Being a Liberal Democrat is being the rejected child in a family; nobody wants you and seemingly, you only complicate matters. It may seem like a harsh metaphor, but in this world of increasing polarisation and side-choosing, it’s apparent that we’re not seen by either traditional two parties as helpful; we’re seen as fence-sitters, power hungry and either austerity-enablers or Corbyn-complicit. Why then, should anyone vote Liberal Democrat? In particular, why am I voting them this election?
Firstly, I believe in a vast majority of their policies. This surprisingly doesn’t include Brexit. Surely, as a party member only since the Brexit referendum and for a party that has based nearly its entire identity on remain for this election, I should be behind their stance? Nope. I’m an ardent remainer yes, but I wholeheartedly disagree with our stance to revoke Article 50; I voted against it at the conference in September. However, this election to me isn’t just Brexit, as all of the hype would make you believe. It’s still an election like every other one we’ve had and that means important issue like healthcare, social services, crime, defence and drug policy are on the table. To me, Brexit is an important issue, but one day it’ll fade from our primary vision and into the periphery (I beg and hope). The terms and conditions of our relationship with Europe will change and despite the constant reminder from leavers, it isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity; we had a vote before, we had a vote three years ago and many people want a third in order to reflect the situation that has now entirely changed from the original question we were asked. For myself, issues like the legalisation of Marijuana, extra funding for school and childcare (which is the most progressive yet best costed of any major party) and better treatment of SMEs will affect a lifetime of experience for people in this country. These policies will save lives, save high streets and stop some from living behind bars for crimes that never should have been criminalised. Brexit will certainly affect these as well in the short-term, but for myself, these are the policies I back the Liberal Democrats for most passionately.
I also believe how they’ll be implemented is crucial. Labour’s plans are lovely but unlikely to be implemented in the timeframe they want, for the budget they claim to need and with the taxes they say will be raised. The Conservatives plans are frankly diabolical. I don’t claim to be independent or unbiased, but anyone claiming that the Tories plans for budget increases and their ‘answers’ to solving our many crises including the environment, infrastructure and staff shortages are sufficient are lying to themselves and anyone they say it to. Their numbers are not only untruthful and hide their real figures, but even in their idealistic manifesto they fail to replace what they stripped away from 9 years of austerity in this nation. I’m deeply embarrassed the Liberal Democrats backed their coalition which allowed many of their cuts, but at least I believe that the party was moved more by our leader and his lust for power. The lack of compassion and their desire for ever smaller government, regardless of the issues we face in this country, is baked into the Conservatives now, a by-product of the Thatcher legacy. This isn’t to say I believe Conservative voters believe in these values; I believe many see the Tories as the only alternative against Labour and are scared for their futures and savings with Corbyn in charge. But this is partially caused by morally corrupt media and a political landscape where egregious lying is seen as mainstream. The Conservatives are no longer the party of moderation; unlike the Liberal Democrats, who have managed to keep part of their identity, the last three years have completely changed the Conservative party for at least a generation. Labour’s identity has also changed, but theirs has reverted to their original image; they were founded as a party for the worker and for social democracy; it was Kinnock and Blair who started that process of change.
However, as Blair has shown and subsequently Cameron (to an extent), people don’t prefer the extremes. They want a strong leader but also are willing to accept compromise. I believe a world in which centrism, leaning either side of the spectrum, can thrive and the Liberal Democrats one day can harness this. It may take time and will certainly take a different political climate and leader, but by backing them, I hope I can help along the way. I believe the likes of Corbyn and Johnson are not permanent reflections of the attitudes of this nation but instead temporary products of the current climate. If that can improve, I hope for the day we can leaders such as Charles Kennedy back in charge and hope that their influence will go right to Number 10.
By B Palmer