It was time to fight for liberal values

Helen Belcher 2I joined the Liberal Democrats a couple of weeks after the 2015 General Election. David Cameron’s awful statement on human rights was the final straw. For a peacetime Prime Minister to threaten innocent people by saying “for too long we have been a permissively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that, as long as you stay within the law, we will leave you alone” – well, quite frankly, that was extraordinary. It made me realise that it was no longer enough to passively support liberal values, but that it was time to fight to protect them.

The last year has been a whirlwind of activity. Balancing family life, running a growing company, campaigning and learning some of the political ropes has been exhilarating, although difficult to manage at times. After a couple of speeches at the Bournemouth conference, and a very close result in a town council by-election which seemed to come out of nowhere, I was persuaded to apply to join the list of approved parliamentary candidates. That session Ben Sims wrote about, I also attended, as did Thornbury and Yate PPC, Claire Young.

As someone who’s primarily known for campaigning for the rights of trans and intersex people, it’s easy to get pigeon-holed, which can be incredibly frustrating. But there is more to me than simple, single-issue politics.

As an investment in our future, we should ensure that our entire education system fosters creativity and inquiring minds, recognising the value of both sciences and the arts.

We have only the one habitable planet, and it is our responsibility to be good stewards of it. Fairness has been a driving force in my life for as long as I can remember. Whether that’s equity in our electoral systems, access to justice (including rectifying unfair portrayals in the media) or simply ensuring that all have access to basic needs, our society has a duty to nurture those who are struggling.

I guess I’ve had my fair share of struggle. Raising a young family on benefits while I was trying to get my business off the ground, or dealing with hostility on the streets while I transitioned – neither were easy. It’s why I treat any success I may currently have as an opportunity to benefit others.

The Chippenham Lib Dems have put their trust in me, which is a huge honour, and I have been truly impressed by the very warm welcome my wife and I have received. There might be a tendency by others to view me as a token trans PPC, or someone who will focus only on trans issues if elected to parliament. Neither are true. I would first and foremost be Chippenham’s MP, and would fight to improve life in the towns and villages within it, whether that’s schools, infrastructure, housing, healthcare or the myriad other things that impact our communities. And I hope I’ve made it clear that there are many other issues I care deeply about. Being trans is just one aspect of me.

I’m really looking forwards to getting stuck into campaigning with a truly terrific group of people.

* Helen Belcher joined the Lib Dems after David Cameron’s human rights speech in late May 2015. She stood for Chippenham in the 2017 General Election.

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11 Comments

  • Lynne Featherstone 19th Jul '16 - 10:04am

    Fantastic – delighted to see you taking such a strong lead. Wishing you all the best in Chippenham.

  • Paul Reynolds 19th Jul '16 - 10:16am

    An excellent article Helen, and you clearly have that rare skill of combining big issues with personal experience, to bring things home to people on a personal as well as a ‘policy’ sense. Best wishes for your campaign, and for the inevitable challenges of managing an ever-full diary ! All strength to you.

  • nigel hunter 19th Jul '16 - 10:29am

    Be aware that the ‘enemy’ will question your credentials (trans etc) when the chips are down. I suggest start campaigning NOW on the areas issues.

  • Daisy Cooper 19th Jul '16 - 10:32am

    WELL DONE! Very exciting news. You’re a really inspiring and impressive campaigner – and it’s been fab campaigning with you professionally and, since you joined, in the Lib Dems!
    Really hope we get you to Parliament 🙂

  • nigel hunter 19th Jul '16 - 10:54am

    My previous .comment comes from last years GE for my MP (Lib of course) had to cope with ‘misinformation’ from the opposition. He stamped on the ‘mistake’ rapidly.

  • Stephen Howse 19th Jul '16 - 11:01am

    An excellent piece which should give us all hope for the future – there are good, liberal people joining us and itching to get stuck in and boost our party’s fortunes up and down the country, and I’m delighted that one of them will now be flying the flag in a seat we held until May last year.

    “As someone who’s primarily known for campaigning for the rights of trans and intersex people, it’s easy to get pigeon-holed, which can be incredibly frustrating. But there is more to me than simple, single-issue politics.”

    You are the contents of your character, ultimately, and while they may be formed and informed by your experiences, those experiences should not define you. From the look of it you will be a credit to the party and will be a huge asset when you make it to Parliament. Good luck!

  • Very strange remarks by Cameron. You might infer from them that the government was going to target people who hadn’t broken any laws but whom they’d decided they disliked.

    I can only think he was referring to Islamism. But if he believes something ‘needs to be done’ he should propose changes to the law not undermining it. If people are obeying the law but behaving in a way we don’t like, surely the answer is to challenge them publicly in debate. We already have laws against inciting hatred, maybe it’s just a matter of making sure they are enforced? If Cameron was pleading with civil society to challenge hatred and irrationality then fine. But it’s a bit weird for the government to ask more of people than obeying the law.

  • Helen – “For a peacetime Prime Minister to threaten innocent people by saying “for too long we have been a permissively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that, as long as you stay within the law, we will leave you alone” – well, quite frankly, that was extraordinary. It made me realise that it was no longer enough to passively support liberal values, but that it was time to fight to protect them.”

    Absolutely. I remember feeling shocked, and then nauseous, when I heard Cameron say that. Then I joined the Liberal Democrats too.

  • Stevan Rose 21st Jul '16 - 9:42pm

    “for too long we have been a permissively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that, as long as you stay within the law”

    Selectively using a quote out of context is hardly fair and easily checked. It wasn’t an attack on all citizens nor on innocent citizens. It was an attack on those who hold extremist views and use hate speech but fall short of the criteria for criminal hate speech crimes. You might disagree with the measures but the intended recipients of those measures are hardly innocent, they are evil minded hate mongers staying just shy of arrest. Some of the proposals are ludicrous and unenforceable so argue that point and explain why you think barely legal hate mongers should be tolerated, but please don’t try and mislead people, Brexit-style, that this was a generic attack on everyone’s civil rights.

    Good luck in Chippenham, and please play an honest and fair game. ☺

  • “It wasn’t an attack on all citizens nor on innocent citizens.”

    It was.

    It was an attack on innocent citizens, because, if they are operating within the law, they are by definition innocent.

    It was an attack on all citizens, because dismantling the rule of law makes us all more vulnerable.

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