Tag Archives: lib dem newbies

Former Conservative Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell joins the Liberal Democrats

Stephen Dorrell was Health Secretary in John Major’s government and as recently as 2014 was Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee.

Tonight, in an article for The Times (£), he announced that he had joined the Liberal Democrats.

However, we belittle the distinct political traditions of Liberal Democrats, social democrats and liberal Conservatives if we pretend that voices in the “centre” are all the same. The argument for realignment is different. Democratic politics requires its practitioners to build coalitions of people whose views are not identical, but who share political objectives and a commitment to see them translated into reality.

Brexit is the immediate illustration of the issue. Liberal Democrats, liberal Conservatives and social democrats share a strong belief that the UK’s interests are best served by remaining a member of the EU and building in Europe the world’s most effective champion of liberal values. These values, enshrined in the EU treaties, are not, as Vladimir Putin says, “obsolete”; they are the essential ingredients of the success of western civilisation, and liberals should organise to defend them wherever and whenever they are threatened.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

Four remarkable years of Lib Dem Newbies

One thing that the last few years in politics have taught me – among others – is that, surprisingly, computers can’t count.  Or at least, Facebook’s computers can’t reliably tell you how many people are in a group, once it gets above a certain size.

On the morning of the 8th  May, 2015, I was absolutely devastated.  Not only had my party been all but wiped out, but Liberalism had been written off and my non-Lib Dem friends, while supportive of me, struggled to hide their belief that the drubbing was deserved.

And then something odd happened: thousands of new members flocked to the party, inspired by our principles and Nick Clegg’s remarkable resignation speech.  As Sal Brinton, our redoubtable (and now outgoing) President wrote, Libby, our popular bird-of-liberty logo, had become a phoenix.

One of those new members, joining a grieving and shell-shocked Lib Dems, started a Facebook group for newcomers to orient themselves, meet other members, and get involved in rebuilding our shattered party.  These ‘Newbies’ were a few-hundred strong, and started attending pints and meetings with Lib Dems who were surprised and delighted to welcome them. The group grew and required moderating, and soon, I and a few others were recruited by other volunteers, to help Admin the group and keep it ticking.

At the time, I think we all expected Lib Dem Newbies to last a couple of years and then peter out – the membership would fall back, our volunteer Admins would move on.  Members now established in the party (or leaving it, having decided it wasn’t for them) would drift away, and the group would slip quietly into obscurity. These things have a shelf life, after all.

…British politics has a funny way of subverting expectations.  Successive surges – particularly after the second shattering defeat of the Referendum – have seen us welcome thousands, and four years on, we are on the cusp of welcoming our eight-thousandth member.  We ask new applicants what inspired them to join, and where they are – and if, as is sadly often the case, they are yet to make contact with their local party, we’re so big now that someone else in the group is usually in their area with the right contact.

Since 2015, we’ve welcomed, linked-up, informed, and encouraged our new and returning members, and longer-serving ones too.  I’ve welcomed at least two “Newbies” who joined under Jo Grimond and felt reinvigorated by our energy, proving that Newbie-ness is about mindset, not joining date.  We’ve also helped Newbies get elected to everything from parish councils, to principal authorities, to Westminster, and now the European Parliament.

Posted in Op-eds | 6 Comments

“I once led a protest against the Lib Dems. Now I’ll be voting for them”

There’s a super article in the Independent by Rahul Mansigani. In 2010, he led a protest against the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg over tuition fees. However, he is now a Lib Dem Newbie – because of Brexit:

as Eurosceptic Corbyn obstinately stayed put while his MPs deserted him, and as Theresa May declared that “if you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” and the Conservatives demanded that companies publish the numbers of “foreigners” they employed, I saw that the only party that would fight for our values and battle against a hard Brexit was the Liberal Democrats. Like thousands of others, I signed up.

He explains why this issue is so crucially important:

Brexit is the defining issue of this election and of our political generation. The way it is conducted will go to the heart of all the issues we protested about in 2010. Back then, the broadest aim of our protests was to give our young people the best chance of success in an open, prosperous, tolerant Britain. We must now support the Liberal Democrats to continue that wider campaign; a Tory Brexit undermines the existence of the Britain we believe in, not to mention the very existence of the UK.

The Lib Dems are and have always been proudly European, and (unlike the policy issue of tuition fees) this is fundamental to the party. Labour, despite its sudden clarity on scrapping tuition fees, remains hopelessly divided on its own vision of Brexit. The Liberal Democrats are the only party left to stand up for the 48 per cent, for the millions of voters, particularly the young, who voted to remain part of Europe, to be free to study in Paris or Berlin, to marry in Rome or Amsterdam and to work in Stockholm or Sofia.

He urges people to forgive the Lib Dems for mistakes like tuition fees:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 20 Comments
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