What a difference a week can make. A week in which the Conservatives continue to implode over Europe and in which Labour look ever more inward to fight their battles of the past. Abolishing Labour Students for being too moderate; pushing deselections on more and more MPs; threatening Harriet Harman with deselection if she doesn’t withdraw from the race to replace Bercow as Speaker; and returning to re-write clause 4 of their constitution as a final break with the successful past of the leadership of Tony Blair.
At the same time the Liberal Democrats were looking to the future and this week I attended my first Liberal Democrat conference. Only four months in to membership of the party I attended conference with full voting and speaking rights, the same as available to any other member. An opportunity I was able to take full advantage of speaking from the main platform in debates on Crime and Housing policy.
The overall focus of the conference was forward looking and positive; how can the values of equality and community make a real difference? It was interesting and refreshing to see how shared values underpinned debate, even where there was disagreement, and brought members together. Increasingly in Labour the opposite has been the case. Claims of shared values that unite but a growing division based on whether your interpretation of those values is ‘the right one’.
It was also good to see and meet up with fellow travellers from Labour, including Luciana Berger MP and Angela Smith MP. Particularly to see the way they have been accepted across the party and how relaxed and at home they felt. Something that mirrors my experience.
Changing the measure of government success away from purely GDP to well being is also the right thing to do. What else is the government their to achieve other than to further the well being of our communities? That should be the true measure of government success.
On the debates I participated in our policy on crime is strong, with a focus on prevention, community policing, and a recognition of the need for specialist resources to tackle the growing problem of digital crime. In housing we will scrap no fault quick evictions for private tenants as a first step to bring greater security to the private rented sector and then to work with tenants and landlords to reform the sector so that landlords can get a fair return and tenants greater choice, fairer service, and longevity in their homes.
Conference concluded with Jo Swinson’s first speech to conference as Leader. And what an excellent one it was. Perfectly encapsulating why I was right to join the Liberal Democrats. The real choice facing us at the next general election is not one of left or right, not even (although it is summed up in) the vital choice over Brexit, but of what kind of country we want to be. Do we want to go down the dark path of increasingly authoritarian populism or do we want a country that is open, fair and inclusive? Do we want a country that seeks to work for all, not put one group against another, and understands that the world is changing and needs to work for people and the planet?
There is, right now, only one party looking to the future inclusively and with equity, and that is the Liberal Democrats.