence in Libya and Nigeria as well as having affiliates in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Are we going to start bombing in all these countries too? We must stop thinking in national terms. IS marry a medieval ideology with a modern globalist perspective. The impact of IS is felt across the Middle East, as well as many parts of Central Asia and North Africa.

Bombing in Syria will not make Britain safer, especially if there is no long term plan to reconstruct Syria, once the Civil War has ended. When Britain illegally invaded Iraq in 2003 and intervened in Libya in 2011, we did not have a long term plan. Following the conclusion of Western military interventions in Iraq and Libya, both countries descended into anarchy.

If Britain should not bomb in Syria, then how should we deal with the Syrian Civil War and the so-called Islamic State?

Britain should help those ground forces that are effective against IS; such as the Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq. The Kurds desperately need help from the international community. They need the equipment, the training and the arms necessary to roll back IS. The Kurds are secular, well-organised and have a relatively positive view of human rights and women’s rights. Instead of bombing IS in Syria, we should us our resources to ensure that the Kurds are properly equipped and properly trained to combat IS on the ground.

Britain and the international community must facilitate peace talks and negotiations in Syria. They must include the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Kurds. The West and Russia must get Assad to stand down. In-order to end the Syrian Civil War, the international community might have to be prepared to see the partition of Syria between the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds. A similar crisis to that which emerged following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s is a real possibility. The UN therefore would have to deploy peacekeepers and establish new borders for the partitioned Syria. Furthermore the UN and the International Community would have to draw up a long term plan for Syria, once peace is achieved.

In-order to defeat IS, we will have to challenge its Salafist Islamic Fundamentalist ideology. However the antidote to Islamic Fundamentalism is not Western Liberalism. The antidote to Islamic Fundamentalism is Islamic Liberalism. The West cannot impose Liberalism. We must support liberal voices within Islam and the Islamic World through our foreign policy. For example, we should stop selling arms to oppressive regimes in the Islamic World, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also a central exporter of Salafist ideology. In Britain, the media should change its negative depiction of Islam by giving a greater platform to liberal and mainstream Muslim voices.

Britain should not start air strikes in Syria; they are symbolic at best, and ineffective at worst. We should avoid a knee-jerk reaction to recent terrorist attacks. The Syrian Civil War is a five-sided conflict between Assad, the Free Syrian Army, the Kurds, the Islamic State and smaller Islamist groups. Syria is deeply complex. Wars are easy to get involved in; they are much more difficult to get out of.

Three things that Britain should do instead of bombing Syria:
1. Arm, equip and train the Kurds in Syria and Iraq.
2. Start diplomatic negotiations between the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Kurds.
3. Support and promote liberal voices within Islam and the Islamic World.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Labour’s Great Ideological Showdown

This summer I’ve become gripped by a new TV drama. A TV drama being played out in front of the nation’s media with episodes of this drama shown on almost every edition of the nightly news. But sadly unlike most TV dramas this isn’t a work of fiction, it’s the Labour Leadership Contest.

The Labour Leadership Contest has turning into a massive duel between the two great traditions of Labour politics. On the one side you have the New Labour establishment represented by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. On the other side you have the Old Labour socialist insurgent, Jeremy Corbyn. These are two great titans fighting to the death for the ideological soul of the Labour Party.

What makes this political duel so interesting is that according to the latest opinion polls Jeremy Corbyn is in the lead by some margin and very well could be Labour’s next leader. Corbyn who was initially seen as a distant outsider, has to horror of Blairites, become the favourite to win the contest. Tony Blair even labelled those MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”. To put a Corbyn win into some context, Labour hasn’t been led by an overtly socialist leader since Neil Kinnock in 1992. Furthermore, Labour has not been led by someone outside the party’s establishment since at least before the Second World War. Even Michael Foot served as a cabinet minister before becoming Labour’s leader.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I cannot even begin to contrast the huge differences between the Labour Leadership Election and the Lib Dem Leadership Election. The Lib Dem Leadership Contest was a mostly private affair conducted at regional hustings and through social media and the internet. The short two month contest resulted in a clear victory for Tim Farron, with Norman Lamb transitioning seamlessly from leadership rival to frontbench Health Spokesperson. Tim Farron has already begun to make his mark by leading Lib Dem MPs to oppose Osborne’s latest welfare cuts. While a divided and indecisive Labour Party chose to abstain in the welfare cuts vote.

Labour quite clearly faces a big battle for the party’s soul, maybe even for the party’s very existence in the long term. But how on Earth did Labour go from promoting its own version of Thatcherism to being on the verge of electing a genuinely socialist leader? Despite New Labour’s three successive election victories, it failed to take many traditional Labour supporters with it. Tony Blair’s gamble was that Labour supporters would remain loyal to the party, despite New Labour’s embrace of the Thatcherite free market. This gamble would only work if there wasn’t a credible progressive alternative to Labour. However recently a progressive alternative emerged in Scotland in the form of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP went on this year to annihilate Labour in Scotland.

New Labour didn’t just alienate people in Scotland but many progressive voters across England and Wales as well. Blair hollowed out the Labour Party leaving behind an ideological void, which Burnham, Cooper and Kendall have struggled to fill. However despite its lack of principles New Labour did achieve three successive election victories, the first and only time Labour has achieved this.

Here’s Labour’s problem, New Labour is as much an outdated project as socialism. New Labour supporters lack a distinctive message in an age of economic insecurities. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall are three career driven, media managed politicians made in the model of New Labour. Corbyn is anything but.  Does Corbyn look like a potential Prime Minister? No, but it seems difficult to see how any of the candidates have the skills, charisma and imagination needed to get Labour back into power.

This Labour Leadership Contest will define the party for a generation. Will the New Labour modernisers triumph or shall socialism be resurrected from the grave? In the aftermath of the vote, there is a great potential for rifts, fractures and SDP-style breakaways. Do I judge those Labour supporters (including a couple of my friends) who back Corbyn? No, I can hardly blame them for supporting a radical candidate in line with their values, when the only alternatives are so bland and unimaginative. 

From what I have seen of Labour’s Leadership Contest, it is clear that Yvette Cooper has the best leadership ability and that Jeremy Corbyn has the strongest values and principles. Regardless of who wins Labour’s great ideological showdown it is clear that the contest will finally determine which direction Labour takes. On the chance that Corbyn does go on to win, then the 2020 General Election will be the most democratically distinctive election since 1987. A genuine socialist party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine liberal party led by Tim Farron and a genuine conservative party led (most likely) by George Osborne would be a fascinating prospect.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Values, Vision and Liberalism: It’s Time for Tim

Following on from a very difficult general election result, the leadership election is on to see who will take the Lib Dems through this tough time. Despite only having eight Members of Parliament, the Liberal Democrats have fielded two fantastic leadership candidates, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both of these candidates are miles ahead of anything on offer in the Labour leadership election.

During our party's time in Coalition with the Conservatives we were undoubtedly a moderating influence on the Tory right. From raising the tax threshold, to the pupil premium, to restoring our civil liberties, to ensuring same-sex marriage, to defending workers rights, the Lib Dems achieved many progressive policies. However it is clear that during our time in Coalition we lost trust and we lost identity.

The party might only have a handful of MPs but it's vital that we choose a leader who is able to inspire Liberal Democrat supporters and regain the trust of those millions of voters that we have lost. The party needs a radical vision and a reassertion of our progressive liberal values. Beyond everything else we need a leader who is going to challenge the status quo of British politics and challenge the inequalities of British society and Britain's political system. I believe Tim Farron is the man to achieve this and to revive the cause of British liberalism.

Tim Farron has grasped a fundamental truth of modern politics, which is that in order to enact change you need to create a movement. A movement from the grassroots to the green benches of the House of Commons. A liberal movement committed to liberty, equality and community. A movement that understands that people need to be free from an overbearing state but also free from poverty and social inequality. Tim Farron has correctly identified the need for a house building revolution in Britain. Such a mission should be at the heart of any liberal movement along with tackling climate change and protecting Britain's human rights, civil liberties and EU membership.

For the last two decades millions of people across the country have become disillusioned and alienated from mainstream politics. This has resulted in the rise of nationalism in both Scotland and England. Those most alienated by British politics have been the most vulnerable members of society. I for one hope that Tim Farron can give a voice to those who have often been left voiceless. A hundred years ago, the Liberal Party was at the heart of a campaign to achieve social reform and to tackle the extreme poverty of the industrial age. Today the Lib Dems need to rediscover the spirit of the new liberals and restore a sense of community and compassion to British politics. The Lib Dems must champion hope over fear.

For any party or movement to succeed it needs a strong campaigning spirit. The community politics of the 1970s proved that even a small party with a few MPs can make a big difference. Tim Farron is a committed and experienced campaigner. He understands the importance of community politics and grassroots campaigning. I've seen first-hand what a committed campaigner Tim is in Westmorland and Lonsdale. He's taken what was a Tory safe seat less than two decades ago and transformed it into the safest Lib Dem seat in the country.

Britain needs radical liberal activism. It needs a liberal movement committed to liberty, social justice, the environment, house building and the EU. It needs the Lib Dems to spearhead this movement in Parliament and at the grassroots. The Lib Dems need a committed experienced campaigner leading the party. We need someone who can restore trust in the Liberal Democrats. We need someone with values, vision and with liberalism in their heart. It’s time for Tim Farron!!!