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I Want The Lib Dems To Be Kingmakers, Not EU Lobbyists

02/06/2017 11:12 BST | Updated 02/06/2017 11:12 BST
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The gamble of banking on Brexit is in danger of making Lib Dems an one-issue party. The similarities have been painted by the likes of Robert Peston to the point where he calls Lib Dems, "Ukip in reverse". A comparison that has been endorsed by some in the campaign, using Ukip as an example of how a non-governing party can exhibit real change. When Baroness Ros Scott came to launch the Lib Dem campaign in my constituency, she greeted eager canvassers with that exact message of a Nigel Farage like resistance. A small band with a voice, capable of twisting the arm of those in power to eventually get their way.

It excited some but burdened me with a bitter taste of anxiety. Worried we were to be typecast as rabble rousers, doomed to the fringes of politics in the foreseeable future with one-issue.

The Liberal Democrats should represent so much more than a single issue, they should represent the moderate centre of British politics, that is why I joined. In a country which is being torn by the extremes - a Conservative government steered by UKIP and a socialist left-wing - the British tradition of a strong centrist party is close to being wiped out. A party which could represent the majority of the public found sauntering in the middle who are being told to pick sides between the crimson red or the darkening blue.

When Lib Dems took the harsh Pro-EU stance by suggesting a second referendum, it seemed politically astute, to develop a base which was being ignored, the 48%. Building from the bottom up, to have an opportunity of making real gains in five years' time. But nobody predicted the apathy of the electorate. These "Re-Leavers" shown by YouGov polling, now means around 68% of the electorate is Pro-Brexit. Around half of the Remain voters now believe the government have a duty to deliver a Brexit deal.

In France, we saw the Marine le Pen, a far-right anti-EU insurgence curtailed by a centrist independent candidate. It was a win which was hailed by many in the Liberal Democrats as they saw the common sense centre calm the polarising political spectrum. But that will not happen in Britain because defining one-self as the Pro-EU party means their centrist policies are over-shadowed. Instead Macron was able to win not by being militantly Pro-EU but by adopting the stance - "the EU must reform or face a Frexit".

The animosity caused by a divisive campaign from both sides during the EU referendum created two camps. For the Lib Dems to captain one of the camps has caused a blanket fog to descend on their policies. Nobody is mentioning the 1p income tax rise for a ringfenced NHS fund, which would generate £6bn per year for our ailing public healthcare. Polls have suggested that 70% of people support a rise in income tax if they know it will definitely go towards the NHS. Their opposition to grammar schools, scrapping the Tory cuts - investing £7billion extra, boosting Pupil Premiums for disadvantaged backgrounds. These policies are unseen and unheard.

Nobody talks about Ukip's education policy...

SNP are struggling with the same problem, having gained so much power with an anti-Conservative message, their pro-independence position is dragging them behind. The timing of Theresa Mays election suspiciously occurring after Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second independence referendum, typecasting them once again. Even though they have weakened their campaign on the issue, their historic stance is the soft underbelly of their election bid.

But to say that Liberal Democrat's militant Pro-EU stance has achieved nought would be unfair. What it has done is mobilise the disillusioned and exasperated. People like me felt a call to arms to defeat the anti-globalists. It has rebuilt the grassroots movement that was disbanded after the coalition. A newfound cause has doubled membership in my local constituency. There has been an inner party reconstruction, many of the soft blue and red Lib Dems have been replaced with a collection of Pro-EU. New members with an axe to grind, energetic and fuelled by a deep despair of the current political conversation.

The perception of a single issue has caused sliding polls for the SNP and the desecration of UKIP as they have become assimilated into the Conservatives. Both outcomes which the Liberal Democrats cannot succumb to. In a country more divided than ever, never have we needed a centrist party to unite the country more, to speak for the moderates which make up the majority of the British public. A party which does not hate immigrants and also does not distain at anyone earning six figures. A party which rather than seeking to divide and conquer, seeks to consolidate - a task made impossible if they become "Ukip in reverse".