Trying to look on the bright side of life

Today must be one of the darkest days I have personally felt in my political career. Only the morning after the 2016 referendum result and the day following the 2015 General Election have left me feeling much lower. However, there may be a glint of something on the horizon that is driving me forward despite this fear.

The prospect of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (to give him his full name) becoming the 77th Prime Minister of the United Kingdom tomorrow fills me with complete dread. My biggest concern is his main ‘do or die’ policy on leaving the EU on October 31st come what may. Anyone prepared to play fast and loose with the economy, and in turn, people’s livelihoods, has no business entering Number 10.

Now people may say that I am a doom-mongering for believing that the economy will crash if we leave the EU with or without a deal. I do tend to prefer listening to the experts who have a far great grasp on economics than I do, and with the majority predicting such an event, then I will continue to say that staying in the EU is best for the economy.

As a Liberal Democrat, I have always believed in international co-operation, and that is why I am proud that my party took on the mantle to be the voice to Remain. The day after the vote in 2016, the speech by the then leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, called on the party to become the beacon of remain. This speech made me realise the fight was not over:

“Young people voted to remain by a considerable margin but were outvoted. They were voting for their future, yet it has been taken from them.

Even though the result was close, there is no doubt that the majority of British people want us to leave.

Our fight for an open, optimistic, hopeful, diverse and tolerant Britain is needed now more than ever.

Together we can still make the case for Britain’s future with Europe, as millions of people voted for it. Together we cannot afford to let that vision to die.”

(extract from Tim Farron’s speech on 24th June 2016)

Similarly in back in 2015, following the night when I was at my first count as a Parliamentary candidate in Lincoln and saw many of the inspirational colleagues that I looked up to losing their seats as MPs, through the darkness of the events unravelling there were chinks of light. The first was the fantastic team I had around me at the count. Most were in their first General Election, and they were young and committed liberals who were ready to begin the fightback. The energy they had to right the wrong of the night got me through.

The next part of the 2015 story happened up and down the country. The resignation speech of Nick Clegg began the tidal wave of new members. This influx, combined with the strength of the team from election night felt like I was plugged back in the mains electric supply.

The new Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, with former leader, Sir Vince Cable

As for what is the glint keeping me from complete and utter despair, that is Jo Swinson. I have long admired Jo as a politician and her commitment to fighting injustice. Her speech that she gave on becoming leader gave me the drive I need to help her and the party I love to succeed. You can read or listen to Jo’s speech in full at Lib Dem Voice here. (For those of you who are looking to listen/watch it move the video to 28 minutes in for the start of the coverage of the results or 34 minutes in for the start of the speech itself)

So yes, I may be glum and annoyed at the self-obsessed, blithering fool that is Boris is now hours away from becoming Prime Minister, but there is a leader who has my full support to ensure that Britain has a true alternative to the self-righteous and nationalist approach of Johnson and Farage, and the party that is led by man is so ineffective he cannot decide what his view is on the most important issue of the day. Thank you, Jo, for being a beacon of hope, decency and inspiration in this darkening world and I am on this fight with you for a better Britain and to stop Brexit!

The reasons why I am a Liberal Democrat

Standing for Parliament is similar to a job interview. The only thing different is that instead of a panel of three or four people watching how you perform and interact, this has nearly 73,000 people watching how you do. Also, with just less than 100 days to go until the election, it is a very long interview.

My own political views were shaped during my teens with the backdrop of Tony Blair’s government and the Iraq invasion in 2003. The Liberal Democrats’ stance against the Iraq war led me to join the party during Freshers’ Fair when I started Lincoln University, but it was not the only thing that attracted me to the party.

One of the principles the Lib Dems were founded on is that no-on shall be “enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

For me this is the most important aspect of being a Lib Dem – allowing someone to achieve their full potential no matter what their background.

I have not had a privileged up-bringing but my parents believed in helping me to reach the goals I aspired to. My Dad worked as a carpenter in the building trade and my Mum has worked both as a dinner lady and in retail. They worked hard and I never could ask for anything more they have done for me.  I studied hard and, with the help of my parents and the staff at my old school of St Peter & St Paul’s, got good grades and became the first in my family to go to University.

I now want to help others reach their goals, dreams and ambitions; that is why I am a Liberal Democrat.

The other core principles the Lib Dems were built on are the “fundamental values of liberty, equality and community”.

The Lib Dems, and the Liberals before, have been at the forefront of issues such as human rights, the environment, devolution, social justice and many more, long before they have been taken seriously by the other main parties, often being ridiculed by them for raising these issues that affect so many people’s lives. It never stopped us and our resolve grew stronger.

Personally, the Lib Dems long history in supporting LGBT rights is another key element for me. As someone who has experienced homophobia and had friends attacked for being themselves shows that there is still a long way to go in the journey. Equal Marriage was a fantastic step by the coalition, but there is lots still to do especially we need to look at the way in which LGBT asylum seekers are treated.

Looking back over the last five years of coalition, I am proud that the Liberal Democrats have been able to implement policies that follow these principles – the increased numbers of apprenticeships and the Pupil Premium to help children from the poorest backgrounds, to scrapping ID cards and ending child detention, and giving an £800 tax cut to millions of workers.

If you believe in a society in which people have the freedom to be themselves and live without fear, a country which keeps its citizens’ privacy and human rights, a promise to preserve our planet for generations to come and a nation that helps an supports everyone from whatever background to achieve their potential in life then you are also a Liberal Democrat.

Article for my Lincolnite column – posted by The Lincolnite 28th January