It isn’t the social life. It isn’t the fact that we are just awesome. It isn’t even the fact that being a Lib Dem with the looks of Mike Hancock means young attractive eastern European girls will fancy you. No the best thing about being a Liberal Democrat is that the membership actually dictate party policy and not the leadership. That my friends is why many of us even with coalition frowns don’t leave and know that by staying on the inside we can still influence what we do in government.
This evening we saw F41 voted on by those in the hall in Brighton. It was about Secret Courts. The leadership wanted wriggle room to negotiate with the Tories and make the bill the best it could possibly be but the rank and file said no. They didn’t just say no. They bloodied the leaderships nose with how hard they swung their voting cards up in the air when they were asked if they wanted party policy to be that they wanted Secret Courts to be bill that never saw the light of day.
The leadership wheeled out the big guns to try and get the amendment passed that would grant the leadership that wriggle room. Heck when Julian Huppert is standing in front of Lib Dems who were frothing at the mouth and delivering a speech that he knew would be unpopular you knew that things were bad. Julian’s emotive speech didn’t sway the vast majority in the hall and the likes of Jo Shaw, Jo Hayes and Ruth Edmonds’ impassioned words were more than enough to ensure that party policy on this issue is very clear. No to Secret Courts. No way, no how and more importantly no wriggle room.
This is one example why I still have no doubts about how I want to identify myself politically. Many people are broadly liberal out there in the country but only a fraction of those are members of the Lib Dems. The majority aren’t because they have no interest in actually getting involved but some of them aren’t members because they are disaffected with the leadership of the party. Well to those people I say join or rejoin and influence what is going on. Leadership can be defeated and leadership will adopt the policy that the party as a whole has voted on.
So well done to all those in Brighton who voted down this bill. Not only have you done (in my opinion) the right thing but you have also yet again shown that members can influence what the party does. This doesn’t happen in the other parties where they debate but leadership make all the decisions. Being a Lib Dem is different because we do debate and decide as a whole. That is something we should all be extremely proud of and that is why being a member of the Liberal Democrats is not just a status issue – it gives you the opportunity to vote on party policy and debate issues.
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