“Ought I to forgive?”
“Do not be too hasty about it”
You know when people think you’re a tory, only you’re not? I really hate that. In my second year of university I joined the UCL Liberal Democrat society – or rather, I tried to. At the very first meeting they ran away from me when I wasn’t looking.
“Are you a Lib Dem?” I asked a lone smoker (dressed in skinny jeans and a bicycle helmet) who was loitering outside the Union. He ignored me, no doubt lost in a very deep existential thought about some abstract thing.
“I told them I was getting a coffee – I think they left without me” I continued.
“Perhaps it’s the gilet? Thought about joining the conservatives?” One thing I hate more than people thinking I’m a Tory are tortured artistic souls who wear ironic knitwear.
I wanted to tell the hipster that the truth was I had considered the conservatives – granted not for very long, and Labour (not much longer), and the Green party (marginally longer) but I liked the Lib Dems. I think that Politicians should be honest and decent – not shiny and charismatic, somehow their apparent lack of spin made them seem trustworthy to me. Their core belief in equality of opportunity was important; I agreed with the need for electoral reform, Vince Cable was clearly an economic genius, I was impressed with Simon Hughes’ commitment to environmental issues, and don’t even get me started on Evan ‘hottie’ Harris… But most of all I believe that even if you have to make everything else more expensive – education should be free. If I were to vote on a single issue then the scrapping of tuition fees would have been it.
Prior to the televised debates, I found myself constantly defending my political views. In response to my lecturer mocking me, I used the very articulate and shrewd defence of “well Clegg studied Social Anthropology”, to which he laughed and replied “So did Prince Charles”. I believed then and I still do now, that given time this was a party that would one day make the United Kingdom a better place – for everyone.
Maybe I should have taken the Society’s rejection of me as a sign. Perhaps I should have known then that disappointment was now somehow inevitable. Instead I sent a very angry email to the Chairperson outlining (in great detail) my disgust at their behaviour. The following week I was out canvassing with them.
There’s an article in the Guardian today which writes that the Liberal Democrats have been good for the coalition but the coalition has been disastrous for the Liberal Democrats. Maybe that’s true, and maybe we are all guilty of expecting a bit too much. A quiet part of me knows that whether they made huge election promises or not, a junior coalition partner was always going to have a tough time. The real issue has been the sudden transition from opposition to coalition. It’s far easier to fight for electoral reform and free education when the final decision is not yours to make – and I suppose that was my hope, to help the fight.
They reached out to a new generation of voters and then monumentally let them down. Nick Clegg’s apology for making a promise – as opposed to breaking it – is in my mind insulting. He may not call policemen plebs or be best friends with phone hackers, but taking two years to apologise makes him look like a simpleton. It’s going to take a bit more than ‘I’m sorry’ to win voters trust back. So I asked the oracle ought I to forgive? Probably, but I’m not going to be too hasty about it… I’ll at least wait until I’ve heard the second single.