I think it very well might be.
You see I’m one of those political activists that gets involved in politics not solely because of ideology but I like to think that I tackle the issues based on practically and reality even if it doesn’t fully align with my ideology. I believe that it is better to take a small step towards your goals if it makes your end game more achievable and I’m not one of those that thinks it is better to do nothing if you can’t do exactly what you want. I think life in general is about small steps and it is very rare in life that we take a big step towards our goals – whether that be in terms of politics or life in general.
The Lib Dems have for a long time been the party of protest. Lots of people vote for the party due to agreeing with what they have to say and what they do but a large number of votes also have traditionally come from people who are unhappy with another political party. In the south where I am from Labour have a hard time in many seats so a lot of Labour leaners/voters have voted for the Lib Dems in an ‘Anyone but Tory’ protest vote. This has happened in Labour seats as well but to a more limited degree.
With the Lib Dems going into a coalition with the Tories due to the pure mathematical issues that the 2010 General Election coupled with the financial issues facing the country it led to a lot of that soft Lib Dem/protest vote deserting the party. They have drifted back to Labour or drifted to UKIP or even drifted into not voting for anyone. The Lib Dem core vote has eroded as well as a lot of people can’t stomach some of the things going on in parliament that the Lib Dems feasibly could stop. I understand these views but I don’t share them.
The thing is I don’t think it would be right for the Lib Dems to just stop every single thing the Conservative part of the coalition want to do. That isn’t what coalition politics is all about. It is about finding common ground and working off that and then giving and taking on certain issues. Last week we saw the free school meals for all children in their first two years of school in an attempt to fight child poverty as this will ensure that all children of this age get one hot meal a day. I think this is a fantastic move as child poverty is a real issue not only in a health sense but also a hungry child is not going to be able to concentrate well at school. I was known to skip lunch to play football for an hour on occasion and the period after lunch I was just not there. That was me being stupid but some children don’t have a choice.
To get this policy in the Lib Dems had to cave on a marriage tax allowance which I just find dumb policy. I just don’t see where the credibility comes in paying married couples to stay together. Will an extra three quid a week really stop marriage breakups and help keep families living together under one roof? I doubt it somewhat but when I weigh up the pros of the free school meals for the seven and unders with the cons of the marriage tax allowance then I think the pros outweigh the cons and I’m glad the Lib Dems have gone down this route, to me it shows signs of real strength. We are doing a good thing and the trade off isn’t enough to dilute the pros of the policy.
Also the activists had a couple of rather interesting votes. The activists voted to keep the 45p tax rate because it actually raises more income. As a party and as a country everyone wants to bash the rich. It is the coolest thing to do since picking up a phone and yelling ‘whasssssssssssssssssssssup?’ – and that my friends was cool. However when you delve into the numbers it becomes clear that tax revenues are at their highest when the highest tax rate is at 45p and that to me is where it should stand. Having the most potential income to spend for the good of the country is better than sitting on ideology, idealism and doing what is popular with the masses. I’m sure people would love to smash the rich but if they had the choice of bashing the rich so much that libraries shut or children’s centres closed or rubbish wasn’t collected then suddenly I think people’s views would change.
Added to that we saw the party surprise a few in backing nuclear power in limited circumstances. Traditionally Lib Dems have been against nuclear power but the current reliance on fossil fuels is too much and puts the country in a worrying position and nuclear power is a better bet whilst we continue to move forward with cleaner fuels and renewable energy sources. It is better to take that step to secure our power than to ignore the nuclear option and go green and potentially have the lights go off.
There is so much talk about the left of the party and the right of the party but I sit in the middle of the political spectrum and like to think that the left and the right should just think about what the end game is. We are all wanting to move towards the same broad goal and hence why we are all members of this party but at times I think people lose perspective. Some people hate with a passion doing anything that will cheer the Tories and think our main goal should be to stop them doing what they want more than getting parts of our manifesto into law. Some think that our role is solely to ensure Labour don’t send us into a further financial tailspin. Some think we should just do and say what most people I want to hear. I’m with none of those people.
I think we should take small steps to make the lives of people better. We can’t do everything but doing things that can actually change lives and give the next generation the best chance possible to be a success is paramount. In Glasgow I felt we saw real shoots of this grown up approach and it made me happier than I have been in quite some time within the party. As soon as we get over the notion that our role is not solely to stop others doing bad things but also doing some of what we see as our good things then I think we’ll feel a lot better about ourselves and when it comes to elections pointing to both things we’ve stopped but also things we’ve done positively will I think put us in better stead with the electorate but not only that, we can look ourselves in the mirror and not only say we’ve stopped some bad but also done some good and isn’t that what politics (and life in general) is all about?
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