Agenda 2020 Essay #18: What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today

Editor’s Note: The party has been running an essay competition for members of the Liberal Democrats, to submit 1000 words on the theme “What it means to be a Liberal Democrat today.” The deadline for contributions was last Monday. If you would like us to publish your submission, send it to [email protected].

As one of the post-May 7th new members you keep hearing about, being a Liberal Democrat today may have different connotations to me when compared to others in my adopted family. For me it is to be involved in a movement that is far greater than myself. One that celebrates individuality and stands up for the minority. The tagline of “Opportunity for Everyone” resonates in me as it is how I picture how I would want a Government to serve its people.

When one compares all of the main parties of British politics you are met with extremes of the political spectrum. There are some arrogant parties on one side wanting isolation from the rest of the world while only focusing on how they can increase monetary gain. On the other end you have the socialist parties pushing for an unambitious society that does not reward ambition or innovation.

I am fortunate to be a member of a party that fights the social issues such as destroying the stigma of mental health on one hand, while building the importance of British entrepreneurship with the other. It is absolutely clear that today, many presently serving Labour and Conservatives MPs are liberals at heart. As a Liberal Democrat today it is vital to not be seen as a weak party of moderate views but a passionate party of liberal ideas that will be appealing to those from any background to join.

Moving to the United Kingdom when I was fourteen, was an exciting period of my life. The country I grew to call my home was a far more tolerant and liberal society than anything I knew before. A nation that has free speech and civil liberties that most of its residents take for granted. Every year the fight for further equality for women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community continues. The Liberal Democrats are the party that say, we will champion these beliefs. If it is blocking the snoopers charter and scrapping ID cards or proposing ethnically blind job applications or legalising same-sex marriage, they will always be the progressive party.


Most importantly, above everything else, being a Liberal Democrats means fighting for causes that have no voice.

Tim Farron used his first question at Prime Minister’s Questions on an important issue. He spoke about his time in Lesvos, hearing the stories of displaced refugees. The motion he put forward to the Prime Minister was the Save the Children plea to take 3,000 vulnerable, unaccompanied children into the United Kingdom. I was outraged when David Cameron replied to Tim’s question with a joke and a smug grin on his face. To a laughing track supplied by his Conservative MPs, David Cameron delivered his rhetoric of taking in 20,000 refugees over five years. Minimum effort for the maximum headlines.

From the moment David Cameron referred to them as “swarms”, he created the negative image of migrants. The Liberal Democrats are taking a different approach. We want the UK to be a leader in helping the refugees. From creating safer routes, taking our fair share of refugees and standing up for their rights in Parliament. They are humans who deserve at least the basic rights to life.

One of the core values of the Liberal Democrats is equal opportunity for everyone. This would mean giving the youth of our country the best possible start in pursuing their dreams. This was seriously diminished by George Osborne’s outrageous plans to cut tax credits. The Lib Dem lords blocked the cuts that David Cameron had sworn to protect if elected. In Government the Liberal Democrats introduced the pupil premium, free school meals and free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds. Although children get no vote, their rights matter as much as everyone else’s. Currently over 2 million children live in poverty, and they require protection from further cuts.

Another objective of this Government is to sell off Housing Association homes. As a professional entering my 30s it is disheartening that home ownership is far beyond my grasp. A housing shortage exists where not enough houses are being built by this Government. This results in tenant fees spiralling out of control, hurting young people trying to save for a mortgage. In Tim Farron’s first party political broadcast he states that “housing is the biggest issue in Britain today that politicians don’t talk about”.  With plans to build 300,000 homes a year, the Liberal Democrats have always been about enabling everyone to pursue home ownership and not only a privileged few.


What does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat today? Fighting for the causes that no one else will. Paddy Ashdown stood up for those in Hong Kong with British passports. Charles Kennedy protested against Britain going to Iraq. Nick Clegg campaigned for the legalisation of gay marriage. All decisions that time showed to be morally correct. Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats now lead the way in the crises that affect the world today.

What does it mean to be a Liberal Democrat? Giving a voice to those who do not have one. Being the party that sticks up for the outsider, the underdog and the working people. I am a proud Liberal Democrat today and I will fight for what I believe in no matter the odds.

* Ryan Lailvaux is an active member of the Bristol Liberal Democrats

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  • In Scotland a vote was held in opposition to Trident renewal and LibDem MSPs opposed and voted with the Tories (and Jackie Baille) to support it.
    74% of MSP’s oppose Trident Renewal
    97% of Scottish MPs oppose Trident Renewal.

    We now know what the LibDems stand for in Scotland – with the Tories and against the wishes of the people of Scotland.

  • Clootie – You are just playing with figures. I could just as easily say that 55% of Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom, who’s government by a large majority supports keeping/renewing Trident. I’m sure you know as well as me that there is strong support in Scotland on both sides of this argument. In fact it’s good to see the many pro-trident supporters having their views represented.

  • Helen Tedcastle 4th Nov '15 - 4:07pm

    When we congratulate ourselves on standing up for minorities, it’s always worth asking which minorities. For my part, I would urge the party and all Lib Dems to prioritise standing up for the rights of religious minorities, especially with the wake of the rise of Islamophobia, Christianophobia and anti-semitism in this country in recent years.

    The party has had a proud tradition of non-conformist Christians fighting for Liberal values of tolerance, conscience and reform, so it seems fitting for keep fighting for these values.

  • Ryan Lailvaux 5th Nov '15 - 11:17am

    Helen – Thanks for your comment. I agree that we should stand up for religious freedom and make Britain a place where religious and secular beliefs can co-exist peacefully. We also have to be careful that a set of people’s beliefs do not infringe on the freedom of others.

    However, I don’t believe we should prioritise one minority over another. We should be fighting for equality on all fronts.

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