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I used to sneer at Lib Dems. Now I’ve joined them

January 29, 2017 2:47 PM
By Barbara Ellen in The Observer
Originally published by High Peak Liberal Democrats

We are the 48As an ardent Remainer, it is the only party that will uphold my beliefs

I've done it, I've joined the Liberal Democrats. Since leaving the Labour party, I've been thinking about it, edging closer and closer, like when you see footage of people slowly shuffling on their bums towards plane doors to do charity parachute jumps.

I did it for highly unoriginal Brexit reasons (I'm one of those Remoaners who still think there's a lot to Remoan about). The Tories are morphing into a cartoon hydra of their own worst impulses. The Labour party seems intent on chewing on sticks of dynamite like they're delicious lollipops.

Donald Trump is squatting in power like an angry toad stuck to an uber-Republican lily pad. Ultimately, I joined the Lib Dems because I didn't know what else I could do. The way I see it, this is turning into Generation Compromised and you gotta do what you gotta do.

It's all far from perfect (Tim Farron needs to speak clearly about gay issues). But it goes further back than that. My working-class background always felt like a bad fit with "Lib Demmery". I still have a childish Lib Dem cliche lodged in my head about earnest folk in socks teamed with sandals.

However, the Lib Dems are committed to fighting against the bizarre acceleration towards Chaos Brexit (Apocalypse Brexit? Clueless Brexit?). This isn't about the people who voted for Brexit - it's about the people in charge of Brexit.

I'm grateful that the Lib Dems are speaking up and I want to show my support - swell their ranks, at least give the other parties a fright and a reality check. Other people agree - they're joining the Liberal Democrats in droves.

Others disagree and I keep coming across them, in real life and on social media. Like me, they're Remoaners who still feel they have a lot to Remoan about.

There are also quite a few disenchanted former Jeremy Corbyn/John McDonnell/ Momentum supporters, whose conversation is often punctuated by the terrible melancholy crash of scales falling from their eyes. Some of them say that they could never support the Lib Dems - they feel that they can't be trusted because of the coalition/tuition fee debacle. I listen respectfully, but think privately: oh come on, move on, get over it just a tad.

The point is, I understand how people feel because I spent a long time feeling exactly the same way. I was furious about the coalition, though I think now that we can all appreciate that the Lib Dems were telling the truth when they say they did what they could to curb the worst Tory excesses.

I remain angry about tuition fees (the ultimate betrayal of British youth), though whatever else the Lib Dems did or didn't do, they didn't originally introduce the fees.

Unlike the Tories, the Lib Dems were spanked mightily at the last general election. Wasn't that enough? They're hardly the first party to renege on a pledge in British political history; when will they be allowed to put down their electoral leper bell and be judged "clean" again?

So I understand if people still wake up screaming, remembering the sickening scenes of the David Cameron/Nick Clegg "bromance" in the Downing Street rose garden.

However, I feel it's now time to stop sniping about a ball that started rolling back in 2010 and instead focus solely on the here and now. And right now, continuing to carp about the past sins of the Lib Dems feels akin to whingeing about the colour of the curtains while the house burns down.

I meant what I said earlier about it feeling like Generation Compromised: this may become an era that ends up defined by having to make difficult, conflicted grown-up choices - holding your nose and just getting on with it. Anything else could turn out to be self-indulgent in the extreme.