The Liberal Democrats are currently considered toxic in British politics. In between the last general election and the upcoming election in 2015, the party has fallen from 25% to 6% in the opinion polls.
Criticism for the party has largely stemmed from what was perceived as an ill-informed decision to enter in to a coalition with the Conservatives, and the party’s inability to scrap university tuition fees; inability being the key word. The party’s decision to enter in to government with the Conservatives was controversial but it must be understood that this was a rare opportunity for the party to enact some of their own policies. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats could not scrap tuition fees without backing from either the Conservatives or Labour – and they didn’t get it. Although, it wasn’t all bad news, the party has managed to make the issue of repaying tuition fees far easier. However, the electorate, particularly it’s student portion of which Lib Dem support has been traditionally quite reliant is still not satisfied with that and given Scotland’s amnesty from further education debt, that is understandable. In an uncommon twist, the party leader Nick Clegg, who is routinely and often unfairly lambasted and belittled by the wider media and public, apologised for not being able to deliver on this policy – even though the influence of a junior party in a coalition government is greatly constrained. I understand the grievance with the party on this issue; I cannot fathom nor express how frustrated it makes me that this however is accredited to the ‘downfall’ of the Lib Dems. Especially seeing as any resentments held against the Conservatives for their failure to deliver an EU referendum as promised (The Lib Dems are too committed to one by the way), Labour for their economic incompetency or Ukip for their immeasurable number of faux pas are seemingly non-existent.
The Liberal Democrats do not hold as much sway in the media as its opponents. The newspapers in this nation largely lean towards the Conservatives and more recently have begun to serve the right-wing populist agenda of Ukip. In opposition, many newspapers also back the Labour party. As a result, the accomplishments of the party in government are not well-documented or at least, are easily steamrolled by the two larger parties. For instance, the movement for equal marriage was only in one party’s manifesto; the Liberal Democrats’. The Labour party, try as they may, cannot take credit for the Liberals’ work like they did in the mid 20th-century. Likewise, the Conservatives cannot legitimately profess to have toppled Labour’s mess alone. The Lib Dems have played a crucial role in reversing the fiscal devastation left for them. The Tories then tried to reap the praise for the raising of the income tax threshold to £10,000 which is and always has been a Liberal-driven policy – as are the plans to take that step further by raising it once more to £12,500 after 2015.
As well as this, the Liberal Democrats have helped cut immigration in government, eliminated the deplorable practice of detaining innocent children for immigration purposes under Labour. The party are the only ones standing in the ‘IN’ camp of the European Union, surely casting off the ‘wishy-washy’, non-committal reputation the party has. The party has helped boost the number of apprenticeships and has helped create over a million new jobs in the private sector whilst in government. The party has blocked Tory plans to let schools be run for profit, to give millionaires inheritance tax cuts and have cleaned up Labour’s economic nightmare.
In the upcoming election, the Liberal Democrats are the only party continuing to champion LGBT+ rights, the only party taking a serious stance on the drastically serious issue of female genital mutilation, the only party supporting the rights of football fans to enjoy the game without being discriminated against – as well as campaigning for safe standing in English football stadia. The party is also dedicated to reforming unfair drug laws that would stop those in possession of drugs from facing jail time. As well as this, the Liberal Democrats are aiming to criminalise the frighteningly more common acts of ‘revenge porn’. This week, the Lib Dems have come forward as the only major party committed to treating mental illness as seriously as physical ailments.
Liberalism is not irrelevant, no matter what the media says. This brand of politics will always be in demand in this country – it has just fallen on hard times. Obviously, I am writing this with an agenda. I am a proud Liberal Democrat and it would be naive and hypocritical of me to share my views with you like the biased newspapers. But, it’s vital that the electorate don’t rule the Liberal Democrats out of the race. We still have a lot to offer, do your research, and read up on the party’s success and future plans. The fight of our lives is on its way and the Lib Dems have a better chance than you think.