While I was out listening to voters today, someone asked me to explain why I was a Liberal Democrat.
I joined the party as a founder member from the SDP in 1988. As a social democrat, the Liberal Democrats feel like my natural political home. The preamble to the party’s constitution is a good starting point for understanding why.
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
Of all of the words in that rather long sentence, creating a society that is not enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity speaks loudest to me.
On tackling poverty, I’m proud that we forced the Tories provide free school meals for infants and raise the personal tax allowance to £10,000 during the coalition. Unlike lukewarm Labour, we’re fighting Brexit with all our might, as it will undoubtedly harm the poorest in our society. There is no such thing as a “jobs-first Brexit”.
Our commitment to providing better education for all is clear. Schools are underfunded and children’s education is suffering because of this. It angers me that due to the Conservative’s funding cuts, schools struggle to afford even basic supplies. Teachers are put under impossible pressure.
I believe that every child deserves an excellent education. Teachers should be paid fairly and properly respected as professionals rather than being micro-managed through endless government targets. Their students need a broad and balanced curriculum to equip them for life, rather than a narrow focus on high-stakes examinations alone.
Education shouldn’t simply stop when you leave school, finish an apprenticeship or graduate from university. Vince Cable has led the way in tackling the crisis in lifelong learning, through the establishment of an independent commission.
Most of all, I believe in trusting, enabling and freeing people to lead fulfilling lives, without the need to conform to other’s expectations. Authoritarianism in all of its forms, on the right and left of politics, is something that I will always oppose.