The Liberal Democrats have proved themselves to be a political contradiction once again. They’ve spent the last three years chastising the Government and the Labour Party for their illiberal values, yet it now seems that the Lib Dems no longer care about such principles themselves. I speak, of course, of the admittance of Dr Phillip Lee to the party last week, a man who abstained from the vote on gay marriage and tried to block HIV positive people from migrating to Britain. These actions of homophobia and xenophobia seem to be of little concern to the Lib Dem leadership as it continues its single-issue journey to a People’s Vote.
I used to be a member of the Liberal Democrats myself. I remember having conversations with people who baulked at the idea of letting people in just because they were Remainers. People who rightly called out Tim Farron for his equivocations over and ambiguous record on LGBTQ+ rights and abortion are now welcoming Phillip Lee. Receiving an orange membership card does not suddenly strip someone of their innate prejudice. Yet they are willing to forget the past just to get another MP in Parliament.
Party Leader Jo Swinson claimed to want to make the positive case for migration and defend LGBTQ+ rights in her leadership campaign; this makes her response even more contemptuous. She said in a statement that Phillip Lee “brings almost 10 years of parliamentary experience and decades of professional expertise. He shares our commitment to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit, and to stop Brexit altogether.”
The willingness of a liberal party to accept someone like Lee into their ranks is a very worrying one. You might wonder, however, why I am picking specifically on the Lib Dems when the Tories and Labour seem to have just as many, if not more, problems of their own. The answer is simple: the Lib Dems claim to be different. They claim to be more than just another party; their existence is based on the idea that the right and the left should coalesce around their new progressive politics.
It alarms me considerably therefore that their rising poll ratings seem premised on a lie. Dissatisfaction with the status quo is encouraging voters to look to the Lib Dems for something different, a politics that represents middle-class progressives to a T. Like middle-class progressives, the Lib Dems don’t stand up to closer scrutiny. They say all the right things, but when it comes down to it, the style is more important than the substance. Watching Lib Dem MPs line up to defend Phillip Lee has been a farce; it proves they lack the courage of their convictions.
I don’t write this article to damn every party member; I know that many passionate Lib Dems are fighting for what they believe in. I also know that there are plenty of members complaining about the admittance of Lee. But voters need to know that the Lib Dems, as an institution, are every bit as opportunistic and amoral as the other parties. Forget the tuition fees scandal, a policy U-turn in a Government that had to adopt policies from both of its constituent parts. It is the far more recent actions of the Liberal Democrats which show why they cannot be trusted. Just like all the other parties, they pledge to be something different whilst behaving amorally. Don’t believe the hype – we deserve better.