How I voted in the Liberal Voice of the Year poll

by Stephen Tall on January 1, 2013

LibDemVoice’s annual poll to find the Liberal Voice of the Year has just opened. The deliberate catch is that only non-Lib Dems are eligible, forcing folk to look beyond the narrow party confines towards the broader world beyond.

(It’s the same reason, incidentally, I started the ‘Liberal Hero’ series for CentreForum: not to laud individuals as liberals, but to celebrate specific liberal actions no matter who enacts them.)

And just in case you were wondering how I voted, it was thusly:

lib voice vote 2012

Rationale as follows:

Malala: alone among the short-list she featured as a Liberal Hero here. Together with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, she’s faced intimidation and worse fighting for a liberal cause (in her case: female rights and education; in their case, the democratic process in a still-divided nation).

The Coalition for Equal Marriage — a grassroots campaign — has done a fine job in raising the profile of an issue which gets to the heart of equality: ensuring the state treats all citizens’ lifestyle choices equally, while enabling religious organisations to determine their own response. Sam Bowman will be the marmite nominee among my fellow Lib Dems owing to his free market convictions. I don’t agree with him on everything, but on the economic benefits of immigration, the need for drugs reform and support for equal marriage his liberal credential are impeccable.

And then there are the other 6 nominees… I have varying degrees of affection for each, but I’d be hard-pushed to apply the word ‘liberal’ to any of them.

Lord Justice Leveson‘s inquiry was well-run and fascinating theatre. But its inability to grapple with consumer demand and the digital age means it will age poorly: in 10 years’ time, it will, I strongly suspect, seem quaint. The ‘liquid democracy’ principle which underpins 38 Degrees is intriguing, but a quick browse through the disparate campaigns they’re running shows why political parties pursuing a coherent philosophy still matter.

Hacked Off & Hugh Grant have done a good job of offering support and solidarity to those individuals — whether celeb or civvy — who’ve suffered from obscene press intrusion in recent years. However, their favoured solution (‘statutory underpinning’ aka ‘statutory regulation’) isn’t one I can back or call liberal.

Rowan Williams seems like a decent, humane, thoughtful fellow who’s performed a near-impossible job trying to keep his state-sponsored denomination united. But I’ve never seen him in the vanguard of liberalism; if he were, he’d be trying to disestablish his church. Last year, I’d probably have said Ken Clarke was on the same side as the liberal angels: but his support for ‘secret courts’ sees him at the penultimate foot of my rankings in 2013.

As for Barack Obama, well… perhaps he is as electably liberal as it’s possible for a president to be in the US. But if so, then that’s not very. Of course he was preferable to Mitt Romney (at least to the Mitt Romney the Republican party foisted on the US, rather than the Governor Romney who successfully ran Massachusetts). But I find it bizarre that Lib Dems could call someone liberal who authorises unwarranted wiretaps: if proposed by a Brit politician (or George W. Bush), my party would be up in arms, rightly.

Anyway, those are my reasons. What are yours? Don’t forget to vote here.