It’s a cliché, I know, but I have discovered since last weekend’s blog that a week really is a long time in politics. When I wrote here last Sunday of my disaffection with Labour and my imminent defection to the Liberal Democrats I could scarcely have imagined the reaction I would receive from all corners.
Whilst I want this to be a positive blog, I do have to comment on the negatives too, so I’ll do that first in the hope of then ending on a high note. I understand that if you post on the internet you are putting yourself in a public forum and your views can be criticised by all and sundry. This is doubly true if you blog about politics. I knew that I would draw a certain amount of political criticism for my decision and arguments against, perhaps even derision of, my opinions. That is completely fair game. Personal abuse and threats of violence, however, are not.
I have received abusive messages this week concerning everything from my name, apparently so ridiculous it can only have been made up by parents who went on to spend thousands of pounds a term on my education, to my appearance, which I’m reliably informed is ‘fat and ugly’ and thus will fit right in in the Liberal Party. The first is categorically untrue. You’ll have to make your own minds up on the second.
The vast majority of this abuse has been anonymous, misspelt and singularly uncreative. There is, after all, only a certain amount of times you can see a variation of ‘Tory scum’ without it becoming just a little dull. The threats and contempt I have received from some of the left of the Labour Party only serve to make a mockery of their supposed values of tolerance, respect and freedom.
That said, the positive response I have received has been overwhelming. From former Labour colleagues wishing me luck to a message from a member of the Australian Democrats and an SNP member echoing many comments praising me for standing up for what I believe and doing the right thing, I am extremely grateful for each and every one. I have been welcomed more positively than I could ever have expected from Liberal Democrats. From Tim Farron and Baroness Jolly taking the time to message me to the rank-and-file membership offering support, encouragement and an invitation for conference drinks, they have made me absolutely sure I’ve made the right decision. I’ll try to take them all up on the offer of drinks in Brighton but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand if I do!
The near-hysteria over the defection is now, thankfully, all over. I didn’t join the Liberal Democrats for one week of internet infamy but for an awful lot longer spreading the Liberal Democrat message to as many people as possible. I believe in this party. I believe in its values, its principles and its future. I also, after this week, believe wholeheartedly in its people. The local election results were rough, to say the least, and demonstrated just how much there is to do. So the hard-work begins here and I can’t wait. Socks and sandals, I’m told, are strictly optional.