I am on the other side of this argument to David Boyle. I am not looking back to 40 years of membership, only 12. I have been in the crossfire of active politics and while I believe I am a true liberal – and with all the frustration during the coalition government, I am still convinced that the Lib Dems are my political home – I am not nostalgic about the past and find a lot of that sentiment stops us from becoming a modern progressive party.
I believe firmly in nailing my colours to the mast. The fence thing – if I understand the quote correctly – is not what we must do. We are living through extraordinary times where our very democracy is under threat from illiberal forces. They always make the most of chaos when people come to the point of asking for a strong leader. Giving in rather than fighting to the last, is a mistake.
That is the lesson from German liberals during the 1920s and 30s. Thinking that, by co-operating, one can contain the disease of extremism is not how it worked. They got an illiberal leader in through the backdoor and that was the end of democracy.
We shouldn’t be naive about what is going on. The genie is out of the box: 30 per cent of people will probably support a right-wing party now. That is frightening, but it is not a majority. Let them come out of the shadows of the Tory party and we can fight them on the open stage.
We are not a big party and are struggling to be recognised for what we stand for by the general public. It is not for us to be the honest brokers of some shoddy compromise on the EU. To do the national interest thing nearly destroyed us as a party. What is in the national interest is that we survive, as the only true force for tolerance and liberal values.
We have always been passionate pro-Europeans. There is a fundamental difference between membership and non- membership. Britain must be at the heart of the European project not just follow some economic rules. Anybody who thinks some soft Brexit is acceptable must have misunderstood why we are pro-European in the first place . Why should we sell our grandmother in order to help the two major parties?
The two main parties have to make a Brexit compromise happen; both want to deliver Brexit. The reason we haven’t got Brexit is because they fiercely protect their party interests. We should do that to, or we disappear. The national interest is that there is a tolerant liberal party in British politics but not a pushover-party. We are fighting for EU membership. not a shoddy soft Brexit.
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