Author Archives: Mark Paine

Why I returned to the Liberal Democrats

At the age of 49 and being of a naturally cynical disposition, you would think that I would be immune to unreservedly believing in exciting shiny new things. Well, reader, I have a confession to make – I signed up as a supporter of Change UK. Yes, I believed that they were the future of British politics and yes, I actually believed that they would transform the political landscape, kill off tribalism and usher in a new age of cooperation and consensus. Truly this was the glorious bright new dawn…

However, as we seen the bright new dawn is more like a rainy November morning in West Bromwich. 

I joined the Party in November after leaving the Labour Party in a mixture of disgust, guilt and embarrassment. The Liberal Democrats seemed ideal for a centre Left socially liberal person like me, I really liked the policies and every one was so nice (if you want to see not nice, attend the average CLP meeting and criticise Jeremy Corbyn). Great, here was my new political home. But then came TIG. 

TIG looked wonderful; a happy gang of pragmatic modernists drawn from all parties and none. They hung out at Nandos and seemed like regular guys.  So I wrote to Lib Dem membership to cancel my membership, signed up to Change UK, became a group admin and started spreading the word on social media. 

Then reality intruded into my centrist idyll. It became apparent that Change UK seemed to mean radically different things to different people. This non-party (no members, no structure and no policies) was simply a blank canvas on which anyone could project their ideal political party. CHUK had all the solidity and depth of one of those old 2D Hollywood film sets. The groups I was in were full of well-meaning, enthusiastic, idealistic people campaigning for ‘change’ but with no clear idea of what that ‘change’ actually might be and no direction from CHUK high command. I could not fault their commitment to the cause but I did not actually know what the cause was and, truth be told, neither did they.  I had made a mistake. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 16 Comments

Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

I first joined Labour back in the mid Eighties whilst I was still at school. As a working class West Midlander with an interest in politics and left wing beliefs growing up in the Thatcher Years, Labour seemed the obvious choice. For years I was incredibly proud to carry the same membership card that my family had carried for generations; I campaigned, I delivered leaflets, I attended meetings. Then something happened. The party that I had joined and supported for decades seemed to transform overnight into a far-left, doctrinaire personality cult where questioning the leadership in any way was a Thought Crime. I watched as the mood became steadily more toxic, policy became evermore reminiscent of a 1970s student union and the antisemitism and misogyny of some of the members, particularly amongst those attracted by Jeremy Corbyn became more apparent.  As the psychodrama of Corbyn’s Labour got worse, I stopped feeling proud to be a party member and I found it increasingly difficult to advocate voting for the Labour Party. Increasingly, I questioned whether I could vote Labour myself, let alone campaign for them. Then came the day that I had to finally follow my conscience and leave Labour. For the first time since my teens and like so many others in recent years, I was politically homeless. 

For some time, I looked for a new way to remain politically engaged, particularly to fight to keep the UK in the EU. I kept coming back to the Liberal Democrats. Surely I could not possibly join THEM – they had been in coalition with the hated Tories and they had no policies apart from electoral reform. Expecting to find it Tory-lite, I read the 2017 Manifesto and to my surprise found myself agreeing with large parts of it. Then I read about Liberalism in general and the history of the Liberal Party and found even more that I liked. As a teacher, I had already seen the positive influence of the Liberal Democrats in areas such as the introduction of Pupil Premium and free school meals for infants. A worrying thought hit me; I liked these policies and I really liked the values and guiding philosophy – was I really a Liberal Democrat and had I been in the wrong party for years? The answer was obvious. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments
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