Sarah Teather’s decision to stand down at the 2015 election won’t surprise many people who know what a battle the Lib Dem MP would have had to hold onto her Brent Central seat. Her majority is only 1,345. But her public reason for standing down is interesting, too, even if some may suspect that the battle for Brent held more sway. Teather is an example of the Liberal Democrat party getting used to government, and, in the politest way possible, growing up. Her anger at some of the party’s policies has led to her feeling ‘desolate’, she told the Observer:
‘If you have fallen out with your party, if you hate your party leader, you can do it, but if you haven’t fallen out with your party leader, and you respect him and think he is basically a decent bloke, and you really know you are a Lib Dem, it is terribly difficult. It was making me exhausted. I was spending hours worrying about how to balance fighting for what I believed in and being true to the stuff that took me into politics, while not being disloyal to my colleagues.’
She also tells the Observer that her party has let itself down by paying too much heed to opinion polls, rather than trying to lead the debate. If you were comfortable with the party in opposition, acting as some kind of moral klaxon and campaigning body, then you might find listening to public opinion and watching your party make choices that you personally disagree with rather taxing. But that’s government for you, unfortunately, and that’s also the sacrifice someone makes when they sign up to a party: they might choose the party that they feel best represents their own beliefs (or in the case of some politicians like Tony Blair, sort of represents their beliefs), but it will never be a perfect fit because parties are made up or a horde of different views. You can enjoy purity working for a charity or campaign, but governing can never offer that, particularly not when coalition is concerned.
James wrote about the growing pains of the Lib Dems in March when the Lord Rennard scandal broke. Their awkward adolescence was inevitably going to lead to one MP who thrived on opposition finding government too much to handle. What’s surprising is that it’s just the one MP, sacked as a minister and struggling to hold onto her seat in any case, rather than any others who might be tempted to bow out, or even worse, defect to Labour. Coalition has been far less dramatic than many suspected.Tags: Liberal Democrats, Sarah Teather, UK politics