PROUD TO BE A PARTY COMMITTED TO EUROPE
IT was right and just of the Labour Party members who signed the letter in last week’s Bucks Examiner, to refer to the efforts made by local Liberal Democrats and others in working for a victorious Remain vote in Chiltern District in the referendum, in defiance of the arguments put out by local MP Cheryl Gillan.
We in the Liberal Democrats would like to thank all who worked and voted for this result, which, regrettably, was not mirrored at the UK level.
However, I must refute the statement in the letter that local Liberal Democrats – and local Greens and Conservatives – campaigned under the leadership of the local Labour Party in producing the victory of the IN campaign in Chiltern District.
The reality is that the “Stronger In” campaign was a national, non-partisan campaign, aimed at bringing together all who wished the United Kingdom to continue to play a strong and influential role within the European Union. It was not “led” by any party. In contrast with the Labour, Conservative, Green and even Scottish Nationalist Parties, the Liberal Democrats, under the leadership of Tim Farron MP, are united in favour of remaining in the European Union.
Tim Farron has committed himself and his party to campaigning for a return to membership of the European Union and its continuing reform and improvement, if the referendum result does indeed lead to the UK leaving the EU.
(Like most other things in politics today, nothing can be taken as certain.)
In addition to contributing to the official Stronger In campaign, local Liberal Democrats worked hard in their own right to provide a presence on the streets during the campaign, to organise a public meeting in Chiltern District in favour of the Remain campaign and to deliver leaflets to the door.
In the early post-war years, when the move to European cooperation and development began, the Liberal Party was the only British party to seek active involvement by the UK in the early developments towards what later became the EU, it is a legacy of which the Liberal Democrats are the proud standard-bearers today, while always accepting that there is need for constant reform and improvement of today’s European Union.
As Liberal Democrats, we take our lead from nobody on the need for active British involvement in the EU, but are willing to cooperate equally with all like-minded people, of whatever party or none.
It is clear that nationally the Labour Party’s contribution to the Remain campaign was ineffective and weak, under a leadership whose commitment to the cause of remaining in the EU seemed less than wholehearted and inhibited by a desire not to cooperate effectively across party lines.
When not directly opposed to the In campaign, local Conservatives – with the notable exception of Dominic Grieve, the Beaconsfield MP – failed to pull their weight, and any proRemain local Conservative councillors failed entirely to publicise their views.
It is clear that the Conservative Party remains bitterly divided on the issue of Europe, to the extent that it is difficult to see how, consistent with belief and principle, instead of self-serving expediency, they can remain united as a party.
We in the Liberal Democrats are proud to call ourselves the party of wholehearted commitment to cooperation and involvement in Europe, through continuing partnership in a progressively reforming EU.
In this we do not take our lead from the Labour Party or anyone else.