Thursday, 15 May 2014

Why I shall be voting Liberal Democrat on Thursday 22nd

First of all, I want to see an increase in the LibDem vote in Wales on May 22nd. This will give the lie to

Anonymous writes: HMMM

I'm not certain what happened there. That sentence was in a draft which somehow escaped and was supposed to be at the end anyway.

What I was going to say was that I was going to vote LibDem because of my commitment to the party, but also because Liberals are good for Europe and LibDems in Europe have been good for England, so should be good for Wales, too.

I have flirted with all three main parties (and even voted for a Welsh Nationalist once, but only because I knew he was a liberal at heart and there was no LibDem standing). I was early attracted to the then Liberal policies of co-ownership (and the steady rise of the John Lewis Partnership has provided outstanding evidence of how right that policy is) and devolution of power from Westminster. Later, I became attracted by the concept of democratic planning as set out by Evan Durbin, who influenced both Hugh Gaitskell and Roy Jenkins. Real life intervened as I had to move to the great wen to struggle to make a living and also came into contact with real trade unionists.

When social democrats (both new members, who included many middle-ranking professionals whom the traditional parties had appeared to neglect, and escapers from the Labour Party) joined liberals to form a Liberal Democrat party in 1985, it was clear where my political home should be. The exploitation of the British people by both Thatcher/Major and Blair/Brown showed that it was not enough to have liberal leanings and just sit on the sidelines.

So I am a Liberal Democrat party member by rational choice, rather than tribalism. This does mean that I occasionally, much to the disgust I suspect of my more competitive party colleagues, have a good word to say for individuals in other parties. But none of the other parties has freedom, fairness and justice as their predominant and explicit constitutional aims.

In the EU

Liberal Democrat MEPs are part of the ALDE bloc, currently the third most powerful in the European Parliament, after the moderately conservative European People's Party group and that of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. (Plaid Cymru is in the fourth largest, the Free Alliance Greens; the British Conservatives are in the fifth, the rather more extreme Conservatives and Reformists.) Not only is the Liberal bloc large enough regularly to influence votes, it has been one of the major sources of reforms in the EP and beyond.

Reducing the barriers to competition in mobile telephony and the use of the Internet is the most recent successful ALDE initiative. Last year, the ALDE Group was instrumental in ensuring electronic cigarettes would not be classified as a medicinal product (which would have greatly increased their cost, limited the product choices and restricted their retail availability).

Liberal Democrat Sharon Bowles, as chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) has been influential in bringing more fairness and transparency to financial affairs in the EU, something which has not endeared her to those Conservatives and UKIPpers who would seem to prefer the casino of earlier years. Other influential LibDem MEPs are Chris Davies (scan his news page for some of his successes), Catherine Bearder and Sir Graham Watson. Not only do these LibDems punch above their weight politically speaking, but they also keep their constituents informed. I have given up trying to find out what Wales' current representatives do in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Flipping the bird to Murdoch

Finally, the mass media (including the BBC, whose motives are highly suspect) have been pumping out the message that liberalism is finished and the contest for the future is between two conservative parties and fascists. An increase in the Liberal Democrat vote in the EP elections would not shame them - for they are shameless - but demonstrate to the electorate at large that they do not have to believe specious figures, even if they appear in print headlines or on a BBC news web site. I believe that Welsh people on the whole take a more intelligent view of politics than the population west of the Dyke. I am hoping that postal voters are already applying, and voters in person on the 22nd, will apply that intelligence to a rational choice.

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