I love Politics. I really do. However some things just piss me off and one major things that gets up my wick is just how tribal it is. MPs are like bleating Lambs arguing for argument’s sake. Labour pretty much oppose everything the current government are doing and to be fair it was vice versa when it was the other way round. Yes I know they’ll always be differences but it some things surely deep down everyone agrees. However even if this was the case then I doubt we’d see it.
I was out the other night doing my Hospital Radio show and I commented that I’m on the verge of finally nailing my colours to the mast and joining the Liberal Democrats. I have core liberal values and always have done and agree with the vast majority of what they stand for. Someone then made a comment stating that I ‘might as well join the Tories instead’ and then I bit back quite fiercely. Just because the party I have long time supported are in a coalition government with said party doesn’t mean that I am one of them. I disagree with several of their policies and key ideals but this is how it is. Are people so narrow-minded and hidebound that they can’t see the world for what it really is?
A coalition was formed because the British electorate didn’t vote any one party into office. The choices were either a minority government, which in this time of financial instability would’ve gone down like a lead balloon in the City or a coalition. The obvious partners for a coalition were the Liberal Democrats and somehow it came together. Five months in and watching Question Time last night one of the questions from the audience was, ‘Could the Liberal Democrats survive?’ and really can you get a more preposterous question? Then a young lady chirped up from the back of the room and basically said that she knew of people who had voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out and now the Lib Dems got together with the Tories that they’ll never trust them again.
Well guess what folks – The Tories aren’t in government. At some point will people not realise this? The government is a coalition because two major parties. This isn’t a straight Conservative government. They aren’t getting their full manifesto in. The Lib Dems are being able to get some of their policies on to the statute. So by voting for Lib Dem in a way you did keep the Tories out. Just because they are a senior partner in the coalition doesn’t mean they get to do everything they want.
I have always had it pounded into me that I should hate the Tories by my family. My dad says they are all as bad as each other and couldn’t care les but my Mum is just plain anti-tory and will vote for whoever is most likely to keep them out wherever she lives. I know a lot of people like that. It is all just tribal. I look at policies and vote for who I want to win – not for who I want to beat a certain party. In the 2010 General Election I lived in Southend West and it was a pretty safe Conservative seat. Peter Welch the Lib Dem PPC ran a pretty good campaign here and actually increased the Lib Dem vote by 5.4% to become the clear #2 party in the constituency but the Tory incumbant David Amess has been an MP since 1983, first in neighbouring Basildon and then Southend West. My own mother who hates the Tories actually thinks this guy is a good Local MP and is very active in the community but her hatred of his party would never allow her to have voted for him.
I don’t know David at all as I had only recently moved into the area so I have no idea what he is like. I have spoken to Peter on several occasions and he seems like a good bloke. He ran a good campaign and should David retire anytime soon then Southend West might be a chink in the blue armour that is this whole region. So I often wonder do people vote on a national level or on a local level? I have heard of terrible local MPs who get in time and again because the party loyalists will vote along the lines that they always have.
Then on the other end of the spectrum you have these rouge constituencies that keep returning an MP even though the rest of the region is a different colour. For example down in Portsmouth South. Mike Hancock has been an MP for that constituency twice (1984-1987) and since 1997. He is a well-known local MP who is very active in his local community and people feel like they know him. He has also been very active at a local level so it seems obvious this guy cares and does his job and stands up for the people he represents. Considering in 2005 he was up against the daughter of popular local TV personality Fred Dinenage and still brought home Portsmouth South it says a lot about his standing in the city – maybe not the party he stands for but him personally and that is how I think things should be. A good local MP who stands up for his constituency is what we elect.
Anyway as per usual I’ve gone way off course with this blog – let’s try to bring it back to the original point…
Not everything the Lib Dems do is great. Not everything the Tories do is evil and Labour don’t get everything wrong either. Just because my leanings are towards one party doesn’t mean I’ll blindly follow them if I disagree with what they are doing. As it stands I think they are doing what is right in the national interest and tackling the deficit is, in my opinion, the biggest problem on the plate. Now I vehemently hate any idea on a cap on immigration – certainly on skilled workers. Why would a country ever want to cap the amount of skilled people who can enter our workforce. That to me is sheer lunacy and has been done to pander to the xenophobic undertones that have arisen in our communities since certain Eastern European countries have joined the EU coupled with the recession. It flat-out disgusts me. It goes against my values as a person and against Liberal ethics. However it is what it is and for now there is little we can do about it. Yes we could throw our toys out of the pram, pull out of the coalition and collapse the government but what will that do? All it will do is bring a second General Election which the Tories would probably win outright and then they can do whatever they like. As it stands we can placate them on certain other policies and get some of us own in.
Today we saw Ken Livingstone win the Labour nomination for Mayor of London and unless something radically changes then I will be backing Ken. He isn’t a Lib Dem but his policies are pretty clear and in my opinion they are what is best for London. Invest heavily in public transport and keep it cheap. The motorists won’t like the western extension to the congestion charge but if we had first-rate public transport then a lot of those in cars can and will use the tube, the buses and the DLR etc… – London is a giant of the World and it should have a public transport infrastructure to go along with its global position. Just because I’m Lib Dem leaning doesn’t mean I should automatically back the Lib Dem candidate – whoever it may be – but that just might be me who is wrong in that. Once you support a party you do so through everything.
Politics should be about the here and now and not about the past. Parties move around the politically spectrum all the time. Listen to what the party has to say and listen to what your local MP or PPC believes in. Take time out to research for who you want and not for who you think you should want. We all get one vote – whether we are a cleaner or a CEO. One vote each and we all get an equal say in how the country is run. Embrace learning and finding out what you think and what the other who want to speak for you think. Don’t just vote one way because of party loyalty – that is not how it should be. If parties change their policies then so should people change their vote.
Whether I join the Lib Dems or not I don’t know but what I do know is that in the main – that is the party that by far best represents my values and ethics. That might not be the case in 10, 20, 30 years and I’ll always keep a tab on what they are saying and doing as well as what the other parties are saying and doing. But for now – I am proud of what the Lib Dems are doing and I am very much holding my nerve. Whilst deep down I do fear for the long-term prospects of the party, I also know that if we do a good job in power and curbing some of the less popular Conservative traits and helping stabilise this country that the party can and indeed should survive and flourish.
The referendum on AV will be a big moment for the party but that is a ramble for another day…
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