Opinion: why I’m still a Liberal Democrat…

I’ve been a Liberal Democrat supporter as long as I can remember. My parents were involved with the party, and often shared their political views with my sister and I when we were children. Therefore, I suppose it is no surprise that I actively support the party today.

However, I have to confess that since the Coalition agreement, and the abandonment of the tuition fees promise, I have occasionally wondered why I continue to support the party. A little doubt was creeping into my mind. I never supported the tuition fee policy, but was a little disappointed that some MPs that had used it to their advantage to get elected had subsequently gone back on their word.

Nonetheless, onwards and upwards – these things happen…

Often the party would do things that I like and associate with liberal values, such as taking those earning under £10,000 out of income tax (a great policy which I hope will make life a little easier for some of us). However, at other times, I would get a little frustrated after reading that House of Lords reform had been dropped, or the recent action on secret courts.

lib dem libby by paul walterYet recently the one thing that has reminded me that, as a party, we still hold broadly liberal values is the demonization of those on benefits. George Osborne, many of the Conservatives, and the right-wing press continue to speak of “skivers” searching for an easy life and leading the rest of us into financial difficulty, throughout the current economic crisis. Benefits are designed to help those in need so that they can survive, and aspire to better things. Obviously some people claiming benefits are lazy and selfish, but I think that it is fair to say that a significant proportion of those not claiming benefits are also lazy and selfish. I’ve seen no evidence to support a statement to the contrary…

When we hear that the “welfare state” is supposedly leading the country further into debt, I often look back to Lib Dem rhetoric over the last few weeks, months, and years, and remember that we are the only party that hold the following core values detailed at the preamble to our constitution.

It is hard to believe that very few of the investment bankers who caused this recession by being lured into selling billions and trillions of pounds of sub-prime debt in return for a chance of significant personal reward, are experiencing the financial hardship of those demonized as claiming benefits for “being lazy” and “selfish”.

Politicians have (quite rightly) gone to prison for stealing public money, as have journalists who stole an individual’s right to freedom and privacy by phone-hacking. Yet the majority of investment bankers continue to use other people’s money (the hard-earned money they place into a bank, or financial institution) in the hope of getting a significant personal reward.

The Conservative Party don’t recognize this, the Labour Party are too busy criticizing to generate any coherent policy alternatives, but the Liberal Democrats are using their role in government to defend those in need, at the lower end of the economic spectrum, so that they can work hard and aspire to the life of security that we all deserve. That is why I remain proud to be a Liberal Democrat.

* The author is known to the Liberal Democrat Voice team and worked as an activist and organiser for the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Well said on all points may I add the cynical way Osbourne used the conviction of Mr Philpott as a example of welfare out of hand. Is insulting to the majority yes we except their are cheats their are those claiming when they could be working BUT they are the minority but the government punishes the majority for that minority instead of getting smart in identifying the wrong doers simple Tory view which sadly Lib’s supporting is kick the poor an those at bottom while rewarding those at the top i.e. bankers who caused this problem. So iv lost faith with all parties you all doing the same talk the talk but don’t walk the walk on social equality.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Apr '13 - 3:36pm

    Scapegoating investment bankers for the financial crisis is just as bad as scapegoating welfare claimants. For every banker selling a mortgage, there was an individual wanting a mortgage. People who lost their house because they took out a 110% mortgage without the necessary safeguards in place were just as much to blame as the people granting them – there was no coercion going on here, people were queuing up for credit.

    The mistake of the right is to place 100% blame on the individual, the mistake of the left is to devoid individuals from personal responsibility. The financial crisis was a result of human nature, which is why there have been many in the past and there will be more in the future.

    Whenever someone feels strongly about something they usually have a point, the mistake of the left and right is to simply look at things from one side only.

    Food for thought.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Apr '13 - 3:41pm

    “Yet the majority of investment bankers continue to use other people’s money (the hard-earned money they place into a bank, or financial institution) in the hope of getting a significant personal reward.”

    The alternative is to charge for current accounts. You can’t have it both ways. I will not resort to nit picking, However I will defend against scapegoating, no matter who the scapegoat is.

  • paul barker 5th Apr '13 - 4:14pm

    On the Banks, the sub-prime mortgages were an American problem, caused partly by American politicians on The Left, what they would call Liberals. Sub-prime mortgages were heavily pushed by an alliance of Democrats, poverty campaigners & groups representing African-Americans as a way to help the poor out of the trap of social housing. It was all meant to help & done with the best intententions.

    On the wider point, if you want to be involved in Party Politics you have to choose from the available options. For Liberals there is no other Party to join instead. If our MPs get things wrong we must keep trying to convince them.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Apr '13 - 4:31pm

    Thanks for your reply Rebecca. I am glad you agree about scapegoating in general :). I also agree the banks should be held responsible for their contribution to the crisis.

    Very good points made by Paul.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Apr '13 - 5:42pm

    @Eddie Sammon :

    “The alternative is to charge for current accounts.”

    No, that is AN alternative, but by no means the only one. Clearing banks make a small fortune on lending current account balances. They can charge for various services if they want. But crucially, they could cut down on vast amounts of waste. They are forever refitting their shops, spending fortunes on marketing useless products etc etc. They rely upon inertia of their customers for a peculiar ‘loyalty’ which stops them being dumped.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Apr '13 - 6:46pm

    Hi Tony, thanks for your additional alternative. I think I understand your point on profiting on current account balances through the clearing process.

  • Nigel Jones 6th Apr '13 - 7:48pm

    I agree that Osbourne and the tories are bad on welfare, but I remain in the Liberal Democrat party because I hope that we can get our leadership to speak out more clearly against what the Tories are doing. They have not said enough against the so-called bedroom tax, nor the unfair changes to council tax benefit, nor the way that housing benefit changes have already made some people homeless. All these matters show how much we are simply NOT enabling everyone to get on in life. This is making it increasingly difficult for many Lib-Dems to stay in the party.

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