Back into the fold
Rejoining the Liberal Democrats
Mid-March 2017 and I have rejoined the Liberal Democrat Party from which I `retired` in 1998 in order to devote my efforts towards establishing the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business at Nottingham Trent University.
Life has moved on from there and then. I retired from the Institute in 2006 and lost my first wife Tricia in 2008 and spent some time travelling, railing against the world at my loss. Restarted writing an historical novel I had been researching and writing for years. Then I met Fatima and married her in Brazil in 2011, honeymooning in New Zealand, where the Rugby World Cup happened to be taking place (honestly Fatima enjoyed it too – once I had explained the rules!)
I published my novel, Captain Cobbler, in 2013, launching it in Louth, Lincolnshire, on 1st October that year, 477 years to the day since the Lincolnshire Rebellion started in that town, which made Captain Cobbler famous (infamous? – “infamy, infamy, they`ve all got it in for me!”) and then, in 2015, I moved back to live in England, most of the time, flip-flopping between here and Brazil.
So, then a couple of days ago I spent the princely sum of £12 to rejoin the Party I left nearly 20 years ago. It occurs to me that there might be some interest in the perspective I have, having been absent for so long and then coming back into the fold, So I am proposing to write an occasional Blog about how I see things now. I would be pleased if you could join me on this journey, wherever it may take us!
So, why now, why here?
The answer is both simple and complex. I have been watching politics from the side-lines for nearly 20 years and, frankly, I have not been impressed with the state of politics, here, or in Brazil, or in the USA (not that I was much impressed with it before that, but that is another story). There is a certain sense of frustration that builds up when you know in your heart that things could be so much better – and I guess this is why so many people are eventually turned off politics altogether, since frustration can often lead to cynicism.
The immediate proximate cause of my decision was learning that an old friend from my days as Chair of the Liberal Ecology Group and its successor organisation, the Green Liberal Democrats – Jane Brophy, who had been on the committee of those organisations – had been chosen to stand for the office of Mayor of Greater Manchester. And I thought `Wouldn`t it be nice to have someone one knows and respects achieve political office at a significant level?` But for that to come about she would need all the help she could get, and not a little luck along the way.
The raft of successful Local by-elections in recent months helped, too, seeing that swings towards the Lib-Dems have been occurring in all sorts and manner of areas, suggesting a reawakening of fortunes in a volatile political climate. The Party membership has taken a rapid turn upwards too, so this suggests that people have not given the Party up as a hopeless basket case and this has refreshed my sense of optimism that there really are like-minded people still `out there`.
Manchester, too, is part of my past life. I went to University there many years ago – twice, once as an undergraduate and then to research for my Master`s degree. So I lived in Hall for a year, then shared a flat in Whalley Range, which I gather is in the Gorton parliamentary area, so the Gorton by-election played a small part in my decision making process, although I had already mentally committed to helping Jane before Gorton was on my radar.
Finally, my niece now lives in the Greater Manchester area, as does my best friend Ken and I also spent three years living in Chadderton in the Oldham constituency, so I could spread myself round relatives and friends without imposing too much as I went out canvassing.
Then, early last week I learnt on Facebook, that Tim Farron, was going to be up in Manchester to formally open the new HQ for the Gorton by-election, which would also serve as the HQ for the Mayoral contest. Too good an opportunity to miss to immerse myself into the busy centre of politics by jumping in feet first, so I arranged to stay with Ken and get up early on Friday morning to get to Levenshulme before 9am for the photo op at 9.30.
As you will see from the photographs here I made it in good time and duly had my pic taken handing my membership fee over to Tim Farron himself upon my return to the Party.
I was welcomed warmly by all as a returnee and had the benefit and pleasure of seeing Jane again and meeting Jackie Pearcey, the Gorton candidate, as well as making new friends amongst the cold huddle of local workers waiting in the drizzle for the Party Leader to arrive.
For the information of anyone thinking of going to help with the byelection, I have to say they brew an excellent pot of coffee there and have a good selection of biscuits too in a fine HQ, nicely placed near Levenshulme station if arriving by train and/or where you can park if arriving by car. So, get along there to help if you can.
As well as being there for the photo op I also did a bit of admin stuff and then called back again on Sunday to do another hour on the way home to Notts, ending up doing three hours instead! For me there are two key personal benefits of rejoining – the first is the camaraderie and fellowship of being amongst like-minded people and the second is a general feeling of being involved which counters the frustration and cynicism I noted above. On Friday I felt uplifted just by being there.
I said earlier it was simple yet complex. All the above represents the simple side. As for the complex that has to do with policy issues. On the plus side is the identity I feel with the positive European stance the Party has taken during and since the referendum – and involves the need to be part of the solution to the UK going to Hell in a handcart as seems to be the case for now. On the negative side is the rather illogical decision the Party made in York of sitting mostly on the fence about nuclear weapons, but still leaning onto the Trident side of the fence.
The Party`s stance on nuclear weapons and nuclear power were two key reasons for me deciding to retire from active participation in the Party twenty years ago. It is therefore with some reluctance, then, that I have come back into the fold knowing that things have not really changed. As former Chair of the Lib Dem Peace group and of the Green Lib Dems I can assure you the my views have not changed on those issues in the last 20 years, so I will be having a go at trying to persuade the Party to change IT`S mind. Just how long I can bang my head on that wall I am not yet sure.
As a speaker for the European Movement back in 1975, however I feel that is my political priority in supporting the Party at this moment and I will live in hope that we can make progress on the other issues in due course. I propose to address those subjects in a future blog post – so if you want to keep track of my thoughts, do sign up to follow my Blog.
Greetings to all my old friends in the Party and `hi` to all the new ones I hope to make as we go along the same road …. Perhaps see you in Bournemouth.