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Why you should vote for the Liberal Democrats (KCL Liberal Democrats society)

In the run-up to Roar News’ General Election debate on 28/11/19, Roar News have asked the three political societies involved to submit an article pitching to students why you should lend them their vote. This article was submitted by the KCL Liberal Democrats society.

There can be absolutely no doubt that one of our greatest advantages — as a community of students, as an institution of learning, and as a city — is our internationalism.

In the age of Brexit, international communities are under siege. This is already too much to bear: as Dr. King said, injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere. But the sting is even greater when the cruelty winnows its way into our own communities and happens in real time before our very eyes. Faculty and staff for whom Britain is a home are being forced to apply for settled status; students from each of the other 27 EU Member States face unprecedented uncertainty about their future in this country. These are our neighbours, our classmates, our teachers, and our friends, and they are being treated like second class citizens in pursuit of an ideological vanity project. The Liberal Democrats are unequivocal in their opposition to Brexit, and — unlike Labour or the Tories — will stand against isolationism, nationalism, and xenophobia wherever they arise.

But Brexit is the tip of the iceberg. It is a symptom of a deeper disease in our economy and our democracy, where whole communities have been left behind. We have to confront these problems head on, and we have to be ambitious about it.

And, believe it or not, the Liberal Democrats are.

Many of our priorities align with the issues most pressing to students. Recent research reported by the Guardian revealed that 50.3% of polled students have contemplated self-harm; one in three said they’d experienced a serious psychological issue for which they needed professional help. We will transform Britain’s mental health services by treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health and dramatically increasing their accessibility — it can’t wait.

Equally urgent for people of our generation is the climate crisis. The Liberal Democrats will reinstate the Green Investment Bank, first of its kind, that was created under our auspices during the coalition years and subsequently sold off by the Conservatives. We will work across borders to form a global front against the existential threat of rising temperatures and natural degradation. By some measures, the Liberal Democrats now have the most ambitious climate agenda of any major party: the Liberal Democrats have promised to plant 60,000,000 trees a year, establish an environmental duty of care on corporations, and set Britain on the path to 80% renewable power by 2030. The policy is simple: decarbonise capitalism, and create an economy that works for people and the planet.

Another major issue for students and young people, especially in London, is the sheer price of housing. Nice as it sounds, rent control doesn’t work — it just entrenches current tenants and locks young people out of the market. There’s one surefire way to bring down housing costs: build more housing. The Liberal Democrats will build 300,000 new homes a year and reform the laws around landlord-tenant relationships so that decent housing on fair terms is available to all. Additionally, the Liberal Democrats will reintroduce maintenance grants to ease the burden on students struggling with high costs of living.

London is a cosmopolitan, international city, but it’s also a deeply unequal one. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has spoken about a ‘tale of two cities’ — of glossy marble floors in upmarket lobbies on the one hand, and of decaying council estates on the other. Liberals have a duty to empower individuals through the pursuit of true equality of opportunity. We’ll end austerity; scrap benefits sanctions; pilot universal welfare schemes such as universal basic income and a negative income tax; above all, we’ll invest in free childcare and better education, as well as a lifelong learning endowment, or ‘skills wallet’, of £10,000 for each adult.

There’s a great deal of policy, and we’re proud that our ambitions are clearly stated and achievable in practice. But this election is about values. It’s about whether you want to graduate into an open or a closed Britain; whether you believe every individual has the right to pursue their own conception of the good life; whether you believe that it’s time Britain broke through the stale two-party dichotomy that has far outlived its sell-by date thanks to the mummifying influence of first-past-the-post. As the Labour Party turns its back on Europe and on the Jewish community, and as the Conservative Party finally capitulates to its longstanding extremist wing of bigots and nationalists, there is only one party that stands for an open, pluralistic United Kingdom, in which all individuals should be treated as ends in themselves. These values are the foundations for the King’s community — I urge every member of that community to vote Liberal Democrat on December 12.

This post was written and submitted by the KCL Liberal Democrats society.

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