WHAT ARE OUR PRACTICAL GOALS?
Initially our aim is to offer liberals an alternative vision to that offered by the Liberal Democrats that is neither ‘internationalist’ i.e. surrendering power to un-elected foreign bodies nor globalist i.e. supporting big business interests in ‘off-shoring’ industry or importing cheap labour. We also believe that this vision will also be attractive to the country’s many independents whose basic instinct is liberal and patriotic.
Ultimately we would like, at best, to see a country run on national liberal principles either through the efforts of a National Liberal Government or through our influence in a coalition or via agitation and propaganda. At worst, we would campaign to see the implementation of some of our more fundamental policies.
In the modern world the country that comes closest to applying some of our principles is Switzerland.
Regular elections are held to elect representatives to their Federal (national) Parliament. The use of PR ensures that the party split in the number of representatives closely resembles a party’s percentage vote. This not only allows government to reflect the ‘popular will’ by forcing the main parties to act in coalition it also ensures that minority opinion and parties are represented too thus absorbing all viewpoints.
This is under a fairer system than in the U.K where most elections are held under ‘a first past the post system’.
Switzerland operates three mechanisms of Direct Democracy: Referendums, Initiative and Recall. Referendums cover votes on Government proposed changes to the Constitution, important Federal (National) laws or International treaties. Initiatives allow the public themselves to call for changes to the Constitution or Federal law. Recall allows the electorate to petition for a re-election of public officials (for unacceptable behaviour).
Direct Democracy represents a higher level of democracy, for in addition to choosing representatives, it institutionalises the voters’ right to decide on issues themselves. Implementation of these measures would in part address the ‘democratic deficit’ in the U.K
Switzerland has not been involved in an international war for 200 years. They vigorously protect their ‘neutral’ position and independence by a reluctance to join international organizations such as the United Nations, NATO or the EU. By following a policy of ‘armed’ neutrality they ensure their borders are protected whilst refusing to become involved in ‘foreign adventures’.
The U.K has historically involved itself in a number of supra-national bodies e.g. EU but that would not preclude us limiting their internal interference (including our withdrawal in extreme circumstances). We would support a more ethical foreign policy and one which does not involve the U.K. acting as a proxy global policeman e.g. for the USA.
Peaceful and Prosperous
By organizing a workable relationship between National and Provincial/local government they have kept any disputes manageable and civilized.
Socially, “Unlike many other European countries, violent crime including assault and robbery is virtually unheard of. The rare cases of violent crime that do occur, often involve foreigners who are living in Switzerland”1.
Economically, Switzerland is a very wealthy country. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages (Per capita income (1997 est.): $35,614.). Unemployment is low and social security benefits generous. There is a strong self-employed sector and most companies are small, family-owned corporations with employee shareholders, sole proprietorships or partnerships.
The U.K in contrast, despite having a stable economy for the last ten years, has been unable to spread its wealth throughout the population and inequality has increased. Crime is high and, in common with other western societies, our inner-cities are plagued with ‘no go areas’. Small businesses are weighed down with red tape and small shops struggle to survive.
Switzerland of course is no-Shangri-La. It is also a product of its own history, culture and environment. The U.K. has a very different past which cannot be overlooked. Nevertheless we see a correlation, between Switzerland’s economic and social success and their more ‘inclusive’ political system.
Some further policies we would like to see implemented are: greater support for co-operatives and small businesses, Debt-free finance, a Citizen’s Income, a National Civic Service and a linking between a reduction in mass immigration with a reduction in global poverty, to name just a few of our more important policies.
HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS?
In an ideal world enough National Liberal representatives would become elected to form a government. However, even in the unlikely possibility that the electorate would rapidly switch to a largely unknown party, it would take time to build up our infrastructure and membership to supply the required number of suitable candidates.
Ironically, as votes and interest in politics has fallen over the years there has been a mushrooming of alternative parties, particularly on single-issues. Couple this with the reluctance of the political establishment to introduce PR to the majority of elections and it makes it very difficult for any new and/or small party to prosper.
We do not believe that any one party is likely to be able to make a serious challenge for power for many years, if at all, under the present system. Neither do we believe that a ‘messiah’ figure will change the face of British politics let alone sustain a challenge to a political establishment intent on holding onto power.
An alternative strategy for all ‘non-establishment’ parties is coalition politics. By pooling resources, brokering electoral pacts, and co-operating on campaigns of common interest such parties can make an impact without surrendering their independence. It is important therefore to build a strong National Liberal Party (in membership and elected representatives) to ensure we can play a strong role within any coalition/co-operation.
In any event it is incumbent upon those who know or feel they are national liberals (and we believe that to be the instinctive attitude of most people), to act upon that feeling and work hard to turn this vision into reality.
Date: April 1, 2008