“If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart.” – Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Central)
As a Liberal Democrat I’ve had to deal with a lot of abuse recently from members of other parties. At the local count on Thursday night I had to cope with jeers & heckles from Labour & Tory supporters (including my own councilors and MP who are supposed to represent me!) – We were less welcome in that room than the BNP and the EDL.
As an economic liberal, I’m even getting abuse from the social democrats (for those who don’t know, the Liberal Democrats are comprised of classic liberals [who subscribe to the Orange Book] and Social Democrats [who sit more to the left of the party]).
Essentially, it’s a difficult time for anybody who is an ‘out’ Liberal Democrat. So, why am I not leaving? Many have and many are threatening too. A lot of members are disillusioned now that times are difficult and lots of voters feel the same (as we saw with Thursday’s results) and even the YES campaign’s cross-party mechanism shattered a short time after the referendum was lost and the blame game began. The leadership & sitting MPs are hated by the public and the press for being part of the Government and Clegg (however you feel about him) is being unfairly and personally victimised.
I’ve campaigned up and down the country since I joined the party & I know people who work themselves half to death for the sake of the party. I’ve seen nervous breakdowns, sleep-deprivation & rifts in personal relationships. I know people who have given up their jobs, spent their savings, left their homes & given blood, sweat and tears to the Liberal Democrats when there’s a tough fight to be had.
Why do we do it?
It’s all well and good to say (as I hear all too often) that we’re all after power and fortune and that we’re only in it for ourselves, but if we were after power we could defect to a party that’s more likely to get into Government & who’s taking over the councils (Labour) and if we wanted money we could obviously sign ourselves up to a party that would be more likely to pay us highly (Conservatives). Perhaps we want a soap box to rant from? Surely we’d be better in a loud fringe party like the SWP or the Trade Unionists Against Cuts. I won’t deny that some of our members signed up during Cleggmania and are now disappointed to find that politics isn’t always as fun as that and I imagine they will leave now that the glory has passed, but the grassroots will stay no matter how we’re perceived by the media.
“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
If I wanted money or power there’d be a much easier way to get it than to tirelessly campaign for a party that’s having to make some very unpopular decisions & is nationally disliked. As Alex Cole-Hamilton says, if this period of difficulty and heartache is just part payment for some of the fantastic things we’ve achieved (and still are achieving) in government, in line with our key principals as a political party, then I’ll take it. Happily.