Why I’ve joined Liberal Left

Mathew Hulbert

Image © Brett Patterson

This week, I’ve joined Liberal Left.

I’ve done so, having first expressed considerable reservations about the group when it first formed a few weeks ago, even going so far as to set them out in a lengthy blog post for Lib Dem Voice.

So, why the volte face?

Well, for a number of reasons which I want to set out here.

Before I do that, however, let me address a couple of questions which were immediately posed to me when I announced my joining of Liberal Left on Twitter.

Do I still support the Coalition Government?

I’ll be honest with you, this is a tricky one.

I supported its formation and have defended it ever since, but there’s no denying that, as time has gone on, I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the direction of travel.

I guess the best way I can describe my current position is as follows: I support Liberal Democrats in Government making and taking decisions that are in accordance with our stated values and policies as a Party.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me, however, to hear that I hate us being in Coalition with the Conservatives and I also feel greatly saddened when it appears that our Ministers have capitulated to the Tory agenda, as – I’d argue – they’re doing by supporting the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament (though I still hold out a hope that it will, even at the eleventh hour, be stopped.)

Do I want to see the Coalition Government end before 2015?

I accept that that eventuality would probably cause my Party more harm than good. So, no I don’t.

Would I rather see a Coalition of the Left post 2015?

Again, it shouldn’t really be surprising to hear that, if the numbers were to allow it following the General Election, then yes, of course, this would be my preferred outcome.

Which is not to say that we suddenly stop attacking the Labour Party for what it got wrong in Government – which was a lot. I shall continue to be a very vocal critic of Labour’s rank hypocrisy and opportunism.

But, I do believe that there is an opportunity for Party’s of the Centre-Left and Left – and unaligned individuals with the same aims – to work together, in a broad sense (let me be clear, I don’t agree with any ideas of our Party engaging in any more mergers), to further the causes which we share in common.

From the NHS to state education to further action on the Green agenda.

I’m a proud member of the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) and, indeed, Chairman of one of its regional branches.

I intend to remain a part of SLF, at both a regional and national level, and to help it continue its vitally important work of seeking to ensure a more socially liberal agenda for this Government.

SLF’s first major publication, the recently released, Plan C – social liberal approaches to a fair, sustainable economy, by my good friend Prateeek Butch, is an excellent treatise which, I hope, will inform Lib Dem approaches to these matters for many years to come.

So, that having been said, why join Liberal Left?

I’ll be honest, partly because I needed some kind of outlet, from within the Party, to express my dismay at some of what it is doing in Government.

But, and much more importantly, I agree with a great deal of Liberal Left’s agenda (though, it’s important to state, not all of it) and hope to work with its Executive to forward it.

Before taking this decision, I had a long phone conversation with Liberal Left’s Chair, Linda Jack, and was impressed by her passion for her beliefs and her commitment to the Party and those people she feels she represents.

In my Lib Dem Voice blog post a few weeks back, I questioned whether Liberal Left would merely be divisive.

And so, it’s perfectly valid, to ask me now whether I’m not adding to potential divisions.

On reflection, I think I was wrong to not be more adult about Liberal Left’s formation and to recognise that, within political parties, there are always various streams of opinion…call them factions or caucuses, or whatever you like.

This is not about division. It is about being able to express, within a democratic political party, what your view is, to argue the case, and then to hopefully reach a consensus and move forward, united.

Sometimes you’ll win in a debate, other times you’ll lose.

But, the great thing about the Liberal Democrats is that we can all hold our views, express them trenchantly, but still always be clear that our Party remains the best vehicle for delivering a Britain that is free, fair, and green.

  • Mathew Hulbert is a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Leicestershire, Chairman of the East Midlands Social Liberal Forum, and a new member of Liberal Left.

He writes here in an independent capacity. You can follow him on Twitter via: @HulbertMathew



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