My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat

fordham and eaglingAccording to the cash receipt slip I was given by the membership secretary of Stanford and Spalding constituency local party I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 26 years 4 months and 25 days. I have experienced the lows and highs of losing and winning elections, I have been involved in conference debates, fringes, attending key speeches and declarations, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, influenced government policies, and when I married Russell Eagling on 5th July this year I was the direct beneficiary of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

Yet today Tuesday 18th November 2014 will go down as one of the days on which I was proudest to be a Liberal Democrat. The two instances could not be more related and yet more different.

First I sat in the Lords Gallery watching Baroness Garden of Frognal introduce the regulations for the marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership), the marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 and the Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014. Not the sexiest subject on the order paper but as I sat there in the gallery you could feel the warmth the pride and the excitement of Peers as they enacted this final stage of what has been one of the triumphs of the Coalition.

The ‘debate’ was made all the more special for the tributes paid to Baroness Lindsay Northover, the silent watchful support of Baroness Judith Jolly, the joy in the words of Lord Brian Paddick whose marriage is now legally recognised, the glowing tributes around the house to those of all parties and the self-awareness that the House of Peers had so totally transformed from the days when they obstructed the abolition of Section 28. But there was also awareness of issues of gender recognition and the limitations in Northern Ireland.

This would be good enough, but I had the additional joy of sitting next to my husband as the regulations went through, and we were joined by Ruth and Rachel, two friends of mine who will themselves be converting their Civil Partnership to a marriage as soon as the waiting list in Kent is sorted out (such is the demand) and a date formally assigned to them.

Transpose that to an hour later when I arrived at the British Film Institute (BFI) as a guest of the BFI and the All Party Parliamentary Film Group for a screening of The Imitation Game – the story of how Alan Turing and Enigma. But you can only imagine my joy and pride as the BFI welcomed us and singled out Liberal Democrat MP John Leech (Manchester Withington) for his private members bill to Pardon Alan Turing that forced the story into the headlights of public awareness. Warning note: I ended the film quietly sobbing to myself and reflecting on the personal tragedy that closes the film and the anger I feel for the thousands of other homosexuals persecuted and lives ruined.

Neither John nor Sue probably realise that each of them are very special in my own Lib Dem narrative for very different reasons:

I will never forget the excited late night/early morning phone call from my best friend the late Neil Trafford as he faxed through papers of a plan to close a hospital in Manchester and wanted my opinion as to whether it was as dramatic a story as people thought it was, and how he talked excitedly at great speed about what great candidate we had for Manchester Withington. The result of both of Neil’s enthusiasms was John Leech MP in 2005.

Lord Tim Garden was the President of Camden Liberal Democrats and subsequently chaired my adoption meeting as parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Highgate in 2005. As I went to speak at the adoption meeting Tim whispered – “your job is to make them think it’s possible”. He reminded me of this when I rang Sue to see how she was in the face of Tim’s incurable illness in late July 2007. I was expecting Sue to answer and to my surprise Tim did – his voice betrayed his illness -and I’ll never forget him saying “You made them believe wining was possible, just keep on doing it”.

The UK has much changed from the days of homosexuality being illegal and requiring chemical castration, and Same Sex Marriage is now possible across the whole of the UK (excepting Northern Ireland). There might be other causes for sound and fury, but on the basis of these campaigns I’m proud to be a Liberal Democrat.

Between them, unknowingly and unwittingly, Baroness Sue Garden and John Leech MP doing what they do as Liberal Democrats, came together today to make Tuesday 18th November 2014 one of the proudest days I have ever had as a party member. Thank you both.

* Ed Fordham is a party member and activist in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

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9 Comments

  • Trevor Stables 19th Nov '14 - 4:30pm

    Spot on Ed, like you I am a 100% proud Liberal Democrat and member for 32 years. As many have said before if it was for nothing else the Coalition has been worthwhile for achieving equal marriage! Like you I grieve for all of our forbears who have not had the chance to be fulfilled and free from persecution. My Partner and I will be using the conversion opportunity at the UK Consulate in Portugal, none of which would have been possible before
    There have been a few that have left our ranks, but our achievements and our philosophy will be enduring.

  • Interesting claim regarding the coalition and equal marriage. I thought the SNP government in Scotland set the example.
    Another spin to justify the betrayal of principle to gain a taste of power.
    I doubt many members are proud of supporting the Tories as they attack the most vulnerable in society.

    Does the voting intent of the public all across the UK give you no concern?
    Anyone like a wager that the LibDem vote will be higher than 2percent in tomorrow’s byelection – thought not!

  • duncan greenland 20th Nov '14 - 7:54am

    @Julian Gibb
    what a thoroughly sour,nasty and inappropriate post ! No betrayal of principle whatever involved in pushing this Equal Rights legislation through parliament ;and whatever the Lib Dem % of the vote in Rochester,the outcome will not be one of which liberals in any political party can be proud.

  • William Jones 20th Nov '14 - 8:17am

    Hope you enjoyed the film Ed, unfortunately I coudln’t attend the screening of the Imitation Game with John Leech MP as I had meetings in Manchester. So my seat was up for grabs, you got it.

    BTW – for those who are think who the hell am I and what am I going on about. I started the Number10 petition (see: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23526) that John Leech MP and Lord Sharkey turned into the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL] 2013-14 (see: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/alanturingstatutorypardon.html ) that led to the rare event of a royal pardon on Christmas Eve 2013.

  • Top story, this is surely the whole point of liberalism and one of the most positive outcomes of the coalition.

  • Hopefully there will be a lot more positive outcomes than just this? Of course this was important but so is the economy and many other key issues important to the Uk’s General public. Yet clearly the current pools showing the Liberal Democrte vote at just 5% ! Shows the current party leadership are failing to engage on the issues of prime concern.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Nov '14 - 12:47pm

    duncan greenland
    ‘ … pushing this Equal Rights legislation through parliament’ For the umpteenth time, issue wasn’t about ‘equal rights’ as the civil partnership law already gave equal rights. It was about amending the word marriage and re-defining it.

    It is getting really tiring to read endless articles on how apparently it was the Lib Dems who pushed this legislation through parliament. It was a cross-party concern and the inconvenient truth is, that if Cameron and Osborne hadn’t wanted to ‘de-toxify’ the Tory brand,( in the wake of the Tory party’s ludicrous back to basics/family values policy disasters in the past), it would never have made the statute book.

  • @John Penson

    This isn’t about the economy, it’s about being treated equally. I agree with you entirely that the party is in disarray and is heading towards oblivion – but this article is about our author Ed’s 26 year long political civil rights fight that ended with the result he was after. You may of lost faith in the Lib Dems, but this is a tale of why continuing political fights can be rewarding; that it’s entirely possible to achieve your political goals if you work hard and keep believing it to be possible.

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