It is time for Liberal Democrats to reaffirm their commitment to changing the law
For many years the Liberal Democrats have been the only major political party to represent the 80% of people in this country who want to see that law on assisted dying changed. However, despite its massive popular support we have, as a party, been remarkably timid about promoting this policy, both at elections and now in government.
Partly this has been due to the illusion that assisted dying is purely an issue of conscience on which political parties should not campaign. However, this really is an illusion. When a bad law creates suffering, anxiety, uncertainty and agony it is not just up to a few individuals to seek to change it, it is up to us all to do whatever we can.
A party that stands for liberalism must support a change in the law to protect the freedom, dignity and wellbeing of individuals. A party that stands for Democracy must support a change in the law that the majority have wanted for decades, and that has been persistently blocked by a determined coalition of elites and special interests.
This Sunday the issue of assisted dying is coming up at the Liberal Democrat party conference, with a motion asking us to reaffirm the party’s existing policy that the law must change on assisted dying. Some have seen this as an attempt by the small minority within the party who, for one reason or another, oppose this policy to have it removed on the quiet. However, it is also an opportunity for the party to remember just what an important issue this is, and to reconnect itself with its fundamental principles at a time when the strains of coalition government are making these seem ever more utopian.
Right now there is a real opportunity to build a coalition across all political parties to change the law. However, this does not mean that the Liberal Democrats should sacrifice their distinctiveness in being the only major party to collectively support such a change. Now is the time for us to reaffirm this policy, not only as a distant aspiration, but as a core demand, and so place ourselves at the heart of this unstoppable movement for change.
* Dignity in Dying is an independent non-partisan campaign. We welcome the support of all parliamentarians, political activists and others – the personal views expressed here are not the views of the organisation.