My Brexit journey from Labour to the Lib Dems and remaining in the EU – Angela Smith MP

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

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith recently joined the Lib Dems.
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith recently joined the Lib Dems.

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 which is
holding its own annual conference this week.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Angela Smith says Jeremy Corbyn's leadership influenced her decision to defect from Labour to the Lib Dems.

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. 

Jo Swinson is the new leader of the Lib Dems.

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.

The four days at the Lib Dem conference were 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.

Angela Smith is the Lib Dem MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge. She previously represented Labour – and then Change UK.