The last thing I posted on here was the news that I had been chosen to be the candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Luton South for the snap General Election. If you’ve spoken to me recently and heard me say that I have been trying to leave politics alone to concentrate on other things, or was aware that I’ve been fairly inactive politically over the last few years, or indeed heard me discuss my general disillusionment with partisan party politics; then this news might have been a bit surprising. It seems a bit contradictory. So I thought some explanation might be helpful. Note that this is about me working through my personal motivations, and not a statement of policy or ideology.
So why am I a candidate in the General Election?
Well the simplest explanation is that I was asked. Circumstances meant that the local party needed to quickly find a candidate. I am on the national list of approved candidates for the Liberal Democrats. My local connections and political experience make me a very suitable candidate for the constituency. So if you want to provide the voters of Luton South with a credible Liberal Democrat choice then my standing makes a lot of sense.
Still I did have to give it a lot of thought before I agreed. I should be clear that my disillusion with politics — whilst partly driven by external personal circumstance — has been primarily about my growing understanding of, and frustration with, the flaws in the way we conduct politics in this country. At all levels we have a broken political system. This also includes an awareness that the party I am a member of, being a part of that system, shares in many of these flaws. That said, despite my disillusion with the system, my commitment to liberal values and liberalism has never wavered, indeed it has strengthened, and my conclusion that best party political vehicle for the changes I wanted to see is the Liberal Democrats has not fundamentally been questioned.
Still, given all that, throwing myself into the most partisan element of that system — a general election campaign — seems somewhat daft. What made up my mind was the feeling that I had to stand up and be counted.
While I have been trying to leave politics alone for a bit — it hasn’t really done the courtesy of leaving me alone. The mind boggling lunacy of the current political situation in the USA, the deeply depressing international situation with the conflict in Syria and the refugee crisis being just the beginning, the interference in other countries democratic processes by the Russian government appearing to be like something out of the plot of very badly written action movie, the sense that domestic political debate and reporting is becoming increasingly divorced from factual reality (let alone life as lived by most people), and so on; has meant that just checking the news has become a deeply disturbing activity. But it has been the colossal stupidity of the Brexit process that has been the main motivator.
It should come as no surprise that I voted “remain” or that I believe that Britain’s future would be a better one as part of the European Union. But as I suggest above, I don’t think it is helpful to be overly dogmatic about this. I can see the flaws in the EU. I can see that a sensible case can be made for making significant changes to Britain’s relationship with Europe. Although I wouldn’t agree, I would also concede that there is a respectable argument to be made for leaving the EU and moving to a new kind of arrangement.
That was not what we got in the referendum campaign.
The result of the referendum itself, whilst a shock, I do believe also needs to be properly respected. It highlighted how divided a country we have become. It should be seen as a wake up call. A challenge perhaps to our institutions and politicians to more urgently address the concerns of those communities who feel left behind and alienated by a changing world. It certainly created a huge political problem. It challenges fundamental assumptions that have informed the direction of British domestic and foreign policy over the last 40 to 50 years, with huge consequences. The result of the referendum needed an intelligent and sophisticated response that charted a path between the views expressed, on all sides, and political and economic reality. It needed leadership that sought to heal divisions and calmly work through the consequences and implications in a way that attempted to find a new consensus and workable solutions.
That was definitely not what we got from this Tory government.
The May government has chosen to embrace the most extreme version of Brexit. Despite, presumably, knowing that a “hard Brexit” will damage Britain’s economy. Leaving the single market will result in a rise in the cost of living and make it likely that many people will lose their jobs. It will harm people across the country, particularly in communities like Luton. On top of that they have chosen to take actions and use language that has deliberately sought to emphasise division. The more I learn about their approach and its likely outcomes the more reckless it appears.
And then what do we get presented to us as an “alternative” to this? Corbyn.
I am 45 years old. I have been following British politics closely for most of that time. I have never been more worried about the direction Britain is taking, and that includes those years growing up under Thatcher.
On this issue — as on so many others — it appears to me that decisions are being made that aren’t just ones I disagree with but that seem to be obviously stupid. Decisions being made by people I have a problem with not so much because I don’t share their values and approach — but because they don’t appear to be competent. I have this feeling that many of us are sitting around waiting for the proper grown-ups to show up and take charge.
The problem is — apparently, I am a grown up.
So my reason for standing is this: it turns out that I am in a position to, in a very small way, doing something about all this. I can help provide people with chance to vote for a genuine alternative. It would be irresponsible not to do so.
I’m not sure I will be posting much stuff here about the campaign itself but if you want to follow the Liberal Democrats in Luton you have a couple of options: