My main area of interest in defining liberalism is in the role education – in a wide sense, not just the curriculum – plays now and in the future. How will we in the books we write, the lessons we teach and the examples we set encourage and inspire a new generation of compassionate, independent-minded liberal thinkers – men like Gladstone, not monsters like Anders Breivik? I first came across William Gladstone as part of my A level history course, but I was a teenager, he a Victorian and the teaching uninspiring so then he passed me by. Like him, however, I have a Christian faith (followed with fluctuating intensity since adolescence) and my political and ethical views have always been liberal.
I write for and work with children of all ages – from toddlers to teenagers – often in a multi-racial context. Schools are a microcosm of society and, at a time when radicalism of the young is rife, it is essential that the liberal voice should be heard – particularly in the light of recent events around the country and at a time when political Liberalism in this country appears to have lost its way. In a world in which religious conflicts have become more acute and intransigent and fundamentalist terrorism ubiquitous, traditional liberal values such as tolerance, empathy and the willingness to listen to the views of others without prejudice, are of greater importance than ever, but also increasingly at threat. Young people need to see that liberalism is alive and (vigorously) kicking.