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The tectonic plates may be shifting

July 26, 2019 4:00 PM

Lib Dems membership surge continues

Buoyed by the latest polls showing the Party in close second place, continuing to win seats from other parties and with Labour continuing to hemorrhage support we may be beginning to see a real shift in support for a centre ground, liberal values based alternative to the populist, nationalism, lies and false promises of the Brexiteer ministers now decamped in No 10 Downing Street. Jo Swinson - Lib Dem leader

Clearly with the arrival of a new leader, on top of the stunning local and European election results, the media are starting to take notice of the Lib Dems again. When the Labour twitter feeds turn their vitriol and attention away from what should be their prime target you know that you are, doing something that resonates with the public and on an upward trajectory.

Thousands of people who have joined the Liberal Democrats this week. The Swinson Surge has seen our total number of members and supporters surpass 120,000

Among those recently joining the Lib Dems is Simon Bishop, a Conservative special adviser to Justine Greening at the Department for International Development, 2014-16.

He's now a Liberal Democrat member and says :

'Six months ago, I decided to quit the Conservative Party if Boris Johnson became its leader and prime minister. I'm not only sticking to that pledge but going further and defecting to the Liberal Democrats…

Critical to my decision, in the Liberal Democrats we have a party with the right values, leadership, political will and ideas to make Britain world-class again.

I had the privilege to work in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition from 2014-2015 and saw first-hand their willingness to fight for what was right for the country, at the expense, of course, of their own popularity and electoral success.

At the heart of those efforts was Jo Swinson, a genuine values-led leader, with the courage to do the right thing for Britain.

She - and the wider party - have bold plans on housing, social care, generational inequality and other major challenges of the day. They want to reduce poverty and inequality. [The Independent]

Here are three reasons for my decision.

Firstly, Britain is going backwards on all the issues most people care about and I see no sign that Johnson, or the Conservatives more widely, have the political will or ideas to tackle them.

We need a massive national house building programme, yet the Conservatives have tinkered at the edges. We need a bold solution to the social care crisis; their attempt in the 2017 manifesto lasted 24 hours. We need to radically reduce generational inequality - the increasing wealth of over 65s, decreasing wealth of under 35s. They've done the opposite. Poverty has ballooned. Ditto inequality. Social mobility has flat-lined. The excesses of capitalism, like huge CEO salaries, continue unabated.

There was a time when the Conservatives were a party of pragmatism and ideas, of aspiration and opportunity for all. Now, beholden to its own extremists and wealthy interest groups, it is a party for the rich and for those on the hard right.

Secondly, the party's handling of Brexit has been a disgrace. The party that exists to "conserve" is pursuing the most radical, ideological, policy in living memory - a "do or die" Brexit. What party makes their top priority one that will make the country poorer and drive massive social division?

Thirdly, Johnson isn't fit to be prime minister. We need an exceptional leader, someone with integrity, who will always put the country first, especially in a time of national crisis. Johnson is the polar opposite. His is a track record of self-interest, of foot-in-mouth, of a wanton willingness to mislead the public. One day he says he's a "One Nation" Conservative, the next day he announces tax cuts for the rich. He cannot be trusted.

Despite all that, I didn't think I'd ever join a new party. Politics is tribal. You swear allegiance to one side and so much of that is based on trust, loyalty and friendship. Then there's the "biggest difference" challenge - if you want to help make Britain a world-class place to live, doesn't it make sense to be in the governing party? And if it is veering off in the wrong direction, shouldn't you stay and fight?

Leaving a tribe isn't easy. But eventually, you reluctantly conclude your tribe isn't actually yours anymore. You don't feel welcome. You feel ashamed rather than proud to be associated with it. It is no longer home.

So where next? You can walk off the political pitch completely. It is so ugly at the moment that I have sympathy for those that do. But that isn't my style - I believe it's important to fight for my country.

I have many friends and colleagues in the Conservative Party who I deeply value and respect. That won't change. But I urge them to challenge themselves. Is Johnson really the right leader for our country?, does he have the political will and ideas to tackle the big issues?, are the Conservatives still a party for all or just for the right wing few?, do you still feel at home in it?

If the answer to those questions is no, then why not follow me - and many others - and join the only party with the values, leadership, policies and political will to make Britain world-leading again. This is why I am defecting. I hope many others do too'.

Simon Bishop was special adviser to the secretary of state for International Development, 2014-16



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