I’m sick of being taught a lesson.
I write this as I catch a train from Wales after a meeting to discuss the Party’s strategy to fight a council’s local elections and I just want to cry.
On the taxi journey to work this morning, I spoke with the elderly driver and the conversation quickly turned to the European Referendum and Trump’s victory in the Presidential Election. He boasts of his support for the victors of the two elections and I find myself just nodding and agreeing, not really listening to what he’s saying.
I asked what he expected to achieve, what he thought Trump and Leave would achieve. His answer leaves me depressed, sad and cold.
“To teach them a lesson”
At this point I agree and nod so as not to show my anger. As I wait for my train to arrive the phrase is going around my head over and over again. I remember this is the same phrase I heard from people in the General Election when they justified not supporting the party.
On reflection, people’s choice not to support the Lib Dems after the coalition years can be justified, as can their anger at how the European Parliament has evolved, or even the intangible support many of our friends in the UK showed for Trump.
This is not the teacher in primary school who took away part of your break time for interrupting lessons, or your parents grounding you for not cleaning your room. These are really big decisions that disrupt, damage or even cost people their lives.
I get that people are angry. I get that people feel down.
I get that people are sick to back teeth of politicians. As a liberal I defend everybody’s right to feel all of those things, but what I won’t defend is a bad excuse for not caring.
I often call the Lib Dems my bad habit – because I love it and can’t keep away. I’ve made a commitment to spending the next few years developing its cause. However, looking back on the past few months, I find my motives have shifted. I discovered I’m no longer doing this for fun – I’m doing it because I’m scared.
I’m scared of Le Pen ripping France away from Europe, scared of Frauke Petry becoming a force in politics, scared of a Britain without an opposition party, scared of Jobbik being seen as a reasonable choice, scared of a world where reality stars, racists, bigots and misogynists can buy elections.
It’s time we stopped being taught a lesson, and started teaching one of our own. Teaching of a politics of inclusion, of progression and of respect.
We have our opportunity – Richmond Park. The team there have being putting out the message that this election can change the course of Theresa May’s government.
I believe it can go further than that. If the Lib Dems can win Richmond Park, and we CAN win Richmond Park, that’s a turning point for politics across the world. It’s an acceptance of the lesson people wanted to teach liberalism and an offer of an alternative.
We have a fantastic candidate, a great message and an even better team but being frank, we can’t win without boots on the ground. I’ve cleared my diary for the month to be in Richmond Park to make sure we’re in with the best possible chance to change the direction of politics. I hope you can too.