LETTER : Liberal Democrats welcome activists

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The Independent Online
From Councillor Sarah Ludford

Sir: Beatrix Campbell, in her thought-provoking article "How active citizens become activists" (10 February), takes all the main parties to task for "contempt for the activist".

She castigates Labour's "dread of autonomous activism" and then reproaches my party, the Liberal Democrats, for not filling the opposition vacuum. She complains that we were "too bound up with town hall ambitions and rivalry with Labour to yield any independent energy".

But Ms Campbell is being contradictory. One of the main reasons Liberals and Liberal Democrats have been inspired to pursue "community politics" is because of our anger with the dire consequences of Labour town hall rule. Labour's demand for conformity and dependency and its hostility to dissent, pluralism and distribution of power is a contributory factor in the lack of active citizenship, let alone activism, in this country.

Many recruits to our party come through the route of activism in a particular cause, and they find a political culture in our party which is far more welcoming than Labour. After all, in our constitution, we "aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity" and we commit ourselves to a society in which no one shall "be enslaved by ... conformity".

We may need to try harder to sharpen our profile as a "dissenters' party", but the instincts in the Liberal Democrats which make us the natural home for robust, individualistic thinkers who challenge orthodoxy are as sound as ever.

Yours sincerely,

SARAH LUDFORD

Liberal Democrat

(Islington)

London, N1

10 February

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