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Day: November 16, 2011

The slur of being called a ‘liberal’ and what is exactly is an activists role?

This morning I had post. First time in a while. Alas it was an energy bill but along with that was my new cashcard. HSBC had sent it to somewhere I last lived nine years ago and although they have my new address as all other correspondence comes here they still send my new cashcards to my Dad’s – nice one HSBC. So I ring up my old man to say thank you and to see how he was and all that jazz.

Unsurprisingly he’s dealing with aches and pains, he’s always dealing with aches and pains although he didn’t complain of a cough for once so that is good news. He asked me what I’ve been up to. I said that I met and interviewed Nick Clegg, he told me that he’s an idiot. I then told him that I’m considering running for council in May and this is what he said to me on the phone, ‘Son, don’t tell me you’re one of those liberals’. Trying to make out that being a liberal (and Lib Dem) is a bad thing. I know there’s no point discussing politics with my dad but I did ask him why it’s such a bad thing and he said, ‘well I can only go by what I read in the paper’ and that is an issue we have to face up to.

My dad isn’t the most worldly person around but he’s no idiot. He knows roughly what is going on in the world. He watches the news daily and first thing he does every morning is read teletext. Yes some people still read teletext. I say first thing but he usually has a smoke first but that’s not important. He also goes out every morning and buys a newspaper – the Daily Mail – and that is how he forms a large part of his view of the world.

Now in all honesty my old man isn’t a potential voter. He thinks all politicians are a bunch of crooks. I wonder what he’ll think if I do run for office and even worse if I get in. Will he think I’m a crook too or will his opinion change? That I don’t know and it’s not of utmost importance for the purposes of this log. What is important though is that a generation of voters still see the world mostly through the words they read in the media. People still go out and buy newspapers and these people often do vote.

So if they form their view of the world through such a narrow spectrum then we as a party – and we as a nation – have issues. Matthew Gibson wrote a piece about the Daily Mail and the Lib Dems a couple of months back showing that the newspaper actually brings in the third highest amount of votes for the party compared to all the other newspapers. This has far more to do with the amount of readers than it does percentage of the vote we get from them but people can read the Daily Mail and still vote Lib Dem.

I often wonder how many people would vote Lib Dem if the media showed absolutely no bias and just reported the facts. I’m going to hypothesise here and say far more than currently vote Lib Dem. Far too many people choose not to vote at al or don’t vote for the Lib Dems because what they read, see or hear in the media. I wrote a long piece the other day (over 2,500 words and not even 100 people bothered to read it – sad times) and how the media are not to be trusted or believed when it comes to anything. They will treat a story with whatever angle compels more people to read, see or listen to it. The truth is secondary to the financial bottom line and that is hard to swallow.

This is why I think it is so vital that good people of all parties – but with particular respect to the Lib Dems as I am one – engage with people about politics. Tell them what is really happening. When I go door knocking I’m not going to say about how great the Lib Dems are and how awful everyone else is. I try to understand where the person behind the door is coming from and see what issues they have and try to put straight any untruths they might believe.

I don’t believe it is my job to make people vote for my party. Others might believe so but personally I don’t see this. I think it is my role as an activist to engage people with politics and give them the information to make up their own minds about what to do. I think if I do this far more people will vote for the Lib Dems as I believe under all the media guff the party has the most to offer people of all generations and classes.

If we can show the people that politicians aren’t all evil and are actually just human beings trying to better life for the people they represent then we are moving in the right direction. If I do run for local council in May then I won’t be standing on a ‘We are Lib Dems and we are better than everybody else’ ticket but more of a ‘Here is how everything is, if you are truly interested in helping your local community then here are the facts and make up your own mind but don’t moan when you don’t get what you want if you don’t vote’ ticket.

Being a liberal and a Liberal Democrat to me is allowing people the opportunity to make up their own minds as long as they have all the information possible. If they do that and vote for me (or the party if I don’t stand) then great. If they read all the information but decide the Tories, Labour, the independents or whoever else is their man or woman and they go out and vote for them then I’m fine with that too. As long as people who vote take time out to find out who and why they are voting for a candidate then I think that’s progress.

Whatever happens I think the higher the informed turnout for all election then the closer we get to someone speaking for a community. That is how I see it anyway and I do wonder what others think. All I know is I’m proud to be a liberal despite when my old man thinks about us and Nick Clegg. Hopefully the more people we can engage with then the more people will come to see what we truly stand for and who we truly represent instead of the bastardised version the media portrays.

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