After a dignified and revealing election we now have a new Leader. Of course as most people know I voted for Tim Farron but it really would not bothered me one jot if Norman Lamb had won. What the election revealed was that both of the candidates were good ‘muscular’ liberals who believe a radical ‘earthy’, liberalism.
Just two months after a General Election in which we were nearly smashed the Party feels as though it nearly won! Rejuvenated by a necessary but unfortunate coalition with the Tories and emboldened by our leadership campaign we have left behind the barricades and are eagerly embracing our opponents with the consequences that they must face from the General Election.
As I consider the state of our Party we have been blessed by three things:
One; the influx of high quality new members who in Liverpool are already considering standing for election at a number of levels.
Two; the reinvigoration of existing and returning Party members who don’t have to await with dread the next newspaper or TV broadcast when Lib Dem Ministers were having to ex[plain away some things that they did not themselves believe.
Thirdly the absence of a policy split between the candidates or, what might have in the past be considered as, the wings of the Party. Orange-bookery is no more. The Party feels so much more like the one that I joined 48 years ago when we were still following Jo Grimond’s command and marching to the sound of gunfire. We believe not in a left/right continuum but in a very different sort of society than the state centralism of the left or the corporate centralism of the right. We are declaring that we wish to break the power of London; to embrace internationalism; to put the environment at the heart of our policies and to create real localist solutions.
Some sign of the movement in the way that the Party has already moved is the fact that a motion to not replace Trident and replace it with a much stronger defence policy linked to a proper foreign policy is to appear on the Conference Agenda for September. I believe and hope that it will be passed so we do not squander money on this outdated post war relic.
This may sound like an attack on what we achieved during the years of the coalitiongovernment. Not so. We did a lot of good and if a coalition had not been formed in 2010 there would have been no recovery. From the pupil premium and free school meals for all infants to proper inflationary increases in pensions for the elderly we did one hell of a lot of good. But it was never a Lib Dem government and some of the things they did were done willingly and not with the full support of our Party. Not least of these was an unwillingness to back the strategic role of councils in the field of topics like education.
As we now survey the political scene we can have even more reason to be confident. Let’s look at our competitors:
The Labour Party; Well they do have a leadership choice. They could elect a leader who will be as valuable for them in the teens as Michael Foot was to them in the 80s. Jeremy Corbyn has his heart in the right place but appears not to have it in gear with a brain. His simplistic nostrums can best be summed up in his belief that Greece’s debts should be written off. He had no idea that the debt is not owned by rich financiers on a tropical off-shore island but by you and me through our national debts; our pensions; our shares and our EU membership. This is a Party that knows exactly what it wants to do about fox hunting (where I actually agree with them) but splits at least four ways when confronted with an attack on the striving working citizens who cannot make ends meet. The other 3 candidates are wannabe Blairs without the charisma!
The Green Party; what a muddle they present! Great theoretical ideas about the future but not grounded in political or economic reality. They live in a “Tolkien-like” Middle Earth where you can easily tell the goodies from the baddies and where the goodies always win. If they were really looking for a good leader to represent their views they too should vote for Jeremy Corbyn!
What about our opponents?
UKIP are on the slide. Broke in wallet and belief their reason for existence will disappear with the EU referendum whenever it is hold.
The Tory Party; finally off the leash and revealed as the nasty party of British politics. Tax goodies for the rich masked by an attack on the none-doms but really not hiding the fact that the Party has slashed credits to the hard pressed working couples. Its cynical stealing of a Labour policy for a living wage disguising the fact that their proposed level of living wage is enough to enable people to err…. live!
The next two or three years will not be easy for our Party. We are in a low place. We will need to regain trust ward by ward, community by community, election by election but I know now that the Party is up for the challenge. When you are down as low as we are there is only one way forward – upward and onward – back on the streets as I will be when our July Focus hits the letter boxes in Church Ward on Saturday!