On Sunday 30th June, my membership of the Liberal Democrats was due for renewal.

After 25 years in the party, I am renewing in the clear knowledge that this party has grown to be the party I hoped I had joined 25 years ago.  I have only once in my life not voted Liberal or Liberal Democrat, and that was when a Social Democrat candidate was standing in my area, it was before I got involved in the party and back then I saw the Social Democrats as just being Labour in a different guise.  I have since come to realise that they are far from that.

Before I offer my reasons, I should just explain that renewing your membership (or indeed resigning it with valid reason) are legitimate positive actions normally taken in principle.  That is why if someone tells me honestly that they no longer agree with what the party is doing or standing for then I can respect their decision even if I disagree with it.  If someone just lets their membership lapse then that is to me the product of the indecisive mind failing to concoct a coherent case either way and so trundling off in confusion.

It’s the economy

For the first time in my lifetime I am seeing a Government that recognises that our economy can not survive on services alone, we need to build things.  This Government has kept our ship builders in work by diverting the manufacture of wind-turbine stantions to our shipyards, it has secured the re-opening of our only remaining steelworks in Redcar, it has secured the growth of our car industry to the point at which we are for the first time since 1976 a net exporter of cars, and it is funding major research and development projects into scientific innovations that will put this country in the forefront of global technology.

Of course Governments have got to balance the books, and there are a number of ways in which I would balance them differently, but let’s be clear about this – you don’t base your political philosophy on a few million spent here or cut there, you base your political philosophy on the overall aims.  “A stronger economy in a fairer society enabling everyone to get on in life” seems to me like a very laudable and liberal aim.

And of course there is no point in even trying to create a stronger economy, if you don’t make sure that the children of today are properly educated to do the work of tomorrow.  It is that focus on education that makes this Government, in my eyes, not only the most Liberal in my lifetime but possibly one of the most Liberal in history.

Nursery places for 2 years olds, the pupil premium focussing on the needs of the poorest children in our society, the apprenticeships and youth programme not as poor men’s alternatives to a University education, but up there on an equal footing in terms of their importance to this Government, and above all the restoration of the principle that university education should be free at the point of delivery.  The Cable plan may not have delivered for the richest third, but it has certainly made University accessible again for the poorest third, and what’s, more they know it.  Applications from the poorest third were up 8.5% from previous years this year.

I remember the last General Election, I remember that whilst Darling and Osborne were talking of not needing cuts to be too deep, Vince Cable was warning of the calamities ahead, and he was right.  I also remember how people were saying “We need a coalition, we need the Liberal Democrats in there.”, and when we were asked to the Liberal Democrats stepped up to the mark.

A centre-left party?

Liberals have never believed in the big state of the Labour Party, the nanny state looking after your every need.  This has always been a party that believes that the state is there to enable people to take control of their own lives, not to run their lives for them.  Co-operative economics is embedded in the third paragraph of the preamble to the constitution, and it is co-operative politics that Liberals engage in.  Liberals believe in small business, in strong and dynamic communities and most important of all in helping people to help themselves.

The idea that you should have benefits for this, and benefits for that and everything carefully laid out as to what you can spend on what belongs with the Labour, and more recently the Conservative parties.  It is certainly not the way of Liberal Democrats.  That is why despite the outcry from some to the left of the party, actually the concept of the Universal Credit is fundamentally and unequivocally Liberal in nature.  Yes I oppose the underoccupancy levy, but it is not the principle of it being set to meet need (in this case the number of rooms a family needs) that I oppose; it is the principle of it being retroactive.  I oppose the idea that having moved somewhere on the basis of a promise of support from the state, that support should then be taken away.

There have of course been those who argue that we should have formed a coalition with Labour rather than the Conservatives.  I would advise very strongly against taking seriously any economic case that such people make.  The numbers simply did not stack up.

Party

Seats

Seats needed

Potential coalition partners

Coaltion majority

Conservative

307

19

LD

38

Labour

258

68

LD+SNP+PC+SDLP

1

Lib Dems

57

 

 

 

DUP

8

 

 

 

SNP

6

 

 

 

Sinn Fein

5

 

 

 

Plaid Cymru

3

 

 

 

SDLP

3

 

 

 

Green Party

1

 

 

 

Alliance Party

1

 

 

 

Independant

1

 

 

 

The simple truth is that the decimation that the Labour Party suffered at the hands of the electorate was substantial.  There was of course the option of the Liberal Democrats sitting in opposition, but as Sinn Fein never attends and the DUP are predominantly Conservative there would be virtually no vote that the Conservatives would have lost.

Compromise

All of life is a compromise, and politics is no different.  We can not expect to get all our own way in a Government in which we are the minority partner, but if you look at the four key commitments that we set out on the front page of our manifesto, every single one has been delivered on.

It is often thrown at us that we did not keep the pledge on tuition fees.  Well, actually, I never signed up to that pledge.  Some of our parliamentary candidates did, and some who got elected voted in line with that pledge, but actually as a party member I feel no obligation to answer for a policy I never supported and that was not in my party’s manifesto.

Labourites can call whatever names they want, but I recall them signing up to an ethical foreign policy and then sending our troops into an illegal war that resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 Iraqi civilians including women and children, and many dedicated British soldiers.  I will take no lectures from the Labour Party.

 The Future

 So what of the future, and my future in the Liberal Democrats?

 I am an ordinary working class lad earning somewhat less than the national average wage, living in a two up two down in Manchester with a few years left to pay on my mortgage and all my debts consolidated into one (not so) easy to pay loan.

 The Liberal Democrats in Government have cut my income tax by £ 50 a month, they have frozen my council tax for two years running (Labour in Manchester did not accept the same offer this year) and they have protected the NHS from cuts.  The Liberal Democrats in Government have created over a million new jobs and have enabled my local pub to be able to afford put on live entertainment again.

The Liberal Democrats in Government have enabled the police to cut crime in my local area to the lowest levels in over 30 years, and they have given my mum the biggest rise in her pension ever.  The Liberal Democrats have invested millions in the schools my nieces go to through the pupil premium, and they have made it possible for my nephew and nieces to choose between academia and skills.

 The Liberal Democrats in Government have protected international development monies, are allowing same sex marriage, are encouraging green investment and are on the whole looking after the ordinary working person in a way that I have not seen in my lifetime.

 My vote at the next General Election will go to my party, the party I helped to found and which is now for the first time able to do in Government some of the things I have always wanted to see happen in this country.  Yes the party is hampered at the moment by being in coalition with the Tories, but if this is what the Liberal Democrats can do with both hands tied behind our backs then for me, the future is golden.

 My vote in 2015?  Liberal Democrat.

 Oh and as I am happy to say that aloud I see no reason not to continue to be a member of the party too.

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One response to “On Sunday 30th June, my membership of the Liberal Democrats was due for renewal.

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