Issuu on Google+

Gay Marriage || 5 Iran || 7 Nick Clegg Speaks || 8 The New Executive || 10 NUS || 13

The LibertineJuly is a publication YouthLibertine 2009 of LiberalThe

Issue 1 2: July 2009


From the Desk of the Editor Beyond the New World Order The crowd was chanting, it was of immense scale, it’s swelling ranks had forced the police to retreat up the road and block the roads. A young woman and her father got out of their car to watch the procession – having been stuck in traffic for hours the car had become insufferable.

nected world, events which happen to one happen to all, and unless we pull together we will be overwhelmed by them. On climate change, on international terrorism, on the pursuit of freedom we stand or fall together. It is the duty of all to improve the world in which we live, and to fight for the rights of all. It is so important that victims like Neda should There was a load bang and a whistle of air rudely have their memory, and why they died, honoured pushed its way through the crowd. and remembered. Within minutes Neda Agha-Soltan was dead.

In this edition of the Libertine we have articles on the liberation of Sexuality, on the future of social politics The pictures of that dying girl, who’s only crime was and faith schools. We interview Nick Clegg and exto watch the pro democracy marches is tragic, and a plore the implications of the recent unrest in Iran on very strong narrative. A narrative as strong as the the Iranian people, and us all. pictures of the tank man who stopped an armoured column in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square We are currently looking for an editorial team for the massacre of 1989, or the men women and children current executive term, 09–10, and are always lookshot trying to escape across the wall which divided ing for feedback, Ideas, articles and news from your Berlin and the world for over 40 years. Ordinary peo- neck of the woods. If you want to get involved then ple, unjustly killed, immortalised forever in a story of please email: editor.libertine@liberalyouth.org the individuals fight against a tyrannical state; the ongoing story of the oppressed and the innocent and I hope that you enjoy reading this edition of The their struggle for freedom. Libertine. I was at a lecture a few weeks ago with Paddy Ash- Liberally Yours, down. His theme is very much relevant to us today, especially considering our solid performance after the European elections – that we live in an intercon-

Board of Editors Martin Shapland Copy editor James Shaddock Vice Chair Communications Chris Ward Editor The Libertine is a quarterly publication published and promoted by Liberal Youth with content written by Liberal Youth and Liberal Democrat Activists. The views expressed are by individuals and are not always shared by Liberal Youth. 2

Martin Shapland Copy Editor

Liberal Youth 4 Cowely Street London SW1P 3NB Tel || 020 7227 1387 Email || liberalyouthoffice@liberalyouth.org Web || http://www.liberalyouth.org/

Contribute to future editions: editor.libertine@liberalyouth.org Join the debate on our Forums http://forum.liberalyouth.org

Liberal Youth is the autonomous Youth and Student organisation of the Liberal Democrat Party.

The Libertine

July 2009


In this Issue 2

-

From the Desk of the Editor

3

-

Contents page Gay Marriage

4

-

News

5

-

Gay Marriage Rachel Hamburger

6

-

Social Media and Politics Helen Duffett

7

-

Iran Martin Shapland

8

-

Interview with Nick Clegg

10

-

Your New Executive

-

Faith Schools Ed Sanderson

13

-

NUS Paddy Elsdon

14

-

Proportional Representation Chris Ward

15

-

On Liberal Conservatism Douglas Oliver

12

July 2009

The Libertine

5

Iran

7

Nick Clegg

8

3 NUS

13


News Scotland Rally against Homophobia

key target seat. After speaking to local residents for a few hours the group headed back to the Liverpool HQ for a break and to help finish off the city freepost. The action day then focused on Liverpool University - handing out Student Focuses and signing up students for postal votes in conjunction with the Hope Not Hate Campaign, against the BNP candidate, Nick Griffin. Liberal Liberal Youth Scotland held a rally in Youth were even asked to leave the support of Scotland‟s first gay minister, library! Sadly the library staff didn‟t Rev. Scott Rennie at the Church of Scot- seem to agree that the elections were land General Assembly where the deci- more important than the pressing exam sion to appoint Scott Rennie was upheld. season! LYS featured on Sky and BBC News, as The action day was followed by a much well as the Politics Show. LYS President deserved and enjoyable night out. Ruaraidh Dobson said, “It was a real Liverpool Wavertree PPC Colin Elprivilege to be part of the support for dridge said of the event, "It was fantasScott. We‟re glad that the General As- tic to see so many young enthusiastic sembly took the right decision, and we activists in Liverpool to help take the hope the demonstration showed the de- fight to Labour. I would like to say a sire for equality among the student huge thank-you to all those Liberal population.” Youth members who came to help." Alex Royden, Liverpool chair said „All I North West Liverpool Action Day want to know is, when are you all coming back?‟

all else a greater sense of confidence and organisation of those ideas swirling around in my head. I've learnt these new skills, not just for politics but for life in general. This weekend has reaffirmed what I want to do; campaign for the rights of individuals and groups in society, to speak up for the views of the people I represent” London N213 Night Bus Campaign

London Liberal Youth rallied with Tom Brake MP and over 100 young people from his constituency to reinstate the N213 night bus service to Croyden. The cutback by transport for London will badly affect young people in the area who relied on the bus service for safe and inexpensive transport at night. The Midlands Activate campaign is organised by local youth Liberal Youth has resurrected its annual Laura Wheeler who has used facebook training event „activate‟ The event – the to rally support from the local commufirst since 2005 saw 30 members train nity attracting over 3000 members. up in crucial campaign skills near the London Liberal Executive member, spa town of Buxton. Activate is an entry Adam Gillett said “The atmosphere was level course to engage new members in electric, fun but determined. It was Over 20 members from all over the UK the wider Lib Dem party, previous par- amazing to see, in Tom Brake, an MP so travelled to Liverpool for an Action Day ticipants include Jo Swinson MP, and hands-on, climb a step-ladder to shout for the European Elections. some of the youngest councillors in the and lead the protest. This is what LibThe day began with a hearty breakfast party, such as Jennifer Clutton in Down- eral Youth is about. If Boris doesn‟t listen in the 'Ate Days a Week' Cafe before ham. „Activatie‟ Mark Whiley said “I now, it‟s time for him to go.” canvassing in Liverpool Wavertree – a know I'll take away from this, amongst

4

The Libertine

July 2009


The Fight for Gay Marriage Rachel Hamburger On June 28th 1969 police in New York City raided a tavern in Greenwich Village and sparked a series of demonstrations and riots that would kickstart the gay rights movement not just in the USA but across the globe. Thankfully, 40 years on we in the UK have witnessed vast improvements in the rights afforded members of the lesbian and gay community, one of the most outstanding of these was the introduction of civil partnerships in December 2005, which finally gave same sex couples the same legal rights as a married couple. The Liberal Democrats have always been at the forefront of promoting gay and lesbian rights but the Labour party, for all their faults, has been responsible for bringing in a great deal of the legislation aimed at achieving equality in Britain. Now even David Cameron‟s Tories hope to woo the gay vote, expressing regrets at Thatcher‟s introduction of Section 28, a hugely damaging law which prevented the „promotion‟ of homosexuality by local authorities. So is the job done? Is the fight over? If it isn‟t how can we continue to lead the way on issues that matter to the gay community? The answer to these questions can be found in the increasingly controversial issue of gay marriage as opposed to

July 2009

simply civil partnerships. Although civil partnerships offer the same legal rights as marriage, for many members of the gay community as long as the two remain separate, they are not equal, a sexual apartheid of sorts. Despite the increasing unrest the Conservatives and the Labour Party have remained largely silent on the issue. To add insult to injury Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill has announced that Stonewall will not be calling for gay marriage arguing that the rights remain the same and anyway „lots of gay and lesbian people don‟t actually want marriage‟. He‟s not wrong, there are many members of the LGBT community who feel that it is pointless, even counterproductive for gay couples to attempt to „mimic‟ heterosexual couples. Nevertheless, the argument that Stonewall are trying to make misses the point, there are lots of heterosexual couples that reject marriage as a life choice but it would be preposterous to say that the choice shouldn‟t exist. The gay community could justifiably feel a sense of abandonment on this issue which is why it‟s a great relief that in a recent article for Labour list our own Nick Clegg asserted ““…although civil partnerships have been a step forward, until same sex marriage is permitted it is impossible

The Libertine

to claim gay and straight couples are treated equally.” Nick Clegg is entirely right and arguably the chasm between how marriages and a civil partnerships are viewed is one that undermines the struggle for true equality. Nowhere is this more evident than when tabloids and the Daily Mail refer to a marriage between a heterosexual couple and a „marriage‟ (always in inverted commas) between a same sex couple. The Liberal Democrats over the years have a reputation for promoting groundbreaking policies that after months sometimes years of opposition, Labour or the Tories will adopt as their own and act as if it has always been common sense. Gay marriage is not an issue that we need to be overshadowed on, as part of the Liberal Democrat float at London Pride the swell of support from the crowd was tangible, the foundations are there and we can build on them. To conclude, it is increasingly evident that not only is gay marriage important but it is necessary and perhaps civil partnerships for heterosexual couples are too. We should embrace this issue as an opportunity to lead the way, carving a political niche for ourselves once again as the only party that truly fights for equality for all.

5


Can we click it? (Yes, we can) Helen Duffett Politics is a social medium - it always has been. It‟s about balancing the needs of different groups and communicating that to voters. Long before anyone stepped onto a soapbox to gain a bit of extra height, there was always a desire to spread and amplify political messages. Political parties themselves came about as a way of aggregating the views and aims of like-minded people. The difference with online social networks is that an infinite number of views and campaigns can find a platform. That platform is then on show to voters, journalists, search engines and any casual surfer. Users can not only read the news, but also report it, and even be it. The Lib Dems are naturally and ideologically suited to using social networks: our commitment to localism and grassroots action means that local activists are positively encouraged to converse with their communities, whether online or on the doorstep. The strength of online social networks is that they can communicate with different constituencies - one at a time or simultaneously. A local issue can be spread globally; add a photo or a video and it‟s the next best thing to actually being there. Social networks are becoming a routine part of our work and leisure time: one in every 11 minutes online globally is accounted for by social network and blogging sites (source: “Global Faces and Networked Places” by Neilsen Online, January 2009). The most striking example of social media crossing the old boundaries was individual protesters‟ use of Twitter in the Iran elections of June 2009. While the country‟s

6

government were reportedly blocking mobile phone signals and censoring the broadcast media, Twitter was used to “smuggle” eyewitness accounts to a watching world. Twitter was even suggested as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in aiding free speech. I‟m less convinced by the Central News Agency of the People‟s Democratic Republic of Korea at @kcna_dprk, where it seems you have to read between the tweets to get the real story. Lib Dem politicians have embraced the major social networks, particularly blogs (Peter Black AM, Steve Webb MP, Councillor Mary Reid), Facebook (Tom Brake MP), YouTube (Nick Clegg) and Twitter (Jo Swinson MP). Single issues have also spread rapidly, and set the national agenda, for example Greenpeace‟s Airplot campaign against a third Heathrow runway. So how to do it successfully? Joining a social network for the first time can be like walking into a huge party, with a hubbub of conversations. It‟s sometimes tricky to pick a spot to stand and join in. You can try standing in the middle and mumbling, or even shouting, hoping that a passer-by will catch what you have to say. This is one of the criticisms levelled at Twitter - but is really only fair when people are using it to talk at others. As in any social gathering, the way to become part of the scene is to listen, observe, see who the mavens/hubs are, decide whether you agree with them - and it‟s perfectly fine not to. Broadcast media are for making a point and letting the discussion take place elsewhere. In contrast, social media are for engaging in conversation -

between friends, colleagues, opponents and increasingly, between politicians and their electorate. Social networks do have their limitations. Facebook groups, for example, are good for raising awareness or feeling solidarity with others (often on single issues) but they only tend to effect real change when the following are present: links to further information, via events or other websites; regularly updated content about a campaign‟s progress; some personal action that the member can take, such as writing to the press or to their MP, or signing a petition. Social media can‟t filter and interpret content in the manner of traditional broadcast media. This requires discernment from the reader, which is no bad thing. Just as TV and radio were ascribed all kinds of powers back in their infancy, it‟s tempting now to say, it's all done online now - “one medium fits all.” The popular social networks can add an extra layer to political campaigning, but they shouldn‟t be relied upon to replace leaflets, press releases and meeting face to face. Personal contact is still especially important – after all, it‟s another way that people click.

Strike up a conversation with Helen at her blog: www.helenduffett.blogspot.com or on Twitter @helenduffett

The Libertine

July 2009


Iran Martin Shapland I had hoped that you would not be reading these words. When I commissioned this piece I had envisaged that this article would be written by a guest writer from within the Mousavi camp, the runner up in the recent Iranian presidential elections, to present their thoughts on the unrest. When this proved impossible I then asked friends to make contact with the Iranian Press, but no-one was willing to take the risk of writing for, lets not forget, a Liberal Western party. The difficulty in finding an Iranian voice to give their thoughts is reflective of the reality on the ground in Iran. A total, abject, absence of freedom of expression and of speech. We were all glued to our televisions in June as day after day hundreds of thousands of protestors clad in green rallied on the streets, as the media blackout and Internet firewall began, and grainy mobile pictures and videos of violent clashes, baton charges, and shots fired dripped their way into the international media through you tube and twitter, it seemed, for a time, that what was happening was not disenchantment but full blown revolution. There is no doubt that the elections were rigged. In a comparison with the elections of 2005 the conservative vote was up 113 percent. Ahmadinejad, apparently, won in a third of all provinces, with the entire conservative vote, all of the centre voters, all of the

July 2009

new voters and nearly half of the people who voted for reformist candidates in earlier elections. A record Obama could never match. Even Iranâ€&#x;s Guardian Council, tasked by the theocracy with investigating the elections, conceded that 50 Cities in Iran had more votes cast than there were electors. Ahmadinejad can sue me for Libel if he dares. The brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrations is a timely reminder of the inhumanity of totalitarian regimes. Just today, on the last day of July, thousands were at the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young women, a bystander, struck down with gunfire by the regimes Revolutionary Guards. The memorial was broken up after hours of repeated police baton charges. The big issue, however, is not that the state is trying to crush a pro democracy movement. It is that its not managed to do so yet, 40 days after the election. Official figures, the reality is probably much worse, count 2,500 arrests and 30 deaths in Tehran alone. After murders, and intimidation the fact that these protests are still happening, nationwide, at the end of July, is in itself revolutionary. Iran is a lynchpin in the Middle East, it gives money and weapons to Hezzbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Palestine, and it is alleged that it does the same for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its leadership has set the

The Libertine

tone in the last 30 years helping to put the Western World at odds with the Islamic World, a confrontation which has led to nothing but war and ruin. The backlash in Iran against the policies of nuclear brinkmanship, isolationism and hatred for the west provides hope that even in the most seemingly anti western of states, there is appetite from the people to break open that fist and reach out in friendship. Barrack Obama has already told the world of Americaâ€&#x;s desire to grasp that hand in a sprit of fellowship and friendship, and as the protests and pressure continue to mount on Ahmadinejad the people of Iran will no doubt become bolder. No regime lasts forever and Iranâ€&#x;s Theocracy has never been weaker. Reform there is a prerequisite, I believe, to significant peace in the Middle East, of peace between Israel and her neighbours, of securing Iraq for her people, and ending the decades of conflict in Afghanistan. Should the Iranian people prevail in their fight against the state the implications are incredible. Think of Burma, North Korea, Tibet, the Uygur people in Xinjiang. Increasing technological advancements and the breaking down of ideological barriers are giving power to the people. The front line in that fight is now the streets of Tehran.

7


Man of the Moment Interview with Nick Clegg Hi Nick, we‟ve had confused reports from some of our members at Glastonbury that they saw someone who looked very much like you at the festival, did you take the weekend off? After meeting Michael Eavis on the campaign trail last year, I was asked to speak at the Speakers Forum in the Green Futures Field about the importance of the environment and changing politics. I thought it would be a great opportunity to reach out to an audience that should be full of likely Liberal Democrat voters, and have some fun at the same time! So what did you get up to then? I took questions for an hour from three hundred festival goers under

8

a huge Teepee! I enjoyed it hugely - though I couldn't stay to see Blur. I also went to the Greenpeace field to support the campaign against the Heathrow third runway and visited Oxfam and WaterAids‟ campaigning stalls.

the tip of the iceberg. Our whole political system is too unaccountable and secretive, which is why I set out a 100 day plan to transform it. We need an end to big donations, fair votes and recall elections so that people have the right to sack badly behaved MPs. Now there‟s quite clearly a small And that‟s just for starters! problem in Westminster with duck houses and kit – kats that the liber- One of the key issues for our memtine has noticed, what are you go- bers is student debt, the governing to do to clean up the system? ment announced recently that they are going to freeze grants and inWe need a total overhaul of MPs‟ crease fees for students going to expenses. One of the biggest university next year, what‟s your problems is MPs acting like spivvy message for students going to uniproperty speculators while taxpay- versity for the first time? ers foot the bill, not to mention MPs avoiding capital gains tax or pock- Stick in there! The decisions the eting phantom mortgages. All of government have taken on student this has to stop straight away. The finance have been poor ones and expenses scandal is actually just we have been right to oppose

The Libertine

July 2009


them. And I am conscious of the pressures that many students are now under both financially and emotionally. But students shouldn‟t let that put them off going to university and getting the most out of the experience. Intellectually and socially my university days were some of the best of my life, and getting a good degree unquestionably helps a student‟s life chances. We‟ve got a question here from Kat Dadswell, the organiser for Cheadle, first she‟d like to know if you can buy them a folding machine, and second, she‟d like to ask at what point you think the results from general elections – one estimate which had us winning 30% of the vote saw us win only 100 seats – will have the public and media clamouring for Proportional representation? Firstly I‟d like to congratulate Kat on the recent excellent Lib Dem council by election win in Cheadle and also for topping the poll there in the Euros. I‟m afraid I can‟t promise a folding machine, but I did come and address your annual dinner earlier this year – so I hope that helped raise funds. On the second question; I think that clamour has already started. More and more people are realising that our

July 2009

electoral system simply doesn‟t deliver the results that it should in a democratic country. With all eyes on Westminster we as a party need to be campaigning hard to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda.

of a private life do you think a politician in the media age is allowed to have?

You‟ve said a number of times now that we can beat Labour at the next general election – next you‟ll be telling us that you‟ll be Prime Minister one day right?

Thanks Nick.

I think that politicians, especially senior ones, should expect a fairly detailed level of scrutiny into their private lives as they have chosen to Jenn Waren wants to know - are be in the public eye – but that you pro or anti monarchy, and who shouldn‟t extend to their family or looks better in a crown – William friends. It's not their fault that their or Harry? father/friend/brother/son/ husband chose to go into politics! I haven‟t really compared William and Harry so I can‟t comment I‟m Finally one of our members has afraid! I think the current monarch spotted you doing a photo shoot has done a great job and at the with a rather fabulous gold tie, moment reforming the monarchy where on earth did you get it? isn‟t at the top of any politician‟s to -do list. The photographer brought it!

Exactly! I‟m in politics to make things happen and to change Britain for the better. And that means getting the Liberal Democrats into government. You did an interview with the mail recently, some of our members will be relieved that their minor indiscretions with cacti won‟t bar them from high public office –how much

The Libertine

Thank you. And thanks for all the work Liberal Youth does. Freshers‟ week‟s coming up soon, and the General Election not long after, so I know you‟re going to be busy. I was really pleased to see Activate happening again this summer. It‟s so important for our party to have a vibrant youth wing. I know you‟re going to be right at the heart of our fortunes over the coming year.

9


09 10

The New Liberal Youth Executive

Elaine Bagshaw National Chair

James Shaddock VC Communications

Dan Snowdon VC Finance

Victor Chamberlain General Executive

Cara Drury General Executive

Paddy Elsdon General Executive

James Harrison General Executive

Neal Brown VC Membership Development

Alan Belmore General Executive

Alex Royden General Executive

Joe Rinaldi—Johnson VC Campaigns

Martin Shapland General Executive

Jenn Waren General Executive


When circumstances change, I change my in the party, it can be easy to feel overmind. What do you do? whelmed and overlooked. This organisaJ.M. Keynes tion is finally starting to realize it's potential again. Activate is back and a roaring The political landscape has changed mas- success; Freshers will be bigger and betsively in the 13 months I've been Chair. ter than ever, and our membership is goLabour seems to have lost all hope and is ing through the roof. far beyond the point of no return. The We're facing a General Election within a Tories are ahead, but with a Government year. Now it's about pushing Liberal drowning in it's own mess as much as La- Youth further than it's ever been before bour are, you have to ask - why aren't and making sure we reach our potential. they doing better? It's about not sitting on our laurels and Lib Dems are doing well, but have ques- thinking a half-decent Facebook group tions of our own to answer too. With La- equals a campaign and that a semibour doing so badly, why did we still functioning University branch is good come third in Norwich North? Why aren't enough. we attracting the big donors we need? It's more important than ever to push ourWhat happens after selves. To campaign all year round, conRennard? stantly recruit new members and work So where does all this leave us? With the together to build branches in every corner massive upheaval that's been happening of the country.

The exec are here to support and enable everyone in the organisation to achieve this together - because Liberal Youth doesn't start and finish with the exec. I'll leave you with some words from my trip to NUS conference, from someone who was talking about how to beat the BNP. Next time you think we're going to end up losing the seat you‟re in; Conservative Future put on a more successful event than yours or that target seat doesn't look so promising anymore, think of this and just do it: "Get off your arse and do something!!" Have a great Freshers - don't forget to order your pack!

Elaine Bagshaw National Chair

Liberal Ladies

Liberal Youth’s femme fatale’s tell the Libertine a bit about themselves Alex Royden Which issues get you really fired up? Pretty much anything which involves ensuring fairness and equality - so ID cards and general civil liberties. I‟m also interested in reducing the growing class rift, top up fees make my blood boil! I am really fired up by the need to sort out politics, reform the system and combat the apathy that is the result of years of neglect. I‟m a vet student and keep on top of animal welfare, agriculture and farming - I wouldn't suggest asking me about foot and mouth before lunch! What was your first political memory? When I was 11 years old my dad (who is now in his 3rd year as a County Councillor) took me down to the shops to help with a petition asking the Deputy Prime Minister to force the local council to hold a ballot on whether there should be an Urban Council or a Parish Council. This was successfully decided at the ballot and the Borough Council had to accept it. Just one petition organised by a handful of people has made such a difference to the whole ward. Brickhill Parish Council has been able to set up a „Cop Shop‟ and set up a Friday night youth group, both of which have significantly lowered crime rates. Who’s you’re greatest political hero? Marcus Tullius Cicero. This guy inspired me from the first minute of Latin A Level, so I'm a geek, I live with it, Cicero was elected Consul of the Roman Republic, the highest public office, and he raised himself

to it from nothing - no royal blood, no political predecessors, just him. He never showed intimidation or fear and always fought with style, using the power of his rhetoric and his cunning to defeat his opponents. He believed in honour and loyalty and he never gave in to Caesar, even when his life was on the line. If only more MPs were like that. Its June 4th, Nick Clegg is Prime Minister – what’s the first thing you want him to do? Everyone's going to say this, but proportional representation. We've all had enough. Let's sort it out.

Jenn Warren Which issues get you really fired up? Votes at 16, Why should we have to pay tax and national insurance, be able to join the forces and die for our country, leave full time education and get jobs, get married and start having children without being able to vote? Youth Transport costs also really frustrate me. I am also pretty environmentally conscious and I am interested in eating disorders, as I don‟t think there is enough support from the government and local authorities for those vulnerable to them. What was your first political memory? I remember the 1997 election, I was about 4 years old, and I had been aware that John Major was PM before, but then it was Tony Blair.

Who’s you’re greatest political hero? My greatest political hero is probably Emily Davison, the suffragette martyr, I also allow myself to be inspired [in moderation] by Margaret Thatcher, as she is such an important figure for women in politics. Winston Churchill was a terrific wit and I like him too. I also look up to Vince Cable, because everybody loves him, even my Granny, who is very Conservative [sadly] Its June 4th, Nick Clegg is Prime Minister – what’s the first thing you want him to do? WHEN nick gets to be PM I think I would like him to extend child bus and train fares to 18, right after he lowers the voting age to 16

Cara Drury Which issues get you really fired up? I get pretty fired up about discrimination it's the biggest blight on our society right now. What was your first political memory? I guess I remember the 1997 general election quite vividly - I remember it being a really exciting time. I think that's the first time I started taking an interest in what was going on. Who’s you’re greatest political hero? Chris Ward – a Councillor in Guildford and a really good friend of mine Its June 4th, Nick Clegg is Prime Minister – what’s the first thing you want him to do? I'd like some sort of timetable for decommissioning Trident, and a real plan to combat student debt.


Faith Schools Ed Sanderson IT‟S 2009: SO WHY ARE FAITH SCHOOLS PERMITTED? One argument regularly offered by those seeking to defend the fusion of state and religion in the UK is that we live in a „secular society‟. The fact that the head of state cannot be, or marry a non-Anglican, or that bishops take up seemingly unchallenged residence in the House of Lords is seen by many to offset what is becoming an increasingly agnostic population. Indeed, as science and technology progresses, the nature of Christianity in Britain has arguably become increasingly cultural. Cakes and tea with the vicar afterwards may be more likely to drag Albert and Gladys from Tunbridge Wells to Morning Service than something as peripheral as „faith‟. So there isn‟t a threat, there isn‟t any reason for concern, particularly from politicians. But millions of British citizens do not have the luxury of freedom of thought. They cannot spend their working week free from religious indoctrination. The fact that they are children makes the matter even worse. I feel I should add some personal perspective as I went to Catholic schools from the age of four to eight-

12

een. I have no complaints about the standard of education. Indeed this is seen as a reason for keeping faith schools, that they produce better results. However, this can be shown to be as much due to the child‟s socioeconomic background, and the catchment area of the school, than whether faith structures enable pupils to flourish. Looking back, what is of concern is the nature of the education I received. Although other faiths were taught about and discussed, this was done in an almost regimented manner, and atheism was never particularly on the curriculum. More worryingly, formative information concerning contraception and abortion was not neutrally presented during the rare sex-ed classes. If religious education has its place at the weekend, it could be contended that faith schools have also diminished the responsibility of the local religious leaders themselves. Certainly my local church did little to offer alternative approaches for the youngest members of the congregation, and perhaps this explains the top-heavy age demographic of attendees. There has been a great deal of need for social cohesion between faiths and cultures. Segregating children

from an early age clearly does not achieve this. Alumni of faith schools are clearly more likely to grow up within their religion, their beliefs augmented by their education. Whilst there is a wider debate as to the value/danger of religion, should a liberal political party sanction state funding for schools centred around a set of moral beliefs? Or should we allow for an equality of opportunity where religion can certainly play a key role in theology lessons, but does not dominate education or the ethos of the school? True secularism should not pander to the wishes of parts of the electorate looking backwards instead of forwards, no matter how many votes are in it. Indeed, abolishing faith schools would be one way to clarify (perhaps in some areas strengthen) the meaning of belief in twenty-first century Britain, and would be an important step towards separating church and state. We would all be morally, emotionally and academic a l l y e v ol v e d a s a r e s u l t . Richard Dawkins, amongst others, argues that there is no such thing as a „Christian, Jewish or Muslim child‟ but instead „a child of Christian, Jewish or Muslim parents‟. By appeasing those parents, we are neglecting the rights and wellbeing of the children.

The Libertine

July 2009


Engagement with NUS Paddy Elsdon NUS. The National Union of students, the National forum for Labour Students, the National Union of People who want to be Labour MPs or even perhaps the National Union of Silly people who don‟t really care about students. I see it in a different light all together. I see it as a great opportunity. I see it as the way in which we can stand up for students but most of all, I see it as a great way to show that Liberal Youth can run a national organisation. A lot of people reading this article may not agree with me. And I perfectly understand why you think like this. But remember this. We have great talent in this organisation. We have seen this from the Activate weekend, just passed. The Executive Committee and most importantly the membership, have shown considerable determination, leadership and talent in all that they do. But we must move forward. If we always do what we‟ve always done, we will always get the same results. There is a lot of discontent within the grass roots membership of our party, Students‟ Unions and

July 2009

NUS. Because NUS simply doesn‟t listen. We can and must seize this opportunity. We must show that we can lead, listen and succeed. We already have a remarkable member of the NUS National Executive Committee in Chris Jenkinson. He is a well respected member of the NUS team and he will do an excellent job. However, we have seen this year that we need to campaign more effectively, work with allies in NUS and show that we have the delegates to influence policy. This will show Labour Students that they cannot dictate policy from on high but will have to engage in debate with delegates and the membership of NUS but most importantly show the membership of our party that we can lead the fight and engage with those who are disillusioned. So, how will we do this? There is no doubt that it will take a lot of work. We will be contacting all Branch Chairs and asking them to field at least one candidate for delegate positions (perhaps even Student Union Officer positions). It will take time and there are no

The Libertine

quick fixes. But we will get there if we all work together to help our members develop. If you want to have a successful time in NUS contact me or Chris on facebook. It is a great experience and it is not all work. It is always great to meet like minded people and go out for socials and the like. So, to show Labour Students that we are a real alternative come and join us. To show that we can lead a national organisation, come and join us. And to show the great talent that I have seen and that you show, come and join us.

Are you involved in NUS, a sabbatical officer or involved with a University Branch? Then NUS Committee wants to hear from you! Get in touch with Paddy at: Paddy.elsdon@liberalyouth.org

13


PR should not be top of the agenda Chris Ward PR, PR, PR. Much like the tri-mantra repeated by Tony Blair pre-1997 about education, proportional representation has become the phrase that seems to get a Lib Dem‟s heart beating faster than nothing much else. Well, why shouldn‟t it? In the last general election, had the seats been apportioned proportionately, we would find ourselves with 142 seats instead of the 62 we managed. Labour were the only party that got more seats than the number of the votes would have allowed them in PR, getting 35% of the votes but 55% of the MPs. Of course this wasn‟t fair and people were disenfranchised. This was why we have long pursued a system that would reflect properly the will of the people. When we were parodied in Head Cases, a modern attempt at Spitting Image on ITV, the most memorable was “Lib Dems, blah blah blah, proportional representation, blah blah blah”. When we were faced with the unpopularity of opposing a war amidst public rage against terrorism in the early years of the 21st century we stood strong and opposed it because it was right. When the government wanted to introduce ID cards and Michael Howard‟s Tories were their principle cheerleaders, we stood against it because it was right to do so. The other parties have and will continue to court our favour over the next year should we find ourselves in a balance-of-power position. Presumably we will lay our cards on the tables, not necessarily agreeing to a coalition with either party,

14

but being in a position to set down demands. What we must not allow ourselves to do is to be seduced by the other parties, particularly Labour in an attempt at their own political survival, with an offer to introduce proportional representation. Some activists will be screaming at me for saying this; some may even be throwing their sandals. Why should we not agree to such a deal from either of the two parties? The answer is simple. In 2005 people were angry that their votes didn‟t count. A Tory party that had managed to stay still on their vote share since 2001 had managed to get more seats than we did, despite our notably larger vote increase. It was an issue for the people back then and we rightly followed it. But what about now? Homes are being repossessed, jobs are being lost, local services are being cut. We have the best spokesman on the economy that we could ask for, with the other two party leaders secretly willing to do anything to have that sort of shine on their benches. Why isn‟t the breaking deal the one that ensures the people get a Chancellor they deserve, or at least an enactment of his policies? What about on ID cards where we led the charge? Why don‟t we prove our commitment to civil liberties by rolling back not only the cards, but the ID database? Why don‟t we demand that innocent people should not have their DNA stored? Why don‟t we look at curtailing the excessive surveillance powers given

to local authorities by this government? Taking into account all the above, the answer to why we shouldn‟t prioritise PR is simple: at a time where people desperately need us to help them, it will look like our paramount priority is to help ourselves. I, and many other Lib Dems I‟m sure, would love to see some sort of electoral reform. My personal preference is the transferable vote, ensuring that the victor not only has a sizeable mandate from their electorate, but also retaining the vital link between a representative and the constituency – something that is unfortunately devoid in the PR elections of the European Parliament. We have always won favour amongst people because we have shown ourselves to be responsible with the power they lend us. We aren‟t so arrogant as to refer to a constituency as a “safe Lib Dem seat”. Our party has a proud history of remembering who put them there and subsequently acknowledging the responsibility that we should not take it for granted. Tony Benn once referred to power as something that was lent rather than given. We may disagree with Mr Benn on many things, but let‟s not forget that where we are elected it is a great privilege and a great responsibility. Let‟s ensure that the priorities we lay before the other two parties in a hung Parliament reflect the needs, the wants and the desires of the people.

The Libertine

July 2009


Liberalism: the limitation of an imitation Douglas Oliver As the coming General Election approaches, the vital intellectual test for Liberal Democrats will be how we tackle David Cameron's attempt to claim his party as the home of Britain's libertarian centre-ground, the natural opposition to N e w L a b o u r a ut h or i t ar ia n i s m . Despite the vacousneess of his own Blairite-redux political philosophy, it would be perverse to dismiss the existence of some libertarian tradition within Cameron's party. However, it is also unclear how secure a foundation social liberalism occupies within Conservatism and its weight in shaping the Tory approach to policy. I have space here to properly consider only one example of this weakness, but it is a salient one; The most powerful Conservative in over a decade. Boris Johnson's actions as Mayor are naturally looked upon as an indication of what a Tory government might be like in practice. His ban on alcohol on London public transport - a decision taken days after assuming office – is, I believe, extremely revealing of the Conservative default approach to personal liberties. The policy makes illicit the innocuous and victimless activity of drinking alcohol (only that), on the transport network. It does not require knowledge of Mill's „Harm Principle‟ to view it as being morally objectionable. The practical reasons for the ban's absurdity are obvious to any frequent Tube passenger: much police and transport staff time is being wasted enforcing this

July 2009

new unnecessary offence. People are still allowed to be obnoxious in their drunkenness, if they like, but the police will have more distractions when attempting to deal with it. It creates friction and resentment in otherwise law-abiding citizens. It takes money from ordinary Londoners, forced to pay more extortionate pub and club alcohol prices than cheaper supermarket alcohol. To liberals – who are by nature optimists, confident in the capacity of individuals to make the “right” decision more often than not - it is of course no surprise that over-regulation of personal behaviour nurtures ends that are un-pragmatic. The irony and / or the hypocrisy of this policy is that Boris has been a champion – perhaps embodiment – of libertarianism within his party. In his journalism, Johnson frequently rails against excessive State regulation. I may be wrong, but I simply do not believe that Boris really believes in this illiberal policy and that that it is an opportunistic effort to appeal to the Daily Mail suburban element within his party and its paranoid fears of Zone 1 London. Whatever the reason for it, Boris Johnson's ban on the victimless crime of drinking alcohol is a clear indication of the enduring Tory political approach: "mistrust in the people tempered by fear". Whilst liberal values can find some support in parts of the Conservative party, there is much evidence that it is controversial. Cameron's re-brand has focused almost exclusively on superficial rather

The Libertine

than ideological gestures; his support is largely conditional on the potential success he offers (as shown by the internal political meltdown he faced, during the short-lived 2007 Brown bounce). The relatively moderate Ken Clarke is viewed with a collective neurosis that is baffling to outsiders. Sanctimonious though he might be, what could account for the obsessive Tory loathing of John Bercow, other than his 2002 resignation against a three-line homophobic Tory whip? In Europe the party has teamed up with bigots. All but two current Tory MPs (those who entered Parliament in byelections) were elected on Cameron‟s 2005 manifesto that centred on the demonisation of Gypsies and Immigrants. Members may have disagreed with prejudice, none of them fought it: when it comes to vital Freedoms, that is not good enough. Under the stresses of Government, the liberal minority within the Tory party will surely face far greater and hence revealing stresses. Whilst exposing the sharpness of our own philosophy, as Liberal Democrats we must also illustrate the limitation of the “liberal-Conservative” imitation. By doing this, we can prove that only a party that is „Liberal‟ in name, can also be considered liberal in nature.

15


Have an unforgettable Conference with Liberal Youth Find us at our stall in the exhibition or catch up with us at one of our events Climate Clinic: Stop Climate Chaos in association with Liberal Youth

Tuesday 22nd

September, 8 – 9.15pm Old Harry’s Bar, Marriott Highcliff |Reception – refreshments served| Votes at 16 – Sunday 20th - 2.30pm – 3.45pm |Training|

Local Parties and Liberal Youth: Stronger Together! Monday 21st - 9.15am – 10.45am |Training| Running a Successful Freshers Fayre - Tuesday 22nd - 2.30pm – 3.45pm |Training| The Glee Club Alternative – Tuesday 22nd—Late |Party|

Order your FREE Freshers Pack online now @: http://tinyurl.com/klmm4c


Libertine Issue 2