Suddenly you realise you are not so different after all

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.


Linda Jack said...


Technically there is no lie, since it is correct to say that the Lisbon Treaty is not the Constitution. However, I do agree that we were wrong, for whatever reason, (I blame the cosy relationship between Ming and Gordon) But, my starting point is where are my values? Are they Liberal, Labour or Tory? I know the answer to that and however exasperated I may get with the party I believe those values are worth continuing to fight for. I hope you do to.


Anonymous said...

I can sympathise with your position because I recall what it felt like when I realised that the party I had given years of service to was not what I thought and no longer represented the principles that I did.

Anonymous said...

The sad reality in this country (and most countries) is that you can not prevail politically by telling the truth. In a democracy, the general public - your voters - aren't able to handle it.

Take the recent Ohio primary in the US.

We had the ridiculous situation of 2 intelligent people who understand that America's problems are not caused by free trade pretending that NAFTA was some evil in order to win democrat votes in Ohio.

What if say Obama had told the truth about how he believes the free trade of goods is an economic benefit? - Clinton landslide. Sad but true.

Gareth said...

At least two of your front bench resigned, which means that at least some in the Lib Dems are still motivated by principle.

Of more concern to me is the insistence on an all-or-nothing referendum on the EU. There may be a case for that, there always has been, but the people need to vote on what's in front of them right now.

Bad show by Clegg, I knew you should have picked Huhne.

Anonymous said...

I came to the same conclusion a year ago Nich and mailed my resignation. The increasing number of illiberal policies was making me wonder whether the Lib Dems were really worth campaigning for. The campaigning itself didn't help either, it's so cynical. The Lib Dems run petitions not because they genuinely care about the issue but to get canvas data to put on EARS. It was a big deal for me to leave the party after it had taken up such a large chunk of my life but I know I've done the right thing. Every now and then something like this confirms it. I now have time to spend with my family and friends and on other hobbies. Not being a member of a party is fantastic!

Cllr Matt Davies said...

There was no lie Nich, simple as that.

arachesostufo said...

in Italia si ha l'impressione che Obama sia preferito alla Clinton e si dice che sia appoggiato dalla famiglia Kennedy

IanPJ said...

Do these politico's (of all 3 main parties) honestly believe that the voting public is so stupid that they dont realise when they are being stitched up.

Time to look at something seriously different. Honesty.


Anonymous said...

Understand how you feel, but stay with it. My Lib Dem council has made real differences to people's lives, at the end of the day the Liberal Democrats are better than the rest even if that isn't saying much.

Newmania said...

Oh do sod off Nick , you are going nowhere and you know it, (much as I would like to see Liberals join our Party )
How will you feel when Clegg keeps brown in power having denied there was a deal in place ?

jailhouselawyer said...

As a child I used to get upset when somebody lied to me and I discovered the truth.

In prison, a governor once said that I was too truthful for my own good. I disagree with this but I know what he meant. Sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes some people prefer to live a lie.

I disagreed strongly with the war against Iraq. I did not believe the weapons of mass destruction story to justify the invasion. I wrestled with my conscience whether I could still vote for Labour at the last election. The 18 years of Thatcher ruled out the Tory Party. And, the LibDems were not in a position to win. Therefore, it was either abstain or vote for Labour.

All 3 parties lie. Politics is a dirty business. It's win at all costs. Scruples go out of the window.

I did say awhile back that Nick Clegg as Home Affairs, lied to me personally in emails, and to the LibDems, over the issue of convicted prisoners and the vote. This hurt because it is a cause dear to me. Still, I thought he was the best out of a bad bunch for the leader of the LibDems.

I think we are still very primitive when it comes down to sacrifices. We are forced to make choices that we don't like. You appear to be tearing yourself up over a party that appears destined to always come in a poor third. Perhaps, those on the right ought to cross the floor and join the Tory Party, and those on the left the Labour Party.

Whichever Party wins the election it appears that the electorate loses. "Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Lord Blagger said...

It's a lie, pure and simple and I expect more of the Lib Dems.

It passes the duck test, as does this constitutional treaty.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, its a duck.

No referenda is a lie since it passes the duck test. Just as this treaty is a constitution.

To treat the electorate with the disdain and do a Bill Clinton and say you didn't have sexual relations with that woman, because its restricted to sexual intercourse is a joke.

This is a major reason why people are turned off politics. We want control over policies, either to set them, or to veto them. Instead we get politicians who lie by saying one thing and doing another, whilst acting like pigs at a trough and enriching themselves at the publics expense.


jailhouselawyer said...

I almost added this bit: "Instead we get politicians who lie by saying one thing and doing another, whilst acting like pigs at a trough and enriching themselves at the public's expense".

I just wonder how much better off our prisons, schools and hospitals would be if it wasn't for all the snouts in the trough at Westminister?

Anonymous said...

Go....Go now and do the right thing.

Fred Harrison said...

Dead on. I completely agree. These parliamentary manouevrings are neither Liberal nor Democratic. We deserve all the criticism we're about to get in tomorrow's papers.

Liam Murray said...

Won't do a tremendous amount to better your mood Nich but worth stressing that neither of the other two parties can claim any moral high ground here - the realisation you've came to is that the Lib Dems may be 'no better', not that they're worse.

Whatever your disillusion with you own mob at the moment it's still perfectly reasonable that you come to the conclusion they're the best of a bad bunch and stay a member.

Anonymous said...

Jailhouselawyer - on honesty, did you plead guilty or not guilty to killing that old woman with an axe?

Nich - Norman Lamb didn't support his manifesto commitment for a referendum. Kudos to those Lib MPs with integrity who did. They are the true democrats because they made a promise at the election and stood by it. Good for them.

Anonymous said...


I find it absolutely incredible that MPs are not allowed to vote on a manifesto commitment. They are doing so with the very best of motives and integrity.

It is high time that the upper echelons understand that it is the electorate that MPs are obligated to - not the party leader.

Wriggling about the differences over constitution / treaty are academic.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately I did not actually join a political party but I did vote for the Liberal Democrats at the last election. It was a positive action as I was actually enthused major planks of their manifesto. Since that election, despite continuing own goals on the part of the Liberal Democrats I still felt myself as one of their voters. This issue has tipped the balance.

The arguments made by Brown and Clegg with regards to the treaty/constitution are just dishonest. At the last election the Liberal Democrats rightly took NuLab to task on the issue of student fees and their manifesto promises. Now they do it themselves.

To me the most important issue is to ensure the removal of NuLab, by this action the Lib Dems have demonstrated that if it came to the crunch they will keep a disgraced Brown government in power. A Lib Dem vote would no longer be jeered at as a "wasted" vote, it would be a pro NuLab vote.

Vienna Woods said...

Many years ago I was co-opted onto a town council as an independent. The council was dominated by Labour, with Liberals second and Tories third. During my tenure I was continually courted by the Liberals to join them in order to tip the balance of power away from Labour. Come election time (my first) I took the Liberal banner and was elected, not only for the Town Council, but for the District Council as well. My new found Liberal "friends" were able to achieve much in a hung council, yet my value to them was not good enough to share with me their intentions to place a gypsy camp in my town by deliberately excluding me from their secret negotiations. When I eventually discovered their underhand dealings it took me all of 5 seconds to resign from the party, taking two other Liberal councilors with me and crossing the floor to the Conservatives. Because of that stand, on a matter of principle, I was subsequently reelected twice more to both town and district, serving as mayor and chairman of the Planning Committee and for the first time ever putting the Conservatives in power. Since this time I have remained a Conservative and would never, ever, give the Liberal party another chance. This scenario is very much the same to me as the current fiasco regarding the referendum. I don't like being lied to and I don't believe in complicating issues by introducing inane ideas that nobody else cares about, nor understands the reason for!

Anonymous said...

In any case. It is still possible for every European to vote YES or NO to Free Europe Constitution.

That site is not afraid of the Europeans: www.FreeEurope.info

Stephen Glenn said...

Nich, I agree with you on the issue that it makes us look like liars. Me somewhat maybe more so than you as 47 of those who just sat there stood on the same pledge as I did on 5.5.05, only Willie Rennie obviously didn't get elected on that GE manifesto.

I've been supporting this party for 20 years and seen us as a party of priniciple. I'm glad that 15 of our MPs managed to maintain theirs.


Nich Starling said...

The problem is that it is not the fault of the MPs, any of them, but it is the fault of the leader who imposed a three line whip. We ought to be proud of loyal MPs, but sadly shamed by the system and leadership that took them down that route.

This Is Alba said...

Why oh why did 20,988 card carrying members vote for him in the first place?

jailhouselawyer said...

anonymong: I pleaded guilty. There's honesty for you. Now, why don't you do the decent thing and be honest about your identity rather than lie behind the shield of anonymity?

Anonymous said...

Left in the 1990s fed up with the illiberalism of both my council group and the national party having joined in 1965 and served at a national level for many years. Why are the majority of the parliamentary party unable to see the issue is not Europe but trust in our party and its representatives. They were supposed to be different but are in fact the same.

Anonymous said...

Fact is not a single Lib Dem MP voted against a referendum. Only Labour and Tory MPs voted against a referendum on the Treaty, just as they combined earlier in the week to vote against a Lib Dem move to consider a referendum on the substantive question of our membership of the EU.

Stop buying the spin of others and start selling our own message.

Nich Starling said...

And what is our message ? I campaigned on our message in 2005 and it turned out it was not true.

Stephen Glenn said...

Adrian, having sat through many conference debates at confereneces on Europe, and the ones that set up the 2005 manifesto on which both you and I stood. I'm failing to see what is substantially different from the Lisbon Treaty to the reasons we gave the electorate back then as to why they deserved to have their voice heard on the Consitution.

Further to that I also fail to see how our MPs could demand a referendum on Maastricht and then not demand one of Lisbon. While at the same time our MPs are claiming they want a referendum on Europe our MSPs denied to even discuss the possibility of one on an Independent Scotland.

Are we not meant to be a party who stands by our principles? If so where have they gone?

Unknown said...

I was a founder member of the Liberal Democrats and stood 4 times as a Parliamentary Candidate (including a Parliamentary by-election). I've left the Party because it has become Illiberal, Undemocratic and unprincipled about anything other than gaining votes by any cynical and underhand method it can.

And of course, like the other Unionist parties, it insists that Scotland and Wales are nations to be supported and encouraged but the English should be denied an equal status in the Union and England should be broken up into artificial glorified County Councils on a "Divide and Conquer" basis.

Make the step.

You won't regret it.

Anonymous said...

yes, if you do go you can see from the tear-filled messages above just what lovely company you'd be in Nich!

Liberalism sometimes isn't served well by the Lib Dems, but there really isn't anywhere else to go, and the philosophy is worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

Nich, this is not a question of the treaty (which is not the constitution, as well you know).

It is about the Party's leader making a firm decision that our MPs should not vote on the amendment and the shame should go to the 15 who were unable to put party unity above a misreading of the manifesto.

It is due to them that all this furore has come up. If all 63 had abstained there would be no trouble in anyone's mind at all.