Wednesday, June 10, 2020

GUEST POST A lifetime among the Liberals

Paddy Briggs
looks back over a lifetime's political involvement and forwards to the next election.

I was 13 and for the first time I started to take an interest in politics. It was JFK wot did it. That summer of 1960 a man born in the same century as me was campaigning to be President of the United States. He was beautiful as was his wife. He wasn't Harold Macmillan or Ike or de Gaulle. He had charisma (though I don't think I knew that word at the time). He won!
 
In 1962 I got a bit excited again. Now Eric Lubbock wasn’t JFK but he made me momentarily famous at my boarding school. You see I lived in Orpington which hitherto had only been famous for its chickens. I decided to be a Liberal when he won. Of course I did.
 
As a student in the late 1960s there were plenty of good causes for liberals to care about. The old men defended the deadly nonsense of Vietnam. I didn't. They defended even the racial obscenity of Apartheid. I didn't. 
 
Surely the Liberal day had dawned ? But what did that mean ? Well it wasn’t Socialist (Good). Or Conservative (even better). So I knew what it wasn't – but what actually was it? That was more difficult.
 
The real dawn of the liberalism I believed in wasn't to come until the 1980s. Like Charles Kennedy and a few other good men and true I joined the SDP. Social Democracy and Liberalism. Perfect match. The SDP did well actually but the electoral system killed us. Charlie survived and a few others. I was mortified.
 
The Liberal Democrats were a decent post-SDP refuge and they did pretty well. Mainly as a home for those of the Centre/Left who lived in constituencies where Labour was nowhere and the Tories weren't that popular. Including mine – Twickenham. Vince was an old colleague of mine in Shell and a kindred spirit. Easy call. 
 
I liked the Coalition and thought the love-in in the Rose Garden was fine. My wife told me it was a public schoolboy alliance. She was certainly right but it suited me. But Nick didn't use his power as wisely as he could have. 2015 was a disaster. Even Vince lost. 2016 was the beginning of the end. The hideous referendum. Trump. Liberalism and pro Europeanism (my watchwords) became dirty words. 
 
So what now? Well first and foremost there’s Keir Starmer. He must be a man that the Libs can do business with. Surely to goodness. The policy is staring us in the face. Labour and the Lib Dems have much in common. An electoral alliance please. Labour to stand down in Lib Dem constituencies and in Tory constituencies where the LD’s are running second. The Lib Dems to do the same. Don't stand in Tory Conservative/Labour marginals.

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