I am a social liberal. I believe that the best form of government and structure for a society is one which follows a social liberal democratic model. In this essay I shall attempt to describe precisely how I believe the United Kingdom could be transformed into such a society.
But this is not truly an essay, it is a vision, and, like all visions, parts of it will be plausible, parts will be naive and parts of it will be naught but unworkable dreams. I therefore ask you, dear reader (yes, my bum really is that stuffed with tweed) to not judge this essay too hardly but to endeavour to focus more on the spirit of it for that is the view of it which I intend readers to take away from it.
But enough vainglorious descriptions of this essay, let me get down to business.
The New Britain which I envisage is a fair and democratic one. One where the state exists as a safety net and a facilitator of social mobility. It is a scandal that in a supposedly first world country such as ours 60,000 people depend on food parcels. It is appalling that people's futures and educational attainment are still determined by the wealth of the families they are born into and it is disgusting that 4 million children are living in poverty. We can do better than this, we should do better than this and we must do better than this.
The state should exist to safeguard the vulnerable and provide equality of opportunity without being the unresponsive, authoritarian bureaucratic monster which so many Britons experience today. This can be achieved through a proper review of structures to make them more effective and more accountable. Local democracy and decentralisation must play a key role in this - public services must be accountable to the communities which use them and must adapt to their needs rather than to the demands of inflexible central departments.
I envisage a strong, wealthy Britain. One with a green, dynamic, high tech economy. Flexible and able to compete with the likes of Germany on equal footing. One energised and strengthened by universal digital access and flexible working for parents. Right now there are promising new growth sectors in the economy, sectors a mile apart from the parasitical wealth of the city, sectors where Britain could lead the way. Space and green technology, for example, are sectors where we already punch above our weight internationally. But a balanced, dynamic economy such as that can only be possible with proper investment in both infrastructure and research. There are already promising moves under way to achieve this but they need to not only be kept up but accelerated.
I envisage a society where education and healthcare are free to all, where no one is denied access to the care they need and where everyone is entitled to be educated according to their desires and their ability. This does not just include physical health, or academic university degrees, but also mental health, support for the disabled and the elderly to allow them to live a normal and an education system where people aren't forced into university or work as the only options at 18 but where they are free to choose the type of education appropriate to them, whether it be theoretical, academic, technical, vocational or otherwise.
A key part of this New Britain must also be energy security. Over sixty years ago, this country underwent an energy revolution which led to the creation of the National Gird and uniform electricity supply to every home and business. A similar challenge faces us now with the advent of climate change and the approach of peak oil and peak gas. In order to remain energy secure for the future we must embrace renewable energy sources and develop a flexible, smart-grid to maximise the potential of green energy generation. The technology and plans to make Britain energy sufficient for the long term already exist. It remains up to us to have the vision and determination to implement them.
But the fundamental changes that are essential to underpin any meaningful change in this country for the better involve our political system and the media. We must take the big money out of politics, introduce a reformed upper chamber, implement a voting system which truly represents the will of the people without dividing communities and introduce proper media regulations to prevent the bias, churnalism, lies and deceit that are endemic in today's media. Without an unbiased media people do not have access to the facts and without the facts they cannot make informed decisions about the direction they want this country to go in. Above all, political and media reform are the most important changes we need. Without them, all else is naught and without them no other meaningful change can ever happen.
A New Britain of the type which I describe is within our grasp and I hope that in this essay I can sketch out how it can be delivered and perhaps even sell the idea to you - for I fear that this introduction is poor at describing exactly what kind of society I feel we should have. I do not flatter myself that the small audience who read this will be suddenly grasped by the importance of social liberalism, or that they will view me as a new Orwell or Keynes. But I do hope that you, the reader, may at least be convinced by one or two aspects of this essay, and bear them in mind as you form your own opinions.