In my week without blogging, sorting out much personal detritus, I have been taking stock of the past and contemplating the future.
I have decided to rejoin the Liberal Democrats. I know that will disappoint some readers, but as I said after Norwich North, I was forced to conclude that it was impossible to make any worthwhile impact as an independent in British politics. No matter how good a candidate you are, and no matter how hard you and your supporters campaign, the combination of voter party loyalties and media exclusion are killing. Indeed, I find I get much more media exposure when I am not a candidate.
Politics is about the governance of society, and that entails people working together and collaborating their views. It is by definition a social pursuit, so to attempt to pursue it entirely alone to avoid compromising any of your opinions is not politics but futility. Why should I ever expect anybody to agree with me on absolutely every point? Probably nobody genuinely agrees with absolutely every word of the programme of any political party.
I was a member of the National Council of the Liberal Party when I was just sixteen years old. I was in student politics as a Liberal then a Lib Dem, and remained a party member right up until I stood against Jack Straw as an indpendent in Blackburn. I wanted to stand against Straw to highlight hs role in rendition and torture, and would have stood against him as a Lib Dem given the chance.
I am very sad that under Clegg the Lib Dems have not come out more strongly against the Afghan War and against replacing Trident. There is a disconnect here between the party leadership and the members. I spoke to a fringe meeting at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Dunfermline in November. We took a straw poll after my talk, and out of forty five only two were against immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan – which was less that the number of MPs and MSPs present.
I have never made any bones about my strong support for Scottish independence, and on this issue as well as on Trident and on Afghanistan it is my intention to try to influence Lib Dem policy. I am very attracted by the Lib Dem proposal of a £10,000 tax allowance, to be paid for by a tax on houses worth over £2 million and by raising the rate of Capital Gains Tax to equal the rate of income tax paid by the individual benefiting.
That is a far more radical and egalitarian proposal than anything New Labour have on offer, and would enormously benefit the less well off, make work more attractive against benefits and stimulate the domestic economy through consumer demand.
So I shall not be standing in the general election, but will be actively campaigning for the Lib Dems. That does not indicate any hostility at all towards the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru or Respect, all of whom I hope do well.