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James Belchamber

James Belchamber is Chair of South West Birmingham Liberal Democrats and the founder of justLiberals. He has a long career working with computers, and trains people wishing to make this their career.

Posts by James Belchamber

Liberals can disagree on a lot (as the joke goes, put four Liberals in a room and you'll land up with six different opinions), but one thing that unites every Liberal is the concept of Individual Liberty. In very broad strokes, most of what Liberals do - at a local level, with oppressed groups, internationally, or wherever else - is about empowering individuals: equalising power between people, and distributing power away from where it's been concentrated.

I suspect many Liberals have forgotten their own power - and to recover, we must find it again. Let's start with a thought experiment.

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In most elections, the right outspend the Left. This is just a truism, and of no surprise to anyone acquainted with modern politics. In addition, the news media is strongly biased toward right-wing ideas and right-wing politics. In response, the Left reaches for their army of volunteers - doing for free (inspired by Left-wing ideals like equality, freedom and justice) what the right have to pay for. Even in this uneven ground, the Left - through sheer strength of message - can win out against what seem like unbeatable odds. It's this hard work, by many selfless volunteers, that has formed the bulwark against those that would lead by hate and fear, manipulated by false narratives and backed by wealthy donors.

Yesterday, the Tories wrote a decree banning this second, volunteer-led, approach to campaigning - and in so doing, tipped the scales massively in their favour.

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In May last year Twitter decided to place a small flag underneath a post by Donald Trump, which suggested that his claims of massive fraud in the 2020 election (which hadn't happened yet) were "potentially misleading". This substantial understatement from a platform that had otherwise only lightly moderated their platform led to enough outrage that alt-right figures surged towards "free-speech" platform Parler. But in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Capitol building, this platform - at the centre of the insurrection - quickly collapsed in on itself.

In the ensuing wreckage is a goldmine of information for any Liberal - let's take a look.

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Let's start with something positive: you can donate to the Legal Defence Fund for Transgender Lives, being held by the Good Law Project, right now. I hope if you're not convinced already, this article will convince you to do something - if you have some cash to spare, donating to the Good Law Project is one thing you can do. Thank you.

Last week, The Scottish National Party voted in a new National Executive Committee. The incoming committee is being celebrated for their more hardline stance on independence - as well as their eagerness to scrap progress on trans rights.

For the "gender critical", this newly elected committee is one of many wins - and represents a wider abandonment of trans rights from the British Left.

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COVID-19 - the pandemic that has swept around the world and brought modern civilisation to its knees - should have been a moment in which the British people rallied together. Even Nicola Sturgeon has turned her eyes from much-coveted Scottish Independence to deal with managing the pandemic. We really need to be able to trust our politicians, in our hour of need.

This Conservative Johnson Ministry, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted - and with an attitude so careless, one wonders if they actually believe they could walk out on Oxford Street and shoot someone, only to have another small bump in their poll numbers.

What was the moment you realised this government could not be trusted? Leave them in the comments - and we'll give you three of ours:

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When people talk about politics, they inevitably break it down along a spectrum - with ideas and values attributed to each end of this spectrum. Social Justice on the left, respect for hierarchy on the right, etc, etc. Universal Healthcare, Wealth Redistribution and Workers Rights on the left. Law and Order, Discipline and a strong military on the right. etc etc.

Liberals often want to avoid this conversation entirely - believing (correctly, but unhelpfully) that the left/right spectrum lacks the nuance and dimensions necessary to convey what we believe, they instead seek to lecture on why the spectrum should be abandoned. "We're not left OR right - we're Liberal!", we will say (often smugly).

This just allows us to be cast in place by others: Conservatives define us as left-wing, Socialists define us as right-wing, and the public define us as centrist - as well as smug, lecturing, and devoid of any tangible values.

Liberalism is left-wing - let's consider why.

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Trump is winning

On "Good Morning Britain" yesterday morning we listened to Nigel Farage (the British Ambassador for Donald Trump) explicitly deny that Trump talked about injecting disinfectant, and then continue to deny it after they played the video of Trump talking about injecting disinfectant.

As Liberals we can easily mock this. How could anyone listen to a word this idiot has to say?

Well, 68 million Americans (and counting) watched this kind of thing play out for the four years (four years!) of Trump's presidency. They couldn't escape it - every news channel, every Facebook feed and every Twitter stream. Pervasive, nationwide coverage.

And then they went "that's my guy" - and they went out and voted for him.

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Last week Rob Davidson said "algorithms don't fail people, people do" in his article about the A-Levels results crisis. But did you know that people can teach algorithms to be racist too (Twitter managed it in less than a day) It's with this in mind that we need to approach the algorithms within our own party.

Thought experiment: let's create a Lib Dem voter detector. We would feed it existing Lib Dem voters, identify things that are common between these voters, and then use this data to seek out new voters. We would enrich this data with existing data from our central database, which is where we upload details on people our activists have spoken to.

How could this go wrong?

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