Like many young people and students in the early 2000s, I first joined the Liberal Democrats because of Charles Kennedy’s brave stance on the invasion of Iraq.
Charles played a courageous role in steadfastly opposing military intervention, putting both his and the party’s reputation on the line. I joined a million others marching on the streets in protest, pleading with Blair’s Government to change course.
The vision and integrity of Kennedy attracted many to use their first-ever opportunity as adults to vote for the Lib Dems in the 2005 general election.
It wasn’t just about Iraq – they were attracted by our radical liberal stance: the extra penny on income tax to pay for education, and huge reform of education policies, (such as being resolutely against the rise in tuition fees.) Students were right to be angry when Lib Dems voted for a rise in fees during the coalition, and quite frankly, I almost left the party over it.
Many young voters were, and continue to be, deeply affected by the cuts to public services and other austerity measures.
In this leadership election, we have a chance to change. We have a chance to break away from the coalition and start to rebuild trust, with a vision to move both the party and our country forward.
That’s why I’ve put progressive, liberal values and ideas at the heart of my campaign. I want to see a UK that’s not carbon neutral, but carbon negative. Students and young people should have a big say in the decision-making process shaping this, as they will carry the burden for the longest. It is only right to include them.
As a party, we should champion a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to help deal with the continuing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s going to be harder than ever for 18-24 year olds to get on the first rung of their chosen careers through no fault of their own.
Lastly, education is at the heart of my core beliefs and is the reason why I got into politics. Before I was an MP, I was a teacher. As leader, I’d call for an overhaul, to rebuild a world-class education system designed by teachers, as well as greater investment in early years to tackle inequality before a child enters a classroom.
To change our country for young people, we must change our party. We need to send a signal that we have learned the lessons of the last decade. If we do this, and reconnect with the values of Charles Kennedy, we will rebuild trust and we will do better than 6% in the polls. Please vote for me in the leadership election, and let’s move forward together.