The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On the next step for the Lib Dems and finally regaining that all important identity…

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Lets not beat around the bush. I am a Nick Clegg guy. A total Nick Clegg guy. I have always been a Liberal Democrat voter but Nick is the reason why I’m a card carrying member. Nothing against any leader before or since but there was something extremely special about Nick Clegg. He could’ve been a great leader of this country but instead it’ll be a generation before people truly understand what they’ve missed out on by essentially nailing him to the cross based mainly on the tuition fees situation and of course some voters believing that working with the Tories in any capacity was treachery.

In the past week we’ve seen much upheaval in the political sphere. A Labour Party held at gunpoint by a leader who has an army of followers but no way to ever win a war at a wider level and a Conservative Party where the big beast expected to be Prime Minister has bottled it after one of the most egregious pieces of back stabbing we’ve seen in modern political history by one of the nastiest and slimiest MPs around.

Amongst all that the Lib Dems have seen a surge in new members, over 12,000 in the past week at last count and having already spoken to a few around where I live in Southend, I was surprised (and very pleased) that none of them so far have had a bad word to say about Nick Clegg. Quite the opposite in fact. This gives me the sense that some of the stigma surrounding the party is starting to evaporate and that opens up big opportunities for the party.

I don’t think its exactly breaking news that I’m sceptical about our leader, not in his convictions, I think on that issue he ticks the boxes but in terms of being at ease in the spotlight and being a natural orator then I think there are still questions to answer. Yet his speech at Conference in 2015 was fast rate, it was passionate, it was heartfelt and it gave hope. The big question now is whether he can make enough waves to get the media attention when the party are now arguably the fifth most important in the United Kingdom political sphere behind the big beasts, UKIP and the SNP.

What the past week has shown though is the Lib Dems now clearly stand for something. They have that headline sign around their neck. The Lib Dems are very much Pro-EU. This means they are pro international business, they are pro the City of London being the heart of the world’s financial sector, they are pro small business. They are pro the freedom of movement of people across the EU, they are pro having an open and tolerant multicultural society.

It is something I think many Lib Dems have struggled with in recent years, telling people via canvassing or leafleting exactly what the party stand for. Did they stand for keeping the Tories in check (which I still think they did very well considering the electoral math against them) or did they stand for just local issues and try to ignore the national scene. The sad truth is national swings will often effect local races when they shouldn’t so I’m always been a proponent of talking about national issues as well as local ones, this isn’t something that has been widely shared amongst some that I know.

Still now is an opportunity for people to join or rejoin the party and the softening of the distrust and dislike of the party by the voters. This isn’t going to change overnight but the Lib Dems now sit at the heart of the centre-left on the ideological spectrum, a position not too far away from where Tony Blair won office in three consecutive landslides from 1997 to 2005.

The Labour Party are in complete disarray, their leader is so far left that they are now unelectable and he can’t even command his own party. Either he goes or his party splits and should that happen and a split Labour Party alliance or amalgamation with the Lib Dems and suddenly the centre-left once more has a party at the heart of it. This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility and in this era of political uncertainty, things move fast and flexibility will be key but the signs are everything is in play.

Over in the blue camp, they are undergoing a leadership contest where it is assumed that a pretty hard-lined right-winger in Theresa May is set to win. Should that come to fruition then she will drag the party away from the centre ground where David Cameron has cleverly put it to win a surprise second term at Prime Minister. With the Tories potentially abandoning the centre, Labour way out left and UKIP way out right, imagine a progressive party sitting in that centre-left spot consisting of non Corbynista Labour and the Lib Dems. Has some real potential no?

Still that is a long way off, for now the Liberal Democrats now have a clear identity. They know who they are and can mix the national scene with local politics once again. The Lib Dems aren’t just Tory-lite or Tory-curbers, they have their own clear electoral platform. Whether they take this opportunity, well we’ll find out in time but as it stands they are the only party in England who firmly want to stay in the EU and aren’t placed on either extreme flank of political ideology.

If you believe in this country being part of the world and not a backwater island, want the country to be a player on the world stage, want to keep down racism and xenophobia and hopefully eradicate it altogether, want to be part of an all-inclusive multicultural society and want the next generation to have the opportunities that we had then at this moment there is one clear political party for you. I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the greatest things since Cherry Bakewells (we’re not) but we do believe in looking forward and not backwards and know exactly what direction we want to take the country in and that isn’t something either the red or blue teams can say at this juncture.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm

2 Responses to 'On the next step for the Lib Dems and finally regaining that all important identity…'

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  1. I read this essay in full, and I agree.

    Jon

    1 Jul 16 at 8:45 pm

  2. Much to agree with, including (up to a point) the relative merits of Clegg and Farron. However, I nearly left the party when numbers using food banks exceeded 1 million. That was certainly not what I had spent 40 years canvassing for. (My stock answer to the question “what do you stand for”, was often “Individuals and families”, unlike the Tories who stand for big business, and Labour who stand for the Unions”) And again when we (particularly Mr Alexander) were boasting about all the jobs that we had created, and the online map showed that the nearest jobs to us were over 40 miles away. Anyone on minimum wage would have had to work for half a week just to pay for commuting. This was another example of London centered policy making which lead to dissatisfaction in the regions, and lead to Brexit. I would have hoped that alert leaders from Sheffield or Scotland would have noticed, but they along with the Tories failed.
    I agree with many of your list of things that we are “pro”, but think that we need to be careful what businesses we are in favour of. I am quite sure that micro businesses deserve our support. They have the potential to provide employment, they provide goods or services to their local community, they spend most of their profits locally, are very likely to pay tax, and if they fail are not big enough to do a lot of damage. Small and medium enterprises also have many of these benefits, though at the bigger end, can be immune to social pressures from their local community to obey the spirit of the law etc. Multinational business on the other hand tends to exploit local communities wherever they operate, giving little back apart from employment for as long as it suits the business to stay in that community, and often ignoring tax, employment safety and environmental laws. Post Brexit the UK is simply not big enough to control these huge organisations, as recent tax negotiations have shown.

    Huw

    3 Jul 16 at 8:08 pm

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