I joined the Liberal Democrats back in April 1991, and from that first month became a canvasser, deliverer, and general dogsbody for the party across Norfolk and beyond. Back then, and until very recently, I always believe the lib Dems were a party that could bring about transformational change, they were a party that had fresh ideas, in short, I believed that the Lib Dems offered something different.
Today has shown that this is not true. The Lib Dems are as prepared to tell lies in order to win votes as any other political party. I canvassed in 2005 telling people that of course we supported a referendum on the EU constitution, and reminded people that we had also called for a referendum on the Maastricht treaty too. Sadly, as it turns out, I lied.
Through no fault of my own, my own political party turned be in to a liar. Suddenly I am no better than those in other political parties that I have opposed for years. Why ? Because it appears that I told fibs on doorsteps, not deliberately, but because I was under the misapprehension that the Liberal Democrats would be better than the other parties and be true to the manifesto that was published.
Did my lies alter the result where I was campaigning ? Of course not. The number of people who decided their vote on the Europe issue in the constituency I lived in was tiny. They voted, quite rightly, on a range of policies and issues and for a candidate that believed would stand up for them. Given the chance, if I lived in his constituency, I would happily vote for Norman Lamb again and my support for him remains undiminished, but sadly, my support for the party as a whole has been brought seriously in to question.
Whilst the EU constitution might not be a "deal breaker" in terms of the policy itself, it shows that the Lib Dems are no different to anyone else. That lustre, that something special that singled out the Lib Dems as being worth going out in the wind and rain on a cold wet night to deliver or canvass for has gone. If you cannot trust the party to uphold a simple principles of keeping to its manifesto pledges (which I should add Labour and Tories also ignore time and time again) then what singles us out ?
So with my 17 years membership mark approaching, I am going to have to take stock and see if there is any reason why I pay the Lib Dems so much in membership fees each year. IS my continued membership worth it ? Is there any reason to expect a Lib Dem government to be any better than anyone else ?
I obviously have a few days to think about it, but at the moment, I cannot get excited about the idea of the Liberal Democrats being any better in government than the Tories or Labour. That's sad, but it is a reflection of the absolute mess that has been created by the Lib Dem stance on the votes in parliament today. It's not, I will stress again, the issue of Europe, it is the issue of trust.
Update : I see at least one other Lib Dem is as upset as me, although I don't think he is considering leaving the party over it.