I’d never joined a political party before, I’d never seen the point, in fact I’d seen it as a straightjacket imposing a restriction on my ability to vote for the candidate I wanted to.
At the same time, from 1983 to 2013 I had always supported the Liberal Democrats, first in the guise as the SDP, then the Alliance, then the Liberal Democrats. That is true as a timespan, but is not true as a fact. After the formation of the SLD I remained supporting the old SDP, and became increasingly disillusioned with politics, but speeches by ex-SDP members of the Lib Dems at the party conference, broadcast on the BBC, in either 1992 or 1993 (its too long ago to remember) reinvigorated me, and got me behind the united party.
But I never joined it. I always voted for it, but I never saw the point in joining. I don’t join anything, so it wasn’t unique that I didn’t join. But it was how politics was. You supported someone, but you reserved the right to withdraw that support.
I did. In 2014 and in the General Election of 2015 I voted for Plaid Cymru. I am proud of that vote, I like Plaid, respect Leanne Wood, and if I went back in time I would vote for them again.
But in May this year, after the General Election, I became one of over 16000 people to join the Liberal Democrats. Why?
There is only one answer, but it has many facets, and that answer is Tim Farron.
The many facets of that answer include those who welcomed me on Twitter, talked to me about the idea of the #LibDemFightback and who all spoke highly of Tim. I was directed to watch a video from the Liberal Democrat conference in Autumn of last year, and saw what they were saying to me – that Tim Farron was a brave and dedicated liberal, that he understood the issues, that he was not afraid to take them on, and most of all that he was a powerful and impressive speaker.
I was then led to watch Tim’s speech to the Beveridge society, a few months prior in early Summer 2014, and here he expounded on similar themes, showing his range of talents. Once again I was very impressed.
So I joined, but joining is just one action. I am a keen observer, and I watch and see what people say about the issues. I have seen Tim Farron speak on housing, and on diversity, read his views on LGBT issues, on the legalisation of soft drugs, on refugee issues, and on electoral reform. In everything, I have seen a dynamic and intelligent politician, using that word in its factual sense as a person in politics, rather than its derogatory one, as in a liar and a cheat. These are things that Tim is not.
Even more I have been massively impressed by Tim Farron’s willingness to work alongside other progressive groups, whether to fight to preserve the Human Rights Act, to fight for electoral reform, or – and this is important to me – as a general principle.
I have said in a previous blog post that I believe it is imperative that an alliance of progressive parties come into being to block extreme right-wing legislation, to protect the Welfare State, to stand up for the poor, the victimised, the disabled and everyone who does not have a say in their own fate. And I have said that I believe it is vital that this progressive alliance actively work to collapse this Tory government well before they have the chance to impose 5 years of Hell on the country.
It can be easy for an MP, with their generous salary and their expenses, with the knowledge that they have years ahead of them before they need to be challenged in that luxury, to simply speak the words, to make a show of opposition, to forget the real people and fight for ideas and abstracts whilst the everyday man, woman and child suffer increasing hardship.
But I believe that there is a majority of opposition MPs who do not want to do this, who want instead to unite across party lines and defend the vulnerable, and who will be willing to cut short the security of their priveleged existence if by doing so they can bring about an election to rid this country of the Tory scurge.
And I believe that Tim Farron is the man willing to undertake such a powerful and positive leadership for the Liberal Democrats, to work alongside those in other parties who would equally sacrifice a security of tenure built on the suffering of millions, to achieve a No Confidence vote against this Tory government and bring about an election well in advance of 2020.
I have said before that the Fixed Term Parliament Act is a scam, a confidence trick (or a No Confidence trick if you like). No government losing the vote could continue to govern, regardless of whether they lose the vote “enough”. The FTPA is designed to prevent people trying, not to prevent them succeeding.
By joining the Liberal Democrats I am doing a bit more than lending them my vote at an election, I am putting my faith and trust in something, and in someone. That something is both liberalism and social democracy, and someone is Tim Farron.
Winds of Change
9th June 2015