In a recent post on 'The Liberal Moment', Charlotte Gore wrote "I'd be interested to know what Neil Stockley and Simon Goldie make of it".
Neil has yet to comment but no doubt will.
For anyone who doesn't know, 'The Liberal Moment' is written by Nick Clegg and published by Demos. It is described as a pamphlet but is more like a short book. Its central argument is that the liberalism is relevant again and will replace the Labour movement as the 'progressive' force in British politics.
Clegg defines progressive thought as: "The ideals of fairness, social mobility, sustainability, civil rights and internationalism."
He goes on to define liberalism as: "The fairer dispersal and distribution of power."
Later he says that "at the core of progressive thought is the idea that we are on a journey forward to a better, and especially more socially just, society; it's a political ideology that stems from a restless, optimistic ambition for change and transformation".
The latter sentence is a clear echo of the campaign rhetoric of Obama.
A lot of the arguments have their origins in John Stuart Mill's version of liberalism. Mill wrote about liberalism, economics, women's rights and for a short time was an MP. For many he is the grandfather of modern liberalism.
The narrative that Clegg is developing is about power. He is not calling for the redistribution of wealth but the dispersal of power. He repeatedly suggests that power should be diffuse: given to individuals, government and international organisations.
Clegg explains many of the problems Britain is facing as the result of power being centralised by a State that believe it knows best.
Dispersing power will weaken the State: this will make classical liberals and libertarians happy. Clegg makes the point that the role of a national government is to make sure that power is distributed widely and appropriately. He doesn't want power to concentrate in one place and distort our political, economic and social system. Here there is something for activist liberals to cheer about.
The purist libertarian will be disappointed that Clegg is not offering a night watchman state.
The State Clegg describes is more like a kindly uncle, perhaps a touch forgetful, who doles out money to nephews and nieces and then lets them spend it as they see fit. Their uncle would never tell them how to run their lives but by funding their education and making sure there was money for them to see a doctor they would have choices and opportunities.
Some will argue that there is a contradiction here that cannot be resolved. The more one disperses power and weakens the State, the more people will make decisions that will lead to an unequal society. And Clegg has made it clear that he believes liberalism is about the opposite. Of course, what he means by an equal society may not be want people assume he means. He may mean a society where everyone is equal before the law, where they have a range of choices and so on.
Will this narrative: that liberalism will disperse power and therefore replace Labour, be distinct enough to bring voters from the other two parties to the Liberal Democrat's door?
Here's another quote: "We can take more power from the political elite, and give it back to men and women on the street. We are committed to giving people more opportunity and power over their lives and moving to a new post-bureaucratic age of devolution from Whitehall to local communities."
That isn't Clegg. It isn't a Liberal Democrat. It is Eric Pickles making a pitch for the liberal vote.
There are also Labour politicians who talk about devolving power and empowering people.
The challenge for Clegg is to define a liberal narrative and own it.
In this 'pamphlet' Clegg has set out that narrative. The next step is to develop it further so that it contrasts clearly with its competitors.