What has my marriage got to do with the Liberal Democrats?

More than you would think, I guess. My long-suffering husband at least went into our union with his eyes open. If there wasn’t actually a large bird of liberty in the room at the registry office, he knew that the party would play a large part in our lives together. And even then, I think it’s played an even bigger part than he anticipated and he’s dealt with it with patience, fortitude and humour. Most of the time, anyway.

Why is this even relevant? Well, it’s a Summer of 25th anniversaries. Next month, we will have been married for 25 years. Yesterday, it was 25 years since Paddy Ashdown was elected as leader and this video was released by the Party to celebrate.

It fair made me smile to remember Paddy talking of our determination to bring self government  to Scotland and Wales and true democracy to Britain, to Charles Kennedy saying we would give a voice to the disadvantaged a dispossessed, to Nick Clegg fighting for the rights of Gurkhas to live here, to Nick Clegg talking about cutting taxes for the lowest paid. And all of that was before we even got to Government and are making many of our ideas and policies a reality.

Nick Clegg says in his latest Letter from the Leader:

I believe our party has never been more needed than it is today. The majority of British people want a stronger economy in Britain and a fairer society to go alongside it. Only the Liberal Democrats are representing them and keeping this government rooted in the centre ground. We stand alongside those people and against the damaging policies and ideas of the left and the right.

While “stronger economy in a fairer society” is the current strapline, giving a shorthand to what we stand for, I’m pleased that the video’s commentary got to grips with our core values. Conformity was the obvious absentee, but fighting poverty, oppression, aggression, disease and ignorance and engaging in  a never-ending quest for freedom and justice are all in there.

I had a wry grin at the end caption which said that we consisted of women and men who stood up for these values. Thank goodness the narrator was female, because, apart from a brief clip of Lynne Featherstone announcing equal marriage, there was not one female voice amongst the key players. When we come to our 50th anniversary in 2038, let’s hope that our party will be much more diverse.

One final point. Every leader this party’s ever had has had a fair bit of grumbling about them when they’ve been in office, usually well deserved. Paddy took a world of pain when he made his Joint Statement with Tony Blair, for example, and I was one of them doling it out. Leaders deserve to be questioned and challenged, but they also have all done great things. Paddy took us from asterisk to fighting force, after all.

All of our former leaders are held in the highest of esteem and affection now, though. Having Paddy or Charles make a speech at Conference is a huge treat and Paddy is the best person we could have as Chair of the General Election campaign. Nick Clegg won’t be leader by the time of our Golden Jubilee, but I expect that he will be held in similar affection and, above all, respect, for the way he played the difficult hand he’d been dealt.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • Congratulations on your own milestone Caron. Its equally as inspiring

  • “Nick Clegg won’t be leader by the time of our Golden Jubilee, but I expect that he will be held in similar affection and, above all, respect, for the way he played the difficult hand he’d been dealt.” …It all depends on how he continues to play the hand. The jury is out for now.

  • David Rogers 9th Jul '13 - 9:52am

    Much more diverse? Two Scottish leaders out of four – and the narrator!…..diversity has many dimensions.

  • Simon Banks 9th Jul '13 - 11:34am

    I was active when Paddy took over as leader of a new party that had been roughly cobbled together, that contained many unhappy people thinking of leaving and whose poll ratings were at the Screaming Lord Sutch level.

    I went to the first conference. One thing spoke powerfully to me of Paddy’s quality as a leader, more than his excellent fighting speech. There was a lot of dissatisfaction among Liberal activists about the dilution of internal democracy within the party. A meeting was organised at short notice to discuss what to do about this and given a title with the word “Democracy”. I was not involved, but did not doubt I should go. On the day of the meeting, I saw Paddy in discussion with three or four people who seemed to be attached to him in some way. One was urging him to go to a particular meeting that evening. “No,” said Paddy, “I want to go to this Democracy thing.”

    The room was too small for the meeting. A few minutes after it started, Paddy arrived (had he been there at the very beginning, it might have inhibited heartfelt comment). He stood quietly listening for the rest of the meeting. At that point I decided that whatever I did about the party, I was a Paddy Ashdown man. There is a lesson here.

  • David Evans 9th Jul '13 - 12:04pm

    @ John Innes

    “Nick Clegg won’t be leader by the time of our Golden Jubilee, but I expect that he will be held in similar affection and, above all, respect, for the way he played the difficult hand he’d been dealt.” …It all depends on how he continues to play the hand. The jury is out for now.

    The jury has already found Nick guilty of sacrificing decades of hard work by betting the party’s future on a hand which was more difficult than a player of his ability could manage. How he plays the rest of the hand will simply determine how many other offences against Liberalism have to be taken into consideration when the sentence is finally passed.

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