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Working class Liberal Democrat

October 29, 2021 3:35 PM

Below is an article published by Joe Macaluey in July last year. Joe is a founding member of Operation Social Equality. Joe MaCauley

Across the political board, parties' memberships remain hugely unrepresentative. We can and must do more to simply reach out to those who we perhaps forget all too easily.

Political turmoils, such as Brexit and the continuing Scottish Independence debate, have not only exposed deep socioeconomic fractures in our society - it has also created some new ones.

Identity politics is unfortunately here to stay and with that then comes the strengthening of class politics. It is important to recognise how many people are now priding themselves once again on being labelled working class, in some way, shape or form.

There is rightly so plenty of talk about inclusion within our own party, particularly during the times of the Black Lives Matter movement and recent reviews, which touch on many of these issues, but it seems all too often working-class people or people generally from low-socioeconomic backgrounds are left behind in these reflections.

For me, as a young boy raised in a concrete tower block in a notoriously rough area of Glasgow, I was proudly raised by my single-parent mother in a low-income household, I decided not to go to university and worked several low paid jobs. My family's history, my own economic uncertainty and social circumstances certainly earned me the label of working-class. It also meant at that time my inherited political party was likely to be Labour, the party that many seemed to accept around me with no questions asked at that time.

Now, I am a dedicated Liberal Democrat member and have been for some time, and I am now comfortable to say I feel at home. But there are times where I somehow feel quite disconnected and alone due to the class that I am inherently tied too.

As a party, we appear to be making some moves which many feel are long overdue; ideas and policies like a Universal Basic Income and our plan for carers could further cement our somewhat centre-left credentials.

Ideas and policies only go far enough, we need to be bold and committed to campaign and get close to those areas which are usually off bound. Of course, it always makes sense to target key seats, however, we are missing out in trying to reach out to people who would benefit the most from Liberal Democrat policies in action. If we are serious about listening exercises, then it should start from the bottom up.

I found the Liberal Democrats; the Liberal Democrats did not find me.

There are plenty more people like me who share my background and my postcode. I want to see people from that background, or similar, recognised as an under-represented group in this party. Simply sitting back and waiting for more working-class people, more women and more of those from ethnic minorities or the LGBT+ community to join of their own accord is just not going to cut it.

More than anything else, though, we need to try harder to dispel the myth - and I believe it is a myth - that party membership is only for those from a certain academic background, those who already know people in the party, or perhaps those determined to make a career in politics; for now, these are things that middle-class white men seem much more likely to go with.

That must change.