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Monday, 21 March 2011

In praise of naive thinking

One of the favourite taunts our political opponents (on every side of the spectrum) like to poke us with is ‘naivety’. This is usually in response to a piece of creative thinking from the Lib Dems which has led to an unusual slant on policy, that gets dismissed out of hand by the other parties – and quite often adopted by them some little way down the line as they see the thinking is more effective, differentiating and popular.

Naivety is an interesting ‘insult’ – as I think naive thinking is often the best sort of thinking. Having grown up in the 1970’s and ‘80’s under the threat of nuclear war, most classroom debate I encountered resulted in all the kids agreeing that it would be much better if everyone just got rid of the missiles altogether. Cue much shaking of heads and rye smiles generally from all adults present. But actually – that childish view was the right one. It’s just adults couldn’t make it work. Ironic really then that Presidents of Superpowers now aspire to a nuclear weapon free world, and are inching slowly towards it.

The same ‘naive’ epiphet was thrown at Stephen Williams plan for giving the nationalised banks back to the taxpayer, in equally divided shares. Yet once commentators had chance to take a proper look at he thinking, suddenly tones changed and people began to take the idea seriously. The knee jerk reaction was the wrong one. The naïve thinking is stimulating debate – and I’d like to bet when the banks are returned to private ownership, a large dollop of that thinking plays a part in the process.

Now that the other favourite taunt we kept experiencing is no longer available (which was ‘what are the Lib Dems actually for?’ – the answer is, ‘forming a government’) we’ll see the ‘naivity’ label hurled at us more and more. This is because over the coming months we should see policy papers start to emerge from federal groups, for the party to debate and agree what we want to do next. And I hope when that happens we do hear people start shouting ‘naïve’ at us.

Because if they all think we’re being naïve, we’re probably being radical, creative, exciting and progressive. And that’s what I want the Lib Dems to stand for.

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