By James Steel
Since the general election I’ve heard nothing but constant boasting from Labour party members about the monopoly they have over the student vote. Labour supporters are convinced that their party has an unrivalled influence on the political thought of the youth, and as a Liberal Democrat, I’ve had enough of this rhetoric.
Let’s first look at the policies presented by the parties. Currently, tuition fees are one of the most crucial issues for the youth in Britain. Labour’s proposal was to scrap tuition fees for all new students. The party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn also made a remote promise when asked about erasing student debt, saying he would “deal with it”. Liberal Democrats had a different approach. The then leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, didn’t make brash promises because he knew that there needed to be a well thought-out plan on fees. This plan has now been devised by the current Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who put in place a motion to scrap tuition fees and implement a graduate tax. This would fairly ask those who have benefited from the system to pay a little bit back to ensure that future generations can also profit from it.
Now, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Labour party would say that the Liberal Democrats broke a 2010 manifesto commitment to scrap tuition fees. However, let’s not forget that it was the Labour Party that first introduced tuition fees and then tripled them. Plus, it wasn’t a manifesto commitment per se, but rather a publicity stunt organised by the National Union of Students, that tried to get every MP whose constituency was home to a university to sign and pledge to their cause. In the midst of “Cleggmania”, the party foolishly went along with the hype and has apologised accordingly.
The other main policy would be the European Union referendum and the subsequent result. Again there is a clear night and day comparison between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. On one hand, the Liberal Democrats have looked at the result of the EU referendum and have seen that the clear majority (75%) of the 18-25-year old demographic supported remaining within the European Union, as they recognised all the benefits membership entails. Therefore, they are pushing to organise a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal to give the British youth and the British people a final say on the process. Whereas the Labour Party, led by one of the biggest brexiteers of the past decades, is walking hand in hand with the hardline Brexit supporters in both the Conservative Party and UKIP.
This completely goes against the wishes and the needs of the youth in Britain. If the Labour Party truly represented the youth, its leaders would openly oppose a horrific Brexit deal and would do everything in their power to stop the Brexit bills going through both Houses of Parliament. They would give the British youth the opportunity to have the internationalist future we voted for on the 23rd of June 2016.
Now this article is not intended to bash my generation for voting for the wrong party. It is merely a way to inform Labour Party members that the Liberal Democrats have a lot to offer, as a party created by the youth and for the youth. We may only poll 7.4% nationally as of right now. But the general election saw 9% of the 18-35 year old demographic voting for Liberal Democrats. Moreover, every by-election we win is another chance to get our voice heard a bit more, making it progressively more difficult to underestimate and dismiss us. The train of openness, tolerance, decency and opportunity is coming.