Liberal Democrats: born or conceived?


I recently attended a Southeastern Lib Dem conference where one of our members stated that Liberal Democrats are “born.” He further stated that Liberal Democrats do not choose the party, their values determine whether they are party members or not.

I assume that he was supporting our leader, Tim Farron’s, invitation for all of those who have liberal values in their hearts to join the party. While I, too, support Tim’s invitation and believe that there are many U.K. citizens and those living in this country who have and stand up for liberal values, I cannot entirely do away with freedom of choice. Where does this lead us? Does it mean that only those whose parents were Liberal Democrats can be Liberal Democrats? That would be a dubious strategy for increasing our numbers.

There have recently been two events in my life which came as pleasant surprises. Firstly, I was elected as chairman to my local Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats and secondly, my daughter gave birth to a daughter; my first grandchild. Having moved back to England after living on the West Coast of the United States for over twenty years, I admit that I was very pleased to have the vote again and, upon some reflection, decided that the Liberal Democrats were the party for me. Not only because I liked the name but also because I was impressed by their values and the way they conducted themselves.

Thankfully, I had moved into a strongly Liberal Democrat area and found many of my neighbours in agreement. I have supported the party on social media and have run as a candidate in an untargeted seat but, apart from that, I was a little at a loss as to why I was so universally accepted. Yes, Cameron does like me but the Cameron I refer to here is a young person down the street. In fact, the queen likes me but, in my case, it is my youngest daughter’s cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Queen Bee, who likes me rather than anyone with a human bloodline.

My new granddaughter is stunningly beautiful (I may be biased) and has the potential to grow into a strong and intelligent human being but I would not go so far as to say that she has liberal values. As Hilary Clinton pointed out in her book, it takes a village to raise a child, it takes more than just parents to raise a child. It takes a community. I hope that she will listen to and read a variety of opinions and learn as much as she possibly can about the world – both its problems and its potential. She will be raised with grace, hope and patience by her parents but I cannot pretend to think that she will come to any particular opinions or conclusions. In fact, I think that would be disappointing. To my mind, Liberal Democrats are conceived rather than born. Please, give us the credit we deserve for choosing our route and our party.

* Gillian Douglass is a member of Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats

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  • Ruth Bright 9th Dec '15 - 2:14pm

    Gillian – I highly recommend a Liberal Democrat Image teddy bear for any infant. An adorable piece of gentle propaganda!

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Dec '15 - 6:54pm

    I have wanted to talk about genetics and politics recently. Ideologically I’m a centrist, but I frequently end up slightly on the right-side of the political debate. Sometimes it seems such an effort to get to the centre-ground that I just decide the centre-ground is in the wrong place.

    If genetics does make a difference it is only likely to be very slight. But it is an interesting topic. I agree that “liberals” are generally made rather than born.

    Sometimes I end up on the left, but that is a different topic.

  • Gillian Douglass 9th Dec '15 - 9:21pm

    Thanks for the tip about the teddy bear, Ruth.

    I don’t think that being at the centre on issues and policy is essential or even desirable. The ideal of inclusion is central to Liberal Demicrat thinking and we must strive to ensure that nobody feels left out. This, ironically, in itself will exclude people at either end of the spectrum of political thinking.

  • David Evershed 10th Dec '15 - 11:41am

    Liberal Democrats should not allow themselves to be defined as being right, left or centre.

    Adopting a liberal position on social and economic issues does not place Liberal Democrat policies consistently on either the right or the left wing. Some may be considered right wing and some left wing – but that does not make us centrists.

    We need to articulate this more than we do.

  • Simon Banks 10th Dec '15 - 4:53pm

    I don’t think we need get too deeply into the nature versus nurture debate to decide if someone is a natural Liberal Democrat or what we could do to attract them. I think our natures come from a mixture of genetics and environment – the influence of parents or of trauma, for instance – but our values come mostly from environment plus free choice. For example, some people seem to be predisposed to throw themselves into some belief system 100%, but what that belief system is, I don’t think genes can decide and the environmental factors don’t do away with free choice – they just make it more likely one option will be adopted rather than another.

    I suspect what the speaker meant was that people with a certain type of approach to the world and certain values are natural Liberal Democrats. I think that’s true if rather obvious.

  • AC Trussell 10th Dec '15 - 6:37pm

    I think that everyone is born a Liberal Democrat- open to life and everything it brings. It is only later when their family & circumstances condition them to see the “world” from a single point of view.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '15 - 11:18am

    I agree with Stephen Lloyd, but even if I did not agree, I would respect the experience which comes with his years of campaigning in Eastbourne, with gaining three seats in a borough council already in Liberal Democrat control. The narrowness of the general election result in Eastbourne should encourage him to stand again.

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