By Bobby Dean
Membership crisis. We’ve been told about this one haven’t we? I think we can all think of someone we knew well who’s left the party recently, and it shouldn’t test our memories too much to recall a heartfelt, yet moderately self-indulgent blog post about exactly what forced an individual over the edge. I have no problem with this of course, writing is a beautiful way to create coherency out of our cluttered minds, and so here is my attempt to bring about some orderliness to my own mess of thoughts.
First up a warning, this post is navel-gazing. If you’re the sort of person who gets angry that there aren’t enough posts in the lib dem blogosphere that are outward-looking, stop reading or better yet write your own.
So, how the hell did I end up joining the party? That was a question posed to me at one of my first lib dem events. It was asked affectionately but it revealed a lot, there aren’t many people like me in the party. By that I don’t mean I’m special in any way, it just means that I think according to the rules I’m meant to be in the Labour party. Council-house raised, down-the-pub-football-watching, metrosexual, grime-listening, ex-chav, Essex boy. Actually maybe I’m not meant to be interested in politics at all, my mates from my football squad certainly can’t work it out. But I digress, here I am, and my passion for the party is unrelenting.
I didn’t join the party over any specific policy. It wasn’t because of an individual either. It certainly wasn’t cleggmania and I think we can all attest it isn’t the smartest career move. Most importantly it was far from the natural, fashionable or convenient thing to do. I did it because I had an insatiable sense of duty.
Now that is fucking pious! But I can’t escape from it, having fallen into the world of politics by accident; the more I learnt, the more I read, the more I understood – there consistently appeared to me to be a blatant answer at every turn. Over time, I recognised that those answers were neatly packaged up under the title of liberalism and I merely followed that age old advice that if you aren’t happy with something, do something about it. Liberalism isn’t exactly rife in this country so there was certainly something to do.
You may point out then that if my commitment to liberalism is so strong, surely if I felt the party was erring from those beliefs too far, I’d have to leave? Strangely, no. Rather paradoxically, however committed I am to liberalism as a philosophy, I’m also a complete pragmatist. Pragmatically, I can see no better long-term platform to pursue my liberal beliefs than the Liberal Democrats. Whether there may or may not be short-to-medium-term fluctuations on which party has the best liberal offer, no other party can both claim to have liberalism entrenched in its very existence at the same time as having the reasonable potential to implement those ideas.
It probably also helps that I am pragmatic enough to recognise that there isn’t a pigeonholed off segment of liberalism that neatly fits with all of my beliefs. You won’t catch me joining one of the many sub-groupings that have emerged in the last year or so, being a member of a political party is a pigeonhole tight enough for me already! I think if we’re honest with ourselves there aren’t many that can say that a particular strand of liberalism can be consistently applied to all of our beliefs, there’s some social liberal in me, some classical liberal and some [insert new sub-strand of liberalism] too.
So here I am. I’m stuck. I won’t leave the party because I’m a pragmatist. I can’t leave the party because I’m an idealist. Now didn’t that make for a change from the sign-off posts we’ve had recently?