I should have joined the Lib Dems years ago

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my father’s shoulders, protesting the poll tax. I don’t remember much, just the feeling of all those people being together, a community outraged by what was happening.

A few years later, I stayed up with my parents to watch the 1997 election. When the exit polls came through, they popped champagne. I remember my mum crying: “it’s over and we’ll have socialism again”. Sometimes people live a stereotype all too easily.

As I grew up, it seemed preordained. My parents became more and more disillusioned by Blair, but for me any time before New Labour was a distant blur. When I could vote, I voted Labour without question – who else would I vote for?

When the coalition came to power, my parents prophesied doom. Many of my friends had voted Lib Dem, on the strength of their promises about tuition fees and in the thrall of Cleggmania, but I hadn’t. I voted Labour, of course. It was in my blood. Not being able to imagine anything else, I joined the party.

My experiences in Labour radically altered my perspective. I met dozens of passionate, compassionate and decent people, doing the best for their communities. But I also saw the factionalism, the vicious fabric of the Labour Party at its heart. I ended up arguing with people again and again that we should treat members of other parties with respect and dignity, only to be laughed at and ignored. My husband worked the count at one election, and told me tales of Labour members trying to break through the barricades to get to the count officials.

“An anomaly” I told myself. “Just a few ruining it for the rest”.

I moved to Nottingham, and ran into the insane bureaucracy of the party, as they failed to track my membership. It took months to make contact with my local party, and when I eventually attended meetings, I saw that the vicious streak here too. I voted for Corbyn on the hope that he’d make the party a more considered and peaceful place.

Guess I’m looking stupid now.

Disillusioned, I saw nothing left to do but leave. It was hard to do. Painful. But when I started talking to friends, a few of whom were Lib Dems, I began to realise that my love of equality and freedom, creativity, wonder and discovery, my passion for ensuring everyone led a happy and free life, was what had always driven my politics. I’d assumed that made me Labour, because it was hard to imagine an alternative.

The Lib Dems were the party I should have joined years ago. The party I should have supported when I became an adult. But the tribalism of Labour is strong, and even the best intentioned can fall into destructive patterns. I hope I can help make this new, strange, conflicting and open tribe my home. A tribe made up of as many tribes as there are members. A tribe where everyone has a voice, and everyone feels empowered to use it.

I hope I can help show others that the tribes they were born to don’t have to be where they stay.

* Edwin Moriarty joined the Liberal Democrats in 2016.

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15 Comments

  • You are very welcome, dont stop arguing for those who you feel need a strong voice…even if there is disagreement, it will be sincere and polite usually.

  • In my youth I did a newspaper round. A couple of times I did it quickly and went back to the shop and read a paper. The first time I picked up the paper my parents read, the second time I realized that I could read any paper I wanted. That was the end of tribalism for me.
    Welcome Edwin

  • Not looking stupid, just a sincere guy who cares about other people.
    I watched various left-wing groups fighting each other at uni with amusement. I saw the vicious side of Labour in a number of councillors when I started work. (And in the ‘you propped up the Tories’ thing since 2010. And in those who STILL, post-Chilcot, defend the Iraq war).
    ‘Vicious Labour’ think they Know Best and can’t tolerate anyone asking a question or pointing out a flaw. Anyone who doesn’t think as they do is to be despised (and clearly ‘doesn’t care about the poor/children/Saddam killing his own people’ etc!).
    It’s that absolute self-belief and conviction (among so many) that is the party’s downfall now, I fear.
    And just like at uni, they are giving the government a free ride while they fight each other.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Jul '16 - 2:50pm

    Welcome Edwin .same roots as you as have many party members .My experience has been you are entitled to a different point of view .allowed to honestly debate that view but wont be treated badly for holding that view .debate is always robust but not personal.

  • Daniel Henry 17th Jul '16 - 5:47pm

    Welcome Edwin!

  • Hear, hear Edwin, exactly how i have found the members to be over the years, and it’s not about “having to agree” as you say, merely respecting one anothers views and building on that.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jul '16 - 3:08pm

    Edwin what a terrific article , and as a fellow member in Nottingham , even better !

    I was in Labour as a youth and beyond as a voter . I have barely changed my stance .

    I was an am in the radical centre.

    Labour now put me off far more than the Tories , with regard to their vicious tribalism .

    The Tories are more eccentric in their divisions

    We are more flexible and friendly than any

    Trouble is , when our leaders get it wrong we do not see it coming , and because we are so decent and think the same of them , because they are too, we allow them to make it up as they go along!

    Like now.

  • John Mitchell 18th Jul '16 - 6:37pm

    Welcome to the Liberal Democrats. I am a relatively new member myself having only joined last December.

    Disappointingly I have had a similar experience with the Liberal Democrats as you did in Nottingham with Labour and I haven’t heard from my local party at all and have no way of getting in touch. It is hollowed out and pretty much does not exist. However, I’m not going to give up as I genuinely believe that the Lib Dems are needed in Britain and now more than ever as Nick Clegg referred to in his resignation speech.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Jul '16 - 6:50pm

    Certainly, you describe a little of the political atmosphere that put me off trade unionism, although I can’t comment on the wider Labour movement as such, as I never joined it.

    Come along for the ride, these are strange times in which a party that questions its own and other’s assumptions about politics is sorely needed.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jul '16 - 8:24pm

    John Mitchell

    I can assure you that even though I am as involved in matters party related , as much nationally , or in London , as in Nottingham, there must be some mistake ,with regard to the Nottingham party not existing , as , John , the party is very friendly and welcoming and in the referendum was as active as anyone can imagine . Barbara Pearce , long time stalwart , chair , and past candidate at parliamentary level , one of the finest Liberal Democrats any party has , is the person to contact , or the marvellous Alison Rouse , contact them , for example, [email protected]

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Jul '16 - 8:38pm

    Lorenzo, I don’t think John is saying he lives in Nottingham – as I read him, he is carefully anonymous about where the party he belongs to is…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jul '16 - 9:16pm

    Matt

    Thanks , looking at it I think you are correct so at least I have given a much deserved plug for excellent folk in the marvellous party in Nottingham !

  • Welcome, Edwin. There are indeed many decent people in the Labour Party, which was the first party I belonged to, but I came to the same conclusion as you: there’s something nasty in the party’s DNA. When I was deeply unhappy about the way the coalition was going and about Nick Clegg’s leadership, I toyed with a couple of alternatives, but Labour wasn’t one of them – not because of the policies but because of the culture.

    I see it like this. Labour grew out of industrial conflict and heavy industry. In this context, solidarity was all-important and those who broke ranks were dangerous. Discipline deriving from a common identity but enforced by fear worked. When the party grew way beyond its manufacturing and mining heartlands, the attitudes survived. They survived as mining and heavy industry declined, as masses of workers on an assembly line became a thing of the past. What survived was a totalitarian tinge within a democratic party: that there was one true way and all who took other ways were enemies. This applied to political opponents of course, but also to people within the party who took different lines – hence the bitterness of Labour factionalism. There are factional disputes in other parties, including our own, but not with the same degree of spite. I see this also in the way Labour activists enter a non-party local campaign and try to turn it into a “Labour campaign”, pushing out non-Labour people. By contrast we and the Tories (on the few occasions they get involved) are happy to support the wide campaign and get some credit from that.

    Welcome again.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jul '16 - 11:05pm

    Simon Banks

    Very well put ,and interesting, that you , like me and Edwin above , once Labour and clearly more to the centre left than right therefore , funnily enough now recognise that we are indeed a better lot with less bitterness and that so are the Tories even !

    Anna Soubry , an MP in Nottingham , which has been my locality for some years , is one of my favourite Tories , and worked very well with us in coalition and in the referendum , a loss t the government , though in her youth and earlier political years she was Liberal SDP !

  • John Mitchell 19th Jul '16 - 6:59pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin

    Yes, Matt is correct. My local party is not Nottingham but thank you for your response.

    My local party is Moray. It’s situated between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands. The Highlands has plenty of activity due to some of the great Liberal Democrats that have come from the region. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire isn’t too bad either. In my own constituency the Moray party is not visible. In truth it hasn’t been in some time.

    I have contacted the relevant channels though and will hope that things can and do improve in the future.

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