On Thursday 26 January 2023, the John Smith Centre proudly hosted Ali Goldsworthy, as part of our Power Hour series looking at key women in public life.

Ali has been a political advisor and campaigner for more than 20 years. She is a former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats and is the current President at Accord, the world’s first organisation dedicated to helping businesses understand division, what causes it and how they should respond. Ali is also the co-author of “Poles Apart: Why People Turn Against Each Other, and How to Bring Them Together”.

Ali joined Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale in conversation about her ambitions growing up, her time in politics and polarisation – is it growing? How much to social media and populism play into this?

The full 60-minute session is available to watch or listen to again here, but here are some highlights from our Centre Director, Kezia Dugdale.

1) What is polarisation?

Ali explains what polarisation is and how polarised we are in the UK.

2) Politicians and polarisation

Ali discusses new data which she says shows how the Conservatives may use strong voter opinions in England about the SNP in a future election campaign.

3) Cancel culture 

Ali discusses the growing trend of cancel culture, and answers the question: how do we keep people accountable without cancelling them?

4) Is social media to blame for polarisation?

Ali discusses with Kezia whether social media is to blame for polarisation, or it is being made a scapegoat.

5) Populism

Kezia asks Ali if populism is behind an apparent rise in polarisation – is it further dividing people?

Everyone at the John Smith Centre would like to thank Ali Goldsworthy for giving us an hour of her time, and such an interesting insight into polarisation and what might be causing it in the UK and around the world.