I asked Nick Clegg yesterday at conference for some shorthand for what we stand for. What is the liberal language we should be using in our everyday conversation? What’s the elevator sell?
I rather like his answer.
“We should answer the call of the head and the heart.”
By which he meant that we should deliver the fiscal rectitude the country needs (and Labour can’t claim to have delivered) and also ensure that the life chances of every person are never blighted by the circumstances of their birth – everyone should have an opportunity for greatness. The ‘caring’ territory that the nasty party (not my phrase) would struggle to own.
Now, I’m presuming that core Labour and Tory supporters have nipped straight to the comments section (go on, knock yourself out). But to everyone else, ‘the head and the heart’ deserves a closer look than just a face value evaluation.
As Nick reminded me, as a party we don’t have that cultural reserve of supporters who vote Lib Dem out of a sense of tribal loyalty, choosing us out of an intuitive sense of supporting the group they come from. Of course there is a core of supporters (puts own hand up, waves) who passionately believe in the principals of liberalism. But then there is also a large group who see how we as a party choose to express those principals through policy, and then decide to support us (or not).
Both of these groups have therefore found objective reasons to choose to support the Lib Dems. We don’t have that base who support us out of a kind of visceral sense of belonging, which both the Labour Party and the Conservatives can boast.
So ensuring that we follow both ‘the head and the heart’ means that we deliver policies that both match the creed of liberalism, and the sense of fairness that draws supporters to the party.
We should be a party of hope, not fear and ensure that every child is given the chance to do great things.
You can shout all you like about whether we’re delivering or not. I expect you already are.
But as a sentiment to take away from Birmingham, it’s a standard I’d happily be held to.
Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common which has been named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference.