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Monday, 24 October 2016

Leaving the Liberal Democrats

I could make this a longer piece, but I'm not going to. My Liberal Democrat party membership lapsed last month, at the end of a period in which my party had bombarded me with increasingly manic emails from the Reader's Digest playbook, saying how much the Lib Dems have "loved having me in our family", or ghastly words to that effect. To paraphrase Boston Legal, "It's not a family; it's a political party".

They say that the family that plays together, stays together, but - in Lib Dem terms - I'm not playing any more. To be a member of a political party is to proclaim that party as one's positive favourite among them all, and that is not how I feel about the Liberal Democrats (or any other party) at present. Are they even the party with which I disagree the least? Maybe. But I'm not sure.

There are many fine people in the Liberal Democrats; to paraphrase Danny Kaye (the actor, not Jacqueline's brother), "Some of my best parents are Liberal Democrats". I am proud to have campaigned as a Liberal Democrat candidate and am also proud of the record of the Coalition Government, which - thanks to Nick Clegg - was the best British government of my lifetime. I am filled with respect for my Lib Dem friends and I do think that Tim Farron is doing his best in appallingly difficult circumstances.

I promised brevity, so I shall get to the point: the final straw. It came some weeks ago, since when other straws have accumulated, but I am now about to clutch at the straw that I originally had in mind. It was, not to beat about the bush, this: http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/lib-dems-tonges-jewish-power-article-not-anti-semitic/. It beggars belief that a person accused of sharing an article about "Jewish power" should be defended on the following grounds:

"Having reviewed your complaint, our view is that an opinion can be controversial – and even offensive – but still fall short of being racist.

"We are a liberal party that places immense value on freedom of speech…That includes the freedom to criticise in the strongest terms the actions of states and governments and the causal effects of their policies… Any desire not to offend also needs to be balanced against the right to criticise in the strongest terms the actions of states and governments."

Yet it is in such grounds that one of the Lib Dems' innumerable committees has defended a party member (who sits in Parliament) who has been accused of sharing such an article. Talk of "Jewish power" has nothing at all to do with "the right to criticise in the strongest terms the actions of states and governments". Any committee that does not understand this lacks the intellectual rigour, nous and sensitivity to do its job properly. There is no point trying to use such committees to achieve anything constructive. They are dancing round the mulberry bush in ever-decreasing circles.

This committee demonstrates the sort of muddled thinking that sadly got the Liberal Democrats where they are today. They can, of course, do what they like - but they can do it without me. Although it now turns out that I have a month after my membership lapses in which I can renew it after all - surely rendering my (former) party a cross between the Hotel California and the Village in The Prisoner - I shall not be doing so.

I write here in a personal capacity.

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