Today is February 24th. It is the anniversary of the Estonian declaration of independence. Last night Cicero attended a very crowded reception held by the Estonian Embassy. A pleasant excursion meeting dozens of old friends. I reflect on what has been achieved by such a small country. In particular I am touched by how quickly the country has recovered from the dispoilation of the Soviet era. Although several elderly stalwarts of the exile community shake their heads sadly when they discuss the "Second" Republic, in general it has been a positive story. It has been a triumph for Freedom over dictatorship.
Elsewhere in Europe the position of Freedom is a lot less happy. As I noted on this blog a few days ago, Belarus now represents a clear example of an old fashioned tyranny. It is with some satisfaction that I note that the LDYS group have started a new website to support the campaign for freedom in that benighted country: http://www.united4belarus.org.uk/
Although some elections will take place in March, it is hard to be optimistic about the removal of the odious Oleksander Lukashenka. However it is important to stand up for the right thing and part of our Liberal DNA.
More than twenty years ago, I was interviewed for entry into a famous University. My support for the Baltic countries and my membership, even then, of the Liberal Party, we all duly noted on my application form. While it is fair to say, that my qualifications were probably not up to the required standard, I still raise a wry smile at the withering comment that the rather dry academic made as he went over the form:
"Mr Cicero, with your interest in the Baltic States and the Liberal Party, we think you might be too obsessive about lost causes".
Seven years later Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were admitted to the United Nations.
I find myself discussing freedom quite often these days, and even the foundations of the debate for the next British election seem to be emerging as a choice between liberal and authoritarian. So, the battle for Liberalism has been a longer one, but "say not the struggle naught availeth", after a recovery in the opinion polls, and the prospect of a new leader, the Liberal Democrats look better than ever. It also particularly pleases me that the youth wing of the party should stand up for "lost causes" like freedom against the tyrant of Miensk. It is principled and consistent with Liberalism's instinctive internationalism.
A few days ago our local party treasurer in Westminster LD's, Angela Whitelegge, died. A humorous and game women, she peppered her conversations with smiles and beaming goodwill. I always think of such instinctive Liberals when I think of our party, and she will be missed. One day I believe that the work of such people as Angela will be rewarded with a far more Liberal Britain.