Lib Dems hit their highest membership in a decade – why are thousands signing up?

The party has taken a defiantly pro-EU stance in recent weeks

 

The Liberal Democrats have hit a 10-year membership high, having gained almost 16,000 new members in the weeks since the EU referendum.

It’s a big turnaround for a party that, 12 months ago, many believed was facing extinction. Leader Tim Farron belives the membership surge is a response to his party’s commitment to keeping Britain in the EU.

He told Left Foot Forward:

“Almost 16,000 new members have joined the Liberal Democrats since EU Referendum two weeks ago. We now have more members than we’ve had in over a decade. I believe this is because our clear liberal and pro-European view.

“I have always believed that Britain needs to lead, not leave Europe and that our national interest does not end at the cliffs of Dover.

“Being internationalist and Pro-European is in the DNA of our party.”

But how do the members themselves explain their decisions to join? We asked six fledgling Lib Dems, members of the Lib Dem Newbies Facebook group what drew them to the party.

 

Duncan Sinclair, 43, Surrey:

Until the past few weeks, active personal political engagement (other than voting) was the last thing I would have considered – a busy job as a barrister, a young family, too many other things took priority.

The impact on all of us of recent decisions (whichever way you voted), combined with the disgraceful power grabbing and lack of leadership or coordination shown by the two ‘main’ political parties have changed that.

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems got an unfair ride in coalition with the Conservatives, and they remain the most progressive party by some margin.  

I have joined them this week.  There is a tide in the affairs of this country, which we must take at the flood.  The Lib Dem vision is the only one offering me, and those that may come after me, any real hope for the future of this wonderful country of ours.

 

Sarah Hampton, 23, Manchester/London:

Up until the Referendum result, I’ve always seen politics as someone else’s responsibility. Of course I always voted in local and national elections but I always left the campaigning and other groundwork to other people.  I had never been a member of a political party.

Devastated by the news of a Leave majority on the morning of the 24th, I decided that I had to channel my feelings into doing something positive.  After all, what had I done to encourage people to vote Remain? I’m not sure that a handful of retweets really counts as activism.

So the following Sunday I joined the Liberal Democrats and have volunteered once a week with them since.

I think that the Liberal Democrats are committed and passionate about bringing positive change to our country.

They seem to me to be the only party not filled with politicians who care more about their own careers than the state of the country they represent.

 

Matt, 33, North West:

I joined up almost immediately after the referendum when Tim Farron said that the Liberal Democrats would be trying to keep the UK in the EU. That was enough of a shared goal for me to get started. Since I’ve joined I’ve found that there’s a real enthusiasm in the party for promoting positive liberty which has confirmed that I made the right decision.

 

Claire Piper, 29, Huntingdonshire:

On the morning of Friday 24th June I sat crying in a tent at Glastonbury Festival. I was completely shocked. I’d sent off my postal vote weeks ago and hadn’t really thought anything more about it. Nearly everyone I knew was voting to remain so my assumption was that it was a foregone conclusion.

I didn’t realise how narrow my own social circle was. Yesterday I had been proud to be British: tolerant, diverse and united. Now I felt like my identity had been ripped away from me. I feared for the impact on the rest of EU, an Un-United Kingdom, an end to the inclusive society I thought I belonged to. I was angry and hurt and wanted to fight for what I’d lost.

I blame the divisive, fear driven, full of lies, propaganda filled Brexit campaign derived to sell newspapers and bolster political ambition under the disguise of ‘Making Britain Stronger’. In my opinion, the thing that makes Britain strong is diversity. Any forum that allows us to mix with people different to ourselves is an opportunity to learn from each other and make this world a better place.

This referendum has divided us in so many ways and unity is the biggest loss we face from leaving the EU.

On Monday 27th I arrived home tired, covered in mud and still wanting to fight for what I’d lost. I showered, had a cup of tea, scoured the web for news and ended up clicking on a Lib Dem link.

I read ‘Our fight for an open optimistic, hopeful, diverse and tolerant Britain is needed now more than ever’. Then I joined the fight.

 

Craig McQueen, 35, Warwickshire

I’m a slightly chubby, fairly hairy bloke in his mid-thirties. I run my own business as a Financial Adviser and Wealth Planner and I have a young family.

While I’ve always been interested in politics and economics, I’ve never been what could be described as an activist. I’ve never been a member of a political party or felt any particular affinity for individual politicians.

I’d describe myself as a social and economic liberal, a European, forward thinking and open to the world. For the most part I’ve always voted for the Lib Dems.

What I’ve seen happen in UK politics over the last few years, but particularly over the last few weeks has completely shaken my apathy for political engagement. The rise of populist right wing politics fills me with horror. The ugly propaganda, pushing people to make choices that will affect all of us, based on fear, lies, half-truths and racism completely disgusts me.

I now feel I have to get involved, to make my voice heard for myself and for my family. I feel I need to take a stand against the right and the damage that they are doing to our country, economy and future.

My daughter will turn two in just under a fortnight. I want her to grow up in a welcoming, open society, that appreciates intelligence, justice and civil liberties.

14 Responses to “Lib Dems hit their highest membership in a decade – why are thousands signing up?”

  1. A Thomas

    I have always voted Tory as I believe that a strong economy is required in order to support the NHS and other public services we value in this country. 2 Weeks ago the Tory party betrayed my family and millions of people who know and understand the value of the EU, in terms of cooperation, economics, culture and peace. For all its imperfections the EU is crucial to our continent’s stability and I shudder at what the Tories will do to the country now that they have lurched so far to the right and have opened a pandora’s box of xenophobia and nationalism. I am in my early 50s now, had planned to enjoy many years ahead living in the EU and my children had planned to work and study there to learn the precious lessons its diverse cultures and histories bring. I will now join the Lib Dems and will fight to end this Tory tyranny and destruction.

  2. Bruce Meredeen

    In answer to your question could it be because the Lib Dems wholeheartedly campaigned for Remain, support social democracyand have a credible leader? That doesn’t mean I agree with all or most of their policies, but they aren’t on the point of splitting or being captured by hard left impossiblists.

  3. Graeme Card

    Great reasons for joining, ALL positive reasons too. I joined the morning after the referendum whilst on holiday in Switzerland. After seeing in 18 months the Party I’d always diligently voted for (“put a blue rosette on a monkey”, I’d vote for it) trash everything I’d felt we were working towards as a nation.

    I have always voted , my politics were crafted during the miners strikes of the 1970’s and having to do my homework to candlelight. I felt passionately we needed to stop the rush to Socialism in its tracks. Over the years I’ve weighed up who was most likely to deliver the economic prosperity we needed to fund the NHS and a generous welfare program. So it seemed logical to me that the Tories would deliver that. (I didn’t say I knew I was right!) I did well, my education paid for I got a good degree, I earned a good salary, I paid my taxes happy to put back into the system. Couldn’t understand why the Tories were in favour of tuition fees…I was Eurosceptic….

    Then,the birth of my daughter who just happens to have Downs helped me re-evaluate my life, she is an amazing teacher (she’s 23 now) she’s taught me so much, about what to really value in life; love compassion, happiness. I was beginning to think the society we were building was getting pretty short on those. But maybe we’d hit a rough patch economically, we’d sort it. Quietly, in the background I was damn annoyed at the Eurosceptics consigning the Tories to opposition (disloyalty is not something Tories tolerate, it may well be “Self above state” but it isn’t “self above Party Unity” – at least that was my thinking), I became Euroneutral.

    Then we had the Blair Years.. Socialism dead, a sort of center left consensus seemed to be built and whilst I felt disenfranchised, ( I was a right winger after all) on the face of things I was OK; then the wheels started to come off. I felt Labour’s Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly was just a sop to help entrench Labour’s voter base, I was disgusted and horrified by the War in Iraq and even more so by the fact “my Party” was all in favour of it . then I looked at other things, big and small, I’d always been anti fox hunting, (never felt it was that critical, despite me being veggie to make an issue of it at GE time), I’d always been “green”, my family are fed up with me making them recycle everything, I’d always argued for a Reformed House of Lords and, well if we HAD to have devolution let’s devolve England too and have a Federal System, why weren’t the Tories doing this? Ah well maybe they would when in power again… So then we have a Coalition, the nasty Liberal-Democrats seemed to be blamed for everything and credited with nothing, Tuition fees were their Achilles heel and I know so many people turned off from the Party , I found myself defending them “They’re in Government now and a junior partner at that, compromise is needed…” Why on earth was I defending a Party I could never vote for??

    On holiday again (always seem to be when we have an election) I was with a good friend and we discussed what we’d want. Both of us Tories? – well we wanted another Coalition! Sadly that wasn’t on the Ballot Paper so we both, true to form, voted Tory and look what we got? A racist Leave campaign built on lies and fear – ironic they were blaming Remain for that! In 18 months the Party I have thought was aligned to my thinking trashed MY country all to keep its own civil war papered over and worse after the shambles we were left with, the protagonists left the stage! The air was (and is still) blue- but maybe the colour’s wrong

    So now I have a country with reported hate crime up 400%, European friends frightened and concerned where their future lies,no leader, no opposition (as they’re determined to wind the clock back to 1975 – and I thought Socialism was dead) and no plan or clue on unhitching ourselves from a Union which has worked hugely in our favour, the economy is going to suffer and I am not one of these who subscribes to the “lets knock it all down to rebuild from scratch” school of thought. I became a Europhile during that campaign. I’m a free market, socially left liberal. My journey from right to centre has probably been going on for some years, I am just horrified it took a bombshell to make it happen.

    So now I want to join the fight, I want to protect my daughter and people like her. She had no vote but I guarantee if you could ask her, what she felt about throwing out the migrants, or taking control of our borders or any one of a dozen other issues, she’d say REMAIN. SO I fight for her and everyone like her who had no voice in that damned referendum. As they build this glorious sunny upland of “great” Britain and once they’ve finished demonising the migrants, then who is next? The Gays? The disabled? This is far far bigger an issue than financial stability for the country, what we are talking about is the complete destruction of what the vast majority of us have worked for be it on the center, the center right or center left (and even a few, as in my case, the Right)
    I fight for those who HAD no say and against the miserable bitter small minded nasty twisted 27%

  4. Stephen Dobson

    I, too, joined the Lib Dems immediately after the horrifying shock of the referendum result. I have voted either Lib Dem or Green since turning 18 in the late 90s but had always avoided “party politics”, considering it to be a little grubby and inward looking. The damage already wrought on the inclusiveness of our society, the economy, and the sense of vague national unity has grieved me more deeply than I would have thought possible and convinced me that party politics is the best way of getting involved in actively fighting the apparent rise in naked intolerance which is necessary for the future of my young children, and our country.

  5. Anna Sadler

    Like millions of others I was devastated by the referendum result, and what it’ll mean for my future and the future of my family. With the Tories moving further to the right and Labour seemingly in disarray, the Lib Dems are offering consistency, inclusiveness, and hope. While I accept absolutely that it would be undemocratic and dangerous to ignore the result, I agree that the issues need to be retried in the context of a General Election, with all we now know about how this campaign was run and the impact Brexit would have on the communities which voted to Leave as a protest against a Government which has failed them.

  6. George Dundon

    Love all the responses, but Claire Piper’s is a powerful one that resonates to the core of how ‘robbed’ we feel.

  7. Robert Braban

    As far as the future political imperatives are concerned, I see it like this (set out here as much to get my mind clear as for any other reason).

    Properly organised the Lib Dems have enormous potential. They went backwards at the last election because people were angry that they had been in harness with the Tories. They really had no choice and were a good influence. I believe that anger was unreasonable and that people have now seen sense.

    The most forgotten truth in politics is that glorious opposition, however principled, adds up to zero achievement. In opposition you can change very little if anything.

    There are 16,000,000+ people who wish to stay in the EU and a high proportion are passionate about doing so.

    The Tory party, whether the right wing extremists beat May for the premiership or not, will take Brexit forward because they do not have the backbone to do otherwise. They are frightened of the potential for damage to the party and their jobs. They are also fearful of UKIP. The national interest is somewhere near the bottom of their priority list.

    A good number of anti-Brexit Tories would vote for the Lib Dems if they thought there was a chance of keeping us in Europe. Those same people would never ever vote Labour for any reason.

    In its present form, the Labour Party has almost no chance of becoming a cohesive and influential force any time soon. It’s controlled by a few activists driven by the ideology of a century ago that prevents it from being electable. A new party born out of the old one and leaving the ‘antique’ elements behind is a possibility, but that takes time.

    A good number of Labour supporters who are anti-Brexit would support the Lib Dems or a central alliance in order to stay in Europe. They have always voted Labour because their parents did and they see it as representing their perceived social class. They would rather stick pins in their eyes than vote Tory but they would vote Lib Dem.

    The Lib Dems have supported our membership of the EU since they were formed and have been totally consistent. It fits their core philosophy as it does the core philosophy of millions of people who oppose Brexit, even if those people don’t realise it.

    The great majority of anti-Brexit voters who want to stay in Europe unconsciously share Lib Dem values. They may also have other reasons, but their core values are the same.

    My principal concern in all this is the inexplicably low profile of the party. As someone who had a marketing company for many years, I worry that although they have identified the amazing opportunity for a popular mission to rescue Britain, they do not know how to handle it. Every day I wake up and hope that they will too.

  8. Peter Kemp

    Welcome 🙂 I joined the then Liberal Party , many,many years ago ….so ‘welcome’ to the thousands of new members ….. you are needed more than ever 🙂

  9. David Martin

    I’ve not been so politically active since 1984 – the Lib Dems are the first political party I’ve joined. Yes, mainly in response to the complete cock-up of the current administration. How can it be possible that in such a short space of time everything held after such a long struggle has been wiped out almost overnight. I’m not so much concerned about me as much a my children. Almost anyway forward will now pose major problems for this country (I mean the British Isles) and it’s occupants ! The Lib Dems fought tooth & nail to try to get their point across – in this (and other recent disclosures) they have been proved right. As it happens I have always voted Liberal (or Lib Dem) except once ! You can guess when it was! I think David Cameron should be charged with identity theft (amongst other things). How he can say in one breath that he will do the best for this country (his ship as he called it) and then abandon it is quite horrific. Didn’t you see the Titantic (the captain normally goes down with his ship). So where do we go from here ? Who is going to go down in history as pushing the big red “Article 50” button. Whatever happens now it will be a down turn. Well done the Tory government – you really did make a “pigs breakfast” of this one.

  10. CR

    Lib Dems have always been Tory-Lite – what we would now call Blairite. Many, if not most, of our Labour MPs would be perfectly happy with life as members of the Limp Dims.

  11. Malcolm Edwards

    I am 80 yes a lot older than the other respondents and having been an active Conservative for most of my life am now joining the Lib Dems. The decision to hold a referendum on the EU was the most misjudged political decision since Munich. What is going on now is beyond belief, an election of a new prime minister where on of the candidates, not Mrs. May, has to have the questions explained to her and avoids answering virtually all of them, when she does she either contradicts herself or forgets what she has said. How did the Conservatives get into this incredible mess. Let’s hope that common sense prevails but having listened to the ageing Hooray Henrys who will make the decision it seems unlikely.

  12. A A Fisher

    My father has always been a LibDem, but I have always voted Labour. That party is now unsupportable and in the hands of left wing lunatics who seem to believe in the impossible. The Tories have lurched to the right and have made xenophobia and racism seem legitimate to some. I switched to Remain from Leave very late when I got a leaflet from the Lib Dems. It made complete sense. I am also going to join the party and do something positive to help get our future back.

  13. Mike Drew

    CR does not understand the Lib Dems. We thoroughly disliked Blair – he was an obvious fraud and certainly not a democrat as the way he ran his cabinet demonstrates. Most of the “Blairite MPs would not be welcome – they were happy to be beneficiaries of the FPtP voting system and believed that they had the right to govern as long as they got a little more than a third of the vote.

  14. Jackie CHARLTON

    Amazing comments and so good to see that people feel diversity is positive, have a desire for a collective future and real passion about inclusive politics. The Tories are about to vote for a new leader/PM and neither appears to be ‘fit for purpose’. The Labour Party is tearing itself apart according to the media. Democracy needs a strong opposition and at the moment the Scottish National Party are the most likely grouping to do that. But Hey! maybe the Lib Dems can come up through the middle and channel that passion and inclusive politics with people who want to put it right, who want to provide for future generations and can make a difference.

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