Firstly, tuition fees. I was there on the protests in both 2010 and 2011 and I was as disappointed as anyone that we failed to prevent a rise. I’d still rather we didn’t have them, but at least the system is as close to a graduate tax, my preferred alternative, as can be. However, it was still a disappointment, so why then am I still associated with the party? It’s certainly not the popular thing to do and much derision has come my way in recent years because of my continued membership.
The answer is a mix of realisation of the realities of coalition, plus everything we have done since. Despite being the junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats have managed to deliver on countless manifesto pledges. From a rise in the income tax threshold to 10k to the introduction of a £2.5bn pupil premium fund aimed at helping society’s least well-off pupils. From ending the practice of child-detention to ensuring equal marriage for all. From a record increase in the number of apprenticeships to overseeing rises in the numbers applying to university. Locally too, the Liberal Democrats have been hard at work to increase the quality of student housing and cap rents as well.
This is to name just a few achievements, but I could make a list much longer. The thing is the Liberal Democrats are not against the disadvantaged of society – they have been the champion of the disadvantaged throughout this government. And they have championed and seen through these policies despite regular resistance from their much larger partner whom has six times as many MPs, three times the number of cabinet ministers and ultimately holds a rampantly different ideology.
I know that most people reading this have already made their minds up about us, and probably to some of you there is pretty much nothing worse in politics than a Liberal Democrat. So what can we do to win back the student votes we had in 2010? At the core of it is what liberal democrats are best at, getting out on the streets and talking to people. There must be counter-reaction against the tories who like to claim credit for Liberal Democrat achievements such as the 10k threshold rise. There has to communication about the countless Liberal Democrat achievements that too often get buried in a tide of tabloid sensationalism and vitriol.
The Liberal Democrats are not perfect, and like every party that has ever been in government, there have been mistakes. However, as this website shows, the large majority of their actions and emphases have ultimately been in the right place. With that in mind I put an open invite out to you all to come on down to the Oxford University Liberal Democrats’ next event with the hope of a fair hearing and some good discussion.
This article was written in response to the debate provoked by Nick Clegg’s visit to Oxford this week. Read Aylon Cohen’s article arguing against Nick Clegg here.
Andy McKay is senior co-chair of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats for Trinity Term 2014
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