I often get people coming up to me and explaining why I should leave the Liberal Democrats and why I should “see the light” and join the Labour/Conservative party etc. A few years ago, in my political naivety, I may have been open to such suggestions as I was very much finding my way. Politics was new to me and if anything joining the Lib Dems was a reactionary decision against the old gaurd of politics and wanting to feel independent. Of course the polcicies mattered, but in all honesty I always like the feeling of being an outsider and cheering on the underdog.
But if I had to make such a decision to join a political party again today, my reasoning for doing so could not be anymore different. More surprisingly, for many, the party of choice would be no different for me either. In the past I very rarely had to defend my political views and neither would I ever really be questioned on why I was a Liberal Democrat. Today it is a very different situation. The party I am a member of is in a Coalition Government with the Conservatives, something I and many others may not have imagined as a prospect when first joining the party. By being a party of Government, when you were previously a party of what seermed never-ending opposition, you experience a higher level of scrutiny over policy. Of course this is a given, but as a member of the Lib Dems I have also had to defend the party on many occasions. But whilst at first I questioned a lot of the decisions being taken in Government, the reality of needing to defend my party on more than one occasion enabled me to learn a lot more about the party itself and about what the values the party stood for so I was in a better position to defend and discuss. Because of this I have been on quite a journey with the party which has helped improve my relationship with it. I have travelled from being a naive and young political chancer to now seriously seeing the party I am proudly a part of as the true party of fairness.
Another thing which Coalition does is toughens you up and puts you in an environment that seems almost unnatural. But, it certainly gives you the experience you need. It has made me more active within the party as well. I now, unlike before, see the importance of campaigns and attending conferences. The latter especially is something very important to all Liberal Democrats. Because unlike the Labour and Tory parties, the internal democracy of the party is something that the members can actively engage in and not just stand aside and watch. To be in a party where you feel like you potentially have influence over policy and its direction is very empowering and something you certainly would not get in the Labour party and certainly not with the Tories.
In essence, as times have got tougher, so have we. I know I have as I have now grown an armour that can easily fend off the lazy comments that are thrown at me by Labourites who think I’ve “sold my soul” or the Tories who think we’re somehow poisoning the coalition. I want those Lib Dems to read this to take one thing and that is that together we will always be stronger. We are a party that is founded upon fairness and democracy, something which may often be lacking in society. If we utilise what we do have and not allow it to slip away under a barrage of negative press and comments then we can really make a change for the better.