A new member writes… Why I’ve decided to join the Liberal Democrats now

We had news yesterday that a former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate has announced his defection to the Labour Party. So I think it only fair to provide a bit of balance: I joined the Lib Dems last week because I believe they offer the best opportunity for providing fair government.

I believe in democracy and I feel that the Lib Dems are the most democratic of the three major parties. The Lib Dem base is, by and large, ordinary people who want their voices heard, not big business and not the unions both of whom want their own agendas on the top of the list without democratic legitimacy. I also believe that the Lib Dem provide a greater democratic forum for its members, unlike the other two parties who are very much top down organisations where the leadership dictates what happens at the lower levels (party lists, etc).

I will be honest and say that I am not an ideologist or ideologically motivated and there are some areas on which I do not wholly agree with Lib Dem policy. But I am, I think, a liberal and I feel that the Lib Dems are the only party that offer the opportunity for debate and discussion within the framework of the party ideals.

It is this last point that has made me somewhat disappointed in the attitudes of some Lib Dems who seem to prefer to criticise the coalition and the successes of the Lib Dems within the Coalition rather than embrace the opportunities that the power-sharing agreement with the Conservatives brings. I also feel that some seem to be at a loss with the idea of power, preferring to remain in their comfort zone of eternal opposition at a national level.

The Coalition is an ideal opportunity for the Lib Dems to show they are able to embrace power and to demonstrate that they can use that power to the benefit of the electorate. Already there has been much success in mitigating the wilder excesses of Tory ideology. Whilst many are understandably disappointed not to be able to keep the commitment on tuition fees there is still good reason to celebrate the concessions achieved.

We have to face reality and accept that not all Lib Dem policies can be implemented, especially in the current economic climate, but those policies can still remain aspirational. However, those policies will only ever be put in place in the event of a Lib Dem majority in Parliament — and that will remain dependent on showing the British public that the Lib Dems can be responsible in power and responsive to the practical needs of the nation.

I am happy to say I have joined the Lib Dems because I have been impressed on how they have acted in the Coalition. I would hope that those more established members will start singing the praises of their Leader and the Lib Dem ministers for achieving as much as they have so far, and provide support and backing for the coming years in power.

I have joined the Liberal Democrats because I believe they offer the best opportunities for me, my family and the country as a whole – I hope more will follow.

* Tony Butcher joined the Shepway Liberal Democrats last week.

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66 Comments

  • I’ll be interested to hear what some various regular commenters on LDV have to say about this post

  • Well, I am a new member, too (joined in July), and I am in agreement with much of what the article says.

    It’s been interesting to see discussions within the party, and I am very much aware that new members have to tread carefully when arguing with older members who may well have fought the party’s corner for years and decades when their campaigns could have been described as all but hopeless. That is a kind of courage and convicton which is extremely admirable, and I mean that extremely seriously.

    But the party clearly has many new post-coalition members, and I assume that at least some of these are like me and admire not just the liberal and democratic traditions of the party (very important to me!) but also the pragmatism it has recently been displaying in government. At the same time, there are some traditional pet causes of the party which don’t have the same emotional force to me than they do to many long-stading members.

    I am curious whether we post-coalition members will make an impact in the long run, and how this will play out as a dynamic within the party in future years.

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 10:57am

    Welcome, Tony. I’d be very glad to hear what achievements you think the party has got from the coalition. A referendum – which will fail – on a voting system nobody wants? A Pupil Premium (Tory policy too)? Raising of income tax thresholds (when coupled with 20% VAT it’s not quite so progressive)? No more nuclear power (oops, didn’t mean that)? The slow death of affordable housing? The abolition of NICE, so that GPs are at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies for drug prescritption? In fact, since we’re on health, how about the de-nationalisation of the NHS (without democratisation, as we want)? The abolition of the Audit Comission? Or maybe you were attracted by the blanket acceptance of GM crops?

    But hey, i’m being too cynical. After all, we might have two-way energy metering. So it was all worth it!

  • I used to respect the LibDems until I saw Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander in the Commons congratulating George Osborne on his CSR speech where he had just made half a million people unemployed. Needless to say the Tory backbenchers were cheering (usual lack of compassion or decency we have come to expect from Tories) but I thought the LibDems had more decency. I am afraid Nick and Danny showed their true colours at that moment. Needless to say I will never now vote for them. They lack decency and compassion.

    Hardly something to celebrate hundreds of thousands and more being made unemployed and all the suffering this will bring to their families.
    We certainly need a new clean politics – we are not getting it form the Coalition though – how many more of their ‘friends’ will they give jobs to to at our expense? Same old nepotism and cronyism.

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 11:03am

    ps. In fairness, we do have a decent, localist agenda. Unfortunately, I suspect that Eric Pickles’ view of localism doesn’t involve devolving real power about MONEY, which, in the context of huge cuts, basically means giving councils the power to choose either the gun or the noose.

  • I used to respect the LibDems until I saw Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander in the Commons congratulating George Osborne on his CSR speech

    code = I really thought of them as country cousins to Labour but I’m angry that they are no longer subservient to them

  • Mike(The Labour one) 9th Nov '10 - 11:29am

    Always good to have more people involved in the political debate. Were you a member of another party beforehand?

  • Thanks for joining, Tony, and thanks for posting too. A welcome and refreshing insight.

    @Dominic: The Tories bring 305 MPs to the Coalition, we bring 57, and they get some of their policies implemented as a result. How exactly did you expect it to work with the Lib Dems the minority partner in a coalition (the inevitable next step if we are ever to gain political power and start to change things)? When I joined the Lib Dems in 1994 I joined a political party, I did not join a pressure group.

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 12:03pm

    @ Stuart – my point was that we are getting nothing of any real value that wasn’t a tory policy anyway, not that we are getting less than them as the junior partners. Name something we can really point to that shows our success in government that woudln’t have happened without us and which the Tories would never have done themselves. And no, i don’t count negatives (so the absence of a bill or rights or a married couples tax break is not, in my view a victory for us). They would have done a pupil premium, and they really liked our 10,000 threshold for income tax anyway, so it was no sacrifice. A rise in capital gains tax really isn’t worth losing half our support for, especially when we are enabling not a moderate Tory Government, but one that seeks to do what Thatcher never dared – abolish both the NHS and Council Housing.

  • You can vote for who you like that is your choice ,but what do you think about your leader who changed his mind about the speed of the cuts but forgot to tell the people who were about to vote for him.That he signed a NUS pledge and dropped it after joining the coalition ,letting down a good chunk of voters who won you seats you would not have. Standing in front of a poster saying how much a VAT rise will hurt people ,then changed his mind once he joined the coalition and puts it up to 20%,Goes on about AV as a dirty little compromise and promised those purple people who turned up during coalition talks that he would get PR and make a new politics,but changed his mind once he joined the coalition ,If Nick signs anything or makes any pledges at the next election do you think he will be taken seriously as even the most die hard Lib Dem must now he has made a total fool of himself ,as what really got people up here in Scotland angry was Nick and Danny,s ecstatic faces when Osborne made his cuts ,i look forward to your answer
    Andy Edinburgh

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 12:09pm

    ps its worth noting that the health and housing plans weren’t in the coalition agreement, so our MPs can and should oppose the proposals.

  • Adam Gillett 9th Nov '10 - 12:11pm

    Welcome to the family! Like any, we have our weird uncles, our moody tennagers, our sibling rows and our occasionally cranky grandparents. But we’re stuck together by certain unshakable ideas and so we do our best listen to each other as best we can. While you may not get to go on all the rides you wanted and there may be arguments on the drive there, you can rest assured that we’re still all quite looking forward to getting to Alton Towers together.

  • John Fraser 9th Nov '10 - 12:48pm

    @Tony

    Very quick to critisise your fellow members after a week without at first taking time to settle and see why they are complaining .

    To be fair this article does not give balance as the guy who left the party yesterday did not get a chance to post directly to LDV or reply to the comments about him.

    My advise to you Tony would be to listen and learn a little about the context of things before being quite so judgmental .

    P.S. how can you say you are a Liberal and then say you have no ideology??

  • Welcome to the party pal (in the voice of Bruce Willis)

    I am probably the mirror image of you, you’ll find that occasionally my sig will say exLD as I feel the party has shifted (well the leadership at least) far too much to the right for my tastes and away from a more tradition position, in fact even the position which was held by the party on 4th may, but hey, that’s how things go sometimes, people come people go or in this case the right are coming the left are going, these migrations will no doubt change the party forever from what one post says ‘country cousins to Labour’ which I strongly disagree with btw to the ‘fags of the Conservatives’.

    nige (exLD)

  • @Dominic: You ask for one example. I’ll give you one from last month: the separation of Royal Mail and the Post Office, selling off of Royal Mail (with the biggest employee scheme ownership scheme of any privatisation), with the money generated used to sort out their pension nightmare, plus continuing public ownership of the Post Office, and no more closure programmes.

    That was in our manifesto. There was a passing reference to this issue in the Tory manifesto (I just checked) and it says that communities should be able to “buy” threatened assets like post offices, whatever that means.

    So, there you go. An example of a Coalition policy straight out of the Lib Dem manifesto, with no indication whatsoever that we would have anything of the sort if just the Tories had been in charge on their own. It’s also a policy that will really make a difference to communities up and down the country that might otherwise have lost their local post office.

  • Personally I have never been a member of a political party. As a long term member of the armed forces I was never allowed to be an active member and since leaving I suppose the habit stuck.

    The point that most struck me was your feeling that the Lib Dems were the most democratic party. It’s one of the main reasons I voted for them at the last election. The members really seemed to have direct input into policy.

    Unfortunately this does not appear to have made the transition into Government. Tuition fees is the most obvious example of this where most LD members and supporters I know, and probably the majority on this site, appear to be at odds with the decision of MP’s to break their pledge.

    There is also the fact that apparently Nick Clegg changed his mind about the required speed for deficit reduction before the election but continued to campaign for the slower rate as per the manifesto. This all leaves me wondering whether the leadership can be trusted on other matters. Whilst I accept that increasing the speed of cuts may have been a price of coalition, the fact that the entire LD front bench are now converts rather than being in pragmatic agreement leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

    So I wish you well, but could not see myself following suit until the party is again led by someone who acts like a Liberal Democrat rather than a Liberal(ish) Tory.

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 2:12pm

    @ Stuart – “You ask for one example. I’ll give you one from last month: the separation of Royal Mail and the Post Office, selling off of Royal Mail (with the biggest employee scheme ownership scheme of any privatisation), with the money generated used to sort out their pension nightmare, plus continuing public ownership of the Post Office, and no more closure programmes.”

    Wow, we managed to get a privatisation past the Tories? How impressive! God, how they must have hated that.

    I get that it meets the technical definition of one of ‘our’ policies, Stuart, but really, I mean, is that the best there is? It may be a big issue for some rural villages not to losea post office, but it’s rather cluthching at straws. I didn’t get involved in the party because my view of Britain was a country whose postal service pension liabilities were on a sound footing. I suspect that the Tories are pretty happy with the policy.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Nov '10 - 2:40pm

    “I get that it meets the technical definition of one of ‘our’ policies …”

    But it doesn’t, does it? Lib Dem policy was that only 49% would be privatised, the remainder being split between the government and an employee trust. There’s a big difference between privatising 49% of a company and selling off the whole lot.

  • Tony Butcher 9th Nov '10 - 2:43pm

    apologies @John Fraser if I came across as judgemental or critical of those who have been in the party a lot longer than I have – not my intent at all. I was merely trying to express my own view that there are successes to be celebrated in coalition. For example the £9000 cap on tuition fees – yes we would all like there to be no fee at all but the Browne reported actually recommended that there should be no cap on what Universities could charge – something I think the Tories may have gone for if they had an outright majority.

    One of the main problems is that we really do not know exactly how the Lib Dem ministers are influencing policy – Mark Pack’s post seems to suggest that Tory MP’s are unhappier with the decisions being made than Lib Dem MP’s but the exact workings of the inner corridors and exactly what concessions Lib Dems are winning remain a mystery.

    I am certainly not advocating that anyone gives up their core beliefs in favour of the coalition – I want smaller classes, better education, a better health service, free university for the future of my grand kids not to mention better health and social care – but, in my personal opinion, those can be achieved over time from a position of being in government.

  • @Adam Gillett:
    But we’re stuck together by certain unshakable ideas

    Funny how the LibDems have actually shaken off all their good ideas when they got some power. Most of us did not vote for he image of Clegg and Alexander patting the very right-wing Osborne on the back as he announced the screwing of the poor and the destruction of the welfare state. But, hey, you’re in government now, so breaking countless promises to the electorate is a-ok!

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 3:13pm

    @ Anthony “But it doesn’t, does it? Lib Dem policy was that only 49% would be privatised, the remainder being split between the government and an employee trust. There’s a big difference between privatising 49% of a company and selling off the whole lot.”

    I bow to your better-informed view on this. It appeasrs that Stuart can’t come up with one good thing that is 100% ours and is significant that we have got out of this blasted coalition.

  • @Dominic:
    It appeasrs that Stuart can’t come up with one good thing that is 100% ours and is significant that we have got out of this blasted coalition.


    Clegg and Alexander and some others now get chauffeur-driven cars paid for by the taxpayer. They also get some use out of Dave’s brand and image consultants, paid for by us as well. So they’ve got that going for them. It’s the new politics!

  • @Tony Butcher

    “…..there are successes to be celebrated in coalition. For example the £9000 cap on tuition fees….”

    Did you and John Hemming go to the same school of thought?

  • Dominic Curran 9th Nov '10 - 3:40pm

    @ matt – sadly the big two parties support an election system that means that, just because 63% of voters supported two parties at an election, that doesn’t mean that those two parties actually get a majority of seats. You in all honesty can’t blame the libdems for being victims of a democratic system that doesn’t deliver what voters ask for at the ballot box.

    as for your other assertions, those are tory policies, not ours, and i suspect that pressure from us will make them abandon some of the more repulsive policies, such as the HB cut after 12 months.

    As it happens, i think getting people into the work habit after 12 months of being on the dole is quite a good idea.

  • @ John
    “I used to respect the LibDems until I saw Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander in the Commons congratulating George Osborne on his CSR speech

    code = I really thought of them as country cousins to Labour but I’m angry that they are no longer subservient to them”

    Nonsense. Perhaps it’s about time alternative views are actually considered rather than just automatically dismissed. The party’s relationship to Labour is irrelevant on this particular point. The sight of Lib Dem leaders cheering and patting Osbourne on the back was frankly abhorrent to anyone who does indeed support the party but also finds the spending cuts to be dispiriting. It is possible to hold the view that cuts are necessary but also feel sad about the results for ordinary people and certainly not appear too triumphant. This is a fair point to make (and believe me it will be made over and over and over again).

    It seems to me there are now two choices on this situation; either acknowledge that there are many people who found this sight difficult to stomach in order to reach out to win them back or just dismiss every piece of criticism as some kind of poorly disguised Labour tribalism. Choose the form option and some trust may be restored but choose the latter only to wake up to the reality of just how many erstwhile supporters share this feeling when things go pear shaped at the next election. Let’s stop being so prickly maybe their may be some things to learn from critics… afterall I also believed Liberalism to be built on tolerance and rationality not intolerance and dogma.

  • @Dominic – fixed-term parliaments… in our manifesto, not theirs… but, like the Royal Mail/Post Office proposals, I am sure this also fails your test for some reason, just as you dismiss us stopping a separate, UK bill of rights, a pupil premium, progress towards a £10,000 threshold for income tax, a rise in capital gains tax. No doubt restraining Conservative Euroscepticism also doesn’t count, nor does preventing the renewal of Trident.

    I am pleased and proud of the day-to-day impact on government that our Liberal Democrat ministers are having. I suspect that many Lib Dems share my viewpoint, not yours, lies at the heart of your annoyance.

  • John
    @Val
    I used to respect the LibDems until I saw Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander in the Commons congratulating George Osborne on his CSR speech

    code = I really thought of them as country cousins to Labour but I’m angry that they are no longer subservient to them
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Nick Hollinghurst
    Posted 9th November 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Hey! A good translation, John.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    How unpleasant. Perhaps both of you losing your job might frocus you mind a little on what it is going to be like for those half a million people that need to feed and clothe their families.

    FYI I became disillusioned with Labour many years ago – have been looking for an honest Party with some decency but if you represent the LibDems attitude then it’s not LibDems. Funnily enough it never occured to me that the LibDems were subservient to Labour (perhaps that’s your own take on it) – I just thought they were their own Party – though I did think they had compassion.

  • Roger Roberts 9th Nov '10 - 5:18pm

    Some of us have been in the party for a long time and many have fought seats in the hope of changing things.
    The coalition is an opportunity to do that. Two things that members need to realise 1 that coalition policies are nearly always a compromise and that nobody gets everything that they want 2 we are the smallest party and therefore we are unlikely to be able to push things further than our numerical position will allow.
    I am dissapointed that somethings are not as we would like but as in the case of student fees, what we would do as a party in complete control is totally different to what we are able to do as a partner in a coalition government and I think that the students need to grow up and understand that.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 9th Nov '10 - 5:42pm

    I tried to post a comment, but the system rejected it on the grounds that it was a repetition of something i’d already said; which it wasn’t.

    I can’t be bothered to type it all again; so, to summarise, all the things which contributors above have cited as “sucesses” or “things to celebrate” are, for me, reasons to oppose this apalling government. And before someone alleges that being opposed to the coalition is somehow equivalent to being being a socialist or a Marxist (i’ve been called worse things, by the way), let me point out that I first joined the Liberal Party before the LibDems current leader was born. I hope to be around after he has gone and, until then, i am putting away my campaignig shoes.

  • Roger Roberts,

    “I am dissapointed that somethings are not as we would like but as in the case of student fees, what we would do as a party in complete control is totally different to what we are able to do as a partner in a coalition government and I think that the students need to grow up and understand that.”

    But that isn’t what Clegg and his followers are saying. They are not telling us that they would really like to make fewer cuts so soon, they are telling us that the Tory policy of early cuts is the right one, and the Liberal Democrat policy is the wrong one. They are not telling us that they would really like to have free university education, they are telling us that the Tory policy of raising tuition fees is the right one, and the Liberal Democrat policy is the wrong one. That may well be what one has to do in a coalition, but you can’t complain if folk out there think it looks like two-faced dishonesty and betrayal.

    Now, telling students to “grow up”. Isn’t that just a tiny bit patronising?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Nov '10 - 6:13pm

    “I am dissapointed that somethings are not as we would like but as in the case of student fees, what we would do as a party in complete control is totally different to what we are able to do as a partner in a coalition government and I think that the students need to grow up and understand that.”

    Frankly I think that Lib Dem parliamentarians need to grow up and understand that if they get elected on the basis of a written pledge to vote against fees being raised, then they have a pretty bloody serious obligation to keep their word. The kind of patronising comment above just adds insult to injury.

  • Welcome Tony.

  • @Nich Starling

    In case you didn’t notice it, it was our failed, useless electoral system which gave the Lib Dems 8% of the MPs for 23% of the vote that put “whoopee cushions” under our parliamentary party.

    With just 8% of MPs you expect them to rule the roost, do you? Which planet are you on?

    As a fellow member (with a hearty dislike of the Tories and all they stand for) I am equally aggrieved at many of the compromises, in particular tuition fees. But I choose to temper my feelings by asking one simple question: in Nick Clegg’s position, what would YOU have done given so few MPs?

  • These debates feel like a re-run of the Fundis versus Realos disputes in the German Green Party when they were confronted with a chance of real political power in the 1990s. Whatever, you might feel about the lose of political purity there are real opportunities for achieving things, amidst the unpalatable compromises. The Realos delivered Joschka Fischer as German foreign minister, who kept Germany out of the Iraq war. Who can forget Fischer facing down Rumsfeld as he tried to drag Germany into the conflict.

    Charles Kennedy led a highly principled opposition to the Iraq war. Did this stop one British bomb falling on an Iraqi family?

  • Dominic curran 9th Nov '10 - 10:19pm

    Stuart- fair enough, we got fixed term parliaments. And we may get a lords elected by pr. Significant gains, and far more meaningful than a short term change in tax rates. Cap gains is a small issue compared to quasi privatised healthcare or a momentous welfare reform or the slow death of council housing. And I fear we’ll be remembered for the latter – Tory – policies rather than our own achievements.

  • @ROBERT
    But I choose to temper my feelings by asking one simple question: in Nick Clegg’s position, what would YOU have done given so few MPs?

    He could have said “give me PR or your on your own ”
    “Put VAT up to 20%and your on your own”
    “A rise in student fees and your on your own”
    I could go on and on but i have to remember Nick was doing the country a favour , as we needed a strong stable fair GOVERNMENT ,so Nick just gave into Cameron when he promised a new type of politics and FAIRNESS ,WHAT A JOKE ONLY A DIE HARD LIB DEM WOULD STICK UP FOR THIS SHOWER
    ANDY EDINBURGH

  • They might not be party colleagues, but they’re work colleagues, they’d been meeting in the same room to discuss the details of the CSR for days – it’s only natural that they should show a bit of warmth towards each other. Anyway, it’s our CSR too. It had Lib Dem input, it was delivered by Osborne on behalf of the government, i.e. Tories and Lib Dems, and it’s normal that they should have congratulated him when he sat down. I don’t agree with the housing benefit changes and several other things in the CSR – there are plenty of things I want changed – but I’m glad to see the coalition members getting on well.

    Welcome, Tony.

  • David Rogers 10th Nov '10 - 9:05am

    Tony, I’ve been a member of this party (and the Liberal Party previously) for about 40 years, and I strongly agree with you. I think the concept of the (almost) silent majority comes into play here: we are by and large only hearing from those who spend much of their time tweeting, blogging, etc. This, I accept, is an age-related phenomenon too, but I don’t feel wholly excluded! It is also more – but not entirely – associated with those who are London-based, rather than those of us who live in any one of the other eight regions of England, including those parts relatively near to the capital such as yours and mine. Welcome! I’m glad you’ve joined us.

  • Dominic Curran 10th Nov '10 - 10:05am

    @ matt

    “Jeering and waving their papers in congratulations, for the biggest, deepest cuts in living memory, with no thought for the poor and the vulnerable in anyway. Nick Clegg and Alexander joined this diabolical show as well, with their grins, their laughs, and their pats on the back.”

    You shoudl note the LibDem MPs weren’t doing that jeering – check it out on YouTube if you don’t believe me. Clegg and Alexander did pat osborne ont he back, but i think that their actions were reasonable given that, as people above say, they ahd been workgin with him and meeting with him for weeks to discuss this project. Frankly, it would have been rather petulant and puerile if they ahd refused to talk to or to touch him.

    I know what you mean about the tone of LibDems, though. We have to stop seeming like we really love what the tories are doing. A greater sense of weary resignation would be much more appropriate.

    on tuition fees, well, i think the party was foolish to sign up tto that pledge anyway. Having said that, i think if you look at the details of what browne is proposing – essentially a graduate tax – they aren’t too bad. Personally, i’d rather far fewer people went to uni and/or that it was shorter and more intense so that fees could be zero or very low, but what’s proposed is acceptable.

  • Dominic Curran 10th Nov '10 - 10:49am

    @ matt

    well, if those are your feelings i can’t deny them to you. all i can say is that i didn’t perceive it that way myself. I also think that, when we are looking at a huge reform of the welfare state, the slow death of council housing, the localist agenda, the shake up of the NHS, changing the finance system for universities and everything else, to form a final judgement about a pat on the back seems a little, er, overly judgemental. but each to their own.

  • I have to say I find the original article here astoundingly glib, although not untypical of the prozac cheeriness of many of the articles on LDV since the coalition was formed and the Lib Dem poll ratings have halved. However the comments that follow are as interesting as ever.

    I left the party about a month ago – the lack of cogent opposition to Cleggery at the conference was the final straw.
    The free-market fanatics have taken over, just as they took over Labour. To put the tin hat on it, they appear to have ballsed up the biggest prize – electoral reform. Also I work in the public sector and I am embarassed to be associated with a party that said one thing before the election on this fundamental issue, and is now doing another. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas – at least not knowingly – and I want my friends to continue to speak to me.

    I understand why other people – especially those who’ve been members for longer than I (4.5 years, local election candidate and membership officer) – don’t feel like being driven out. Fundamentally though, they way to get back at politicians whose ideas you oppose is not to vote for them, and that is exactly what I plan to do (probably Green rather than Labour). Shan’t be joining anyone else though. I have an allotment to dig and a piano to play, among other things.

    While I agree with a lot of @matt’s sentiments, I think it is pointless and a bit spiteful to vote against AV. I have wasted a lot of time on this forum and elsewhere pointing out that Clegg had been sold an absolute dog in this regard (crap system, no certainty of getting it), but at the same time, it is an opportunity to get the reform coach moving again after nearly a century of inaction. You can vote for that and still vote against the Clegg-led, continental liberal, centre-right, Tory loving, new model Lib Dems.

  • Second paragraph of previous post: the ‘fundamental issue’ I mean is the timing, speed and depth of cuts, not electoral reform

  • matt: at the last election, under FPTP, the Lib Dems polled 24% of the vote (rising 1 percent on 2005) yet finished with 9% of the seats and a net fall from 63 to 57.

    Leaving aside all that has happened since (I know that’s difficult) the result is a democratic outrage. If it had happened in Burma the commentariat would be going bananas and urging the people to the barricades.

    AV won’t solve the problem, but it is a small step in the direction of making sure that seats in the Commons actually correspond to the way people have voted. This is a fundamental question of democracy – much bigger than your understandable antipathy to Clegg and his doings.

    It may lead to more coalitions, but if the people don’t give a single party a mandate, then that’s democracy and it ought to be reflected in the composition of the government. I implore you not to the let this particular coalition colour your judgement on this.

    Don’t forget that this coalition has happened under FPTP – that is an absolutely crucial point. For me, the fundamental problem with it is that it was framed on the basis of the seats won under FPTP – ie a 5-1 ratio in favour of the Tories in terms of cabinet positions, and about the same on policy. On share of the vote (or a fair voting system), it should have been a 3:2 split, and we might have ended up with something that you and i could stomach.

    The blame here lies with the leadership, who meekly accepted such lousy terms, and with the Stepford wife-like behaviour of much of the membership. Agree with @nich starling’s excellent post above about how the Tories must not be able to believe their luck in finding such a biddable collection of shapeshifters.

    So please don’t campaign in favour of FPTP, which has landed us in this situation. Don’t forget that under most projections of the 2010 election under AV, the Lib Dems would really have had a genuine choice of coalition partner. This would have strengthened the party’s bargaining position – although this was a lot stronger anyway than many of the Clegg apologists would have you believe.

  • Contrary to some posts I feel it is essential to oppose any move towards AV or PR.

    It has been demonstrated just how duplicitous and conniving LDP leadership , and possibly the Parliamentarry LDP, are. I see this as the LDP handing me a warning. Why would I , or anyone in possession of their facultiies , wish to increase the ease by which such liars and oppportunists can enter into a major role in governance. It would seem to be a case of better the devils you know’. and retain a basically 2 party system where have a rough idea where we actually stand.

    I , and I suspect many thousands more , not only have a newly deiscovered desire to obstruct LDP ambitions , I actively want to punish them for the lies , deceit and blatant misrepresentation they used to fraudulently secure votes.

    I feel certain that a major facet of future-politics in the UK will incorporate a blatant tactical application of punitive voting aimed solely at delivering retribution on future LDP candidates.

    Part of the coalition agreement proposed they would bring forward legislation to “introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents”. I bet Nick and his tory masters aren’t keen to get that one sorted out.

    Basically , deal with it, The LDP had a chance to secure a massive shift in traditional allegiances, including my own.
    Clegg threw that away for a second rate job , a few crumbs , and a level of deserved contempt that will maim his party for decades , if not destroy it as anything but a fringe concern..

  • @Will. If you want to promote ‘punitive voting’ then AV would actually much better at delivering that than FPTP. You can effectively vote for everybody except the Lib Dems, in your preferred order.

    Pretty much agree with your last paragraph. But electoral reform is an issue that ought to go beyond party politics. It’s too important to be opposed just because you think you’ll be giving Clegg a kicking by doing so. That’s assuming you agree that democracy is something worth having.

  • Just coming to this thread now. Well, Tony Butcher, a warm welcome to you. What a breath of fresh air your expanation of your decision to join our party is.

    You say “We have to face reality and accept that not all Lib Dem policies can be implemented, especially in the current economic climate, but those policies can still remain aspirational. However, those policies will only ever be put in place in the event of a Lib Dem majority in Parliament — and that will remain dependent on showing the British public that the Lib Dems can be responsible in power and responsive to the practical needs of the nation.”

    I hope this thread has shown you that there are very many “old hands” who are with you on this. In case you don’t know, let me tell you that at the special conference in Birmingham called within days of the coalition agreement (what a party to risk doing that!) no more than 20 hands in a gathering of nearly 2000 went up in opposition to what our leadership had done. In Liverpool with 7000 present the same pragmatic atmosphere prevailed.

    Of course there continues to be healthy debate within our party and we will lose some of those who think they know a better road to travel – judging by some of the posts above there is still a depressing lack of understanding of what coalition government means among some of our brethren. All I can say is that if the ones we lose along the way are replaced – and hopefuly more – by the Tony Butchers of this world I for one will be quite happy.

  • Tony

    I’m a reasonably new member too.

    I feel exactly the same as you, it’s refreshing to hear the voices of people who are true Liberals and who support the maturing of our politics whereby we can accept pluralism in government.

    I am well and truly behind the coalition and the Lib Dems who are not, I have noticed, are mostly defectors from other parties anyway…

  • Mat Smith,

    Yes, I’m a defector. I left the Labour Party and joined the SDP in 1982. Does that make me a second-class Liberal Democrat whose opinions don’t count?

  • Hove Howard 12th Nov '10 - 5:23pm

    Denis wrote: “I hope this thread has shown you that there are very many “old hands” who are with you on this. In case you don’t know, let me tell you that at the special conference in Birmingham called within days of the coalition agreement (what a party to risk doing that!) no more than 20 hands in a gathering of nearly 2000 went up in opposition to what our leadership had done. In Liverpool with 7000 present the same pragmatic atmosphere prevailed.”

    The party has all-member ballots on everything else, so why not the coalition agreement? That would have shown real courage from the leadership – not a 1970s trade union-style foot-stomping rally!

    @Senesco – I’ve suffered from the ‘defector’ response too, because I was a member of the Labour party once. It’s all part of the delusional mindset of the loyalists – those who disagree are expendable, the polls are all wrong, and it’ll all come right in the end. Very reminiscent of 1980s Bennites in full flight.

  • Well said!

    I have also just joined the Lib Dems – East Hampshire branch – to show my approval of the way the Lib Dems have fronted up and shown that they are willing to make the hard, pragmatic decisions that come with government. For so long we have been seen as the ‘beards and sandals’ party – willing to adopt faultlessly liberal, life-affirming policies because we knew that we would never be held to account for them – we would never have to actually govern.

    Well, now we are in government, and I think our MPs in the Coalition have been punching way above their weight so far.

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