Radical Association Statement: Defections to the Liberal Democrats

There has recently been widespread speculation that some politicians are considering defecting to the Liberal Democrats. We of course welcome the prospect of strengthening the Parliamentary Party, but believe that it is absolutely necessary that any prospective defector should hold beliefs compatible with Liberal Democrat principles, as expressed in the preamble to our constitution.

In the case of Phillip Lee MP, it is hard to see how someone who has expressed his views on immigration and LGBT rights, in particular including his personal attempts to legislate for HIV and Hepatitis positive migrants to be barred from entering the UK, could be considered for membership of the party. He was not merely following a party whip in expressing these views, but was pushing well beyond what Conservative Party policy of the time required of him; he has never publicly apologised for or retracted these ideas, which are profoundly against the compassionate, internationalist, and pro-immigration liberal values upon which our movement and our opposition to Brexit are founded. By the same token, we could not welcome former Labour MP Gavin Shuker to the Liberal Democrats, as his well-known opposition to same-sex marriage, including threatening to resign if then Leader Ed Miliband whipped the Labour Party to vote for the Liberal Democrats bill to legalise same-sex marriage in 2012, make it clear that his principles are not those of the Liberal Democrats.

We look forward to working with independent MPs and members of other parties in our shared campaign to oppose Brexit, and we are proud to be working across party lines to do that. We should congratulate those who leave the dangerously anti-democratic Johnson Conservatives to sit as independents or seek other political avenues, and look forward to working with many of these people on our shared goal of stopping Brexit. As a party, however, we Liberal Democrats stand for far, far more than being a repository of anti-Brexit sentiment. We are opposed to Brexit because we are liberals, not liberals solely on the basis of our opposition to Brexit. Our party has a long and proud history of liberal, radical political thought, and we have a broad and deep policy platform on the basis of which we are seeking a mandate for government.

We welcome actual liberals trapped in the other parties who seek to join us; but that does not extend to uncritically welcoming anyone as a member of the party regardless of their beliefs. It would do neither us nor prospective defectors any favours to weaken our values-driven liberal message and have them again trapped in another party that cannot share and support their views.