Competition: Who we Liberal Democrats are, and what we have to offer

Who we Liberal Democrats are, and what we have to offer

The finding of a You Gov survey of 5000 people, reported in the Sunday Times and then here by Caron, that in the event of Jeremy Corbyn’s Official Opposition supporting Mrs May’s proposed deal with the EU there could be a massive switch of support among the voters from Labour to our party, raises the question of our identity, perceived and genuine.

The voters who told You Gov that they would switch to us knew our commitment to staying in the EU and demanding another referendum to try to secure this result. The issue of Brexit has become an overriding concern to British voters, and would-be Remainers who put their faith in Labour at the General Election last June may well be doubting them now.

However, do they see the Liberal Democrats as a single-issue party, only perhaps of short-term value till some way forward is found in this huge national crisis?

As to that, this is not a crisis which can be resolved in the short term. Moreover, while the two major parties openly display unprecedented levels of internal division and consequent inaction, the Liberal Democrats stand out as being the only major British party where the elected representatives and the majority of party members agree in their aims. Ours is a party which has shown consistency and stability of purpose throughout, qualities which appear somewhat rare and surely of continuing value in the current maelstrom of British politics.

There is of course much more than our party has to offer, springing from our fundamental beliefs in the importance of individuals, and in fairness, freedom and community. The Labour Party, forever skewed towards the defence of the rights of unionised British workers, misses the needful defence of ordinary working people, some these days in short-term, insecure and ill-paid jobs whose inadequate top-up benefits can drive them to resort to food banks. The Tory government meantime dismisses the excoriating report of the UN rapporteur on Britain’s 14 million people in relative poverty, which shows the illusion of Mrs May’s promises to help the ‘left-behind’ and to govern for everyone.

Our party has, thanks to the patient work of thousands of activists, policies for Britain on jobs, industry and communities, policies on fairer taxation and adequate welfare provision, policies for a greener environment and better regional development, and many others to tackle the pressing requirements of health, housing and education. There is much ongoing work and much still to be improved, yet our problem is more of focusing on presenting a coherent image to the public than of any lack of properly-costed useful policies.

The self-image of our party, its tolerance, fair-mindedness, capacity to care for individual people and to want to devolve and share power, is one likely to seem agreeable to most British people. However, our preponderance of middle-class, city-based people of high education as our activists does give us that international, outward-looking, open culture which is not so widely shared. However, some of our best qualities, our capacity to respond positively both to new thinking and too old evils and propose remedies, may carry us forward in general approval. Our acceptance and endorsement of the Philip Alston report, with its demand for better treatment for the most disadvantaged, is a case in point. A moral message for national revival and renewal surely needs to be conveyed to the country now, and in my opinion, ours is the only party currently entitled to make it.

 

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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5 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 19th Dec '18 - 6:31pm

    “the two major parties openly display unprecedented levels of internal division”
    Ken Clarke MP referred to Theresa May as “a bloody difficult woman” in an off the record chat with another male Tory MP. He was somewhat embarrassed about the remark, although it was softened by the continuation that he would “probably vote for her” in the leadership contest at the time.
    She has since accepted the remark and used it on radio interview(s) as a badge of honour.
    Her persistence is legendary, although nowadays excessive.
    She did, as Home Secretary, manage to deport a famous terrorist to Jordan. Jordan promised not to torture him. Should the FCO have been helping or leading on this issue, including the necessary change in Jordanian law? Did she offer increased aid money?
    In the coalition a diplomatic junior minister could only say that “she knows her own mind.”
    Jeremy Corbyn has listed out today numerous issues on which he disagrees with her, particularly the delay in allowing the Commons a meaningful vote on Brexit.
    Is she abusing her power to the detriment of the national interest? Is she acting unconstitutionally? (as if we had a constitution and a constitutional court).
    She obviously is a woman, and said that she wants more women in parliament. Dignified. She does not want Jeremy Corbyn as PM, although he does.
    Does JC generally think that way? Labour women say no. The reality is that the PM is somewhat cornered politically and is reluctant to take her medicine. She will go down in the history books as making a unique precedent “Contempt of Parliament.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Dec '18 - 6:35pm

    As usual from Katharine a tone which soothes. We need it.

    I would say the party is less tolerant of diversity of opinion because it is so united. The great liberal minded approach was given very little credence in debates here and farther across the party, on reasons for Brexit, attitudes of voters, today even, the only mep and the alde leader, very divisive online in a sense, unnecessary from intelligent liberals.

    I feel the party could be contrary or constructive, too much of the former not the latter for some of us. This crisis needs unifying on the sentiments of dislike of governments, shared by remainers and leavers.

    Brexit has turned the party into a single issue movement but it has not paid dividends in government changes or polls.

  • Katharine Pindar 19th Dec '18 - 8:24pm

    There could hardly be a showcase more vividly demonstrating the need for Liberal Democrat involvement in central political life in Britain than today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, the final pre-Christmas one, in which no Liberal Democrat MP spoke. I happened to be able to watch it on BBC Parliament, and was appalled. With only 100 days remaining to the Brexit decision deadline, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn threw denunciations of each other across the Dispatch Box while each failed to acknowledge that the deadlock could be broken now by themselves, by May allowing the Meaningful Vote immediately, or by Corbyn moving a motion of No Confidence in the Government straight away. They are both failing their own parties, and more importantly the country, since now nothing can be decided before mid-January, and the Government is going on to waste £2 billion on preparations for a hard Brexit which it can and must prevent.

    As if this wasn’t lamentable enough, the session ended in a pathetically trivial row about whether Mr Corbyn had muttered an insult about Mrs May under his breath. In these dark days of anxiety, the inanity was still perpetuated, with the Speaker being called on and giving his opinion, and the broadcasters in the BBC and Sky making a meal of it. It was all enough for any ordinary people unfortunate enough to be watching all this (maybe like me while in a gym) to stamp in despair and decide ‘A plague on both your parties!’ We should tell people that the Liberal Democrat cavalry is mustering on the hill, ready to be called for at a moment’s notice.

    Thanks for your comments, chaps. This little piece happened to be written when Tahir’s competition was on but wasn’t intended as a competition entry. I could have done with an editorial eye, glancing over it and removing two literals and a second repeat of ‘however’ – the hazards of lone proof-reading which made me wince looking at it now.

  • David Warren 19th Dec '18 - 9:37pm

    I am neither middle class, city based nor high educated.

    I am however international and outward looking.

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