What is the future of the Liberal Democrats?

3 August, 2020 / by Guest Blogger

Images above: Liberal Democrat candidate for Brentford & Isleworth – Helen Cross, Helen Cross canvassing

In a post Brexit, COVID-19 environment we need the Liberal Democrats more than ever. The Liberal Democrats are the only party right now spotlighting individual rights, internationalism and empowering local communities. COVID-19 has exposed the flawed centralised command and control attitude at the heart of the Tory Government exemplified by the appallingly poor track and trace capability that ignored local council services. Labour has still got a lot to prove and a new leader who has not yet won his battle for control with the Corbynite wing which still exists.

Voting has just opened to elect our new leader, who will be Ed Davey or Layla Moran. Both are committed liberals who have bold visions for the UK as somewhere independent minded, aspirational people who care about prosperity and a fair and just society can thrive.

Ed Davey has successfully championed the self-employed when they were woefully overlooked by the Government during COVID-19. The Liberal Democrat plan for a furlough equivalent support to the self-employed was adopted, benefiting 7,100 people in Brentford and Isleworth. There are however still 1.2m people excluded nationally who started their businesses after April 2019 or earn less than 50% of their income from self-employment who could be part of the next three months of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme from August. The Liberal Democrats are campaigning for their inclusion.

Layla Moran is successfully chairing an all-party parliamentary group assessing the impact of Coronavirus on the NHS, social care and health outcomes and it was the Liberal Democrats that secured the commitment from the Government to an official, independent enquiry into the Government’s handling of COVID-19.

Both Layla Moran and Ed Davey are committed to a sustainable Green recovery. Ed already has an outstanding track record in this space having negotiated the EU’s position in advance of the Paris Summit, which brought about a commitment to an ambitious 40% decrease in CO2 by 2030. He also established the UK as a world leader in off shore wind power bringing an industry with highly skilled jobs to the country.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that the Chancellor’s July green recovery package was inadequate and short term. Sunak’s promises are little more than a sticking plaster or a repurposing of existing commitments. What the UK needs is long term jobs in a new green economy alongside temporary measures which is why the Liberal Democrats are proposing a £150bn green recovery package, including investing in tech like zero carbon aviation, something that will directly benefit Hounslow and secure good quality jobs right here. This injection of investment is the UK’s chance to kick start productivity and make us a global leader in the industries of the future whilst tackling the climate emergency.

Both Layla and Ed are passionate Europeans, and the Liberal Democrats continue to be the loudest national voice for retaining close trading relationships with the EU. We continue to fight for EU citizens’ rights and their automatic right to remain in the UK; as of May we had 25,000 Hounslow residents in limbo as to their settled status. The Liberal Democrats were the only national party to call for an extension to the transition period to avoid a no deal Brexit.

Underpinning these national policies is the Liberal Democrat commitment to empowering local communities which paves an important way forward for effective UK politics, making local services and communities accountable to local people. You can see this in action right here in Chiswick with our Southfield councillors Gary Malcolm, Andrew Steed and Gary Busuttil, when they raised £10,000 of start-up funding for W4 Youth, a local community group bringing sporting activities to teens in Southfields and Hounslow. Liberal Democrat controlled Kingston Council have brought decision making closer to communities, empowering Neighbourhood Forums.

Each has its own discretionary budget and can make decisions on a range of services including traffic management, planning applications, parks, libraries, housing management, youth service and licensing. In the Greater London Assembly elections next year we have the opportunity to bring some of this innovative thinking to Brentford and Isleworth. The Liberal Democrat South West Region candidate is Gareth Roberts who is leader of Richmond Council. Gareth brings extensive experience of delivering meaningful change on the ground in West London; since the Liberal Democrats took over the Council in 2018 from the Tories it is the 8th most improved council in England.

All of this makes me optimistic as a Liberal Democrat right now. I am a member of the Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee and our national COVID-19 Business Task Force. We are exploring bold new policies and approaches to reshaping the UK. This includes addressing poverty and inequality though universal basic services like free childcare and reforming social care, alongside gearing up our economy to address climate change whilst using regional and local participation to drive innovation and the 4th industrial revolution.

Liberal values will thrive in the post COVID-19 era. Tolerance, fairness and equality will remain critical. A revolution in the green economy is needed urgently, as is an international outlook with strong links to the EU, our largest, nearest market. The Liberal Democrats stand for a unique proposition in UK politics: We support a caring society whilst empowering individuals to make their own decisions and pursue their aspirations.

If these are values and policies you would like to see more of nationally and locally please get in touch at helen@hounslowlibdems.org.uk.

Helen Cross is a Liberal Democrat candidate for Brentford & Isleworth

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See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph publishes her Vision for Chiswick

See also: Ruth Cadbury urges government to allow MPs to scrutinise Brexit trade deals