(Linda Jack was the final candidate to respond to the questions I posed in my earlier Presidential post, and here are her answers in full after the cut. You can, of course, ask any questions about her answers in the comments.)
Why you, and not the other three? What do you believe in and what would you do differently from the others?
I believe I am the only one with a track record of not only being prepared to challenge the leadership but also to have consistently been at the heart of the battles we have had internally, be that on Tuition Fees, the NHS, Welfare cuts, Snooper’s Charter etc. I also have an ability to represent the party externally in a way that explains who we are and what we are for. As Simon Hughes has said “I back Linda because I think she represents the heartbeat of the party, she understands the party and I think she is a great communicator. She brings experience, enthusiasm and above all an understanding of what radical, modern Liberalism means, because we need to change Britain to be the sort of society that Liberals want to be. I’ve seen Linda at work as an effective party activist over the years and I’ve trusted her judgement, I’ve supported her radicalism’ or Pauline Pearce ‘Back Jack because that’s where reality’s at’ or to quote the email I had from youth charity Uprising last week ‘My colleagues in London are hosting a youth political debate on the 22nd October at the Houses of Parliament. Because of the positive response you received at the debate in Luton, the London team would like to invite you to feature as the Lib Dem panelist in their youth debate.’
I believe in everything we say in the preamble to our constitution and I would do everything in my power to uphold those principles and challenge the leadership and the party when we didn’t. I don’t believe I have ever sat on the fence in my life – as an old friend and colleague posted on Facebook this week. ‘Linda says what we need to hear not what we want to hear. She is not for sitting on the fence and watching the world go by; in fact it would be people like me watching her chase down the world telling it to do it again and following a plan. She has supported me and many others I know to challenge discrimination, inequality and promoting fairness, respect and dignity.’
The party needs a President whose first loyalty is to the people we seek to serve and the values we seek to represent. That is my starting point, not blind loyalty to the party or the leadership which is exactly the thing that turns the public off politics. That means I am prepared to speak out and to challenge when necessary, but to do so, as observed by a fellow member ‘with style and friendliness’. We are at 6-7% in the polls, the status quo is not an option. I am not the status quo. I am not in this for any other reason than to help restore and rebuild the party we love – in order to build that freer fairer society in which no one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
What mistakes do you think the party has made since the start of the coalition? If you had been President when they were being made, what would have done to avoid them?
The party should have stuck to what was agreed in the coalition agreement – in particular a commitment by both parties to protect the most vulnerable. The first and most damaging mistake was on tuition fees, and that has led to a total breakdown of trust with the electorate, even if they are not impacted by the policy. The second was to breach the commitment to ‘no top down reorganisation of the NHS’. The third was to sign up to so many welfare reforms that have hit the most vulnerable, be that bedroom tax, benefit caps, ending the Independent Living Fund – I could go on. Then we’ve had Secret Courts and the Snoopers Charter where it looks as if we have been prepared to sacrifice our principles. I think the reason we have made these mistakes is because of the disconnect between the leadership and the membership and the fact that the leadership appears to inhabit an impenetrable bubble with little or no challenge. If I had been President I would have spoken up from the beginning about what the risks were. Where the view was that we had no choice to go along with the ‘Tories – rather than embrace the idea as if it were our own, only to have to disown it later (bedroom tax a case in point) I would have urged the leadership to at least explain why. For example – we believe in fairness and protecting the most vulnerable and we believe we can do this more effectively if we don’t allow people to stay in houses that are bigger than they need. This is one of the reasons I believe it is important to have a non parliamentarian as President, not having to look over their shoulder at the Chief Whip, rather representing the membership view – and let’s face it – it’s the membership that has invariably called it right over the last four years!