We had a meeting yesterday of Lib Dem members, councillors and activists, about the coalition the party has gone in to with the Conservative Party. It was interesting, but brought up some issues that really do make me wonder why some people ever joined the Liberal Democrats.
There were obviously a number of people, including me, whose views were very polarised on this issue. I was far from being the only one feeling a sense of disgust at the way our parliamentary party has acted. But I was appalled at the way some in our party will resort to personal attacks, blatant lies and selective use of quotes in order to justify their side of the argument, and all those people were on the "We love the coalition" side of the debate.
The first example was when I raised the point that we launched a "Tory VAT bombshell" poster in the General Election campaign, but now we might be the ones to be supporting the VAT rise. When I said VAT was the most regressive form of Taxation, hitting the poor most, a former Lib Dem council leader, and an accountant to boot, stood up and told me I was wrong. That VAT was not at all regressive and was very fair because it exempted children's clothes and food.
Now I might expect a political novice not to know much about VAT, but a former council leader, an accountant ?
When I retorted back that "it was Vince Cable who said it was the most regressive", he had no response other than to repeat it ?
For the sake of Clarity, just Google "Vince Cable Regressive VAT" and you get dozens of quotes.
Another point made by those who supported the deal was that a Green Councillor in Norwich had written to the Eastern Daily Press saying the coalition was a good idea and so had Iain Dale !
When I responded pointing out that the Green's in Norwich were putting out on twitter that this was a great opportunity to recruit Lib Dems, so no wonder they were keen on it, and Iain Dale might be a supporter of the deal, but he was also predicting this would have have a detrimental affect on Lib Dem election results, the pro camp's response was "We don't care what they've got to say anyway !"
So when it supported the pro Tory coalitionists to use their quotes, it was great. When those same people being quoted said things that did not support their arguments, suddenly their views were to be ignored. Confused ?
Finally, and most insulting, was a comment from one North Norfolk member. Now I have known this person since 1997. I drove her home from the General Election Count in 1997 at 5am in the morning. She has known that I have been an active campaigner, given up a lot of things in life and spent an awful amount of money on supporting the Lib Dems in North Norfolk and beyond.
So for this lady to turn around after I had spoken and say "We're tired of these people on the internet and twitter who do nothing for this party and never get out from behind their computers to do real work", was a real insult.
I can accept reasoned argument and genuine criticism. But personal attacks from someone like that in a public forum were far from liberal or fair.
The view I got from the meeting yesterday was that those people who for years I have had to argue with in order to stand paper candidates, in order to do target letters, in order to deliver Focus leaflets outside of election time, were the very same people who were arguing for the coalition.
I have almost made a decision on my future politically. But comments and the attitude of some people yesterday would not encourage me to join the Lib Dems if I was not already a member.