Why I’m Still a Lib Dem

26 Sep

These are undoubtedly tough times to nail your political colours to the wall, especially when you’re someone like me. In my 30 year life, I have been a member of the Conservative party, a Labour student, and a member of my alma mater’s Lib Dem society. I’m bloody fickle when it comes to picking which one of three potential overlords to support, but over the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve remained surprisingly comfortable where I am – a fully paid up member of the Liberal Democrats.

Now, if this blog had such a thing as a regular readership, regular readers may well remember my post from 2010, where I was asking for advice on who to back at the forthcoming election, as well as shoe-horning in a Stevie Wonder anti-joke. I ended up choosing the Lib Dems – primarily as an alternative to the old guard, also because I favoured a Lib Dem/Conservative coalition, albeit a coalition with a much higher LD influence – sadly, not as many Lib Dem MPs were elected as had been predicted, this wasn’t to be.

As we know, the Lib Dems have not had an easy time in government. Perhaps most notably, the reneging on the student fees pledge damaged the party, and saw much of the party’s young support drift off to other parties, mainly Labour. The perceived privatisation of the NHS in England is also another area where the Lib Dems have been accused of “betrayal”, “selling out”, and “sucking up to the Tories”, in return for ministerial cars and trinkets. Any time a policy is announced that will be unpopular with those who oppose the government, the Lib Dems seem to act as a blame magnet; all ire and anger deflected from the Tories and onto us.
Likewise, ordinary Lib Dem members across the country end up as blame sponges – soaking up all that negative criticism, storing it, and reflecting upon it. If you get called a “Tory-lite” long enough, regardless of how stupid, asinine and untrue it is, it’s human nature to think “well, if EVERYONE’S saying it, am I a Tory-lite?”. Likewise, there’s only so much (deserved) flack one can take over tuition fees and (IMO, undeserved) flack over the health service before you want out. Some sources have suggested that as much as half the parties ordinary members have left since the coalition. I would not be surprised. We are human, and we can only take the heat for so long, especially having been in perpetual opposition for generations.

But not me.

I want to accept where the party’s got it wrong in coalition, move on, and start getting more things right.

The things we HAVE been getting right, I want to shout from the rooftops.

The Pupil Premium. The £10k tax allowance. The ending of child immigrant detention. The Green Investment Bank – ensuring that the economy is kickstarted with capital projects that are sustainable. The record increase in apprenticeships. Making sure that, after the Thatcher/Major/Blair and Brown years, social housing in the UK is going UP rather than down. Ending the National ID Card and database scheme. All things that, as Liberal Democrats, we should be proud of.

Yes, we should be sorry for promising to scrap tuition fees. It’s only natural that, being in coalition with the Conservatives, we won’t always feel comfortable about certain policies. Personally, I do not want to see legislation to extend trials without juries, let alone enable secret courts. I don’t think the state should be able to snoop on my e-mails, “in the national interest”. I’m not convinced that the timetable for cuts is right. However, co-operation and compromise is the price of power, and if we’re wrong, then we deserve to take it on the chin.

On the balance of things, I am proud of what the Lib Dems have achieved, and what the coalition are putting in place.

My name’s Will, and I’m proud to call myself a Liberal Democrat.



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