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Unlike A Lot Of Progressives, I'm Still Wary Of The Liberal Democrats. Here's Why

16/02/2017 08:25 GMT | Updated 20/02/2017 16:19 GMT
Luke MacGregor / Reuters

We all saw what happened at the general election in 2015. The Lib Dems got almost wiped out. From 57 to just eight seats in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party masterminded a strategy which saw them get credit for the good policies of the Coalition government and the Lib Dems got blame for the bad policies. In a way, I sort of felt sorry for them. As far as I could see, the progressive things the Coalition government did do were the Lib Dems ideas. Raising of the tax threshold for low income earners, the Green Investment Bank, the legislation of Same-Sex marriage, the extension of free school meals and the Pupil Premium. These kind of policies were the ones that convinced me to vote for them in 2010.

Of course we also had a referendum on changing the voting system. Despite the Lib Dems wanting it to be Proportional Representation, the referendum ended up being on AV, which a lot of people couldn't get their head around and overwhelmingly voted to stay with the current system. This was the difficulty with the Coalition. The Lib Dems could only do so much and had to water down their policies massively. The biggest way they let people down and lost a lot of trust over was the infamous tuition-fee pledge where they reversed their position. Interestingly though at the time the policy was being discussed at the conference, the leadership of the Lib Dems, including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, did not want the policy of scrapping tuition fees in the first place. However as the membership had voted for it, they had to stick with it and therefore every MP candidate signed pledges to vote against any proposed increase. In hindsight then, it wasn't altogether surprising that Nick Clegg was quite happy to not push for it in the negotiations when forming the Government.

For me though, that wasn't what I'm most angry at them for. They backed benefit cuts to disabled people, the cutting of Housing Benefit to those with a "spare bedroom", the Health and Social Care Act which paved the way for further privatisation of the NHS, swingeing cuts to local government, all topped with corporation tax cuts and the cutting of the top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 a year. For those that say there was nothing they could do, they could have ended the Coalition and pushed for a general election.

Since the result of the EU referendum, there have been many on the "remain" side that have cried out for MPs to block Brexit happening and demanded a second referendum on the final deal of the Brexit negotiations with the EU. The Lib Dems are the only party officially to back a second referendum on the final deal. Therefore many people on the progressive side of politics have openly backed them again. I even knew someone that joined the Labour Party because of Corbyn, was a staunch Labour supporter but because of Corbyn's acceptance of the EU result, then tore up their membership and happily joined the Lib Dems.

When I put my concerns on social media about people openly backing the Lib Dems again, some said to me every party makes mistakes and a lot of grassroots Lib Dem members didn't back a lot of what the Coalition did. Give them another chance. However my argument was that how could anyone that is progressive stay a member of a party that backed policies that violated the Human Rights of disabled people? I'm not saying that ordinary Lib Dem members do back those policies but I'm just saying I personally couldn't be part of a party anymore that in government backed cruel policies towards the most vulnerable.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still work with the Lib Dems on particular issues. I'm a member of a party that stood down for them in the Richmond Park by-election to help defeat Zac Goldsmith. I did believe at the time that on balance this was the right call. It was however, controversial and some Green Party members did leave or roll-back their activism in the party because they felt disillusioned with the decision to endorse the Lib Dems, given that they didn't see the Lib Dems as progressive. This is understandable, given the Lib Dems recent track record mentioned above.

Furthermore the day after the Richmond Park by-election, Tim Farron said he hasn't ruled out another Coalition with the Tories. Yet recently he ruled out working with Labour because he doesn't see them as progressive anymore given their stance on accepting Brexit. Let me make that clear. He is open to working with the Tories again but not Labour. Apparently though Labour are the ones that aren't progressive. If the so-called "Progressive Alliance" is to work, Labour has to be involved in it, otherwise the Lib Dems and Greens standing aside for one another isn't going to make much impact. It seems to me that unless the Lib Dems change their mind on working with Labour, then the PA idea is dead.

I guess the final point I'd like to end with is that just because the Lib Dems are Pro-Eu and Labour are accepting Brexit, it does not mean that they are automatically more progressive. I get that the EU is a big issue and if you want to keep campaigning on staying in, then go ahead and do so. However please be very wary of jumping into bed with a party that promises to fight to remain in the EU but is happy to be in government with a regressive party. When should we progressives start openly trusting the Lib Dems again? Well if they can rule out forming another government with the Tories that would be a start.