Merry Christmas from Cheltenham (even though politics is a steaming pile of mess)

This is a Christmas message with a difference. I make no apologies for the colourful nature of the story and I assure you it is absolutely 100% true.

When I was delivering the Liberal Democrat Christmas cards the other day I noticed on the pavement the largest pile of dog’s business I had seen in some time. “What a calamity,” I thought “That’s a big problem for whoever steps in it.” I was heartened, therefore, to see a man approaching the mess with a purposeful stride.

I could see he was going to solve the problem for the good of other people in his road, probably by picking it up and finding a bin. That was until I noticed he was carrying a large bucket of hot water. He then proceeded to pour it over the offending deposit. Naturally, rather than solving anything, this merely compounded the problem by spreading it around. I was carrying out my final campaigning act of 2017 and my political brain was therefore weary, but when reflecting on the scene I had witnessed later on that day I concluded it was the most appropriate metaphor for the political year: a fundamental problem was correctly identified by a public-spirited individual, but the chosen solution was ill-judged and left everyone else with a steaming mess to clear up. It’s not all bad news, though. In the spirit of good will to all, I’ve passed the person’s address to Theresa May with a suggestion he is promoted to Brexit Secretary. With problem-solving skills like those, he’ll fit right in.

But, on a more serious note, Christmas is a time to look forward and as liberals we are generally positive people who take the view that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. We mustn’t allow ourselves to accept that the future has been written: it is ours to write for ourselves. We know we are on the right side of the big debates facing our country in 2018, from schools and the NHS to policing and housing. That’s not to mention the challenges of protecting our environment, continuing to make the case for a humane refugee policy and dealing with the crisis of homelessness which is apparently all too obvious to everybody but the government. Aside from all this, Brexit will of course continue to consume our politics. As liberals, we must work hard to make the positive case for why our country needs Liberal Democrats more than ever.

So let’s take time to enjoy Christmas with our friends and families (hopefully free of politics for a few days) and return with renewed vigour in our fight for liberalism in the New Year. There is a big steaming mess to clear up.

With best Christmas wishes,

* Max Wilkinson is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham. He was the candidate at the 2019 general election and is a councillor on Cheltenham Borough Council and the authority’s cabinet member for climate emergency.

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