It took a big change in my life for me to become interested in politics. Let's just say that when I found myself with time on my hands, I found myself increasingly interested in the way our country was run from Westminster. So why, you might wonder, did I choose to join the Liberal Democrats, whose popularity in most polls seems to be bumping along the bottom of that sketchy little graph you see in your favourite newspaper. There are a number of reasons.
First of all, I come from a traditional Labour stronghold in the north of England, but I could never again vote for my "ancestral" party after the wreckage they left of the country after 15 years of mismanagement. Millennium Dome. £150,000 on Portcullis House pot plants. Need I say more. And as for the Conservatives - rich fat cats, bankers and old Etonians. No. A thousand times, no! So that left the Liberal Democrats, centrally positioned politically, and as your publicity material tells us, not financed by " trade unions or millionaires."
So I'd established that I was interested in this party. The next step was to do some research on the issues that interested me, and here I'm happy to find that the Liberal Democrats have a very enlightened Green policy, and are actively interested in civil liberties. As far as economic policies go, I don't think any of us have any illusions these days that the country is on the edge of the abyss financially, and that we all have to tighten our belts. The fact that the Liberal Democrats have accepted this and taken some tough decisions makes me respect them more - we've done this despite knowing how unpopular it must inevitably be, so I see a party with a degree of integrity. And we're not afraid to debate questions publicly rather than go with the party line. Perish the thought that an issue should be decided on its merits!
My next question was whether or not to support a party led by Nick Clegg, and here I was pleasantly surprised, considering the vitriol that he seems to inspire on the Internet. In his recent performance on Prime Minister's Questions, Mr. Clegg was articulate and knowledgeable in his responses to the inimitable Ms. Harman and her sniping throng.
I have seen a lot of comments about how the Conservatives are being held back in this or that policy because of the Liberal Democrats and I say good thing too! But the Liberal Democrats are not perfect. We need a more positive profile in the media and the country needs to see that we can stand up to the Tories, under Nick's capable leadership. Don't do a "Miliband brothers special" Nick, and get dragged into a destructive and pointless leadership quarrel.