Let’s express the passionate commitment of our united party

‘Divided parties don’t win elections.’ Those were the words of newly-elected London mayor Sadiq Khan, recorded in Saturday’s Guardian (14.05), asking his Labour Party for unity. Of course, if true the saying should equally apply to today’s Conservative Party, with its bitter infighting even at Cabinet level. Liberal Democrats can offer a saying arguably more telling – ‘A small party can help a divided major party form a governing coalition.’ A year after the Coalition Government ended, the road to 2020 may lie wide open.

We are a small party now, but we are not a minor party. Unlike other small parties we have many hundreds of councillors in England, with 45 more elected this month as our Fightback kicks in, and we have a voice and an impact beyond our eight MPs and our cohorts in the House of Lords. Liberalism has a proud history of almost 170 years of progressive service to the British people, reaching its latest peak with five years of shared power within the Coalition.

According to David Laws’ fascinating account from within, our Liberal Democrat ministers held considerable power despite some significant defeats. Unlike David Cameron today, Nick Clegg held his ministers together, without losing Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose dissenting voice evidently exasperated Chancellor Osborne though making for refreshing reading now. The Liberal Democrat ministers achieved much that we know about, such as the big tax cut for working people and the school grants to help poorer children. True to their Liberal Democrat values and principles, they also prevented harms of which we didn’t always hear. For instance, the book tells how Nick Clegg in autumn 2012 threatened to veto the autumn economic statement if Osborne insisted on £10 billion of welfare cuts: he got it reduced to around £3.5 billion.

But now, a year after the Coalition ended, even while we quietly rebuild our strength in the country as our Leader demands, we are not waiting to see which of the two ravaged major parties will need us most in 2020. For we are, as Tim has affirmed, a progressive party dedicated to co-operation and constructive engagement in Europe, where we should be ‘in the driving seat’ rather than hiding in the car boot.

To me, my party is a radical party that also cares about the rise of authoritarianism and racism on the Continent, the denial of rights to refugees, and all ugly nationalism and mistreatment of minorities. Following the lead of Tim and the dynamic backing of Paddy Ashdown, let us show passionate commitment to staying in the EU and helping to reform it from within. This struggle is our immediate task, even though it means working with some less progressive forces, and gaining no acclaim for a successful result. But after June, we still must show our passionate commitment to our values, our care for human rights, liberty, equality and community. Our country and the rest of Europe need that from us, as we seek to regain a share of power to act.

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

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5 Comments

  • Yes this is a moment to do something spectacular. Tim Farron needs to make a great speech that portrays him as the leader of the pro Euirope movement. It needs to be done in London withmaximum publicity. He needs to be forthright and pertinent to people. It will have mnore effect than Cameron who will put off Labour voters.
    This is his time.

  • Tony Dawson 16th May '16 - 1:11pm

    I would say it is more accurate to recognise the reality that we are a minor Party but not a particularly small one. I agree with much else within this posting.

  • Eddie Sammon 16th May '16 - 2:22pm

    United parties sometimes fail to win many elections too, but I agree deep divisions are bad.

    The party doesn’t have to reduce its compassion, it just has to develop a different understanding of it. Why are the Police struggling to recruit armed officers? Because they are worried overzealous human rights activists will try to put them in prison if they pull the trigger.

    We care about surveillance so much sometimes that we seem to forget British Muslims are victims of terrorism too. It is not Muslims versus non-Muslims. Although I admit I am more pro surveillance than seemingly most liberals.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th May '16 - 9:12pm

    We are not a minor party , just because we are also not a major player , we can be a major party even without significant power, we need to be more aware that what unites us in this party is stronger than what divides us , not presume we all agree , even on the EU , because we do not, and respect each other and express our differences in a uniquely friendly a friendly way , not a bitter one , dredging up the coalition ad nauseum.

    We must unite around our approach to caring and compassion , with consideration and a constructive approach .Not gimmicks or novelty act politics.Tim is aware of this .

  • Gerald Francis 17th May '16 - 9:49am

    There are differences of opinion in all parties. We become divided in the public perception when those differences become bitter and vitriolic. We have always been united in the public view on Europe but that has not helped us much. If anything many people have voted for us despite the parties position on Europe.

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