From the northernmost tip of the constituency looking south east across Gillingham, up to Shaftesbury and the hills south of Sturminster Newton and to the north of Blandford – the Stour valley in all its glory!
But, with winter storms reminding us of climate change; a second wave of Covid 19 showing our fragility; uncertain economic prospects due to the pandemic and Brexit and all sorts of virus-induced chaos around our schools and universities...for all that doom and gloom there are reasons to be cheerful: Bake Off is back, there is footie to watch and we have just had a cracking first virtual Liberal Democrat conference under new leadership. I now have a permanent wickerwork pattern on my backside from sitting at the computer screen for hours on end, thoroughly absorbed by the three-day event.
What to unpack from the Conference that is most relevant to North Dorset? For me the most important takeaway is the policy on our position with the EU. I came to this political realm because of Brexit – I had lived and worked across Europe and for European companies, even sat on Brussels bodies representing my industry. I could not believe what my country did that day in 2016. Now that it is actually happening, what do I do? Bleat in the wilderness? Pursue impossible fantastical aspirations to re-join straight away? The Conference did exactly the right thing: reconfirmed the Party’s European credentials but with both feet firmly planted in reality - see what happens, engage with the actors and events, develop our position then promote a new, positive policy. This is not about being in the long grass. This is the right, constructive response to being soundly beaten in 2016 and getting another kicking in December last year.
But and it is a big ‘but’ for me and many others, what do we do now? We embraced Liberal Democracy to carry the burden of our particular, singular viewpoint. Is there enough in the rest of this thing to keep me, to enthuse and motivate me? Well, I am pleased to say that Conference delivered more than enough on that score. Let me count the ways:
- Universal Basic Income could be the way for society to stop being quite so obsessed by the economic growth that is ruining our planet. It is going to be an exciting journey as we look to spell out the benefits of a system that could enable many, many people to add value without an economic millstone perpetually round their necks. So, don’t think of this as the dole by any other name.
- A focus on Federalism as the way to counter the march of centralisation and the decline of democratic accountability – as witness Covid regulations, Brexit negotiations, the proposed house building targets and new Planning regime.
- A green, sustainable recovery post-Covid 19; measures to accelerate racial harmony and justice; defence of the BBC; support to the mental health of key workers and support to the needs of the spectrum of gender identities.
Ed Davey’s speech, too, hit many of the right buttons: the Lib Dems as the catalyst for change in Care, the Environment, the Economy; the Lib Dems as defenders of the Union and as the voice and exemplar of diversity. I like his emphasis on fairness. This is a grubby world at times where the skills of the street and the morals of the alley too often hold sway. Listening to understand, demonstrating fairness and acting in partnership are the ways through all of that.
I was impressed by the quality and professionalism of the Party’s leadership and the many speakers, facilitators, moderators and organisers. So, yes, there is plenty there for us all to get our teeth into and, in the Party, something of enduring substance as well as heritage.
I also got the strong impression from the series of short networking opportunities that were available – four minutes of one-to-one discussion with a.n.other Lib Dem from around the country – that there are many other topics burning away in people’s hearts and minds. A lot of these chime with those I hear in conversation here at home: the balance between rights and duties under Covid; maintaining the camaraderie and good neighbourliness post-Covid; the continuing gap between haves and have-nots that Covid seems to have exacerbated. I am sure everyone has a different take. We would love to bring those ‘takes’ into our newsletter and other communications such as Facebook so please uncap your virtual biros and start scribbling! Here is the best point of contact:
The North Dorset Liberal Democrat AGM is on the 30th October. It will be a virtual event, predictably. All members are welcome, the agenda and request for nominations for the Executive Committee will be sent out shortly.
Mike had a career in Sales, Marketing and Business Strategy in electronics and aerospace in the UK and overseas. He has lived in the county since the 1980's. Now retired, he is a longstanding volunteer mentor with Dorset Business Mentoring supporting small businesses across the county and a volunteer with Young Enterprise, taking ideas about skills, careers and the nature of work into schools. He has been a Parish Councillor in North Dorset, the Project Manager of the North Devon business mentoring service and a seaside town community development project.