Why vote Lib Dem?


There’s one reason why you should vote Liberal Democrat this Thursday – your children. The impact of Brexit will be felt over the decades and generations. The younger you are now, the greater the penalty you will feel if we get a bad deal.

The referendum last June was close. Young people voted overwhelmingly to Remain. Two thirds of black and minority ethnic (BME) people want to stay. Scotland and Northern Ireland too. Many people who voted to leave have no appetite for the sort of hard-right Brexit pushed by xenophobic ideologues in the Tory party and their UKIP twins.

Mrs May says no deal would be better than a bad deal. That fundamentally misunderstands the rules of international trade. No deal would be the worst deal of all. And how can we trust someone who won’t even debate with her opponents? Do we trust her to come back with the right deal for you, your children and grandchildren? I know I don’t.

Any leader who cooks up a dementia tax is not fit to handle the EU negotiations. We live in an increasingly globalised world and we conduct over half our trade with Europe. Getting the negotiations right will be crucial to our future prosperity. That is why Tim Farron and the Lib Dems are offering you a chance to say “yes” or “no” to whatever Theresa May comes back with. We are the only party to offer this.

Lib Dems have always stood for democracy and the rights of citizens over the unchecked vested powers of the elite. We are known for championing human rights protections, for democratic reform like fair votes, for protecting the environment, for opposing Big Brother surveillance, and for championing people’s freedom to be themselves so long as it hurts no-one else. We would also stop any attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, and firmly believe we should lead the world on tacking climate change. Tim Farron has been at the forefront of campaigning for Syrian refugees to be let in because we want to be a country that is welcoming and open-minded. A country that rejects all forms of prejudice and embraces diversity.

Sometimes our policies like legalising cannabis or championing mental health services hit the headlines. But we also have a lot to say on the economy, education and public services. Lib Dems want to protect the rights of workers in the gig economy, who are disproportionately from a BME background. Britain is lagging behind our OECD partners in skilling up the next generation. One of the reasons we have been flat-lining since the crash almost a decade ago is because we have allowed our manufacturing to decline, and failed to invest in research and innovation. Our traditional industries have more unskilled labour doing manual tasks and less skilled operatives than our competitors.

We are in danger of becoming a backwater off the coast of Europe notable for poor wages with part-time and zero hour workers. That is why Lib Dems want to invest in apprenticeships. But we are also disappointed that less than half of the two million BME young people who applied for apprenticeships were successful, much lower than the average. We are proposing urgent action to remove biases in apprenticeships to stop this being the first barrier of unfairness that blocks young and diverse talent.

We believe all other parties are ignoring the need to prepare for a truly digital world. It is not just about digital infrastructure; we also have to safeguard people against snooping, fraud and blacklisting. A modern country that values civil liberties, quality of life, the environment and equality.

In coalition we introduced reporting mechanisms on the gender pay gap. We are now calling for this to be extended to the race pay gap. Uniquely we are the only party to also call for all large companies to report on workforce data by ethnicity, because pay differentials only tell part of the story. When Vince Cable was in government he ordered the Parker review into ethnic minority representation on FTSE boards, and we want to see the recommendations implemented. Lib Dems were the first to advocate for name-blind job applications because evidence shows that people with a ‘foreign-sounding’ names have to apply for twice as many openings to get an interview compared to other similarly-qualified jobseekers. Our manifesto calls for the presumption of one BME candidate on every public appointment shortlist.

Such measures will help tackle institutional and systemic barriers facing people of colour. But we need to do more to improve the life-chances of BME citizens. Austerity has gone too far, and a combination of public sector cuts and tax changes, had hit BME families hardest. We believe in giving children the best start in life, which is why we introduced the Pupil Premium. Lib Dems pledge to use this fund to treble early years education funding for disadvantaged children.

State levers can play an important role in bringing about change, but not in isolation. As a Liberal I believe extending every effort to change hearts and minds, attitudes and behaviours. That is why our manifesto calls for a government-wide plan to tackle racial inequalities; to get 360 degree assessment of the extent of racial inequality and what role the government can play, and how everyone can play their part. From ministers and civil servants, to officials, companies, the voluntary sector, families and individuals. In the past we have had governments that thought racism could be tackled by new laws and targets alone, and governments that did not care at all. All the while levels of racial disparity and unfairness remained constant.

As a society we need to work together to crack the problem. Everyone doing everything they can to make this a country free from racial inequality, prejudice and disadvantage. A government that gives you a voice, which protects your rights and freedoms. And communities where all feel they have an equal stake in our collective future.

If Liberal Democrats did not exist there would be a need to invent it. Liberal values have been around for a long time. I’ve made it my personal mission to make the party more racially diverse in personnel and policies because I believe if we can get this area right and reflect multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith Britain we have great Liberal solutions to offer across the board. We are making progress. The 2017 manifesto has a lot to say about racial equality. Amna Ahmad and Ade Adeyemo are excellent candidates hoping to recapture previous Lib Dem strongholds that we lost in 2015. We have further to go, but I am confident we will get there. As a lifelong anti-racism activist who has spent nine years as a party member this is the first time I can genuinely recommend the party to BME communities.

Liberalism to me means change, radicalism, freedom of thought, compassion, equality, democracy and inspiration. I want politics to embrace the modern world with modern solutions, listen to people and act. Taken together with our pledge to give you a say on the Brexit deal, that is so critical to our future in the years, decades and generations to come, we offer an exciting and forward-looking alternative. And our policies on tackling racial inequality, which are stronger and more radical in many areas than other parties, show that we are taking BME citizens seriously. I hope you consider giving Lib Dems your vote in seats where we stand a chance and, in areas where we are not strong, that you support other progressives.

Lester Holloway