Opinion: A good reason to vote LibDem in May

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Following the start of the 100+ day election campaign, I cannot help wondering what it is the Lib Dems need to do to recover what appears to be a significant dip in popular support. The problem is that we do not appear to be benefitting in the opinion polls from our many achievements in government. This is a shame, because there are so many of them; despite some comments on Lib Dem Voice, which could easily have been written by our political opponents in an attempt to demoralise supporters.

What really stands out for me is that we appear to be the only party that stands any longer for the individual. At one extreme, one party seem only interested in the business sector and those wealthy people who direct it and benefit most from some of its less savoury activities. At the other extreme is those who appear to believe that collectivism and common ownership are actually good for the economy. Perhaps I am unfairly paraphrasing what each end of the political spectrum thinks, but I do not believe that it is too far off the mark to suggest that only the Lib Dems seem truly to care about how individuals are affected by what government does.

Part of the appeal of some of the newly popular parties such as the Greens and UKIP, is that they are not the Conservatives or Labour. Understandably so, since neither of those parties appears any longer to be really interested in the ordinary voter, but prefer instead to appeal to their constituency; by which I mean those who provide the finance for them to cling to, or aim to achieve, power.

In my view, it is the word ‘power’ that represents the greatest problem for politicians. For Liberal Democrats, it is service, and trying to make life better for our fellow citizens, that is the driving force. Everything that we do is based not on the desires of a political elite wishing to benefit from the trappings of office, but on the membership. Admittedly, sometimes the leadership may have had to take unpalatable decisions in order to retain their position within the coalition, but they did so in order to demonstrate that liberalism is something that can work by making pragmatic decisions, not kowtowing to powerful vested interests.

Nobody really finances the Lib Dems other than the membership. That makes it a truly democratic party and one that can take account of what is right, not what suits powerful voices.

The Greens and UKIP may share some of our ground-up way of making policy, but the little I have read of their ideas so far does not seem to offer the sort of comprehensive, costed and well thought-out strategies across the board that the Liberal Democrats, with centuries of accumulated wisdom and experience, can offer.

That’s why I will be voting Liberal Democrat in May.

* Stephen Phillips spent his entire career in financial services, spending the last decade writing on insurance, investments, pensions and mortgages. Latterly, he also wrote a monthly economic review that was issued to the clients of a large number of independent financial advisers. He has been a member of the party since 2013.

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6 Comments

  • It seems to me that we have not done enough to shrug off the idea that we simply split the difference between Tory and Labour. Being neither one thing nor the other does not appeal to voters; standing up for individual opportunity might.

    Re Greens & UKIP: they will have picked up ex-LibDem supporters who don’t like anybody who’s been contaminated by power. They also have fairly obvious USPs which will appeal to their various supporters. Our USP seems to be ‘we’ll stop the others doing very bad things, and just let them do bad things’. Better than nothing, I suppose; but I’d like to see some liberal ideals promoted in the next 100 days.

  • Andy McGregor 28th Jan '15 - 1:00pm

    Very sensible piece, I think that pragmatism is also an important part of the liberal tradition. Principles are fine but unless we are in a position to turn them into reality nothing is changed.
    I am more a lurker than contributer to this site but find it very interesting most of the time!
    Sometimes Libdems do seem a bit hard on ourselves though!

  • I’d be more sympathetic were it the case that the bulk data collection practiced by GCHQ/the US appears to be completely AOK with the current lib dems in government. Certainly not to be a resigning issue anyway. At that point the Lib Dems lose the ability to be for the individual against the state, in my opinion.

    Phony outrage at the snoopers charter pails in comparison to what abuses of individual freedom are already sanctioned.

  • Neil Sandison 29th Jan '15 - 9:59am

    We need to build a new liberal movement that rejects the authoritianism now so prevelant in our political life .Are you liberal should be are clarion call as we see so many political parties be it Tory ,Labour ,UKIP or Green prepared tp throw away hard earned rights gained over the last 300 years as each promote their own brand of state control either at an indevidual or corporatist level. Are you liberal show be the watch word of all of us if you beleive in enpowering and enabling indeviduals and communities and who believe human rights with responsibility outweigh state direction or coersion to conformity

  • For me the idea that we stand for the individual is perhaps a voter turn-off? Watching the One Show last night a working parent in a feature about Childcare preferred our policy (15 hours for 2 year olds) more than the others but assumed it to be the Labour offering!

    People I speak to, broadly sympathetic to coalition as a rule, have told me that red lines were crossed with Gove’s reform or ‘top down’ NHS re-organisations or bedroom taxes. I think people saw Liberal Democrats as being good for the many (including those less fortunate) rather than those select individuals with the power to exercise choice. I imagine this is a problem of ‘owning’ everything the government did/didn’t do.

    I am more leftwing than the leadership and find the ‘split the difference’ Union subs are as bad as Hedge Fund financing does not chime with many potential voters and am always disappointed to see this repeated in our literature.

    I agree with Sid Cumberland that stating good policies is the best way but would add that we should also state that we will fight for these (i.e. not drop them in grubby backroom deals) nor sign up for illiberal or just stupid policies as a part of being a grown up party!

  • I can’t image saying on a doorstep we are the party for the individual. We should be trying to persuade people that our vision for society is better.

    For me we should see ourselves as the party that gives the same freedoms to everyone. That is why we reject conformity, why we should be helping the disadvantaged, the poor, the unwell, and those discriminated against. However I look at some of the things we have supported in government and they have disempowered the disadvantaged, the poor and the sick.

    Stephen Phillips mentions the word “power” but doesn’t express the liberal idea that the role of government is to control the power organisations have over individuals.

    I am not sure how democratic we are as a party, when democratic decisions taken by Federal Conference can be ignored by the leadership.

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