1) Francesca Montemaggi, former Cardiff councillor and blogger, has resigned. The last straw for her was Nick Clegg’s recent anti-immigration rhetoric, although she is unhappy about a range of other issues, too. For her, ‘The Liberal Democrats have failed to be the voice of liberalism.’ I’ve added her thoughtful blog to the list; she also contributes to Open Democracy.
I wonder if in retrospect this resignation, together with those left over the secret courts bill, will seem to be a watershed. Earlier resignations have centred on ‘social justice’ (university fees, the NHS, welfare etc). These resignations centre on much more distinctively liberal – and Liberal Democrat – strengths. If the national leadership is alienating members over the administration of justice and attitudes toward immigration, then what are ‘core’ issues are left for them to rally the party around?
Two members with resonant names in twentieth-century liberal politics have also resigned:
2) Susan Penhaligon (via Liberal England), actress and cousin of David Penhaligon, has resigned from the Liberal Democrats, and endorsed a Mebyon Kernow local election candidate in Penzance. Like many others, her concerns include the NHS and the ‘bedroom tax’. (I’ll return to MK in a future post).
3) Lady Russell-Johnston, the widow of Russell Johnston, has also resigned, after joining the party in 1964. Russell Johnston was MP for Inverness (in various permutations of constituency name) between 1964 and 1997, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats (1988-1992), and clearly an inspiring and sympathetic figure to many good liberals. (I’ve enjoyed reading some things by him, although am too young to have been inspired at the time…).
This resignation is rather different from the norm. Lady Russell-Johnston opposes Liberal Democrat support for equal marriage, which conflicts with her Christian understanding of the term. Like almost every member of the party I know (including Christians from various denominations), I’m delighted by our role in this legislation, and by the changing cultural attitudes which have made it possible. Liberalism isn’t static, and Lady Russell-Johnston is now outside the liberal consensus, so – although I don’t want to sound vindictive – I’d rather that she does resign if this issue is fundamental to her politics. But support for equal marriage won’t be nearly enough – politically or intellectually – to stop the continued stream of departures from the Liberal Democrats over other issues.