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Why I am leaving the Liberal Democrats

By Sara Scarlett
December 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 17 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

After over six years of strongly identifying as a LibDem – I can no longer do so in good conscience.

Certain issues have dominated my thoughts on the issue since August this year and this is not a decision I have taken lightly. However, the conclusion I have come to is that I would like to start the new year disassociated from the Liberal Democrats. Over the years, my direct debit to the party hasn’t always been perfectly constant – especially when I was living in America – but I’ve always thought that if I were to be a member of any UK political party I would still be a LibDem. For the following reasons that is no longer the case…

There is one predominant issue that I feel I can no longer overlook on the grounds of pure morality and humanity. Over the past two years the LibDems were tested and, in my humble opinion, they failed that test.

Liberalism is fundamentally a discussion about power.  When it came to light that an individual who had been given power by the Liberal Democrats had egregiously aggregated and then abused that power – the response was and continues to be breathtakingly disappointing. Too many questions remain unresolved. Why was this individual allowed to aggregate so much power? Why were there no checks on this individual’s power? Why was this individual both an employee of the party and an employer in the party? Why were the Liberal Democrats so reliant on one individual? Who were the individuals complicit in this individuals behaviour?

It’s not a surprise that this individual has got off scott free. He wrote the rule book for himself. However, now that the rule book has been found to be wanting  – what of the efforts to move forward and rewrite that rule book? For four months I have sat in hope that something positive will come of this. For all the talk amongst some of the more clued up members still nothing appears to have come about. The valiant efforts of the reformers remain unheeded but I am flabberghasted that some – even actual parliamentarians – don’t even think the rules or the party needs to change. This speaks volumes and says that this is not just the small matter of a single rouge individual. This speaks of a truly toxic, immoral and un-reformable culture within the party.

The main reason I am leaving the Liberal Democrats is because when it came to the big question of Liberalism – the uses and abuses of power at the heart of the party – they failed and continue to fail to come down on the right side.

The second big reason I feel compelled to disassociate myself with the LibDems, which is not unrelated to the first, is that volunteers are undervalued and sometimes mistreated in an organisation that relies almost entirely on volunteers.

I found myself stuffing leaflets through doors in the summer days of 2009 in Richmond Park. I was an unpaid intern and even paid my own expenses to get to work for the party at the same time the party were expressing their outrage at unpaid internships. My boss was an incompetent manchild and at no point did I feel valued, respected or was ever thanked for my time and effort. That is until a week after I’d resigned when my former manager left a begrudging voicemail on my phone with a handful of words which finally included ‘thanks for all your help.’ Too little; too late. No wonder that seat was lost…

The promise of proximity to power is a strong motivation for volunteers to stick at it in Labour and the Tories. Considering the Liberal Democrats don’t have that you’d think they’d be more careful, polite and grateful etc. but no…

The lack of value placed on volunteers is exposed perfectly whenever anyone defects. Someone on some blog somewhere will utter the textbook response – well, deep down they were always Labour/Green/Tory Scum anyway. But often I have seen people defect because they were maltreated, bullied, harassed or passed over for promotion on the whim of an inadequate superior. Now, most parties will trot out the “well, deep down they were always Labour/Green/Tory Scum anyway” line in public. Naturally. But behind the scenes the other parties do at the least pay some lip service to cutting the cancer out. They’ll ask themselves – hey, maybe that person shouldn’t have been maltreated, bullied, harassed or passed over for promotion on the whim of an inadequate superior? This lack of self-examination is especially unforgivable when we know now that party processes to deal with this type of behaviour have been woefully inadequate. The LibDems don’t cut the cancer out. Not even when the individuals are visible public servants.

Were Mike Hancock MP a Labour or Tory MP – ask yourself – would he be sitting on the front benches? Of course not.

Other minor gripes I have with the way the party works:

- The way the LibDems make policy isn’t remotely democratic. It’s decided by a small cabal at conference.  Why not use digital voting to reach all party members?

- Policy made in this way creates tension between the MPs, the voting delegates and the wider party members. Ministers seem to make up what policies they want anyway so why the charade at conferences anyway? There’s Vince Cable banging on about a Mansion Tax and there was me thinking the favoured form of property/land tax in the LibDems was LVT. What’s the point of voting if parliamentarians are going to make it up?

- The LibDems often have a complete lack of policy self-awareness and will happily hold two contradicting policies at once. E.g “Smoking is bad for you and should be banned.” And. “To prohibit marijuana is paternalistic and this legislation should be overturned immediately.” How one holds both these policy positions at the same time, I will never know, and yet many LibDem parliamentarians do. These contradictions matter to everyone these issues matter to and sooner or later supporters are alienated bit by bit.

- The LibDems are fundamentally small ‘c’ conservative in the way they run the party. Tony Blair let red blood flow to remake the Labour party into New Labour. The discipline showed by the Tories when David Cameron went about decontaminating the Tory brand was impressive. Were a moderniser to come along in the LibDems, I doubt he or she would get very far. I think most of the recent LibDem presidential elections prove that. The blood that needs to be let is never let and there’s a lot of bad blood.

Of course I was never a ‘typical’ LibDem and I understand that many will be happy to see the back of me. I have a folder on my desktop full of threatening emails, ad hominem attacks off LDV and screencaps of bullying comments, Tweets and Facebook posts to attest to that. But I thought for years that the LibDems would be the best vehicle for espousing these views. Now, I don’t think the party is a good vehicle for espousing f*ck all. All I have to show from my time as a LibDem is six years of disappointment and an awkward but interesting phone call from the Metropolitan Police.

However, I will say that my disassociation from the party is not down to anything ideological or any particular policy. I am, always have been and will remain a Classical Liberal/Contemporary Libertarian. My personal values have changed a great deal in the time I’ve been a Liberal Democrat, that’s simply the difference between 20 year old and 27 year old me, but my policy conclusions have not. Contemporary Libertarianism has no comfortable home in any political party. It exists as an intellectual and moral movement and often intellectual and moral movements influence public policy so I am an optimist. The general trend is towards freedom and progress and I am certain my talents and resources can forward these aims elsewhere.

I’m resigning from the LibDems because of the toxic internal party culture and the fact that there is seemingly no meaningful effort to reform said toxic party culture from where the change needs to come from. Indeed, great swathes of our parliamentarians have shown themselves to be either cowardly, immoral, chronically out of date or wedded to a regime that never worked. The functionality of the party has never been great, but now for the party to have  so spectacularly failed on the issue of the abuse of power is an unforgivable sin.

 

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Moving On From Rochester…

By Sara Scarlett
November 25th, 2014 at 1:30 am | 2 Comments | Posted in coalition, Government, Leadership, Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

Lord Unappealing is attempting to make himself relevant again by opining on something for which he does at least have historic expertise, by-elections.

His number crunching is no doubt correct, the slightly vacuous plea for better tactics could also no doubt have delivered a better result than 342 votes, the strategic insight though is entirely lacking.

The Liberal Democrat brand, outside areas where local quality outshines national performance is poison. This in no small part due to a series of self-inflicted disasters from casual flip-flopping on policy to covering up for undesirable characters. Something for which the Party’s former seat grabber is more than a little responsible.

It is an organisation which has a lot of very nice people in it, some with good ideas, but in which no one takes responsibility for anything. It has no clear sense of direction, or consistency. It displays no sign that it knows what to do about it.

That is a hard sell for a by-election where narrative matters as much as tactics.

Matters will improve for the Party after the next election. That is unless it is in Government again, in which case it is unlikely. They will improve when Nick Clegg has been replaced, most likely by Tim Farron. Nick’s stock is so low he could cure cancer and still attract headlines for failing to stop Ebola. Tim at least has a down to earth appeal and sense of integrity the Party badly needs.

Good tactics will help, but they’re icing not the cake. UKIP is amply demonstrating that you don’t need svengali election gurus to win. You do need a good story and motivated base. And I strongly suspect that has much more to do with the success of ‘Rennardism’ in the 90s, than the unhealthy myths he allowed to be built up around himself and the ‘campaign cult’.

The danger for the Party in the next 5 years is that it continues to live in an introverted little bubble of ancestor worship for past glory that has little relevance to the mire it is in today. It’s a very serious risk given the Party even now still divides between people who want to fight Thatcher and those that want to fight Brown, both long gone. It will have a Parliamentary group where an aging group of peers outnumber MPs by 3-4:1, and several of them still act in a way that revolts the new generation. The Commons group may be entirely pale and male.

The next Leader then faces a challenge. Build a story that matters to the public and people who might wish to support it. Or live in the past, and pander to it. You can’t though do both. The Party needs to move on from fighting the last by-election.

Attention: Conference Delegates!

By Sara Scarlett
October 4th, 2014 at 10:40 am | No Comments | Posted in conference

Remember, if you’re going to Glasgow, ensure you’re protected -

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You can buy this stuff off Amazon for a mere £13.70.

Have fun!

Evil Systems vs. Evil Individuals

By Sara Scarlett
October 2nd, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in BBC, Crime

Another day, another war and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about evil systems versus evil individuals. When it comes to doing evil, individuals that carry out, or are perceived to be carrying out, evils are more readily demonized than systems that carry out larger evils. Take, for example, Hitler versus the Soviet Union. Despite the number of dead in the Soviet Union surpassing the number of dead in Nazi Germany, Hitler is demonized in a way that the Soviet Union is not. I’ve often wondered why this is. Could it be that the qualitative nature of Hitler’s actions were more evil than the nature of the Soviet Unions actions? I don’t think that passes scrutiny. The qualitative nature of the Holodomor is just as horrific, in it’s own way, as the Holocaust was. The only difference is responsibility for the Holocaust is pinned on one individual and the responsibility for the Holodomor is pinned on the Soviet Union, a system, rather than just Stalin.

I get the sense that the international community is more eager to chase down evil individuals than evil systems. Even on a state-level, we are far more eager to chase down individuals rather than reform rotten systems. That’s been shown to be true especially in the wake of the historic sex offence scandals. Individuals are demonised in the national papers in a way that rotten systems rarely are. It’s a cop out. It’s just easier that way but what’s easiest is rarely what’s right.

Why ObamaCare Champions Disgust Me

By Sara Scarlett
October 2nd, 2014 at 4:27 pm | No Comments | Posted in health, US Politics, Welfare State

One of the criticisms that was leveled against me on LDV recently was that I don’t support ObamaCare. No, I do not support ObamaCare. I am ferociously proud of the fact that I do not and have never supported ObamaCare. Here are two very good reasons reasons why:

ObamaCare in no way changed the structural problems inherent in the US Healthcare system. ObamaCare just involved more people in the system through the coercion of others. ObamaCare is legislation that forces people to buy a private product. That is quite possibly the most illiberal legislation that has been passed in recent years. Obama handed consumers to the Insurance Companies on a plate. There is now no escape from this sad, corporatist mess now the option of remaining consciously uninsured has gone.

ObamaCare does not extend health care to everyone. Not even close and we’re talking millions of people. ObamaCare has not meant Universal Coverage. There are now many, many Americans paying higher taxes who still don’t have health care.

The structural problems of the US health care system are still a long way off being dealt with and that’s a shame. A missed opportunity, even. The best health care models are those found on the Continent and that has remained true both before and after ObamaCare was passed.