Knives are an inseparable part of everyday life. We use them when cooking, we use them at work. Every day, millions use their nearest knife to open boxes, packages and letters. Just have a think about how many knives are in your house right now.

We also know that knives can be used for great evil; something communities have struggled with for.. well, forever. The solution? Regulation.

Regulation of knives is mostly uncontroversial - as a society, we mostly accept that a chef can carry very sharp and dangerous knives between home and work, but we expect them to travel directly between those places (and we enforce that expectation). Knives for general carry are limited in length and in the way they lock - outside of this, you need a specific reason. Some bemoan this, but generally it's agreed that the liberty of.. well, living - outweighs the infringement on liberty of needing a reason to carry about a dangerous weapon.

The message is clear - knives are a tool, they can cause a lot of harm, and we do not rely on owners of knives to be benevolent and ethical in their ownership, storage and operation of knives. We regulate knives, and the owners of knives, in the pursuit of better outcomes - not banning them, but very clearly setting out rules based on avoiding harm and promoting freedom.

But with capitalism - and, more generally, free markets and commercial enterprise - some have bought into the myth that there is an "ethical" variant we can nurture and trust.

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One of the most glaring contradictions of British politics is the increasing attention paid to economic inequality by academics and the public, whilst decisions made by the central government do little to address this problem and actively make it worse. I suspect this has to do with wealth inequality being framed as an abstraction; something to be vaguely 'tackled' rather than a clear narrative about how policy should improve the lived experiences of ordinary people. A positive Liberal case for mass ownership could be the remedy to this problem.

Liberals have long seen property as fundamental for creating liberty. For the Liberal MP Hilaire Belloc, this chiefly meant promoting ownership of small landholdings and stakes in co-operative enterprises. This was a cornerstone of Distributism, a proposed alternative to what Belloc saw as the collectivist ideologies of socialism and capitalism. That ideology was highly influential among the Unservile State group, who saw property as a form of economic security independent of employment or state welfare, with the Liberal Parliamentary candidate Ramsay Muir, arguing that 'liberty will be strengthened by the almost universal possession of "a bit of property" '.

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In a previous article I was scathing about this government's approach to education - a regressive insistence on churning out compliant automatons while employers demand creative, self-directed and specialised workers. But in their approach is a logic - that learners all need to be calibrated to a common criteria. This plays out in a national curriculum - literally, everyone learning the same things at the same point in their lives - and comes with the values (uncritical obedience and an unwavering respect for authority) that are required of any system that tries to achieve this.

I no longer believe that should be our goal.

It would not surprise you to know that, as a Liberal, I believe everything starts with - and comes back to - individuals. But education should not just be focused on the individual based on an abstract idea - we need to ground it in the practicalities and intent of education.

So let me convince you of an alternative goal: a much expanded "national curriculum", that every learner progresses through at their own pace and in their own order - and that no one person should ever come close to completing.

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As a child of the 80's, the environment was constantly on my mind. We had the hole in the Ozone Layer, letting in the sun's rays and giving people cancer. As a Cub Scout, I helped manually crush drinks cans for the apparently new concept of recycling. There was the growing Greenhouse Effect, of course, and in fevered dreams I imagined a mushroom cloud bloom over Chernobyl. Between the Cold War and Climate Change, youthful thoughts about the future were sometimes bleak to say the least.

For the youth of today, things are far worse. Ignore for a moment the looming Cold War with China, Russia and a new wave of 'illiberal democracies' and take a look at the environment. What we once called Global Warming and then called Climate Change is now the Climate Emergency.

School children and other young people are showing signs of 'climate anxiety'. Mental health is suffering because of this crisis. There is some evidence that climate scientists are suffering from 'despair' and feelings of 'hopelessness' and that, surely, cannot be a good sign.

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For the Liberal Democrats, the polling-heights of 2019 and the lows of 2021 can easily be chalked up as the before and after effects of Brexit, which has come to dominate so much of our political discourse. But with the Greens rising as a challenger to the mantle of progressive third party during the local elections, a moment of reflection must come for the party’s messaging.

Bollocks to Brexit

In 2019, the Liberal Democrats showed the public a hard, clear and distinct view towards Brexit in their vocal and unified opposition to it. In many ways, the anti-Brexit stance was a perfect embodiment of Liberal values and what the Liberal Democrats had been striving for as a party;  rejecting nationalism, encouraging international cooperation, maintaining local devolution, committing to and expanding personal freedoms to live and work where you want.  Voters could build a subtractive picture of who we were with little effort on our part; even if you didn't know what we were for, you certainly knew what we stood against. By sticking to our principles, the party enjoyed the highest rating in the polls it had seen in nearly a decade, and a considerable boost in membership.

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Since Brexiters told the country to BeLEAVE in Britain there has been a strong line on a particular type of patriotism in British politics. Boris Johnson has exemplified this as Prime Minister and Labour, in desperation to win back the 'Red Wall' constituencies, has attempted to 'embrace the flag' and to match Johnson's brand of patriotism. Liberals on the other hand are known for internationalism, welcoming migrants and eschewing borders in a bid to find a way to connect and work with our fellow man/woman no matter where they were born. But, does that mean Liberals can't be patriots?

At its heart, patriotism stems from a shared experience, shared values and shared priorities that we naturally develop when we grow up together, work alongside each other and live, love and die together. It's the stuff of trades unions, co-operatives and ... Liberalism.

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