To some who know me, this’ll be a surprise; to others, it’ll be a fulfilment of what they consider to be an inevitability. This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, ranking alongside leaving the Lib Dems in the first place. I have thought about this deeply for months, speaking to close friends both in Labour and in the Lib Dems for their personal advice. It’s not something I’ve done on a whim. I’m very grateful to all those who have offered me impartial advice, on many occasions advice that wouldn’t benefit them or their party.
I expect people will ask why I could associate myself with a party I consistently campaigned and spoke out against, particularly on aspects such as civil liberties and foreign policy. The answer is simply that these questions could quite equally apply to current Lib Dem members in asking why they remain in the party. I have come to the conclusion that all political parties are rubbish in some sense – the question really is whether or not you can fight these issues internally, enjoying the wins but stomaching the losses. I once again accept that this is an argument for rejoining the Lib Dems. The difference, and it pains me to say this, is that I campaigned with the party on the grounds of trust, of a new politics and an end to broken promises. The Lib Dem brand was trust, vastly moreso than any of the other parties. Whereas I was (and still am) angry at certain Labour politicians for the things the Blair/Brown government did, I feel utterly betrayed by a vast number of Lib Dem politicians for actions within the coalition. Even if the Lib Dems did make their way back into opposition and rediscover that radical flame (and I really hope they do), the number of MPs I will feel able to trust I can count on one hand. That’s not a good place to be.
There are a considerable number of fantastic people in the Labour Party I’ve recently had the opportunity to get to know a little better. I’m no stranger to working with them on certain campaigns and I look forward to doing so more closely. In particular, Surrey Labour Students (who I expect will attempt to take all the credit for my joining) have done some fantastic work on the living wage and have given me unwavering support on the stuff I’ve done on equal marriage. This image Labour seem to be tarnished with of uncompromising tribalism certainly isn’t reflected in those individuals. I’d rather be working with them to fight the awful things the coalition are doing than remain on the outside, sending angry tweets.
As a Labour Party member I will be unashamedly pro civil liberties, vociferously anti-positive discrimination, proudly pro freedom of speech and anti-no-platform, I will continue my equality work and I will aggressively pursue for the party to back a foreign policy that allows for legal liberal interventionism and certainly not the mess we saw in Iraq. In fact, oddly, I’ll be exactly the same as I was before.
One thing I am afraid I most certainly won’t be doing is the obligatory photograph holding the membership card alongside other figures within the new party, spouting some nonsense about how “<insert new party here> is the way forward for Britain and <insert old party here> has lost their way etc etc”. My former colleagues, many of whom are still good friends of mine, deserve better than the insincere photo op many ex-party activists smugly take part in when joining a new party.
I will always have a fondness for grassroots members of the Lib Dems, particularly Liberal Youth who continue to fight the good fight in difficult circumstances. Although angry words have been exchanged between myself and other Lib Dems of late, I certainly do not wish political obliteration on the Liberal Democrats. I sincerely hope they find that radical streak again that saw them rally against Iraq, ID cards, 42 days detention and many other injustices. I have many good friends within the party who I hope, after this, I can still call friends – although I’ll understand if that’s now more difficult.
I’ll continue to fight on issues that matter to me – equal marriage and the blood ban. I’ll be getting as involved as I can in opposing the disastrous Comms Data Bill that will eventually make its way through Parliament, both politically and through my expertise as somebody within the computing industry.
I’m very grateful to everybody who has been supportive.