Leaving the Lib Dems….
This is a hard blog to write; I have agonised over this decision for a long time, sat on my hands and done not a lot locally politically. However, in the last analysis a decision has to be made and it has been. I cannot pretend there isn’t a strong local context to this decision. I am happy to be in a minority (sometimes of one) but not to have my democratic right to dissent trampled over.
This is what happened to me in Leeds over the bin strikes. No matter how it is dressed-up; the local party decided to silence a critic in a fashion that would do any dictatorship credit. All I initially called for was for the ‘consideration’ of the unions’ position and an end to a strategy of defaming the bin mens character in a style that fully deserves the epithet ‘Thatcherite’. However, even this was too much for the local party to tolerate.
If this was an isolated problem then it would not be so much an issue but the blatant truth is that in Leeds, the Liberal Democrats are not fit to govern and that the people of Leeds would be best served by the defeat of the current coalition. The council doesn’t listen nor does it care and what happened to me is a symptom of a wider malaise (as shown by its attitude to things like the community campaign to save Royal Park School). New leadership is required and the people of Leeds would undoubtably be listened to more and better served by a Labour administration.
Furthermore, a Labour council in Leeds would stick-up for Leeds against Cameron’s swinging cuts. The Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted to do that and that is a further reason they are unfit to govern in Leeds. My local experiences have led to national concerns.
At the next election there will be a clear choice and the progressive course is equally clear. The Conservatives must be stopped; the election of a Conservative government will bring this country to its knees. It will destroy communities and services in the name of asset stripping. Above all it will bring our economy to its knees and cause social chaos on a scale that has not been seen for some decades; if at all. It will stigmatise ethnic groups further and will cause more terror attacks than it prevents. Britain will become a pariah in Europe; a joke told around dinner tables. In short Cameron, for the probably short time he survives, will bring disaster to this country.
How can we be equidistant in that situation? Labour does have problems; it has lost its way but it has also delivered progressive social reforms and still, it represents something qualitatively better than that which offered by David Cameron. I cannot be clear in my mind that faced with a choice the Liberal Democrats would make the correct, principled, choice. Already Nick Clegg has signalled he is more interested in power signified by his abandonment of principle and economic sense in a probably vain attempt to hold ‘the Shires’. Furthermore, my experiences in Leeds point to the possible prospect that the lure of power and association with the Conservatives would taint the party.
Progressives cannot be equidistant in that situation or put party before cause and in squabbling with Labour that is what Nick Clegg and the leadership do. There is little signs of resistance within the Liberal Democrats; hopefully that will change. However, within Labour there are already people fighting from that prospective like the Fabians and there are signs that the left is growing in strength and confidence. The progressive cause will not survive by the strength of the Liberal Democrat party alone; nor will it prosper by destroying Labour. Labour still has something to contribute to the progressive struggle and in that spirit I intend to join it as a critical ally who supports its struggles but feels its interests would be best served by rediscovering what Nick Clegg calls its soul.