I recently joined the Liberal Democrats in March 2015. My first experience with the Liberal Democrats was at a party event organised via college in Birmingham in 2010. One key term dominated, which was Social Justice. What I found fascinating was the positive community led scheme that was happening and a strong commitment, that no matter what race, sex, religion, sexuality or nationality the Liberal Democrats make sure there is equality of opportunity. For me Liberal Democrats have continued to protect these essential values in coalition. As a young person in 2010, I was not able to the vote in the general election, one day, I hope the voting age is reduced to 16. Seeing the great progress the Lib Dems have had in preventing the Conservatives from swaying too far to the right when essential cuts had to be made, I think it’s more crucial than ever for the Liberal Democrats to have a voice and stick up for a fairer society in government.
I became a Liberal Democrat in 2009, when I first took an interest in politics during my Sixth Form days. I knew about my own political heritage; my grandfather was a Liberal councillor in Matlock in the 1970s. However, I wanted to investigate for myself, and not just take my parent’s word for it. The Conservatives were miles away from my New Deal-influenced values, whilst the Labour Party seemed so incompetent and lacking in vision. When I saw a Lib Dem leaflet for the first time, I had mixed feelings; it was refreshing to see such progressive values, but I felt sad that these policies would never come to fruition.
That’s why I became a member in 2010; after the General Election. We had shaken up the old political duopoly, and we had the chance for the first time in generations to implement cherished policies, and I was determined to judge the party over 5 years, not 5 minutes. I’m proud of our links in Liberalism; the Gladstonian belief in free trade, the promotion of an active state to combat poverty by David Lloyd-George, the compassionate economics of John Maynard Keynes in challenging orthodoxies and a harsh ‘market knows best’ approach, and the building blocks for the NHS by William Beveridge. Of course the Liberal Democrats have slogans like any other party, such as “Stronger Economy, Fairer Society”. However, we have distinctive policies behind such slogans. “Fairer taxes” means paying no income tax on the first £10,000 that you earn (this has since gone up to £10,600, with a target of £12,500 by 2020); “a fair chance for every child” means a £2.5 billion a year pupil premium for the poorest primary school students, and “cleaning up politics” means having fixed term (5 year) Parliaments.
We have delivered on these policies; policies which I feel highlight the active role of Liberalism in helping those at the bottom. I am still a Liberal Democrat in 2015 because of this, but also because of the promise of more; prioritising mental health in our NHS, five green laws to protect the environment, an extension of free childcare and the raising of National Insurance thresholds in line with income tax thresholds.
I want to fight for this liberal and progressive vision. That’s why I attended an assessment centre in 2012 to become an approved parliamentary candidate, and I was officially selected as the parliamentary candidate in 2014 for my home constituency of the Derbyshire Dales. I know our party has made mistakes, and I know that we’re not hugely popular. However, I’m a Liberal Democrat because we have a promising vision for the future, backed up by concrete policies and not platitudes. We have a record of delivery and a promise of more. I couldn’t have imagined either of these things being possible in 2009, yet now it’s a reality. At the tender age of 22, that’s quite a vision to be inspired by, and to stand up for.
I joined the old Liberal Party in 1981. I was attracted greatly by Community Politics, and have practised it ever since. This includes having delivered about 160 focus leaflets over the years to my District Council Ward of Radley ( Vale of White Horse DC) which I have held to the Liberals and then Liberal Democrats since 1982. It has become a way of life, and one with which I am quite comfortable.
I joined the Liberal Party in 1980 after being involved in supporting my friend who stood as a Liberal in a classroom election for the 1979 General Election at Bishop Veseys Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield and seeing what Thatcher and the new Conservative government was doing to the country.
Upon moving to East Retford in 1981 I joined the local party and started becoming more involved until I could stand for election in 1986 and became the agent for Tony Emerson the SDP candidate for Newark in 1987. I then went to Polytechnic in Sunderland and became the Chair of Sunderland Liberals and a strong supporter of the joint Liberal/Democrat group of Councillors on the City Council. However as the years past at college I became more opposed to the Liberal anti-EU view and on returning to my parents in East Retford joined the Liberal Democrats in 1992.
I feel I have always had a Liberal view on life even though my family background was from the Glasgow Labour party, I despised what was done in the name of progress to the communities and tenements in central Glasgow. Asking communities how they want to develop and evolve is much more in keeping with my personal philosophy than telling them what is best for them or that it is for their own good. All our family now are Liberal Democrat supporters and my brother, who has always hated British party politics and now lives in California, even got involved in his first election campaign supporting Barrack Obama on his first election to the White House.
I was born a Liberal, both grandfathers were Liberals, and from an early age educated by the family into the fact that many years ago, our country had just two Party’s Tory’s for the rich, and Liberals for the ordinary people. It was my grandfather on my mothers side who was a six bob a week farm worker who reminded us that the great Liberal, Lord Beveridge, designed the welfare state; introducing pensions so that the men wouldn’t have to work until they died, benefits for those that needed them, and the National Health Service so that everyone had free health care from cradle to the grave, and so that my grandmother wouldn’t have to save six penny bits in a jar before she was able to call a doctor. I joined the Party many years ago because someone asked me.
I was lucky enough to live abroad through the worst of the Thatcher excesses for the ‘80s and after I moved back to the UK and settled in Worksop, was a natural supporter of Labour. However, as I got involved in different community groups, I began to see how local Labour politicians took those it claimed to represent for granted & how they treated them with contempt, I began to realise that although a socialist at heart, I could no longer support Labour.
The actions of the Blair Government only confirmed my feeling that Labour had lost its soul and had moved away from helping those most in need and had become a pale imitation of the Tory party. For a number of years, I had turned my support to the Lib Dems but, as there was no active party locally, never thought of joining.
In the run up to the 2010 election, I was approached by the Lib Dem General Election candidate to sign the nomination papers for a local candidate (the only one to stand for the Lib Dems that year in Bassetlaw) and began to think about joining the party. After the result of the election became clear and that it was obvious that the Lib Dems were moving from being a party of protest into a party of government (and with the hated Tories as well), it became obvious that I had to come down from my lofty position on the fence and take an active role in politics, if only to try to strengthen the radical “lefty” side of the Lib Dems and stop them being consumed by the Tories so I joined the party.
The rest is history, within weeks I was standing in a council by-election for the party, within months I was helping run the local party & acting a campaign manager. Now less than 5 years after joining I am a candidate for the General Election in May, am on the Regional Exec and a regular attender at Conference. Instead of attending Hustings & listening, I am now part of the panel and getting to have my say.
I still don’t agree with every line of Lib Dem policy and I find much to argue with in how the party is run but, as I have found out, most Lib Dems feel just the same, just disagree on which bit of policy are wrong & on how to reform the organisation. What is refreshing is the welcome I have had from most people from right across the party, the willingness to engage in debate, to listen to contrary arguments, to have heated discussions but then go out and help each other get elected.
I grew up as a farmer’s son in a mining district in East Lothian, where the grass roots Labour Party faced the farming Tories. Neither the all-or-nothing commitment of the former or the laisser-faire detachment of the latter seemed to fit the bill. However, I won a scholarship to Gordonstoun and came under the influence of Kurt Hahn, a refugee from Hitler and a true liberal.
What I absorbed at Gordonstoun didn’t really surface for many years. I was a floating voter tending to vote for Labour. It seemed to me that the whole Westminster/Whitehall system needed reform. But before that could happen we needed to reform the voting system.
I raved impotently at Thatcher and all she stood for.
What finally pushed me into doing something about it was when, in 1992, John Major was returned to Downing Street with a working majority over Neil Kinnock. This seemed totally against the feeling I detected around me and, when one analysed the voting, some 20 or so Conservative seats were so marginal that a few thousand votes in the right places could have reversed the result.
So I joined the Electoral Reform Society and the newly re-formed Social and Liberal Democrats.
I was surprised to find myself totally at home in what shortly became the Liberal Democrats. However, it was another five years before I realised quite why. In 1997 I was parachuted in as PPC for Ashfield and had to mug up on Party policy. It was then that I found that what I had absorbed under Hahn was actually the stuff of what Paddy Ashdown and company were trying to do.
It is difficult to sum up the Party philosophy in a single sentence. What Michael Thomas said below comes close. We believe that everyone has a right to a fair share of the community’s wealth and should be free to conduct his/her life as he/she sees fit so long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others.
I’d always read the Focus newsletter delivered by the local Lib Dem team and found the local councillors engaging. The common argument that political parties only want to hear from you at election times couldn’t be laid at their doorstep in my area.
The reason I joined the Lib Dems in the end was when the Labour government started trying to introduce draconian measures to monitor the people of our country. I am a firm believer that people should not interfere in your life unless what you are doing interferes with the lives of others. Even then it has to be proportionate. We were being railroaded into ID cards being forced upon us and a system where our children were going to be monitored on a massive database. No Government should be trusted with this amount of personal information being held in one place without extremely good reasons. The Lib Dems vocally opposed both of these new systems.
Having initially being spurred to join for these reasons I found I agreed with quite a few things the Lib Dems stood for and knew it was the party for me.
I remember being impressed by Paddy Ashdown talking about putting a penny on income tax and spending this on education. A simple and straightforward policy aimed at improving the ability of people to get on in life – so much better than the meaningless slogans and spin of other politicians. I was also influenced at university in St Andrews, as Ming Campbell (MP for North East Fife) became leader at the end of my time there. Liberalism, to my mind, fits well with my training as a scientist. To be a scientist, and a liberal, you have to a sceptical outlook and be prepared to challenge established thinking. Although I’m sure I had a reasonable idea of what the party stood for before joining, a greater understanding of liberalism has kept me active in difficult times. I’m with John Bannerman in that I really don’t understand why more people aren’t liberal.