Friday, March 16, 2012

I am leaving the Liberal Democrats

There's probably a few blogposts like this floating around, like this one. But I shall add to it, I am leaving the Liberal Democrats.

I have been a member since 2007. Admittedly a non-active member, but nevertheless a member. I joined because I've always felt my faith calls me to be engaged with the world, and calls me to substantial financial giving to make the world a better place. For me this calls for more than giving to charities but also giving to organisations that can change the world, including political parties. Once my personal finances were somewhat stable as a young adult I knew that I had to join a poltical party.

My family have always been solidly Labour, and I voted for them the first time I voted in a General Election in 2001. But I could never forgive Labour for the invasion of Iraq, by far the worst political sin this generation. So in 2007 the Liberal Democrats were the obvious choice, so I joined. I voted for Nick Clegg as party leader and supported them in the 2010 General Election.

When the election produced a hung parliament I was hoping for a left/liberal coalition with Labour/ Lib Dems and a few other smaller parties. But the numbers just didn't add up. So it had to be with the Conservatives. I would have been in favour of some sort of agreement to allow them to run a minority government but instead we got a full-blown coalition. I know that was a difficult decision, and I'm far from an expert, but I think it was a shame. I would have preferred the Conservatives to have been allowed to form the government, and if they had sensible proposals these could be passed, but anything too crazy wouldn't have got past. And it could have all been debated in Parliament. Every policy would need scrutiny and persuation to get past Parliament. I think that would have been good.

I'm sure the Liberal Democrats have done some good things in government, and the marriage equality progress has got much to do with them, but still.

First of course there was the issue of student tuition fees. It wasn't so much the issue itself as the blatentedly dishonest turnaround that it represented. Nick Clegg said "Tuition fees are wrong."

He said "they're wrong," not "I don't think they're best way to fund higher education at the moment" he said "they're wrong." That is a moral judgment not a pragmatic judgment. To publically make such a statement, to campaign on it so hard, and then do the exact opposite shows no moral integrity.

The Conservatives wanted to raise tuition fees, the Liberal Democrats wanted to abolish them. Clearly the compromise would have been to leave them as they are. Fair enough the Liberal Democrats didn't have the majority to be able to carry out their intentions, so just had to put the issue to one side. But to vote for a huge hike in tuition fees? To do the exact opposite of what they said they believed in? How can you trust someone after that?

But I still didn't want to rush into a decision. After all, someone could stand for the leadership against Nick Clegg and I could vote for them as a party member. To be honest it was seeing people like Paddy Ashdown on Question Time that was keeping me proud to be a Liberal Democrat. He seems like someone with a huge amount of intelligence and moral clarity.

Then more recently we've had welfare reform in which an arbitrary amount of money was set that no one was supposed to receive more than in benefits. Even if it's a single mother with five children living in London. This seemed to me to be a betrayal of the whole point of welfare. The point of welfare is that people get what they need to live on. If someone was been means-tested and it's been decided that they need a certain amount to live on then we're saying they should get less than that? That's just wrong.

And now allowing privitisation in the NHS. The NHS is one of the greatest things about Britain. It's a fantastic institution, and I don't want to see it get chipped away at by private companies. Having lived in the United States I'm aware of what a profit-driven health-care system looks like, and in many ways it's morally grotesque. I'm not an expert but it seems every professional body of doctors, nurses, and medical professionals is against this change. That's got to tell you something.

Last weekend at the Liberal Democrat spring conference there was an opportunity for the party to oppose these plans. And for whatever reason it didn't happen. There doesn't seem much hope for opposition-within-government against Tory excesses.

I've never been starry-eyed about politics. I've always thought usually it's a matter of supporting the least-worst. And the tribalism of "my party's always right and yours is always wrong" is just annoying to me. And I've always seen it as a balance between pragmatism and idealism. Theres's never going to be a poltical party that exactly suits my views but there will be a "good enough." The Liberal Democrats have been good enough. They're not any longer.

And I suppose I am personally moving in a more idealistic direction. As at the moment I am moving closer to being a follower of Jesus. And that is making me more idealistic, romantic and radical.

I won't join any other political party immediately, though I am most warm to the Greens. And now Ed Milliband has condemned the Iraq war I could imagine myself voting Labour. I may even vote Liberal Democrat at some point in the future depending on circumstances. I may even re-join in the future. But right now I have to look at the money going out of my bank account every month and ask myself "is this making the world a better place or not?" and at the moment I can't honestly say that it is, and I could be using it in a more effective way to bring about the Beloved Commuity.

So I have left the Liberal Democrats. Or at least I've cancelled my direct debit. I haven't worked out if I need to do anything else to leave. Perhaps it's on the Lib Dem website under "Frequently Asked Questions"?


Blogger George W. Potter said...

For the record, Lib Dems did vote against the NHS reforms at the Newcastle spring conference.

8:48 pm  

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