Cllr Andrew Lomas writes…Why I’ve left Labour and joined the Liberal Democrats

Andrew LomasFollowing the referendum, Britain has to find a new place for itself in the world. Extricating the UK from the European Union on terms that don’t crash the economy is going to be an astonishingly difficult task that neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party seem to be willing or able to face up to.

On the right, the Conservatives appear to be indulging in post-Brexit nostalgia, an imaginary time when the British Lion merely had to roar to make other nations meekly fall into line. However, Brexiteers can bellow “BUT THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM” as often as they like: the statement does not become any more rooted in reality for the repetition (as both France and Germany are beginning to make clear). On top of this is the noxious language unleashed at last week’s Tory conference about foreigners and the implied threat to fight a culture war against those who want a Britain that is open, tolerant, and engaged with the world. Still, at least we have an effective opposition, right?

Well no. Labour have decided that what really matters, at a time of increasing illiberalism and anti-foreigner rhetoric, are endless debates about the constitution of its internal governing bodies, a(nother) fight about nuclear weapons, and mandatory reselection of MPs. More damningly, amidst the silence on Brexit, it is hard to escape the feeling that the party leadership are ultimately happy to embrace the opportunity to rehash a Bennite version of autarky that Brexit offers. 

In the circumstances, what is a liberal to do? For me, after over a decade as a member of the Labour Party in which I’ve variously been a council candidate, parliamentary candidate, branch secretary, borough campaigns chair, councillor, and deputy group leader, I’ve had enough. I’ve left a party only interested in talking to itself, and joined the Liberal Democrats.

Ultimately I left not just because of Jeremy Corbyn’s lamentable performance during the referendum campaign or his multiple unsavoury political alliances, but because fundamentally there are now no circumstances in which I could recommend voting for the Labour Party. As such, there seems to be little point (or virtue) in making myself a prisoner of a party whose views and values no longer coincide with my own.

Moreover, at a time when liberalism is under threat at home and abroad, I am not willing to dedicate the limited free time that I have to endless introspection and internal debates on procedure. Faced with a Government retreating to base nationalist rhetoric, I am not prepared to be complicit in the Labour party’s silence, nor am I willing to accept the impotence of neutrality.

The Conservatives’ embrace of naked nationalism is a stain on our politics and depriving them of a parliamentary majority depends on a Liberal Democrat recovery. It is time for liberals of all parties (and none) to stand and fight.

* Andrew Lomas is a councillor for Colville Ward in Kensington & Chelsea. Andrew has variously been a council candidate, parliamentary candidate, branch secretary, borough campaigns chair, councillor, and deputy group leader.

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16 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Oct '16 - 12:27am

    Andrew
    Well that is good! You are very welcome here, as a member ,in my own youthful and younger days , of the Labour party, and being that age group of Cameron and Clegg and our own current leader, Tim Farron, I have seen the ebb and flow and say swim wither you feel to ! The Tories are in dissaray disguised as unity, Labour in dissaray undisguised, we are a disparate lot but not desperate ! My that was good !

    The fact is , Andrew , this party needs all good men and women true, it truly does !

    Make a good go of it , you are amongst friends !

  • Interesting that another Member from the Lords has defected to the Tories ? Baroness Manzoor joins Baroness Nicholson as citing Tim Farron’s stance on the Brexit Referendum as the reason for jumping ship. Democracy is about accepting the will of the people ?

  • A very warm welcome to you Andrew. Not sure you’ll find the Lib Dems completely abstain from internal debates on procedure – but hoping you’ll find a sense of purpose here that you’ve found lacking elsewhere.

  • Congratulations Andrew on making what is always a difficult decision -to recognise when a party’s views and values no longer coincide with your own and acting in accordance with conscience over misplaced loyalty.

  • Phil
    Democracy is about accepting the will of the people ?
    In Northern Ireland the majority voted Remain. Is it the will of the people for the GFA to become unpicked and a return to the Troubles?
    Welcome Andrew.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Oct '16 - 5:30am

    Phil: Democracy does not mean everyone having to support the prevailing majority opinion. It does not mean that advocating the losing proposition should become a thought-crime. Democracy is about continuous challenge. So when one side loses, they carry on putting their case forward, exactly as Ian Hislop said on QT a few months ago. It’s what the Leavers continually did in the 41 years after the 1975 EEC referendum.

  • If we made more of an effort to appoint peers with a track record of supporting and working for the party (prior to their appointment) in the first place, we might not be so vulnerable to having a few of them taking their politics elsewhere?

  • Fiona White 10th Oct '16 - 7:53am

    Welcome Andrew and thank you for an excellent article. At a time when our country is facing so many major problems, we do need a party who are going to challenge the government at every turn. The negotiations on leaving the EU are going to impact our future for many years to come. I still believe that we should have a further vote when the final terms are known to see if they are acceptable to the British people. This is not a time for Theresa May and her party to just say “We know what’s good for you”.

  • Welcome Andrew! Parliamentary candidate for Wycombe in 2010 if I remember correctly?

  • Hilton Marlton 10th Oct '16 - 8:18am

    Andrew you are very welcome. I’m sure you will feel at home with the Lib Dems in no time at all.

  • Mark Blackburn 10th Oct '16 - 8:50am

    Before I read the piece Andrew I was concerned that perhaps another bland centrist wrongly saw our party as a refuge. But then I saw your anti-Blairite comments and was reassured – you ARE a liberal! Welcome! And it makes me very happy to see we have a LD Councillor again in Colville, a ward where I was proud to help get our first LD elected after an eternity a few years back.

  • Mark Blackburn,
    Which ‘anti-Blairite’ comments were these? I only saw an ‘anti-Bennite’ comment….The exact opposite?

  • Welcome Andrew!

  • Great to have you on board, Andrew. Welcome.

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