The saying goes history is written by the winners and Felix Dodd’s book certainly feels like it was written by those who won. It’s an entertaining read for old Young Liberal hacks like me and I commend it to you. Whether the machinations of the famous Janice versus Felix election for the Chairmanship of the Young Liberals is of really any interest to anyone who wasn’t there I’m not sure, but it certainly brings back memories. Over this event I’m tempted her to draw a comparison of Felix’s book to ‘What Happened?, the book by Hilary Clinton talking about her election campaign against Trump. All that’s needed to add to Felix’s torrid and clearly still painful description of dirty deeds of the Felix vs. Janice campaign would be to alleged Russian interference and his description would have been even more gripping than that of Hilary. Of course it being so damn loing ago there we no emails to leak as they hadn’t been invented. Perhaps Alan Sherwell was in fact a Russian agent? But I digress.
My abiding memory of Felix was him turning up in Youth Office like a casting reject from Che Guevara movie or the more likely the BBC’s Citizen Smith complete with the Tooting Popular Front in toe. I’m sure Felix will wince at this accusing me of judging books by their cover, but I have to say the shame is he appears to do just that in his book about the rest of us. I paraphrase but those of us who were around were apparently of poor intellectual standing and clearly were not radical enough. It’s a trait of a lot of the radical left that they are very dismissive of others who don’t fit with their view of life which is very odd given strident views about liberty.
Felix has gone on to make a very credible career of being the political fixer in the United Nations and environmental world where working with others you may not agree with is the name of the game. I’m not sure he or others around did much of that in the days of the Green Guard. I cut my political teeth on the picket lines of Torness power station in Scotland and planning to stop train lines in the North East with Sue Younger and have plenty of war stories of on the streets campaigning but I’m not sure Felix stopped to ask. In fairness neither did the Falange as it became known comprising as it did the Union of Liberal Students who grew up quite literally into the Liberal Parliamentary Candidates Association and had equally an exclusive view of life.
The book does give an insight into the debates of the time and the outflanking of the party leadership [p over the nuclear deterrent. There’s some fascinating description of the characters and events of the day. Yes, for sure as Felix says you can be a young idealistic and make a difference. Long may that continue.
The tragedy of the book indirectly highlights by reminiscing about gutsy radical politics is not what happened then but what has happened since. Like a lot of us from that pre-merger days Felix and I left active party politics. Was that exodus why the Party became unrecognizable to many of us. Never mind green or red guards the party seemed to descend into mush. Should we or could we have stayed? Would stating have helped avoided the unedifying demise of the Party into slightly better nicer Tories than real thing. Ironically my mate Steve Hilton over in Cameron’s office would have on many issues made the Green Guard look tame let alone compared to Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
Perhaps those of us from those times green guard or not should band together to work out what did happen and what can be done now.
Power to the People: Confessions of a Young Liberal Activist 1975-1987 is written by Felix Dodds. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-People-Confessions-Activist-1975-1987/dp/1977047246
Please buy a copy!