Saturday, 2 July 2016

Should I stay or should I go?

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for 14 years, having joined when I was 21. Now I am agonizing about whether to stay or to leave and join the Liberal Democrat Party. I had been aware that if Britain voted to leave the UK in this ridiculous referendum, it would raise questions about whether I could still support the Conservative Party.

The Liberal Democrats have promised to fight for Britain's continued membership of the European Union. I doubt they will be in government, but if they manage to increase their numbers in parliament, they could wield enough influence to alter the direction of Brexit. Last week I came very close to making the decision to sign up with the Lib Dems.

I had expected that Boris Johnson or Michael Gove would become the new leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister. In that case, I would have to leave. I could not remain in a party led by somebody who had been at the forefront of a campaign built on lies and xenophobia. However, it is starting to look likely that the Tory leadership could fall to home secretary, Theresa May. I have no liking for May. She has a bee in her bonnet about immigration and might fight too hard to resist free movement in EU negotiations. However, she has promised to drop the commitment to scrap the Human Rights Act. She has also said she would not necessarily make immigration a red line in EU negotiation. Could I remain a Tory under Theresa May? I am not sure. A friend who is a Labour Party member offered me some advice, "You have to ask yourself; can I knock on somebody's door and ask them to vote that way?"

It's still possible that Gove (or Leadsome) could win the Tory leadership, in which case I am out of there. There is also the difficulty of getting back to business as usual. I don't feel much good will toward my Conservative Association, which almost entirely backed the Leave campaign. I don't feel much camaraderie with them now. My MP voted to Leave. Can I support a man who voted to wreck the British economy?

Over the last few years, I have increasingly worried that the Conservative Party is at risk of becoming a diet coke UKIP. I often feel like I am supporting a party I don't believe in any more. I probably disagree with a lot of what the Liberal Democrats stand for, but if I join them, it will be because I have a more fundamental agreement with their view of the direction the country needs to take.

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