In response to Nick Clegg’s article (link below) I would like to contribute some commentary here;
It certainly is the case that when something happens on your watch you own it-whether or not it is more convenient to pass the buck elsewhere. And you do not own in the sense of political party but rather-and more profoundly-on what you stand for. So the question should be reworded from; Why blame Liberal values?, to something along the lines of; What could we have done better as Liberal parties to push our agenda more aggressively and alert about dangers of failed policy particularly when we were in government?. Key policy areas in my mind that caused this kickback to Liberal values are the following;
- Immigration/Integration: Where did Liberal parties stand on these issues, what have been the failures? Did they-as I truly believe-underestimate the problem in the first place and if so there must be a disconnect somewhere between policy formulation and public perceptions.
- Globalization: How effective have Liberal parties been in highlighting/addressing the negative impact of globalization on the most vulnerable in our societies. Rhetoric & political posturing is easy game but what actual actions have been taken to address this issue at the core not merely its symptoms. I would respectfully suggest that we as Liberals have not seen this coming or at the very least failed to see the impact & correlation between these failures & Globalization & Neo Liberalism (which is neither new nor Liberal).
- Foreign Policy/Security: Just the sheer fact that Foreign Policy in the Liberal Democrats party is outsourced to other NGOs is a testament of how the party (as many other Liberal parties throughout Europe) lacks the credentials to play any meaningful role in this area beyond statement/political posturing. It is also important (at some point) to recognize that our failure to effectively support regimes undergoing democratic transitions in the ME post the Arab Spring has created a vacuum that has been used quite effectively by terrorist organizations as well as our adversaries (Russia to be specific) to encourage resurgence of anti-Liberal sentiment and reversal of revolutions driven mainly by the lack of economic stability and the inexperience in laying the foundation of democratic governance. The easy part we always play well-military support/intervention, but then everything falls off the radar because the overriding assumption is it will not affect us (well guess what….).
I think as Liberals we need to start off by being honest about our failures, then we can move on to building a new vision for what we stand for-not necessarily focus on policy. Once we have that firm vision of our role in society we need to power ahead as activists (not as politicians) in developing pragmatic (not idealistic) policy that helps us reconnect with our constituents; and make sure that our policy formulation process is clearly driven from the grassroots. We are also in desperate need for leaders who are also visionaries able to articulate in the most simple (unsophisticated terms) Liberal values and how they can help solve real problems. Remember with every failure comes an opportunity to reflect/adjust and come back stronger (or a missed opportunity-but let’s not go there…please).