In the heady days leading up to the general election in 2010, when the political tone seemed to be very hostile towards immigration and immigrants, the only sane voice seemed to be that of Nick Clegg's. Now for someone like me who at that time still was on a temporary work permit, that made a big difference. The UK can seem very hostile to immigrants in their early years here. Especially recently, and I lived for years in fear of that hostility. Nick's calm welcoming voice was a relief from all that I was hearing at that time.
I was so impressed by that first debate that I decided to donate some money to this good party, I went online and made the payment. I also ticked a box which then made me a member of the party.
Now that made me research the party and then it was a no brainer.
Liberalism, it really is a no brainer. It sounds right, it looks right and it is right ( well , centre or left of centre we would be more likely to say generally )
I found myself agreeing with all of the various liberal strands. Personal, Political, Economic and Social
Respecting personal freedoms, and protecting individuals from state and majority oppression, from the surveillance state ,from conformism. This is so important now in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and other killings in France. The importance of freedom of expression, of the freedom to live as we may choose and without the expectation of conforming to any ' norms' defined by any single person or any group of persons, whatever their number.
Power is best exercised by or closest to the people affected by it. The idea of localism, the idea that brought about devolution, the idea of local and regional structures taking on more responsibility and not being dependant on Westminster and Whitehall. At the same time,the idea of internationalism and international co-operation. A recognition that we are all citizens of the planet and that there are too many artificial barriers that we tend to erect.
The idea of the free market, of the freedom to make our choices of work and enterprise. The idea that monopolies, either state or private are bad. The idea that the market can and will find the solutions to our economic problems ( though needing a nudge at times to guard against excesses ). The idea that people should be free in the spirit of enterprise to make their mistakes, but that we should not let anyone sink beyond a minimum level and ensuring that the minimum is always getting better than the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before and so on. The state cannot be better than the individual in deciding what works best for them. The state should help where it can and then get out of the way! Only intervening where necessary to ensure fairness when there is obvious exploitation of the vulnerable.
The idea that more equal societies are also more happy societies. Now absolute equality is impossible to achieve and I would argue that there is no such thing! But we can do our best to ensure equality of opportunity as far as possible, to break down barriers where they exist or where they are artificially erected by vested interests. And while we can never ensure equality of outcome even where we remove inequalities of opportunity, we must strive to keep on getting better. This concept of always, continuous improvement, something that is the cornerstone of our dental CPD also applies to life in general and to society as a whole.
When I considered all the above, I knew that I had joined the right party. I was a candidate for council in a Middlesbrough in 2011. When I moved to Scotland, I was made the Scottish EMLD ( Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat) representative and then I won an internal selection to be selected as the PPC ( for Edinburgh South ) and here I am now, to fly the flag of liberalism in this week when liberal values have been so threatened, and knowing that in early January almost 4 million people marched all over France and in the UK too expressing solidarity with their fellow citizens. Here I find myself, selected as a PPC a mere four and a half years after joining the party, a mere nine and a half years after having moved to the UK. I am definitely happy and proud of the distance that I've covered, but Oh! There's so much more to do and I've barely got started!