Apologies for the rather clichéd title. I actually used the latter part in a draft post I started weeks ago in which I discussed the future of the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Tim Farron. Like so many of my posts it started, then other things took precedent and so it flitted away into the growing archive of blogs that shall never be. This week has been interesting; this week has opened my eyes. The Conservative Conference happened, and then BBC Question Time happened. With these two events, something became so blindingly clear: we have a Conservative government and they are governing like true blue Tories.
Now, I can’t get into the nitty gritty of Tory plans for the next five years as I, admittedly, haven’t researched enough into them. But the fact that I can talk passionately about them on the face of their unfairness, I think, speaks volumes. Let’s start with Teresa May’s conference speech on immigration.
She claims that immigration hinders the chance for a cohesive society and damages Britain’s public services. No, I’m not quoting the UKIP conference. This comes from our Home Secretary. The same Home Secretary that enraged police officers across the UK by reneging on the deal made between the Federation and the government to guarantee an annual pay increase. Our Home Secretary has spoken for Britain, and she has sent the message to immigrants across Europe and perhaps the world, that they are not welcome here. They are not conducive to a positive British culture; they are a drain on our resources and divide the British population and local communities. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Tory proposals would see any immigrants who have been living in the country for more than five years, deported if they are not earning £35,000 a year a more. This is disgraceful. I’ve been living in this country for 23 years and I’m not even earning half of that; it takes teachers years of their career to achieve the £35,000 milestone. How can we as a country be seen to judge someone’s worth based on how much they earn? This sends a very negative and dark message about Britain’s attitude towards outsiders. I don’t think the Conservatives can claim to be proud of being British with this sort of attitude.
I was having this Conversation with my mum last night: she was asking about what makes the Liberal Democrats so appealing to me, and I told her. The Liberal Democrats appear to be the only party openly speaking out and endorsing the benefits of immigration and, the benefits of remaining in the European Union. Let me tell you what I think about immigration. I am so unequivocally proud to be British and further, I’m extremely proud to be English (and 25% Welsh after last night’s qualification for the European Championships). Anyone who has seen the Union Jack paraphernalia that adorns my car and flat can see that, and with this, I am so proud that people from around the world see our country as a beacon of hope. They consider our country welcoming and open and tolerant, enough so as to motivate them to leave their homeland and travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles for the opportunity to better their lives and make a brighter future for themselves. I am proud that Britain has a diverse range of cultures, not all of them assimilated yet, but attitudes such as that displayed by UKIP and now the Conservatives will not help this process. Between 15% and 35% of people working in the National Health Service are immigrants. Are we seriously expected to accept that immigrants don’t make a positive contribution to British society? That they don’t share the desire to help British people? The Conservatives have played their hand and have revealed that they are much further right than most people would dare imagine or even accept.
Before I talk about why the Liberal Democrats are so desperately needed, I want to address another of the key issues to have come from my political viewing this week. The Tories have announced that they are going to cut tax credits for working families. Having been brought up in a household where tax credits were essential for us to get by, I can only shake my head in disbelief at this latest proposal. We all know that the country is in a huge amount of debt, and that debt has to be paid off. But why do the Conservatives continue to press the lowest earners, the poorest of our people to foot the bill, whilst corporation tax is at its lowest rate in nearly 20 years? I used to despair at the common claims that the Conservatives are only for the rich and well-off; to those of you who I dismissed, I apologise. It is so blindingly obvious that the Conservatives’ only concern lies with those who bring as much money into the economy as possible: big businesses, millionaires, the top earners of society. What about me? What about my fiancée? What about her parents, and mine? What about my sister? What about my friends and colleagues? We are not the top earners, we aren’t part of a large corporation who can bring in millions of pounds a year to bolster the economy. We earn modest amounts of money, pay our taxes and abide the laws of the country. We may not claim tax credits (to my knowledge), but thousands of people just like us do and the hardest working people are being punished to foot bill that could so easily be paid through other means.
Stewart Hosie of the Scottish National Party made it clear what George Osbourne is trying to do. £12 billion of cuts every year. That’s four years of £12 billion cuts until the next parliament; that’s nearly £40 billion of cuts that are, completely unnecessary. Osbourne wants to run the country with a surplus, meaning it has more money saved in the bank than it needs to spend. What is the point of this? I’m no economist – you’d only have to check my bank account to see that – but how does an economy surplus benefit the people of this country? As far as I can tell, it damages our people and our services.
The Liberal Democrats are now the only clear option to lead this country in a fair, economically viable way. People jeer at Lib Dems when we say this, but we’ve proven it! Look at the five years we were in government. No, it wasn’t a Liberal majority but we passed more than half of our manifesto and kept the reigns firmly on the Tories and put the brakes on the severity of their proposed cuts. We introduced the higher threshold for paying income tax; we introduced the pupil premium for underprivileged students, making sure they have access to everything they need; we introduced free school meals for all primary aged students; we made sure that despite the hike in tuition fees, bursaries and maintenance grants and loans were not affected so as to make sure everybody still had the chance to go to university, regardless of their families’ financial background – something which the Conservatives have since scrapped.
We did all this, we made provisions for some of the country’s most vulnerable whilst ensuring that the economy recovered. “Stronger economy. Fairer society”. That was our last party slogan, and my God was it accurate. We are the only party that can deliver a strong economy in a way that protects the rights of every single person in the country. The Conservatives as discussed, appear only concerned with those who can make huge financial contributions to the economy; Labour at the moment, cannot be seen to be trusted with the economy. Corbyn wants to remove the benefits cap meaning that some people will be able to earn more money on welfare, than other who work full time. They want to remove the motivation to go out to work and in doing so, further damage our economy.
The choice is clear and obvious. This country must have a stronger Liberal presence in the next parliament and dare I say it? This country needs a Liberal government in order to ensure that the United Kingdom stays united with Scotland and with Europe; in order to ensure our economy continues to grow; in order to ensure that the country’s most vulnerable are looked after and where possible, encouraged to work hard to make a better life for themselves. The future of this country must be brighter; it must be orange.