An open letter to the Liberal Democrats
To all members of the Liberal Democrats, elected MPs and otherwise, who will in the next few days talk, negotiate and vote on the role of your party in this parliament –
I am twenty years old. I voted in my first-ever general election on Thursday morning, on my way into class at university. I cast that vote for the Liberal Democrats, despite living in an unassailably safe Labour seat, out of a belief that my support for your party – along with that of thousands of like-minded others – would speed the adoption of a system under which unassailably safe seats do not exist, and under which my vote counts as one, equal to all others, rather than the .005 of a vote it effectively now is.
Electoral reform is an issue of fundamental importance to this country; I believe it to be a great shame that a country that seeks to teach democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan is still having its own problems. A move to a proportionate voting system – of which there are several of comparable merit – would see the voices of the United Kingdom’s people represented equally, fairly, as they deserve, rather than arbitrarily weighted depending on accidents of geography.
Electoral reform is a priority; but it is not the most important issue at stake.
The Liberal Democrats are the party of electoral reform, but they are not solely the party of electoral reform. They are the party of Britain sensibly integrated in Europe, of Britain accepting rather than rejecting those who come here seeking a better life, of Britain seeking to ease the burden on the poor rather than make it heavier. Of education and higher education for all, not merely the ultra-privileged. Of progressive tax, compassionate welfare, and a movement towards pacifism. All those things, not merely one or two, have been promised to the electorate as Liberal Democrat principles and ambitions. All of them.
You, the Liberal Democrats, have presented your party to us, the electorate, as the party of equality and progressive change. On the back of those promises you received the votes of six million Britons – one in every ten of the country’s population who wishes to see the advancement of progressive ideals.
That is the Liberal Democrats.
Let us now consider another party.
There is a party which has promised to close Britain’s borders tighter than ever, withdraw partly or wholly from Europe, squeeze those on welfare and low incomes further still whilst giving unearned tax breaks to the incredibly rich, and encourage the continuation of broken and abusive relationships by taxing those who leave them; which has allied itself in Europe with parties of anti-Semitic and homophobic extremists and whose own ranks include outspoken and virulent homophobes; which is, as it always has been, a party composed largely of those born into privilege who have never thought to examine it, and has always actively worked to perpetuate inequality; a party the leader of which has said plainly in interviews in the last day that he does not want proportional representation, will not support it, and will not call a referendum to let Britain’s citizens decide for themselves.
This is a party that I think may be rightly called the antithesis of the Liberal Democrat party on multiple counts, though not least because from their recent remarks they appear to be opposed to both liberty and democracy. I did not vote for this party; I voted, indeed, in the sincere hope that they would not achieve a majority. Had I lived in a constituency where this party is strong, I would not have hesitated to vote tactically to keep them out. I do not doubt that many thousands of Liberal Democrat supporters did the same.
To take the votes of those six million people, those six million voices for real and progressive change, and effectively gift them to a party that has shown itself utterly antithetical to that aim would be nothing less than a comprehensive betrayal of the confidence one-tenth of this country has placed in you, and would lead inescapably to the conclusion that the Liberal Democrat party are more interested in gaining power than in the principles they profess to espouse – a sad revelation, if it be true, and one likely to destroy voters’ faith in your party just as it has destroyed our faith in the Labour and Conservative parties before now.
Today my vote, and six million others, are in your hands. Today, they are yours to give away. But if today you give my vote, my support – support offered on sincere principle – to a party the leaders, ideas and ideals of which I despise, then tomorrow, my vote will go elsewhere.
The Liberal Democrats have painted themselves as the party of honesty, of sincerity, of democracy and equality. That portrait gained the trust of millions. Do not betray that trust.