This blog was originally posted on The Libertine, Liberal Youth’s national blogging platform.
On Sunday 25th August, I joined the Liberal Democrats, which must make me one of the party’s newer members. Furthermore, I’ve only been a definite supporter of the party for (let’s see) a good two or three years. So, in Lib Dem terms, I’m still a toddler in nappies, and, as far as being a Party member goes, I’m still well and truly on the nipple.
As a result, I don’t have quite the same impression of Lib Demmery that some of the older people whom I’ve met in the Party seem to have. I don’t take the long view. Not surprisingly, I can’t relate to the idea that the last fifty or sixty years have been simply a Long March to power, a steady but glorious climb from the dark and dismal days when Liberals invariably lost deposits, through the eras of Grimond and Thorpe, through the heady excitement of the SDP and the Alliance, through the ‘swing to gold’ of the nineties, through the momentous 2005 election result, and reaching its culmination in the sunlit uplands of government.
Instead, I see only a heap of broken images. I see Nick Clegg soaring like a dazzling orange meteor through those early election debates, before crashing to earth (O how fallen! O how changed!) with that cosy Rose Garden deal in early May. I see the party which I admire in bed with another, bigger, nastier party whose policies are anathema to this Left-leaning young man. I see lots of other things too, which I don’t like, didn’t expect, and which sometimes make me shudder.
Yet, perhaps for lack of an alternative, I kept the faith. And, slowly, I began to see the positive side of the Liberal Democrats in Government. The raising of the personal allowance, which gave a tax cut to millions, for example. The pupil premium. The promise of legislation for same-sex marriage. Finally, and most importantly, the moderation of a ‘blue in tooth and claw’ Conservative programme which would do irreparable damage to our national fabric. I know it’s an awful cliche, but I felt that they were in Government on my side.
But that’s not what made me take the plunge and join the Party. I made that move primarily because of an experience I had. In July, I decided to help out in a by-election campaign for a Stoke-on-Trent council seat: canvassing, leafletting, that sort of thing. I hope no-one will mind me saying that it was a hardscrabble, working class, traditional Labour ward, but Stoke-on-Trent’s Labour council were making such a dog’s dinner of running the city that, we decided, we had a chance. In the end, sadly, we got trounced, but that wasn’t really the point. The fact is that I met Liberal Democrats (and, in particular, I refer to the candidate himself) who inspired me. They made me aware that there were others who shared my principles, and who were prepared to fight for them. They showed me that, by joining them, I could make a difference. That is why I joined.
Reece Edmends is a Liberal Youth member in Staffordshire