Something has been preying on my mind in the the last few weeks/months and I thought it was about time I shared it.
I will be 36 years old this Friday (no it's not an incipient mid-life crisis!) and I have been pretty much obsessed with politics since I was a teenager. However I only joined the Lib Dems a little over two years ago. I had helped them out a bit before and had also got involved with some electoral reform stuff but I have only been a fully paid up member of the party since June 2008.
I spent many years reading political articles, opinion pieces, memoirs etc. and watching all the TV programmes but always convincing myself that I was better off as an observer/bystander rather than an active participant. As time went on and I got more and more interested in the processes and policies as well as the debates that position became less and less tenable for me and eventually I succumbed to the charms of the Lib Dems. For a number of years it had been becoming more and more clear to me that it was the party that most closely matched my political instincts. I have not been disappointed since I joined. I now know many like minded people and although I don't always agree with everything that every other Lib Dem says, to use the old cliche, I really do feel that there is more that unites us than divides us.
Bully for me you might think. I finally found a political home and I have been making the most of it, blogging furiously for the last couple of years, popping up on the radio (latterly quite frequently) to give my views as well as co-hosting a political podcast where I do the same. I get linked to from across the blogosphere and have also written numerous posts for other blogs too. I have had things I have written on my blog quoted by Lib Dem MPs in the House of Commons, by a Labour government minister on BBC's Question Time and regularly linked to by the mainstream media.
In short I have been getting about a bit and my views on various issues have had a fair bit of coverage.
On 11th May I wrote a blogpost entitled "Lib Dems should take the Tory Deal" in which I suggested that going into coalition with the Conservatives was for various reasons really the only game left in town. This was widely linked to and garnered nearly 10,000 hits on that day making it my most read blogpost ever. It was held up on the BBC News Channel by Rory Cellan-Jones (who was running the channel's digital election coverage) as an example of what the grass-roots of the party were thinking. When I published the post in the morning it still looked possible that the party leadership might do a deal with Labour. By that evening, the coalition had been formed.
I am not for one minute suggesting that my blogpost affected the coalition negotiations. Indeed from what I can tell, by the previous evening the Lib Dem negotiating team had pretty much decided that a deal with Labour would never work.
What I am suggesting though is that my views got very widespread coverage on that day.
Since the election I have been pretty supportive of the coalition. I have not agreed with everything it does but both on this blog and in other media I have generally argued the positive case for what the party is doing in government and why it is doing it. I very much believe that the party had no choice and is doing the right thing.
And this brings me to the crux of this particular blogpost. I have my views and they do (sometimes) get fairly wide coverage. But I have only been a member of the party for two years. There are others blogging who have been members for far, far longer than me. In many cases their service to the cause can be marked in decades rather than years.
We are in an unprecedented political situation at the moment. Nobody knows for sure how things are gong to pan out for the new government and particularly the Lib Dems within it. As members and activists we all have our views but the thing that has been concerning me is whether I have the right to be as outspoken as I have been about my view that the party is doing the right thing.
If this all goes horribly wrong for the party and in a few years time our parliamentary numbers are hugely reduced as the electorate takes revenge for a perceived betrayal, and/or if horror upon horrors the party sinks into oblivion following that I will be devastated. But for me I will only have been involved for a few years. Those who have dedicated the majority of their lives to the cause will surely feel the loss more keenly than I? Those who have knocked on more doors and delivered more leaflets than I will ever be able to surely have a greater stake in this than me?
I should point out that not a single person in the party has ever suggested to me that my views should not count as much as anyone else's in the party. Indeed it would be considered pretty illiberal of anyone to do so I expect! This is just something that has been gnawing away at me deep inside.
I am not really sure how to end this blogpost as I am not sure there is an answer. I certainly intend to carry on the way I have been going and over the years as I have more time in the party under my belt, perhaps this feeling will subside.
Until then I will just have to suppress that inner voice that niggles away telling me that I have no right to be commentating on any of this.
Unless anyone wants to step forward and agree with the voice of course....