So she did it. After months of rumours and hearsay, Theresa May finally called a snap General Election. Of course it has to be approved thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliament Act enacted by the Coalition in 2011, but it looks almost certain that the country will be going to the polls again, less than a year after the EU Referendum, to decide the direction of our country for the next five years.
It’ll come as no surprise to any of you that I’ll be voting for and supporting the Liberal Democrats. But this is a piece to urge you to do the same. The country has never been more divided: remain and leave; nationalists and unionists. The politics of fear, division and intolerance have swept across our nation and has reared its head elsewhere too – Donald Trump is the President of the United States and is edging ever closer to conflict with North Korea – who’d have predicted that this time last year?
But there is still chance to change the direction our country is heading in. There is still chance to send a signal to Westminster, Europe and the world that Britain is outward looking, kind, caring and compassionate. By voting for the Liberal Democrats on June 8th, you are supporting the UK’s continued membership of the Single Market. You are supporting close cooperation with our European neighbours; you are supporting democratic process by choosing to give the people the final say over Brexit in a referendum on the terms of the deal negotiated by the deal; you are supporting liberal values of openness, tolerance and unity; you are saying no to a hard Brexit and no to Brexit at all costs. If you are one of the 48% who voted to remain in the European Union last June, then the only party who speaks for you is the Liberal Democrats.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has not mentioned the EU or Brexit once today; this is both a bad and a good thing. It’s a bad thing because Brexit is the biggest issue facing our country in a generation and Labour’s apathy towards it means they seek not to challenge it in any way. There is no clear Labour position on Brexit. The Tories’ position is clear and unsurprisingly, blue has become purple, with the Conservatives seeking the hard Brexit espoused by the likes of Paul Nuttall and Nigel Farage. The Liberal Democrats’ position is clear: Brexit would be damaging to our economy and would countless jobs at risk when we eventually leave. Access to the Single Market and Customs Union is in the best interests of our country and its economy. After the deal has been negotiated, we believe that what started with democracy should end with democracy. If the people accept the deal brought back by the government, we leave the European Union. If not, then we should keep the arrangements already in place as being a member of the European Union is better than a poor deal for the UK.
The absence of any mention of Brexit from Corbyn is also a positive thing. It’s positive because it demonstrates that no matter how big an issue Brexit is, there are other issues that the government needs to address: the housing crisis; the NHS crisis; the environmental crisis; the school funding crisis – the list of crises facing our country goes on. Kudos to Corbyn for acknowledging that, but the Liberal Democrats’ policies on all of these things promote a liberal society, that is fair to everyone, no matter their standing in society, where they come from or where they live.
Extra funding for the NHS by implementing a dedicated tax for health and social care; extra funding for schools by taxing people and businesses fairly; extra funding for the environment by investing sensibly in green energy projects; building on our record in government of building more homes in those five years than in previous decades, creating jobs and infrastructure in the process. Increasing the personal income tax threshold for lower earners and asking corporations and big businesses to pay their fare share, whilst clamping down on those who seek to cheat the tax system: all things that will lead to a fairer economy that works for everyone.
What about creating a fairer, more liberal society? The Liberal Democrats would introduce a system of proportional representation, meaning that every single person’s vote counts equally, no matter which part of the country the live in or which party they vote for. We would give voice to the concerns and views of young people by giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote; rights and views, which were so cruelly ignored in last year’s referendum.
We would also introduce a regulated cannabis market, earning an extra £1 billion a year for the economy, ending the stigma attached to drug users who should be free to live their lives how they see fit, and ending the government’s complacency in funding crime by handing the profits to drug dealers and traffickers, rather than the Treasury. In addition, we would seek to decriminalisation drug use and treat addicts as patients, rather than as criminals. We would seek to regulate prostitution, making it safe for women and men who freely choose sex work as a profession. We would ensure that all school students are entitled to the same standard of education by banning selective education based on ability or faith, instead focusing on improving state schools to ensure that every child reaches their potential.
The Liberal Democrats are the progressive force in British politics. We are the liberal voice in an increasingly illiberal and dangerous world. Our membership has doubled in two years, with 4,000 members joining today alone. We were beaten at the last election. We were beaten badly. But make no mistake, the Liberal Democrats can provide the society that so many of us dream about. No matter where you live, make sure you vote with your heart and your head on the 8th June. Vote to change from the unnerving and ambiguous direction the Conservatives have opted to take us in.
Vote for the Liberal Democrats.