Angela Smith MP

Working hard for you

Westminster B 5158ah

Joining the Liberal Democrats

If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would, in September 2019, attend the LibDem conference as a Liberal Democrat MP I would have responded with an offer to lay a hefty bet on the matter.  

It now seems, however, the most logical thing in the world to have done.  

There is no doubt I have been on a political journey during the past few years, triggered by an increasing sense of disenchantment with the Labour Party.  Thirty-eight years of membership and a family tradition of supporting the party did not prevent me from recognising that it was increasingly distancing itself from the national interest, by putting its own narrow priorities first.  This process intensified after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.  

Now, of course, the Labour Party is dominated by extremists, promoting Marxist policies and supporting an oppressive, unpleasant culture which refuses to tolerate dissent.  Those who disagree with the party line are abused and, in many cases, bullied out of its ranks.  

No longer is Labour a recognisably social democratic party.  It has lost its status as a ‘broad church’ and as such is unfit for power.  It cannot be trusted with the country’s future.   

To leave was still hard.  There was a period of grieving for what had been lost.  Moving to another party was initially too big a step to take.   

Eventually, however, I started to gain a better sense of perspective.  The transformation of the Tory party into a narrow, nationalist cult aided the process; it was obvious to me that our two major political parties had abandoned their centre ground credentials and that the task of repairing the subsequent damage to our democracy would fall to the Liberal Democrats.    

Our country deserves better than to be dominated by two tired, out of touch parties consumed by populism and nationalism.  

At a time of national crisis, people demand more, people demand better. 

On the most important issue our country has faced in 70 years the Liberal Democrats are crystal clear on where we stand. We believe Yorkshire would be better off in the EU and we want to give the people the democratic final say.  We’ve always called for a people’s Vote and will continue to do so.  If there is a General Election instead of, or before, a People’s Vote then we offer voters a way to stop Brexit a Liberal Democrat majority government.  Contrast that with Labour’s continued ‘constructive ambiguity’ and the Tories’ willingness to burn the house down. 

Jo Swinson, our leader, also understands it is vitally necessary to tackle the climate emergency.  We want the UK to achieve net carbon neutral status by 2045 or earlier, if possible. Here in Yorkshire we have the expertise, the skills and the top-class universities to help make this happen.  Tackling climate change will power a green economy, helping create new jobs and new opportunities in our region.    

Liberal Democrats know too that lifelong learning will play an essential role in ensuring that we have the skilled workforce necessary to power the economy.  I welcome therefore our new policy of giving every individual a lifetime learning account, enabling everyone to access training opportunities when the need arises.   

These last four days at LibDem Conference have been a revelation to me. The kindness and generosity shown to me by party members has been almost overwhelming.  It has re-invigorated my belief in politics as a force for good, as a force for change. Under the leadership of Jo Swinson, I am convinced the Liberal Democrats can unite our divided country and take us forward to a happier, more prosperous future.    

We need something new, something different. We need a party that wants our country to be progressive, outward looking and liberal.  

That party for me is the Liberal Democrats. 

Church House Declaration 

I write this having just signed the Church House Declaration, along with over 200 colleagues from across the House.  We have done so because we believe that our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has no right to drag our country towards a No Deal Brexit without Parliament having a say on the matter.  Johnson tells us this is not his intention, but everything points to a catastrophic plunge over the cliff edge.  He is gambling recklessly with the country’s future and riding roughshod over our democratic traditions in order to get his own way, risking in so doing economic and social chaos. 

Make no mistake, a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for the UK and for the agriculture sector.  Just look at the Government’s own plan for managing no deal, Operation Yellowhammer, which makes it clear that a dramatic rupture from the world’s biggest trading bloc will impact very badly on our economy, with the Government prepared to spend billions in an attempt to limit the damage.  It is even suggested that the Government will buy and destroy our lamb as export markets in the EU are closed off to us.    

Of course, we will survive all of this, if no deal materialises.  But since when has survival been good enough for our country?  The UK has always thrived when it has been ambitious when it has dedicated all its efforts on growth and prosperity.  It does not need and indeed cannot afford the self-inflicted wound represented by a No Deal Brexit.     

Worse still, if that’s possible, the Prime Minister is prepared to prorogue Parliament to stop it having a say. If anything, Brexit was sold to British people on the premise of Parliament taking back control. To stop parliament having a say in the most important decision this country has made since the war is not only undemocratic, it’s a constitutional outrage.   

Next week Parliament sits again after the long summer recess. Time is short, even shorter than expected, thanks to Johnson’s use of prorogation to gag Parliament.  We must, therefore, focus on securing Parliamentary time to debate No Deal, with all the detail on the table as far as impact assessments and planned Government interventions are concerned.  We must also be prepared to legislate to prevent a No Deal if that is the will of Parliament.   

For all Parliamentarians, now more than ever is the time to put the national interest first. If we fail to do so, we will own the consequences.  And history will not judge us kindly.   

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