My decision to join the Liberal Democrats
in January 2018 was not a quick or easy decision to make, and came after several months
careful consideration. At the announcement of the 2017 General Election,
I had hoped Torbay, at the time a marginal Tory constituency, would be
one where progressive parties would put differences to one side to oust
the sitting MP, Kevin Foster. I made a case for this in writing to
Torbay Green Party of which I was a member. This was considered but
wholeheartedly rejected by the membership. The same rejection was made
by the local Labour Party where I have a number of good friends,
including their parliamentary candidate in 2017, Paul Raybould. When
considering who to vote for I must admit I was torn between the party I
was a member of, my loyalty to a good friend or placing a vote in the
box of the progressive party with the best chance of defeating the
Tories. I was impressed with the way Tim Farron was steering the Lib
Dems in a more social liberal direction and therefore voted for Deborah
Brewer the Liberal Democrat candidate. I still had reservations over the
Lib Dems role in the coalition, although admittedly I was beginning to
realise the brakes were put on the harshest of Tory austerity measures
and a number of good things were delivered.
Following the election I was discussing my decision with another good friend and former Liberal Democrat, Barrie Wood. Barrie suggested I should look at Liberator magazine. At the time, although having voted Lib Dem in the 2017 election and in the majority of previous General Elections, I confess to not really having looked at their policies or of liberalism in any great detail, and was sceptical at what reading this magazine would deliver. Most of what I knew about the Liberal Democrats was either what I picked up via the media, their election material or from their political opponents. But Liberator provided opinions and information beyond that. As someone passionate about social, economic and environmental justice, it made me look more and more into the party and social liberalism in general. I had by now completely rejected 'placard politics' as a means for change as well as that of the hard left - the result of which can be seen with purges and intimidation within the present day Labour Party. What I discovered was a political strain in social liberalism which can deliver social, economic and environmental justice. As the Preamble of the party says "The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity".
Even then I was not sure on whether to join the party or not - as I did plan to make 2018 a year where I would take a complete back seat from politics and spend more time motorcycling and enjoying the great outdoors. Reading a couple of social media posts from a member of the party did little to encourage me to join. However their followed a reply to this post from former MP Adrian Sanders, stating the posters views were not typical of the party. This is true, as like Labour, the Liberal Democrats are a broad political church. The social media posting did nothing to discourage me from looking more into the party and social liberalism in general and more and more I began to recognise the liberating factors of social liberalism. A further discussion Barrie Wood finally persuaded me at heart my views were more liberal than anything else and suitable to the Liberal Democrats and therefore I should seriously consider joining.
You may ask what I have found in the Liberal Democrats to make me want to join and become active?
As I say, my focus has always been on delivering social, economic and environmental justice. Such principles are at the heart of social liberal thinking, and in Torbay the Liberal Democrats are the only party capable of delivering these and ousting the Tories.
Liberal Forum, a grouping within the party helps develop a wider
understanding of social liberalism and develop this liberating strain of
politics. If we look at welfare and assisting those struggling or most
in need, the Liberal Democrat manifesto delivers more than the Labour
Party. Whilst if we look at the NHS, the Liberal Democrats have launched
a costed policy to address the issues of health and social care.
Coming from a 'green' political persuasion (although admittedly not 'deep green'), I discovered the Green Liberal Democrats, a grouping within the party that offers great thought and vision and a document that even goes beyond that produced by the Green Party itslef.
As a member
of the GMB and a former officer of the Trades Council, fighting for
workers rights is very important to me. The Association of Lib Dem Trade
Unionists (ALDTU) brings party members that are trade unionists
together to fight for workplace issues, reputing the notion trade unions
are the exclusive property of one party and proclaiming the 'green
agenda' and health and safety are trade union issues.
As a committed regionalist, I have been impressed with the work of the Liberal Democrat Federalist Group. Here is a section of the party committed to giving a voice to the regions and nations of Britain. There is even a commitment in the party manifesto to devolution where there is demand - so perhaps now is the time for regionalist political arguments and electoral contests to be put aside and concentration given to the democratic argument.
Finally there is Brexit. I consider myself a 'Reforming Remainer', someone that has looked at both sides of the argument in detail and that recognises the EU is not perfect, it needs to be improved, but by leaving we are potentially inflicting harm on future generations. I certainly do not wish to inflict such harm on the future of my two sons, which is why I'm with a party that has the guts to say what it believes in and fight for an Exit from Brexit and a programme of social liberalism.
As I say my decision to join the Liberal Democrats has come after months of serious thought, reading and debating. It's a decision based on what I think is best for Torbay, the country and the future of my sons and future generations in what is an increasingly troubled world.