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Liberal Democrats must seize the moment

July 7, 2016 11:15 AM
By Katharine Pindar in Liberal Democrat Voice

Make Votes MatterBoth the main parties are currently paralysed as political forces by their leadership battles. The Government is leaderless, the country at a standstill politically. This is our moment to assert our right to be heard as former and future political leaders, and force our presence on the airwaves and on social media. Moreover if the right-wing press will not accept our voice, this is surely the moment to invest in national advertising.

The week of the Chilcot report is the time to remind the country that it was the Liberal Democrats who opposed the attack on Iraq, along with a great mass of the public whose voices were also ignored. We should now claim again to represent the majority of the public, not by ignoring the result of the Referendum, but by acknowledging the many doubts that were felt by people voting either way, and pledging to try to meet the needs that were ignored by their self-obsessed leaders.

While the politicians of the two main parties fight for supremacy, we, the united Liberal Democrats, must fight for the people. With a growing recession, we must fight to protect the poorest, demanding government measures to alleviate probable rising food costs, and extra rises if necessary in the Living Wage. We should demand investment for growth, so that jobs can be created that are not just short-term or on zero-hours contracts, and social security reform to stop penalising those least able to protect themselves. We must insist on more funds for the NHS, more integration of health and social care - and also a welcome and thanks to the immigrant doctors and nurses and care workers. We should demand more social housing and some re-introduction of rent controls. We must develop economic policies which highlight the scandal of excessive pay rises for top executives, challenge the power of sophisticated predators linking hedge funds with top Tories, and promote greater equality through taxation.

And what of Brexit, and the EU? We are now pledged by our Leader to fight the next election promising to restore Britain's prosperity and role in the world within the EU, not outside it. But we should say, let us remember that the Iraq war was started with no thought for what came after, and the Brexit leaders equally never worked out a plan for what to do if they won. There must be time now taken for detailed work on such plans by a new Government - preferably after a General Election, as Nick Clegg has written.

We Liberal Democrats, believing in the EU, should also recognise that it is deeply divided between the federalists and the eastern bloc of countries which want reforms and a less centralised system. We should pledge to support reforms which enhance subsidiarity and democracy, and ask ALDE led by Catherine Bearder to work with like-minded EU politicians on plans for reform.

Finally, since one of the cries from our country was for more democratic control, let us pledge once again to seek PR, probably through STV, to give our newly-politicised fellow countrymen and women a chance to cast more meaningful votes in elections. They might even be able to vote for different branches of the current Labour and Conservative parties, or else for a party which they can trust to serve them.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.