Norman Lamb MP: We can build a new progressive, liberal movement of change across the country

Posted On: 
29th May 2015

Lib Dem leadership contender Norman Lamb sets out his vision for the party and highlights his experience as a Minister in BIS and the Department of Health

Liberal Democrats suffered a crushing defeat at the General Election.

As a result, the Liberal voice in Parliament and in the country is diminished - just at a time when it is desperately needed. Unconstrained by Liberal Democrats, we have already seen that the Conservatives are planning an unprecedented assault on fundamental freedoms.

We have to confront what happened, and respond.  And our focus should be not just on how we can run a better campaign next time, but - fundamentally - on why it is so important for this country to have a strong, liberal, progressive force in our politics.  

In Government alone, the Conservatives’ authoritarian instincts mean they want to scrap the Human Rights Act, introduce the Snoopers' Charter and censor broadcasters in the name of national security.

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We must focus, not simply on preserving our party, but on defending the values we stand for.

As liberals, we fundamentally believe that government can’t pick and choose which human rights are important, or who should have them.  We believe that powerful organisations - both public and private - must be open and accountable.  And we believe that, when people use the internet, they don’t surrender the right to privacy from government snooping.

And at the very heart of my liberalism is the idea that we must trust in people. That we must take power away from unaccountable institutions and give it to individuals - so that they can decide how to live their lives, rather than being told what to do by the state.

Nearly a decade ago, I won a long battle with the Labour government to force the then-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to publish lists of the individuals he met.  That principle now extends across all government ministers - and is crucial in holding ministers to account for the way that decisions are made.

And as Business Minister under the Coalition, I campaigned to secure agreement across Europe to force big corporations in the extractive industry to publish details of their payments to Governments, to tackle corruption and hold companies to account.

It is not enough just to talk about rights in an abstract way.  Nor should we be satisfied with the status quo. Across government and across society, there is injustice and prejudice.  Inequality is greater than ever.

I want Liberal Democrats to lead the way in giving those suffering from mental ill health and those with learning disabilities and autism the right to make meaningful decisions about their care and support - to take control, not to be treated as second class citizens. For those who are terminally ill, surely it should be for them to decide when to end their life, not the state. Liberal Democrats in Local Government want to put power in the hands of communities rather than doing things to people. Giving hundreds of thousands the choice of decent housing.  And making sure that when people choose whom to vote for, their vote will actually count for something.

Across the country there is immense appetite for change.  So many people share our liberal values, but don’t vote Liberal Democrat.  Over the next five years we must go out and champion liberal values and diversity across the country.  We must speak for our communities, and always stand up for the underdog.

If we do this, we can reinvigorate our party and build a new progressive, liberal movement of change across the country.  But more than that - and much more importantly - we can genuinely change people’s lives.