Opinion: Why I choose to stand in a seat I cannot win, this time

Beckenham_Junction_stn_main_entrance

There are two key reasons I have chosen to stand for a seat in my home constituency of Beckenham.  One reason focuses on achievements of Lib Dems in government and the second focuses on meeting the challenge of extreme voices in UK society today.

As a liberal and democratic thinker I believe that people should always be given a choice. It is ‘choice’ that symbolises freedom, which is at the heart of all free societies and civilizations. During this General Election it is vital for a Lib Dem voice that is unafraid to shout about what we have achieved within the coalition, because there are so many voices raised to suggest that Lib Dems have failed to be effective in government. The Lib Dem policies, listed by Mark Pack in a very clear infographic, would never have seen the light of day in a Tory majority government.

The other side of the coin of achievement in coalition is how Liberal Democrats have stopped the Tories bringing forward initiatives. Here is a list of sixteen Conservative initiatives, which would have made UK society more unfair.  57 Lib Dem MPs have punched far above their weight in government, against a bastion of 306 Conservative MPs.

The future promises of other political parties have also inspired me to stand. The Conservatives have promised to change course on the economy, by dramatically increasing cuts to public services and therefore causing irreparable damage to public services and inevitably affecting the most vulnerable people in our society. A Labour majority government will increase the structural deficit and weaken our economy.

I am also motivated to stand, because of concern for rising economic equity– both national and international – predicted by a wide spectrum of senior global economists such as Picketty, Stiglitz and Negri. Rising economic inequality, resulting from the ‘Era of Corporations’ requires those with liberal values, of fairness and welfare, to speak up now. My own research and focus on developing greater corporate responsibility for welfare and social support is where Liberal Democrats can lead, as the only political party that occupies the centre ground. As a candidate I will be able to raise awareness of the dangers of ‘sleep walking into social and economic inequality’ at a scale not seen since the Dickensian era.

The second reason for a strong fearless liberal voice in the General Election 2015 is the significant rise of shouting voices that would like to squeeze out liberal values of pluralism and human rights in British society and to instead, actively impose insularity and exclusion.

There are two camps that I wish to challenge in my election campaign. One is the shabby voice of UKIP and its followers. The second is the extreme voice of Islamist Jihadis, that has abducted the name of Islam to justify inexcusable violence. Both these camps have built vulgar public platforms based upon instilling fear; one, through cultural violence and the latter through physical violence.  Both camps are trying to focus everyone on hearing social norms only in terms of ‘Them & Us’ dialogues. The exclusion of the majority of open, collaborative, peaceful and rational British voices, within this dialogue, is the greatest challenge for us all.

The Liberal Democrats are the only political party that upholds the principles of pluralism and internationalism, which are essential for cooperation and collaboration in a rapidly globalising world.  The Liberal Democrats support my values and this platform allows me to address key issues for the future, in a frank voice that is my own. Therefore, while the majority of British society is open and fair and may be trusted to challenge social and economic inequality, it is equally important for immigrants and ethnic minority British citizens to take on the challenge too.

 

Beckenham Junction stn main entrance” by Sunil060902Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

* Anuja Prashar is PPC for Beckenham and chair of British United Indian Liberal Democrats (BUILD)

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20 Comments

  • Hmm, a link to our achievements in government that leads to “page not found”. It’s like a parody account…

    (said in jest, of course)

  • The link to Mark Pack’s infographic has now been corrected – it was entirely my error as editor.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 19th Jan '15 - 4:49pm

    You say you cannot win in this seat. I beg to differ, while you may not win, you certainly can win and I wish you all the best.

  • Ruth Bright 19th Jan '15 - 5:35pm

    Nothing on health, welfare or social services in the “info graphic”. I wonder why?

  • Bill le Breton 19th Jan '15 - 6:35pm

    Anuja, I really enjoyed reading your piece and wish you well. I think you could be a real force, when it comes to rebuilding the Party after May. I just hope you know where your nearest target constituency is.

    I was especially interested when you wrote, “I am also motivated to stand, because of concern for rising economic equity (sic)– both national and international … Rising economic inequality, resulting from the ‘Era of Corporations’ requires those with liberal values, of fairness and welfare, to speak up now. My own research and focus on developing greater corporate responsibility for welfare and social support is where Liberal Democrats can lead, as the only political party that occupies the centre ground.”

    I only wish you could see that such campaigning is not fought at ‘the centre ground’ which sadly now implies some position midway along the spectrum of regulation and free enterprise. What you are talking about surely are campaigns to promote opportunity for the individual person in the communities to which they belong, campaigns for self-determination (which you rightly see as having to be fought against the global corporates that both cherish and are cherished by neo-liberalism).

    As Elliot Dodds wrote in the mid-1950s, ” The Tories are the true ‘Centre’ of British politics, a dead centre dedicated neither to enlarging or restricting opportunity for the ordinary person , but to the status quo and ‘don’t rock the boat’ – with a bias in favour of beati possidentes. (blessed are the possessors).

    I for one would be really be interested in learning more of your ideas for increasing liberty and welfare in the Era of Corporations.

  • Good post. Reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing as a LD Cllr.

  • Jonathan Brown 19th Jan '15 - 10:24pm

    Great post Anuja; really inspiring – thank you. It’s people like you doing your bit to make a difference that keep people like me motivated!

  • Louis
    The link works fine.
    The message that things could have been much worse is a difficult one to get across.
    Cuts would have had to be made by whoever was in power. Labour made cuts in public spoending
    in the 1970s and they also called in the IMF.The Tories would have destroyed the welfare state
    if they had had a majority.

  • Anuja
    Thank you for a thoughtful and intelligent article.
    Can I suggest a very minor amendment to the headline? Just add the two words – “this time” so that it reads —

    “…to stand in a seat I cannot win, this time.”

    Many of our very best MPs did not get in at the first attempt.
    I look forward to you being elected as MP for Beckenham in 2020.

  • JohnTilley, Anuja – that’s a great suggestion, so I have amended the heading

  • Thanks for that Anuja,

    it helps to be eloquently reminded on a regular basis WHY we keep doing what we do in the face of widespread apathy.

    Good luck with the campaign in Beckenham.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan '15 - 8:42pm

    Anuja Prashar, this is a very good article and you sound like a worthy candidate. We need radical change, including from myself, so the Lib Dems stop getting whooped by the Conservatives and Labour.

    Regards

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 21st Jan '15 - 8:47am

    Well said, Anuja. There wil be much tactical voting in the GE and I hope as much as possible comes in your direction.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jan '15 - 10:01am

    OK, so how can we get this message across to the general public?

    A common line seems to be this – we have a Coalition government, and the only reason we have Coalition government is because of the existence of the Liberal Democrats, so what we have now is really a sort of Liberal Democrat government, so everything that comes out of this government is the sort of thing the Liberal Democrats are all about.

    How can we get the message across that actually what we have now is a Conservative government with a little Liberal Democrat influence? How can we get the message across that the Conservative Party has moved so far to the right since the previous time it was in government that though what you might see coming from the Coalition now is horrendously right-wing, actually if it were not for our influence it would be much more horrendous?

    I may seem very antagonistic to the party as it is when I post in Liberal Democrat Voice, but outside I dooftendefend it on the lines used here by Anujar Prashar, but I find I get nowhere. The response is usually just “Nah nah nah nah nah, you’re only saying that because you’re a Liberal Democrat, we know your type, all you want is power, and you’ll say anything to get it, and then betray those who you tricked into supporting you”. Because people identify “Coalition” with “Liberal Democrat”, sometimes one comes across the belief that the current government is so right-wing BECAUSE of the Liberal Democrats, and that if we had just a Conservative Party government it would be an old-style paternalistic much more moderate government than what we have now.

    I appreciate that the Labour Party has a vested interest in pushing this sort of line and has done so since the Coalition was formed – that’s the Labour Party for you. But how come it’s a line that is so often thrown into your face by people who aren’t committed Labour supporters, people who are politically neutral, people who in the past you have managed to persuade to vote Liberal Democrat?

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jan '15 - 1:23pm

    Bill le Breton

    As Elliot Dodds wrote in the mid-1950s, ” The Tories are the true ‘Centre’ of British politics, a dead centre dedicated neither to enlarging or restricting opportunity for the ordinary person , but to the status quo and ‘don’t rock the boat’

    Yes, but the policies of the 1950s Conservative Party would be regarded as dangerously left-wing if any party were to adopt them now.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Jan '15 - 10:48pm

    Is anyone going to answer my questions?

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jan '15 - 1:34am

    Matthew –
    But is the main thrust of the opposition to this government among the general public that it is “horrendously right-wing”? The polling evidence regarding public attitudes on immigration, the EU, law and order, welfare, foreign aid, windfarms and the like suggests otherwise – and I’m talking about disaffected Labour voters and floaters as well as the true-blue brigade.

    Clearly it is a refrain we hear from politically active left-leaning folk who have defected from the Lib Dems to Ed Miliband’s Labour Party or to the Greens, but I’m not sure the public in general buys into this left/right narrative. Strange to think that those who do so are ex-Lib Dem voters when it is the Lib Dems who have long argued that the old left/right dichotomy is obsolete…

    I think public frustration with the coalition is based on a number of other factors, inluding:

    – The predictable unpopularity of any government ploughing through the rubble of the financial crisis and dealing with the tide of red ink. Mervyn King prophetically observed how unpopular the clear-up operation would be. In that context the Tories’ support has arguably held up better than they might have expected, though the same cannot be said for the Lib Dems.

    – The painfully drawn out economic recovery, which I would argue was largely attributable to soaring energy and food prices early in the parliament squeezing real incomes and the eurozone meltdown putting paid to hopes of an export-led recovery. But the coalition did not foresee this and therefore naturally took some flak for it – though it is telling that the Tories are still polling well ahead of Labour on economic competence and have done pretty much throughout.

    – The perception that it has been incompetent in a number of areas, particularly in the (predictable) failure to significantly reduce immigration, which worries the public more than the policy and political elites; the unpopular NHS reorganisation (any change to the status quo in the NHS is always unpopular); and George Osborne’s 2012 budget and subsequent U-turns. U-turns always look incompetent even when they are the right thing to do.

    – The Lib Dems are seen as untrustworthy because of the ultra-high profile and spectacular tuition fees volte-face. Seemingly amount of explanation or justification will change this impression. The Lib Dems must surely hope (perhaps in vain) that the salience of this issue has receded with the passage of time and that they are given credit for their part in the coalition’s perceived successes, particularly on the economy.

    – A general sense that the coalition government, but actually Parliament in general, is largely made up of wealthy self-serving chancers (‘they’re all the same… in it for themselves’) – the expenses scandal really lit this fuse in the last parliament and it has been simmering away ever since.

    – Voters don’t seem that impressed with ‘differentiation’, when they notice it that is. They just see buck-passing and bickering. They claim to want to see all the parties ‘work together’ to sort out national problems but find the inevitable compromises that even a coalition of just two parties entails uncongenial.

    Like the age-old enthusiasm for lower taxes and higher spending simultaneously, this is an area where voters are rather schizophrenic! Or at least there is an ‘aggregation problem’ whereby people all have their own a la carte lists of policies they would like implemented and don’t like any of the menus on offer. Eg plenty of people object to spending cuts in some areas (say local authority grants or cuts to the armed forces) but also think the government is spending too much in other areas (our net contribution to the EU and foreign aid tend to come up a lot), so they don’t accept that because they oppose some cuts they must support higher taxes. They still think government wastes a lot of their money.

  • Alex Sabine

    Would it be out of order to point out that Anuja Prasher’s article is not about the Coalition of the last five years.
    She has written about beliefs about ideals.
    She concludes with whatshe sees as the unique elements of this party –“…the principles of pluralism and internationalism, which are essential for cooperation and collaboration in a rapidly globalising world.”

    You have written about the grubby and in many cases unnecessary compromises and horse-trading that have come to stain the record of thoe who have had the misfortune to hve been involved in Cameron’s Government Coalition.

    You suggest that anyone who recognises the fact that Cameron’s Coalition is horrendously right-wing must be —
    “…politically active left-leaning folk who have defected from the Lib Dems to Ed Miliband’s Labour Party or to the Greens”

    Which is odd because if you go back to the 2010 General Election you will find that the vast majority of more than 600 of our Liberal Democrat candidates were saying — Do n’t vote for Cameron’s Conservatives because they are horrendously right-wing.

    As far as I am aware not one of our candidates or principal Liberal Democrats figures stood up in the last General Election and said — Vote for the Liberal Democrats because they will keep a Cameron Coalition in power for five years.

    No Liberal Democrat put out a leaflet saying — Cameron and his mates are not really horrendously right-wing but they all jolly good chaps from Eton and the Bullingdon Club – (oh and a few gals from Roedean) – and we Liberal Democrats think that the CONSERVATIVE’S Economic Policy is much better than anyone else’s and we will stick to Comcsrvative Economic Policy slavishly for five years and beyond putting a guy in the Treasury whose main experience of economics is being Press Officer for the Cairngorms.

    If I missed that leaflet could anyone send me a copy?

  • Alex Sabine 23rd Jan '15 - 4:33pm

    JohnTilley – I was responding to Matthew on a couple of his points since he was asking if anyone was going to answer him.

    On the ‘horrendously right-wing’ charge, I was talking about public attitudes, not just the attitudes of former versus current Lib Dem voters and/or members.

    It so happens that I don’t agree with the general public on a number of those issues: I think they are too right-wing, if you like (if you insist on this right/left paradigm that other Lib Dems are constantly saying is obsolete).

    I would like a more liberal immigration policy, not a more restrictive one. I support an enlightened approach to penal policy that emphasises rehabilitation and breaking the cycle of reoffending rather than punishment alone. I’m not as hostile to foreign aid; I think some of it probably aids and abets corrupt rulers but much of it is worthwhile and important even at a time of domestic austerity.

    But if a political party that purports to be ‘in the mainstream’ and serious about winning power gets too far out of step with public opinion on too many issues, it is unlikely ever to be more than a marginal force. That might not matter while a party is the obvious repository for ‘protest’ votes by those disenchanted with the larger parties; but once you’ve been in government it will not be easy to slot back into that role, even if a number of party members would be only too happy to do so.

    My point was that the frequently rehearsed internal Lib Dem critique of this coalition is strikingly different from the objections of the wider British public. Perhaps if the party tried engaging with them on those issues – not on an ‘I am their leader, I must follow them’ basis, but a constructive engagement on issues like EU reform for example – it might find the exercise fruitful.

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