Opinion: The four key issues which will determine who I vote for

Who should be our leader? Every Lib Dem is thinking about it, but I suppose I have more reason than many for giving it the most careful consideration.

After all, as I am candidate in what my local team has turned into our top marginal in the country – Oxford East – the person we elect is likely to become my boss. Of course, if Mr Brown had let us have the election most were expecting and some, like myself, were hoping for, I might be there now. As it is, my team and I are ready for that battle, whenever it occurs – but we know that who our next leader is will help shape our destiny over the next few years.

It is, of course, too early for me to endorse any candidate: as I write, only one has declared formally and while others have ruled themselves out, there remain others to rule themselves in. Let me say: I liked Charles and I liked Ming – we owe them both a huge debt of gratitude. Whoever follows them will have both to live up to their achievements and to take us to a further level of success.

What I can give you at the moment is the view from Oxford East – the issues I’m hearing on the doorstep and the issues where we have the policies and should be shouting them from the rooftops.

For me, there are four key issues – the three Hs and the Environment. The Hs are Housing, Health and Human Rights, or civil liberties. These are unashamedly issues that matter in my constituency but there ones on which we need to make our national voice heard.

Oxford – affluent, leafy Oxford – has a real housing crisis, with thousands on the council waiting list and many more priced out of the market. We, unlike the other parties, have radical solutions to real problems – land auctions, community land trusts – we need now to sell them in the national arena. Oxford is both a international centre of medical research and a regional hub of health provision.

We, in our party, are rightly proud of the NHS, but there must be something desperately wrong when I meet good, dedicated staff who have been made redundant: people are crying out to hear how we can ensure that control of our NHS is exercised by local people, not by central government diktat?

And Human Rights – which might not score high in opinion polls but, believe me, count in naturally liberal cities like Oxford. We should pay credit to Ming for standing up and condemning Labour’s attack on civil liberties. When the next election comes, I’ll be proud if our new leader makes this a key battleground.

I must admit, though, it’s probably the Environment that most exercises me: our championing of green issues is one of the qualities that brought me in to the party in the first place, almost 20 years ago. Here in Oxford, homes were ruined during the floods last summer; further thousands of people, myself included, escaped grief by the narrowest of margins.

Global warming is a reality, and many of the public realise that: so how do we turn that recognition into positive support for our environmental policies? How, above all, do we ensure that people appreciate that the Lib Dems are the only realistic option for the millions of people who care about our planet?

So there you are, Nick, Chris, and anyone else who chooses to contest the leadership: four issues crying out for us to show leadership and commitment. How would you ensure that we make those issues unambiguously ours over the coming months and years?

* Steve Goddard is the Liberal Democrats’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Oxford East. He missed out on being elected by just 963 votes in 2005.

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This entry was posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds.


  • I think Crime & Immigration, Education, Welfare Reform and Housing are the issues that could really make us into a mainstream party, winning new voters that we’ve never had before. Particularly Labour voters in the poorer, inner-city seats.

  • I agree with the issues Steve has identified, but I’m also interested in the big vision, how they communicate and how they sell our optimistic liberal democrat values in a cynical, pressurised age.

    I’ve written more about this here

    It’s early days yet. I voted for Huhne last time, at the last minute, having taken time to see how the candidates developed during the campaign. My enthusiasm for Chris has not lessened but it’s a new choice and a new context, so I’m still a floating voter at present.

  • bruce adams 28th Oct '07 - 3:56pm

    The fifth issue is concerning pensions, not an immediate issue but an issue which effects us all when we retire. Well if you are a civil servant or teacher you have the luxury of a pension linked to your final salary plus an index linked pension. The amount being paid into these pensions is close to 18% of a persons salary, the largest contribution being paid by the employer, (or the tax payer). Many companies opted out of final salary pensions and the amounts being paid into personal pensions is resulting in a considerable less pension than people originally thought they were getting. With longer life expectancy we should be looking long and hard at this issue, it is a crisis just around the corner which not many people are aware of.
    Cllr for Royal Borough Windsor & Maidenhead

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