Month: September 2015

An Open Letter To Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

Dear Tom Watson,

I was so heartened, like many, to see Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn call for a ‘kinder politics’. However, given your not so kind and frankly laughably hypocritical comments about the Liberal Democrats today, am I to assume this is the first Labour u-turn under yet another feckless leader?

So, we’re a “useless bunch of lying sell-outs”? I presume this has largely stemmed from the last five years and our part in the coalition government. Did we lie about tuition fees? No, we didn’t – we didn’t and couldn’t deliver our policy because there was no money left by the last Labour government to fund it. I also think it would be wise to abstain (pun intended) on whipping us with the tuition fees stick considering it was your party who introduced them in the first place, and your party who has broken even more promises on tuition fees than us, and what’s worse is you were in majority government for eleven years and could have done what you liked.

Sell-outs is a funny insult to levy at a party that has been consistently liberal for the entirety of its existence; delivering same-sex marriage, the welfare state and the pupil premium among other things. Labour on the other hand have flitted through endless streams of populist trends in an attempt to find any lingering whiff of power you can. Are you socialists? Are you centrists? Are you small c conservatives? Who knows? I suspect you don’t either.

I get tired of the piousness from the Labour Party, who have consistently attacked other (and I use that term extremely loosely) progressives, whilst doing very little to that end themselves. You have successfully attained the loyal support of many vulnerable social groups but beyond having their support do you have any actual interest in them? Labour didn’t have same-sex marriage in their manifesto in 2010 and you didn’t implement it in the thirteen years of power you had prior to that. In fact, almost every single piece of pro-equality legislation the Labour Party has ever passed has been implemented because you were sued in to doing so or because a Liberal drew up the proposals for you.

The Gender Recognition Act? Allowing gays in the military? Forced on to the Labour government by the European Human Rights Convention, like so many other pro-equality pieces of the time. What about equalising age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual couples? The charge against that very movement in 1994 was led by David Blunkett, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary. And what about the Welfare State, set up as outlined in the Beveridge report? It did not come from the fresh-thinking or strong principles of the Labour Party but from William Beveridge, a member of the old Liberal Party.

And what about the illegal Iraq war? A conflict fought on false pretences which has almost irreparably stoked tensions in the Middle East, caused countless needless deaths of civilians and the Armed Forces and contributed to four million people leaving Syria and seeking refuge around the world. And by the way, who was it in Calais talking about this humanitarian crisis and calling for us to take more refugees in? It wasn’t the four squabbling Labour leadership candidates; it was Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

In fact, just this week, Labour vetoed a monumentally progressive debate on scrapping Trident at party conference because you were afraid your apparently sturdy principles, which nobody can identify, would upset your Trade Union overlords.

Maybe you’re upset that ‘we got in to bed with the Tories’. Are we the real Tory enablers? No. Labour are the party who launched campaigns slamming the Liberal Democrats for their role in government, ignoring all the positive manifesto pledges we successfully made in to law and the sterling job we did at tampering the truly heinous Conservative government we’re left with now. If it wasn’t for Labour conflating this nonsensical version of events, we wouldn’t have lost so many Tory-Lib Dem marginals and maybe we’d be ‘in bed’ with you instead.

It’s not like you’re exactly showing yourself to be stern opposition to the newly unrestrained Tories. Let us not forget the mass abstention from the Labour Party on votes that threatened the very existence of our National Health Service, the one you so reverently yet incorrectly boast to have created. So what is Labour’s idea of promoting social equality? Separate manifestos for LGBT+ people? Tough-talking xenophobic mugs? Patronising pink buses?

To be honest, Mr. Watson, this quote would be funny if it weren’t so sad and weren’t so damaging. Whilst your party sat in a hall waiting the result of its recent leadership election, patting itself on the back for its gender diversity as man after man addressed the packed venue of Labour members, the Liberal Democrats were reflecting on a job well done in government. We were reflecting on how we made the country a better place for people on low income, school children, gay and lesbian couples among others – and just how devastated we were we lost so many excellent female MPs too.

The Liberal Democrats are not perfect, we made mistakes, plenty of them. But are we ‘useless’? Are we ‘lying sell-outs’? No, we’re not. The Labour Party has reaped the rewards of its inaccurate reputation and as a result has become the greatest hindrance to social and economic equality in this country.

So instead of slinging mud from the halls of an auditorium in Brighton where your party so arrogantly and so wrongly revels in its own ego, we’re out fighting this awful Conservative government and making a meaningful, and better yet, genuine stand against inequality and injustice. Maybe one of these days, you would like to join us.
Yours faithfully,

Chris Whiting

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“You Are #LibDemFightback”: 10 Liberals Who Can Lead The Party’s Recovery

The Liberal Democrats are down but they’re not out, excluding our leader and party president, these ten Liberals can be at the forefront of the Lib Dem fightback!

Norman Lamb

Despite being defeated in the leadership election, Norman Lamb is still a politician of real quality. His extraordinary work towards improving treatment of mental health in coalition government means Norman will find being the party’s Health spokesperson a breeze. Norman is a rare breed of politician; he’s widely liked outside of party lines – he even received a glowing report from The Daily Mail! Health issues are always at the forefront of British politics and Norman has the qualities to make people listen to our plans for the NHS.

Kirsty Williams

The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is one of the party’s best parliamentarians. Kirsty’s leadership will be crucial in leading the Lib Dem revival in Wales. Kirsty is a dedicated and passionate liberal with an irresistible charm, her record in the Welsh Assembly, particularly on education and providing children and young people with greater opportunity needs to be exploited. Her track record and natural poise mean she is one to watch in the party and should consider standing for deputy leadership.

Josh Dixon

He probably thinks I’m taking the piss by including him but that’s only partially true. As the most senior member of Liberal Youth and experience at the very top of the party, Josh has the tools to lead the Lib Dem Fightback online and with the young’uns. Josh is a respected member of the Social Liberal Forum and can help the party regain positive traction with younger audiences. Josh’s tweets and life in general may be a bit tragic but his politics are great and I’m sure given the opportunity, people will respond to that.

Jo Swinson

Most people’s tip to be the party’s next deputy leader. Jo Swinson’s defeat in the 2015 General Election was undeserved and is considered a travesty within the party. Swinson flourished as Junior Equalities Minister in the Coalition government and is renowned for putting tackling gender discrimination at the forefront of her politics. Jo Swinson is a passionate advocate for equalites regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or ability, the Lib Dems can thrive in these areas of policy because the Tories will not prioritise them over the next five years.

Maajid Nawaz

Maajid is ever the controversial and divisive figure, but I think his expertise is vital. In an increasingly uncertain world, Nawaz is the perfect man to lead the Lib Dems on policy concerning Islamism and the emergence of the so-called Islamic State. It is crucial we as Liberals redress the culture of disenfranchising Muslims in Britain and Nawaz can help the party on it’s way to attaining a broad, range of views on the matter.

Tessa Munt

Tessa is another leading former MP who has allegedly long had her eyes set on deputy leadership. Munt has proven herself to be a capable and resilient politician, already expressing her desire to stand again in the constituency she lost just four months ago. Tessa’s speeches at Lib Dem Autumn Conference were confident, punchy and inspiring and her steely determination and unwavering gumption are exactly the assets the party needs to recuperate.

Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone is one of the party’s most internally popular politicians. As a minister in the Home Office, Featherstone paved the way for same-sex marriage to be legalised in the coalition government and also set about ending the heinous practice of FGM. As one of the new ‘kamikaze peers’, Featherstone will once again be at the forefront of the party, tackling Energy & Climate Change – an issue that is often overlooked. Lynne Featherstone has a natural aura that makes her likable and personable and let’s face it, her outstanding legacy speaks for itself.

Catherine Bearder

As the party’s sole MEP, poor Catherine Bearder has her work cut out for her ahead of next year’s EU membership referendum. But make no mistake, Catherine Bearder has her seat on merit and has the tools to lead the party’s unashamedly pro-European stance. Of course, Bearder will need the help from the wider Lib Dem membership but Catherine’s position of influence could help her and our party be on the right side of history by championing EU membership next Autumn.

Zack Polanski

I really like Caroline Pidgeon but Zack Polanski would have been my tip for the top of the Lib Dems’ GLA list. As he showed during the party’s rally at this year’s Autumn conference, Zack can really make liberalism exciting. His pure exhilaration and passion for liberal politics and the people he desires to serve means he is arguably the best example of how the Lib Dems can rebuild from the grassroots up. There are a finite number of people, if any, more likeable in the party than Zack and if that translates he can be at the forefront of the party’s grassroots and capital revival.

Chris Whiting

And finally, there is me. As the best blogger in the Liberal Democrat world and generally the best liberal ever, I am undoubtedly the party’s best asset. I mean I’m 200/1 to be the next leader for goodness sake, I’ve as good as got it – in fact, I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t happen. Seriously though, members of Liberal Youth and avid social media users like me can also make a massive difference to the party’s fortunes but I’m just going to list my name… for the attention.

Loud Liberalism Will Save The Lib Dems

My first Liberal Democrat conference this week was a thoroughly enriching experience. As a dedicated member of a party at its lowermost ebb in recent memory, having the opportunity to collude with like-minded individuals was invaluably refreshing and will do wonders in aiding our ‘fightback’.

In truth, Lib Dem conference is a strange land filled with gospel choirs, jovially witty songs and jokes about the breaking Prosciutto Affair. A place where I’m Paddy Ashdown’s idol, Nick Clegg is a humble giant and Alistair Carmichael stays up to discuss skinny jeans in to the early hours of the morning. However, despite the breezy spirit and happy-go-lucky merriment, the lasting legacy of autumn conference in Bournemouth is a serious one, a clear direction for our party to go to next.

Alistair Carmichael told me that he had noticed me in the auditorium after the Trident policy vote and expressed that he was struck by how ‘pissed off’ I looked – which was fair, because I was. A loaded debate which favoured the parliamentary party’s and established Lib Dems’ stance saw the party defer on making a real policy on Trident either way, this limp-wristed policy is all too indicative of our contemporary public perception – and we need to counteract that.

Economic sensibility is not somewhere we lost votes, in fact, I’d be willing to wager that our economic credentials are considered among the finest in the country, at least that’s what The Institute of Fiscal Studies thinks. Yet, we have lost our identity as a radically progressive party, or at least, it has been diluted and overshadowed by others. Small ‘l’ liberals in this country care about economic sensibility, of course they do, but they care about civil liberties, they care about internationalism, they care about recreational drugs, euthanasia, equalities and social justice and we need to rediscover that unapologetic vibrant liberalism that makes our ideology so popular the world over. It’s as Tim Farron noted in his first keynote speech; we need liberals to become Liberal Democrats.

My views were shared by a friend I made, a long-term party member who was attending his first conference, named Fareed. He and I spent many hours agreeing with our fundamental vision for our party and it was one we relayed to an enthusiastic albeit exhausted Norman Lamb late on Tuesday night. Although, we agreed on our collective vision, Fareed was able to articulate it far more successfully than I, a further testament to how enriching a strong membership can be. The Liberal Democrats need to make noise, we spent five years in a gruelling coalition government and barely anybody knows what we did whilst in power. We didn’t shout loud enough about delivering same-sex marriage, raising the personal allowance and ending child immigration detention centres. When parties and movements make noise, the people follow. UKIP have chirped on and on about the corrupt establishment politics of Brussels and Westminster and have seen a remarkable rise in the popular vote and too a win in last year’s European elections. Similarly, the SNP were able to bang the drum of Scottish independence last year and made such a racket that they won nearly every single Scottish seat in Westminster. People are intrigued by blare, titillated by dynamism and enthused by effervescence; I’m calling on my party to be one of unadulterated, uninhibited loud liberalism that will inspire Britons from St. Ives to Shetland.

My friend Fareed then went on to provide me with a stunning metaphor for our party. He is an avid fan of Classics, and particularly stories from the Iliad. During a lively chat at the bar this week, he told me the story of Cassandra, a woman punished by the gods with the curse of being able to foresee the future but never being able to convince people that she was being truthful about her predictions. It was during this casual sharing of interests that his eyes widened and he uttered the all too prophetic and tragically accurate phrase; “we’re the Cassandra party”. We were right about the welfare state, we were right about Iraq and we were right about the coalition. I, like Tim Farron, am absolutely fed up with being right and losing elections.

It was perhaps fitting that it was actually Charles Kennedy who left me feeling the most inspired to rectify that. During the remarkably observed and excruciatingly emotional tribute to our late, great former leader, a quote eerily echoed around the auditorium, a last contribution by Charles to his party, and a blueprint for our ‘fightback’; “This is what we should be passionate about. If it makes us unpopular in certain quarters, let’s be unpopular for what we care about, what we believe in, and what defines us and what we think is best for our country.”

It really is rather that simple, the sagacity of Charles Kennedy can lead us to the top yet again. We as a party have made mistakes, of course we have, but liberalism is a brand that provides hope for every single person the world over. We need to change, we need to move away from the comfort of vapid centrism and embrace the radical alternative that holds together our every tradition. The time is now to make a racket, take the fight to the government and make liberalism the brash politics that charms voters. Now, four months after our near obliteration, we are convalescing at an encouraging speed. Loud liberalism will save our party and our country. More than ever, the Liberal Democrats need Britain and Britain needs the Liberal Democrats – please don’t let us be right without power again.