Thursday, 14 May 2015

Why I want to vote for Tim - but don't know if I can

Like many people in the Lib Dems right now, I want to see a change from the managerialist centralism that's constrained the party so long. I want us to mount strong conviction campaigns on civil liberties and human rights. I want us to talk about intergenerational justice and housing. I want us to make the positive case for immigration and stand up for the rights of minorities.

To do that we need a strong communicator, grounded in the party and it's values, not afraid to make the case for our relevance in a crowded political marketplace and rebuild our brand.

Unfair as we may see it, the electorate has given us a clear verdict on our role in government. It's pretty clear that they aren't fans. And we need to turn the page - which means we need a leader who has been outside that, and ideally one who didn't vote for Tuition Fees or Secret Courts.

I'm also, to put it mildy, mad as hell after five years of being trampled on by the party establishment, half of whom wouldn't know an action day if it hit them in the face, and being told to shut up and deliver leaflets whenever I dared complain. Of having conference 'managed' to prevent us debating important issues, or ignored when we spoke clearly. Of saying that 'when we work we win' the day after our council base is decimated and our MEPs all but wiped out.

I am therefore keen to stick two fingers up at said establishment by voting for an outsider, someone who they don't like, who's been on the wrong end of their kak-handed poisonous briefings, who takes me seriously, and who actually likes activists.

Norman Lamb is smart, was a competent minister who pushed important Liberal goals, especially on mental health. But he's tainted by coalition and he's the establishment candidate.

I also feel like some inspiring oratory might be in order right now to help me get through the years ahead. And, much as I respect Norman Lamb, I don't see him as able to push my liberal buttons on demand.

So as far as I can see, Tim's the man for the job.

But.

The evangelical Christianity.

It's part of what makes him a conviction politician - and mostly I don't care that much. The faith healing and prayer breakfasts isn't my cup of tea - but I'm a Liberal, so if that's what he wants to do with his time, I'm not that bothered.

But his voting pattern on core Liberal issues worries me. His record on gay rights is patchy. In a party who boasts gay marriage among their proudest achievements in government, and which exists to promote freedom, equality and fairness, that's a big problem.

And he's been conspicuously absent whenever MPs have been called on to defend abortion. And I can't bring myself to vote for someone who won't defend my right to choose what happens to my body.

I want to vote for Tim - but I don't know if I can do it.

So there's a challenge to Tim's campaign - I want to be convinced, and I'm looking for ways to justify it.

If it turns out the gay rights thing has been misrepresented, and the reason he didn't vote on abortion was because he was rushing a little old lady to hospital (or something) then I'll be happy as anyone. Hell, I'll even volunteer on his campaign.

It seems at the moment that Tim's likely to win by a landslide. Which is fine. But I hope that his team won't rely on all of us wanting to stick the establishment, and address some of the real concerns that people have about his leadership.

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