Waterloo Lodge in the snow
Michael Meadowcroft & Liz Bee

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Why I joined the Liberal Democrats

by Michael Meadowcroft

Twenty-first century politics are a mockery of the rigorous and committed process that is required if our society and our communities are going to have a chance of surviving the challenges that dominate the agenda today. I happen to believe in politics and in the innate ability of men and women to work together in political organisations in order to create a secure and sustainable environment within which their life chances can be enhanced. To achieve that we need a far better quality of politics than we get from the two major parties today.

Spin, image and focus groups have dulled the public appetite for involvement in the political process - even at the most basic level of voting - and the electorate sees politicians as cynical chancers who will embrace any tactic that will give them a chance of power. Over the past twelve years new Labour has abandoned any semblance of an ideological anchor in progressive politics.

There was a time, before Blair, when, even if one did not agree with its proffered solutions, Labour could be trusted to have an instinctive response which would differentiate it from the Conservative right. Helping the poor, empathising with the developing world, being gentle with refugees, defending civil rights, building houses to let and espousing comprehensive education, could all be expected to be part and parcel of Labour's agenda. But today all this has gone and the pragmatic dissection of its honourable past means that nothing is too illiberal or too harsh for Labour.

I discovered my personal Liberal millstone very early on. Once identified, we happy band of instinctive Liberals have no choice: it's a lifetime of commitment and struggle. I joined the party way back in 1958 and after very few years it was a case of finding jobs that would keep me in politics. Over the thirty years to the merger I reckon to have done just about every task within the "backroom" and in the "frontline", and to have written on just about every subject. It's all on my website. Faced with those who lacked confidence in the potential of their Liberal beliefs, the task was to provide them with the material with which to triumph in debate and on the hustings.

Within the party Leeds was somewhat unusual. In the main Leeds Liberals were dislodging entrenched Labour hacks. Not left wing ideologues but essentially social democrats. Having spent fifteen years getting a Liberal elected in place of a social democrat in West Leeds it seemed rather perverse then to join them!

But then was then and twenty years on it is vital to examine the abject state of politics and to determine how best one can today analyse the rampant illiberalism that is destroying the linkages on which our communities depend, and to decide how best to reverse the trend and to persuade the electors to adopt the Liberal solutions that alone can transform society.

I have spent most of the past seventeen years in international politics assisting new and emerging democracies. It his high time I got stuck into domestic politics again! In my judgement the ecological imperative is almost universally accepted, even though there are very different views amongst the parties as to how survival can be won. Three massive current issues remain: [1] the consequences of the US and UK invasion and occupation of Iraq which continues to make life horrendous for the Iraqi people. [2] The government's determination to use identity cards as the main means to create a massive database on every citizen which is a huge threat to our privacy and to our essential civil liberties. [3] The bright vision of a united Europe is under serious threat from xenophobes and conservatives of Right and Left who believe that somehow the British Isles can be floated off into the Atlantic in contradiction and defiance of their geographic location and their European heritage.

Realistically, to play any role in influencing these issues one has now to be in the mainstream of politics. I have therefore joined the Liberal Democrats.