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Former Conservative Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell joins the Liberal Democrats

October 6, 2019 9:18 AM
In The Times

Stephen Dorrell was Health Secretary in John Major's government and as recently as 2014 was Chair of the Commons Health Select Committee.

In an article for The Times he has announced that he has joined the Liberal Democrats.

However, we belittle the distinct political traditions of Liberal Democrats, social democrats and liberal Conservatives if we pretend that voices in the "centre" are all the same. The argument for realignment is different. Democratic politics requires its practitioners to build coalitions of people whose views are not identical, but who share political objectives and a commitment to see them translated into reality.

Brexit is the immediate illustration of the issue. Liberal Democrats, liberal Conservatives and social democrats share a strong belief that the UK's interests are best served by remaining a member of the EU and building in Europe the world's most effective champion of liberal values. These values, enshrined in the EU treaties, are not, as Vladimir Putin says, "obsolete"; they are the essential ingredients of the success of western civilisation, and liberals should organise to defend them wherever and whenever they are threatened.

Looking beyond the Brexit crisis, it is also obvious that our democracy is in dire need of reform. Parliament has lost the ability to speak for voters because it doesn't represent the balance of their views. Britain needs a more proportional voting system to ensure the views expressed in parliament reflect the country.

All this requires liberal Conservatives and social democrats to break cover from their respective parties and join the Liberal Democrats in a big liberal tent. It isn't just a question of "joining the Liberal Democrats"; by joining, their objective is to expand the Liberal Democrats to include fellow liberals from different backgrounds, all of whom are committed to delivering the reform of our politics that is so urgently needed.

Welcome, Stephen.