Norman Lamb was welcomed by Chester LibDems on his national campaign to meet, greet and share his liberal vision with local Liberal Democrat members. On his way to London, having passed through Sheffield and Liverpool earlier in the day, Norman spent a few hours setting out his liberal vision for the UK and answering questions.
Most strikingly, Norman believes that we are living in a great liberal age and that our job is to help connect people’s instinctive liberal values to the Liberal Democrat party. He told members that ‘we have a great future and a critical role to play in British public life’.
Norman went on to make some comments on his achievements in government, particularly in raising the importance the health service placed on mental health care, an area he was clearly passionate about.
I attempted to capture the key thoughts of the subsequent debate arising from questions from the audience (and for any errors or omissions, I am entirely responsible)…
On Telling it how it is
"I don’t have all the answers, my job as leader is to create the circumstances in which we can attract the best minds to help find the best liberal answers. We must start by telling people how it is."
On proportional representation
"We have an opportunity to reach out to the 25% of voters who are massively under represented by the number of MPs. However, for most people, electoral reform is not a big issue."
On what makes LibDems unique?
"We believe in giving power to individuals to make the best decisions about their life."
On new thinking
"Idea sourcing…. we need to reach out and invigorate the intellectual thinking of our party."
On the question of whether the LibDems are too London centric
"I would seriously consider closing the centralised campaign structure and look to move decision making out to the regions."
"Devolving power without devolving the tax revenues is not devolution. Where the money goes, that’s where the power lies. We, the Liberal Democrats need to tackle this issue.”
On prison reform
"Germany has half the number of people in prison compared to the UK. We need to change how we do things."
"The war on drugs has failed. Legalising, controlling and taxing soft drugs is a better way, but not a perfect way, to protect people and to help to reduce their exposure to criminal activities and gangs.
On better opportunity for all
"Pre- school education is the key to helping kids from poorer backgrounds compete in later years and to fully contribute their talents to society. It not only makes sense morally but also it is one of the best economic investments we can make as a country."
On a radical, progressive liberal party.
"We are not remix of the best bits of Labour and Conservatives policies – we are distinct, led by liberal values. We believe in the rights of individual people and seek to give them power over their lives at every point, and, in return, we ask certain responsibilities from them, to put forward their best talents for the benefit of all."