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Hooray for Tim: Why I'm (slightly) for the Liberal Democrats


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When it comes to politicians, we Britons are not especially forgiving.

After a certain time may forget about the U-turns and broken promises which once enraged us, but if reminded of them the anger will soon come flooding back.

It is why on 8th June voters will re-elect a Conservative party that did enormous damage to the country the last time it was this strong. It is also why the Liberal Democrats may be on the brink of a modest revival, just two years after the public vowed never to forgive the decisions they took in government.

Many students did not notice Nick Clegg's pledge to vote against any rise in university tuition fees, although it certainly turned a few heads when he went on to break it. Their fury at this volte-face intensified an already-brewing contempt for his decision to take the Liberal Democrats into coalition with the Tories in 2010.

In the years that followed, the LibDems were made to pay the price, first at the calamitous election of 2015 and in the referendum the following year, in which their key policy of enthusiastic EU membership was rejected by the voters.

Just as we do not hold former politicians in high esteem, Britons also respond poorly to those who try to defy the cultish attitude of political parties. Sharing a platform or a government office with someone does not in fact mean you agree with them on everything. And there is a lot of ugly piety about those, such Jeremy Corbyn, refusing to do EU campaigning with either Blair or Cameron, who argue that it does.

The LibDems may have 'sided' with Cameron in government but for some of the time at least we should be grateful they were there. Clegg prevented an EU referendum while in office and would have continued to do so had the coalition remained.

Besides, the Cameron government was fairly moderate and tolerant in tone - there seemed a place for the Liberal Democrats, one which closed after the mendacious Theresa May took power last year.

The tuition fees betrayal, which became symbolic of the whole Liberal tragedy, was undoubtedly the lowest and most indefensible moment. As a Scottish student I am often irritated when my English counterparts remind me bitterly of our no-fee system, although it's a small problem compared to the nightmarish mountains of debt they have to face upon graduation.

However, it is the Liberal Democrat's commitment to Europe that might provide a path to revival. Though they have done a fair amount of crowd pleasing in their time, the Liberals have taken an unashamedly pro-EU stance at this election and have bravely endured a lot of crap for doing so.

This is impressive considering that the other nominally left-wing parties have been woeful on the Brexit question, from Labour's flip-flopping (saying they are against Brexit, but voting for it in parliament) to the SNP's tedious hijacking of it to further their demand for Scottish independence, as if all the people who voted Remain in Scotland wanted to leave the UK.

Then there is the leadership question. Tim Farron, as well as being more likeable than Clegg, truly represents what it means to be liberal, something the fuss over his views on gay sex highlighted. As any serious person knows, Farron is capable of separating his private and perfectly legitimate view of homosexuality from the right of others to have relationships with whoever they want.

Those who have tried to paint him as some sort of frothing homophobe have simply looked foolish, and hypocritical considering that they have not chastised the leader of the Labour Party for hiring apologists for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, no friend of the LGBT community, or for himself being former paid propagandist of theocratic Iran, a regime which kills gay people (as well as journalists, trade unionists and feminists).

Theresa May herself said this election is about Brexit and good leadership. That is why, despite reservations, I am voting for the Liberal Democrats. A better opposition can deal with the punishments of tuition fees and the bedroom tax, and even if Farron’s team don't have a hugely successful election, voting for them will push Labour into getting its act together.

Recent times have shown politics has no place for perfectionists - all parties have shortcomings and hypocrisies which must be accepted along with their strengths. The Liberal Democrats have made bad, even egregious mistakes in the past, but unlike the Conservatives they have at least shown some contrition for the hurt tuition fees and other mistakes caused.

For someone who is often political homeless, Farron's party have provided some shelter in which to stay until the political climate improves.

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