Diane Park was the Liberal Democrat PPC for Halifax. She resigned yesterday and at the same time quit the party to sit as an Independent councillor on Calderdale Council. This is what I want to say to her.
I was really disappointed when I found out today that you have resigned as the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Halifax. However, when I read the article in the Halifax Courier explaining why you had quit I was frustrated far more than you will ever imagine.
I don’t know if you will remember me. I was the person who accompanied Nick Clegg when he visited Halifax about eighteen months ago to meet some of the people tackling crime in the town centre and then to speak at your fundraising dinner. I enjoyed that evening and I came away thinking what an impressive pair of PPCs Calderdale had, with you in Halifax and Hilary Myers in Calder Valley.
Although I am disappointed at the Liberal Democrats losing someone of your talents, I am even more annoyed at your reason for resigning. You say that you are “shocked and appalled by the scandal that has befallen the House of Commons” and I understand that. I really do. As someone who has spent a lot of his own time, money and energy trying to elect Liberal Democrats to councils and parliaments since I joined the party 14 years ago, I am as angry as anyone at the way that some MPs have behaved. I am angry not just because they have been dishonest, or because they have taken advantage of the system, or because some have quite blatantly stolen my taxes to put in their own pocket. But I am also angry because I believe politics is, on the whole, a force for good and by some MPs behaving in that way we have reached a situation where a lot of people will never trust another politician again.
You say that you, “have decided to become an independent. That way, I will have no constraints on what I say and can concentrate on serving the electors.” But surely it isn’t the political parties that are wrong, it is the system and the way that the cosy boys club that exists in Westminster creates and perpetuates the system that we have. Being an independent doesn’t solve that, but being a Liberal Democrat may do. After all, there is no guarantee that other independents who get elected will somehow agree with us on how to change the system or are as committed to the Liberal Democrat beliefs that we hold. Of course they don’t, that’s why they aren’t Liberal Democrats. I accept that as the third party it will be hard work to overturn the system. But no one else is going to do it apart from us. We have been the reformers for years wanting to change the way politics works from top to bottom. We led devolution both from Westminster and within local government. We led the calls to reform the voting system to one that actually reflected how people vote. We led the way in having our party leader go out and talk directly to ordinary people in his Town Hall meetings. And we also led the calls for reforming MPs expenses well before it became fashionable.
I am in politics because I want to change the world. It may be a bit idealistic and utopian, but I don’t think you should be in politics if you think everything is fine the way they are. I am a Liberal Democrat because I believe in the principles that the party stands for. Just because I am a member of a party it doesn’t mean I can’t say what I think. After all I have kept up this blog whilst working for the party leader, the current shadow home secretary and now for ALDC, whilst also sometimes dissenting from the party’s policies and opinions. You and I both know that the majority of people in politics are honest and decent. If you and I want to change the world, we should work hard to elect the people who will do it and who stand for the things we believe in. That is going to involve sticking with it through the tough times, (God only knows the number of times over the last few weeks when I have wondered why I put up with the flack and abuse you get through being in politics), and electing people who like us want to change the world to make it more Liberal Democrat.
I am sorry you won’t be one of the people who gets elected to parliament to help us to change the world together, as I think you would have made an excellent Liberal Democrat MP for Halifax. But nonetheless I wish you well and I hope that whatever you do with your life is a success.