I joined the Lib Dems at the age of 10, I am now 14, and never have I questioned my belief in the party until now. In these four years I have seen the party go from having no chance of being in power, to being in Government and reverting back to having no chance again. Being the youngest party member (I haven’t been challenged on this so far) I feel that some balanced analysis is called for because I want to grow up in a party that governs for the sake of the people. I don’t think i am being young and idealistic in wanting this.
After such massive losses in two elections any political party should question the leadership and the direction of the party otherwise the party is a cult of followers for the leadership or it becomes a single interest group. I know the coalition was meant to be a compromise of Tory and Lib Dem ideologies but even I now struggle to know what our values and red lines are. Compromise has become ‘give way’. We are an immature party if we can’t be challenged or criticised? What is the tipping point for when the leadership can be challenged? I think two drastically failed elections qualify.
Paddy Ashdown, whom I admire greatly and always have a chat with at conference, has called Libdems4change the 'silliest idea’ he had ever heard but given how long Paddy has been in politics I would have thought that he would have engaged with members calling for change rather than seeking to delegitimize them. Annette Brooke’s email was an utter fiasco. It’s not about the messaging. I was not able to campaign because of my exams but I really don’t think that any more leaflets would have made a difference. A Councillor lost his seat after 40 years.
Many young Lib Dem members have pledged unquestioning devotion to the leadership forgetting completely that the reason some members are disappointed and angry is because there is a long history of struggles among people who have been in the party far longer than us to get the numbers of MPs and MEPs up. What’s a party if it is not molded and created by change and history? Character assassinations of those who question the party’s future is ineffective.
Nick Clegg has some really worthy policies- 3,200,000 of the poorest no longer have to pay tax on their income, pupil premium, shared parental leave and preventing child detention. How will the party ever move on from the tuition fees fiasco if members refuse to acknowledge the damage this caused? There were loads of students in 2010 stuffing envelopes etc in my home. I despair at the level of debt that students now graduate with because of the higher fees. There is no point saying that they will only repay the debt if their salary reaches a certain level because they all want high wages after incurring a debt.
A Save the Children report states that five million children could be “sentenced to a life of poverty” by 2020 because of welfare reforms. A “triple whammy” has been caused by benefit cuts, the rising cost of living and years of stagnant wages. As a child this breaks my heart and it is made even worse by the fact that my own party are in power doing this. The rise of Zero hours contracts and the royal mail fiasco show that we aren't a centre left party anymore. Being centre left is about social equality and equal opportunities.
Removing the party as a ‘protest party’ has left us with no centre left position. People are increasingly engaging with protest movements. It’s a new form of democracy and these people need representation in Westminster. It is not immature to respect protest politics.
The party cannot carry on as it is. It’s not about messaging. it’s not about winning where you are strongest. It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives. A mature political party is not a personal fiefdom. Acting like a sacrificial lamb for ‘the good of the of the country’ rings hollow. Please change strategy.