I joined the Liberal Democrats in May this year because I didn’t want to see a tolerant, open and liberal voice falter in our public and political life. And I shared your values – ‘no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity’. When I read that value statement, I suddenly, thought – that’s me – those are my values and I was in. And now, it is as if I have come home! I only wonder why it took me so long…. As I expected, as I hoped, the Liberal Democrats are different – we (I can now say that!) stand apart from the other major parties – one funded by large corporations and a few extremely wealthy individuals and the other funded by large organised trade unions. We instead are funded by individuals, people like you and me, giving what they can in money, time and support. This allows us to not only say we tackle vested interests, but actually to do it! We don’t get dragged back by our secret supporters and asked to provide ‘special favours’, we don’t buy our way to government or influence, we simply have to work for it and earn it. Since I joined the Liberal Democrats I have felt fully welcomed to the party, encouraged to attend events and most importantly, encouraged to speak up. Yes, it is great to speak up and be heard, but it is even better to listen. Since joining I have had the privilege of listening to Norman Lamb and Tim Farron passionately argue for the Liberal Democrat future during the invigorating leadership contest. I listened at the autumn conference in Bournemouth to speakers of different personal and professional experience, of various ages and varied backgrounds but all with one intention – to build a better Britain from the ground up – person by person, community by community, to create a tolerant and open society in which the successful are rewarded and the benefits are shared; where our economy offers opportunity to all. Most importantly though, I felt and realised that I too *could* make a contribution to The Liberal Democrats and therefore to the society we share. I guess most of us who are new to the Liberal Democrats – or are on the cusp of joining – think, ‘okay, it’s a cause I want to support’ but then we quickly ask ourselves ‘can I contribute anything’? And the answer I found was a resounding yes and I’m sure it would be the same for you too. Not only is there plenty to do, but the party has the heart to throw open the doors to new people like me and perhaps you, to not only join but participate and speak up and design policy and deliver newsletters and to speak to visiting Lords and join the local party executive committee and to write to newspapers and to take photos and help with social and digital media…. I have 30ish years of business, marketing and leadership experience – but I have learnt more in the past 6 months than I have learnt in a long time! I want to thank everyone who has made me feel welcome, advised me and encouraged me to take a part. More importantly, if you consider yourself to be a liberal and share our values – that no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity, then I want to encourage you to join the Liberal Democrats and take part. And if you are already a member, then please share this ‘new member’ message with all that you meet. Joining is simply – just visit http://www.libdems.org.uk/join. It is also very cheap - £1 per year for students or under 26s and then a minimum annual subscription of £12 (although you are invited to pay more, of course). When I joined the national / federal party, I also joined my regional party and local party too! That’s quite a deal! Why not make a difference in 2016? Come and join us.