This is the second instalment of ‘My Vote, Our Election’. See the first instalment here.
My constituency is the rural area of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and rests close to the border of Scotland and England. In many ways, it remains a traditional political battleground between Liberals and Conservatives, which I feel has a certain charm about it. The Borders is somewhat immune from the view that I am sure many people have of Scottish politics over the last 50 years. Labour have never challenged here, despite winning large waves of support across the rest of Scotland until recently. Likewise, the SNP have never made an impact here either, with a vast majority of the area strongly opposed to independence; 67% voted no in the Borders and that was probably quite low for us in the end!
The seat was Conservative until a by-election in 1965, when the Liberal party caused an upset and ousted them; thanks mainly to a Labour support that crumbled. The elected MP was David Steel, who would go on to lead the party and he is now a member of the House of Lords. Labour would always rather that the Liberals won this seat and keep the Tories out than put up any resistance and risk splitting the non-Conservative support. That is how the seat has largely played out to the current day, the Lib Dems holding it by a typical few thousand majority against a strong Conservative challenge on the backdrop of Labour and SNP supporters who would rather keep the Tories out.
The current MP is Michael Moore, who was first elected in 1997 when Lord Steel stepped down. Mr Moore was a part of the cabinet in this coalition as Secretary of State for Scotland. This year he faces a typically tough campaign, since the Tories will once again throw a lot of money and resources at the seat in an attempt to gain an important second Scottish MP. Many within the Conservative party feel that taking this constituency would give them a platform for a resurgence north of the border. Meanwhile, the SNP look to be taking this area more seriously this time round and, unlike Labour, will mount a serious challenge. Their thinking will be to at least establish themselves as the second party in the hope that they could one day win it.
Recent polls have shown that it will indeed be extremely tight between the three parties. Much of it rests upon whether the Lib Dems can stem the increase in SNP support and hold out to get over the line.
So how do my allegiances lie? Well, I am a member of the Liberal Democrats and will continue to back them in this election. I have always gravitated towards Liberalism as an ideology, believing deeply in the importance of individual freedoms, opportunities for everyone and equality in society. Of course, I had some amount of discontent and wariness about the coalition when it began but gradually I have warmed to it. In fact, I get bemused when opponents of the coalition attack my party for being Tories when, in fact, a Conservative Government is the last thing that I want.
The Liberal Democrats have done a remarkable job in Government, and that is coming from someone who was very sceptical about it five years ago. But, I hold my hands up and say that I was wrong. The party that I voted for in 2010 have managed to push through 75% of their manifesto in this Parliamentary term; which is better than what most Lib Dem voters are used to! For a junior partner in this coalition, it is outstanding that we have managed to push through so many policies.
The Liberal side of this coalition Government has produced results that should make any Liberal Democrat supporter proud. The backbone of the movement has remained true; with equal marriage, Home Rule for Scotland moving us closer to a Federal UK, blocking a Conservative led “snoopers” charter that would infringe on civil liberties, free school meals, a triple lock on pensions, an AV referendum and continually championing the cause for constitutional reform, a Pupil Premium to support schools that need it most, standing up to the Tories on the Human Rights Act and tax cuts to the lowest paid in society.
Overall, the coalition has implemented and maintained traditional Liberal values, whether they are recent products of the post Liberal party or those that stem further back to the party of old. Furthermore, what the Lib Dems have proven is that they can be a strong and meaningful part of a Government, working hard to implement policies that people like I have voted for as well as co-operate maturely with another party in an example of modern day consensus politics.
Furthermore, it should not be underestimated that we have prevented a Tory led Government from making many mistakes. I accept that the cuts have been difficult and that it has been a far from perfect five years (tuition fees spring to mind!) But the possibility of a Conservative Government is frightening to me, and I am thankful that there was a Liberal voice in power to keep everything in balance and employ damage limitation, if you like.
With regards to the next five years, the outlook of British politics is both exciting and uneasy. With a hung Parliament looking inevitable, I believe that we need a powerful voice from the Liberal Democrats more than ever. Both the Conservatives and Labour would make considerable errors in office, and this is reflected in how tight the polls are, with the majority of the electorate not wishing one or the other to govern on their own. To add to this, their potential choice of coalition partners do not fill me with confidence either, and I believe that only the Liberal Democrats have both the track record and experience to play the role of the steady hand in any tricky coalition agreement.
Finally, I want to put forward my opinion on how well the Lib Dems will do, and whether or not I am backing a party that is on its way out. The context of the situation is certainly very different to 2010, when Clegg mania became infectious and there was a real wave of optimism amongst the party. In comparison, 2015 does seem daunting but I remain quietly confident that the Lib Dems will prove the doubters wrong and come away with a credible number of MPs. I am not expecting any significant gains but as long as we hold enough seats to continue to have the balance of power then that must be seen as a good election on the backdrop of a term in office. Like I have alluded to in my own constituency, the party polls much better in seats that it holds compared to nationally; mainly because their MPs have a reliable, long term record of local delivery that people are happy with. I think that this will strengthen the party’s chances this year and therefore keep the many Liberal voices that exist across Britain heard for a while longer.
By Jonathan Adamson, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.