I’m proud to be a be a Lib Dem newbie

During last month’s election campaign, I made the most important political decision of my life. I resigned from the Conservative Party, for whom I had stood as a parliamentary candidate in 2015, to join the Liberal Democrats.
As I explained in an article for The Guardian, I could no longer support a party trying to drive through an extreme Brexit with disastrous consequences for our country. Unlike Theresa May, I was not prepared to campaign for a cause in which I did not believe.

I was honoured to be asked to introduce Vince Cable at a packed election event in London, where he made a brilliant speech, deconstructing the arguments for Brexit and laying out in forensic detail the dangers that lie ahead for Britain.

When I announced I was leaving the Conservatives, just days before an election they expected to win by a landslide, many of my former colleagues thought I’d taken leave of my senses. I’m not sure they’re laughing now!

I know the election result was disappointing for us too, but I really can’t share the sense of gloom you often hear expressed in the party. Call it the enthusiasm of the new girl if you like, but I feel hugely optimistic about our prospects.

A lot of that is down to the fact that Vince Cable will be our new leader. I am a big admirer; he has been involved in politics for 40 years and having an experienced leader, who’s widely known and respected, is more important now than it’s ever been. We saw what happened when Theresa May relied on two ‘kids’, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, to run No 10 – it soon ended in tears. By contrast, we will get sensible, grown-up politics from Vince at a time when the government is in chaos. That matters, it’s what voters expect, and it will give us credibility.

By itself, that’s not enough. We need to carve out a clear identity for the party. I know that’s a cliché we hear all the time, but coming from a non-Liberal Democrat background, I can honestly say it’s a criticism that’s always being levelled at the party and it’s what most of my friends say when we discuss politics.

What excites me is joining a democratic party where every member is given the opportunity to get involved in shaping policy and to openly debate ideas. I have plenty of ideas I’d like to contribute and look forward to sharing them. One of my main concerns is how we equip future generations for the world of work, a problem we’ve hardly begun to address. I’d like to see tuition fees abolished for STEM subjects; it’s a practical, realistic response to the issue, unlike Labour’s fantasy politics, and would send a clear signal of where our priorities lie as we come to terms with robotics, artificial intelligence and all the other technological developments that will transform the workplace.

I have a background in digital marketing and I’m also interested in exploring how the party can connect more effectively with young voters. We saw how important that was in the election and how Labour used social media to promote political engagement. There’s no reason why that can’t be our territory too and finding innovative ways to grow our own mass movement is one of the most important challenges we face in the next five years.

* Azi Ahmed joined the Liberal Democrats during the 2017 election campaign, having previously stood as a Conservative.

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62 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 25th Jul '17 - 1:09pm

    Switching Parties cannot be an easy decision, so best wishes to you in the Liberal Democrats.

  • Hi Azi, welcome to the LibDems. You might be interested in the Online Champions for our party.

  • Michael Cole 25th Jul '17 - 3:09pm

    Dear Azi, you say “We need to carve out a clear identity for the party.” Absolutely right.

    It’s relatively easy for the other parties: The Conservatives stand for the rich and privileged; Labour purports to stand for the poor and underprivileged; SNP and PC claim to stand for Scotland and Wales.

    Liberal principles are, by comparison, not so readily sloganised, but as a start I would suggest: equal opportunities, freedom of the individual, community politics, fair votes.

    It certainly merits serious discussion.

  • And a deep concern for the environment, tackling problems on a global stage.

  • Richard Underhill 25th Jul '17 - 4:39pm

    Welcome aboard. We support SMEs.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jul '17 - 5:25pm

    Delighted to read your piece, Azi. Your ideas on better equipping the young for the world of work should be useful, especially since you suggest one way forward on the vexed question of student tuition fees, and your digital marketing expertise could be important to us.
    @Michael Cole. That’s a neat take, Michael, on our principles of freedom, equality and community! Well done.

  • Amanda Davis 25th Jul '17 - 5:30pm

    Although I have supported Liberal Democrats for many years I have recently joined the party because like you I could not stand the notion of a any Brexit let alone a Hard Brexit, I campaigned as a member of the Remain team during the referendum

  • Michael Cole 25th Jul '17 - 5:37pm

    Tim13: “And a deep concern for the environment, tackling problems on a global stage.”
    Yes, of course.

    Thanks Katharine. Hopefully the leadership and the Party at large will give this serious consideration.

  • One of the challenges for the Lib Dems is to spread its appeal and to better connect with people who voted for Brexit. How for example do we win in socially deprived areas of Birmingham? I think we do it by recognising that large parts of the country are really quite angry that successive governments have failed to create well paid jobs. One way to do that is to argue for an industrial strategy and a shift in focus away from service industries to industry that makes stuff. Thatch rightly grew the financial services industry and tried to encourage small business but seemingly forgot about big industries, big employers and the wages that kept much of the working class happy.

    The loss of Rover was a good example of this 6,500 well paid jobs in Birmingham and 50,000 more in the supply chain were snuffed out in an instance. How many of those people voted for Brexit I wonder?

    The government may not have been able to rescue Rover directly but could have funded a Tesla rival (which is what the US has done very successfully) and it could have tried to work with a business like Magnre Styre in Austria to sub contract car making to that site. Instead they opened a new Sainsbury’s and created zero hours contracts galore.

    The Lib Dems need to drive this agenda. We although it goes against our free market views we have to accept that the free market is not working well everywhere and quite simply we have to find a solution to that.

  • Welcome to the party, Azi. Abolishing tuition fees for a few is not the answer. We need to abolish the debt after graduation and if we can’t find the money from general taxation or think we shouldn’t find it from there, then we need a true graduate tax for life at a much reduced rate than 9%.

    @ Michael Cole

    “equal opportunities” is not enough. Abolishing poverty and reducing inequalities so everyone has equal access to freedom and freedom is not restricted by someone’s economic situation is required as well.

  • Azi, what’s all this stuff about being in the SAS ?

  • If the only difference between the Conservatives and the LibDems is their position on Europe then the LibDems are in big trouble. The Greens will overtake them.

  • With the latest pieces on here being these two ex Tories (one still describing himself as a Thatcher fan), A LIb Dem peer leaning towards supporting conscription and ID cards and the return of a seemingly unrepentant Liberal Leave.

    I have no idea what has happened to the party I was once a member of but if anyone spots it, please say!

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jul '17 - 12:18am

    Welcome to the party! Abolishing tuition fees for STEM subjects is an interesting idea. I’d like to see what the shortage is for people studying these subjects compared to others. Might be a good policy. Or at least reduced tuition fees for these.

  • Ed Shepherd 26th Jul '17 - 1:17am

    Thatcherite entryists? ID cards? National service? The Lib Dem Party is circling the drain. When he hears about it, Jeremy Corbyn will be laughing his head off. Even Theresa May will have something to smile about.

  • Mick Taylor 26th Jul '17 - 1:55am

    Hang on a minute. One or two people in our party have odd views, far from the party mainstream and suddenly they’re LibDem policy? Hywel, you really should know better as a former party member of the democratic requirements of the party in making policy. As for Liberal leave, they’re a voice crying in the wilderness. Criticise the LDs if you must but at least do it on the basis of evidence not the LDV posts of a few individuals, who represent no-one but themselves.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 26th Jul '17 - 2:19am

    Mick , is correct, this surprise at daft ideas in a democratic party, is more daft than the , yes, very daft ideas !

    David Raw above touches on something a lot more …suggestive…

  • Michael BG – A graduate tax must have different rates, e.g. from 6% to 12% or 15%, based on income level. I expect graduated city financiers would have to pay the top rate.

  • jayne Mansfield 26th Jul '17 - 7:53am

    @ Eddie Sammon.
    ‘Abolishing fees for STEM students is an interesting idea’.

    Yes. When UKIP manifesto pledged that there would be no tuition fees for STEM students I considered voting UKIP.

    Then I looked at the contribution of the creative industries to the economy, and discovered that the creative industries contributed almost 90billion net to GDP. Not only that, the creative industries account for one in eleven jobs. and the rate is rising at a faster rate than in other parts of the economy.

    I changed my mind that and decided that maybe it would be wrong to discriminate against those university layabouts who choose not to study STEM subjects.
    ( My tongue is firmly in my cheek, Eddie)

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jul '17 - 8:48am

    jayne Mansfield

    Then I looked at the contribution of the creative industries to the economy, and discovered that the creative industries contributed almost 90billion net to GDP.

    Why do you suppose that this is nothing to do with STEM subjects? How much of the creative industries relies on the use of computers? How much of it relies on the use of equipment put together by engineers?

  • @ Lorenzo Cherin It’s in the public domain if you choose to look for it – and it sends a strong word of caution.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Jul '17 - 8:56am

    Mick Taylor

    Hang on a minute. One or two people in our party have odd views, far from the party mainstream and suddenly they’re LibDem policy?

    Hang on a minute. Is it one or two people? It seems now that most of the new members we are getting are people whose views would have placed them firmly in the Conservative Party not that long ago. They are joining us because they believe that’s what we are about.

    Do I want in a party which seems to be all about what I joined it to oppose? No.

  • jayne Mansfield 26th Jul '17 - 9:26am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    The point is, there is an interdependence between STEM subjects and the creative industries and one should not fall into the trap of favouring one over the other.

    The idea that that one should only waive the fees for STEM students is misguided, engineers also need architects etc., and much use a computer would be to me if there was nothing interesting, drama sport etc., that I could access on it.

  • @ David Raw

    I don’t think she claims she was in the SAS. It appears she has written a book about training for the SAS and it has been suggested by people involved in that training programme that she has beefed up the experience into more than it was. If she wanted to be a candidate these claims and counter claims would need investigating.

    @ Thomas

    You are correct a graduate tax would need different rates but your suggested rates are far too high for the whole of a person’s working life. I think the following rates would be high enough (I worked up an example for a teacher [getting to earn £166,520 when they are 68] and my proposal would mean they would pay £54,784.18 in graduate tax:

    Incomes over £26,000 and between £100,000 and £125,000 1p
    Incomes over £45,000 2p
    Incomes between £80,000 and £100,000 3p
    Incomes over £125,000 5p.
    (the reduction between £100,000 and £125,000 is because of the reduction of a person’s Personal Allowance over this range).

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jul '17 - 9:42am

    Hi Jayne, yes I’m not dismissive of arts degrees, I think we need more language education for starters, but the idea of reduced fees for skills there is a shortage for is interesting.

    I’m weary about completely free tuition anyway because I think we need a commitment from the student. We also need to maintain the quality of education and level of funding.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jul '17 - 9:49am

    Ed Shepherd 26th Jul ’17 – 1:17am: Jeremy Corbyn has a huge credibility problem in that he allowed people to believe that he would write off tuition fees if Labour were elected in the 2017 general election. After the election he delegated the problem to a member of his shadow cabinet. On the Daily Politics she accepted that the cost is £100 billion. She does not, yet, have any ideas as to how to pay for such a large sum and has therefore said that it is only “an aspiration”. He should man up. Surely a policy of this importance requires the Labour leader or Labour’s shadow chancellor to explain to many disappointed people what Labour would do. On the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 23/7/2017 he was wriggling. This is an integrity issue. There must be doubt as to whether Labour can retain the support of those who believed him. If they manage to trigger another general election soon Labour may fall back.

  • Michael Cole 26th Jul '17 - 10:01am

    Michael BG 25th Jul ’17 – 10:03pm: The issue is carving out a clear identity and projecting what distinguishes us from other parties, not a wish list. Every party would claim to be in favour of “Abolishing poverty and reducing inequalities “

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jul '17 - 10:09am

    I realise this is slightly off topic but I am less concerned as the author of the OP has not favoured any of us with a response. Conservatives pronouce. Liberal Democrats engage.

    Thus on student fees – have people read the IFS briefing during the election: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/9217

    The figures most people are relying on are based on this work … it suggests that on average a student (2012 onwards) will pay over the 30 years before dissolution £34,000 (in today’s prices) which they equate to a graduate tax rate of 9%.

    I feel they are too confident about the amount a student will earn over those 30 years. I’d like to see the workings behind their assumptions. One would imagine that automation will be such that very few people (even graduates) will earn the amounts they suggest. At present research shows that many graduate jobs soon reach a plateau of £30,000. Say after 10 years. Thus for 20 years a typical graduate will pay £16,200 (all at today’s prices).

    This is material as the ‘cost’ of abolishing fees depends on a projection of earnings and therefore of payments. For instance if graduates were in fact to earn half that projected by the IFS (ie £17,000), the cost of abolishing fees would be half that projected.

    Labour has rolled over in the face of the IFS briefing.

  • Bill le Breton 26th Jul '17 - 10:11am

    Se above the £17,000 refers to the fees repaid over 30 years. Not the amount they are earning. Sorry for poor writing.

  • Nonconformistradical 26th Jul '17 - 10:51am

    @Bill le Breton
    “This is material as the ‘cost’ of abolishing fees depends on a projection of earnings and therefore of payments. For instance if graduates were in fact to earn half that projected by the IFS (ie £17,000), the cost of abolishing fees would be half that projected. ”

    Assuming nothing changes in respect of what the universities charge, then the cost of the fees remains the same. But if graduates earn less and hence pay less in the extra 9% tax (on earnings over and above of £21K at current rates) then a greater proportion of that overall cost of fees falls on the rest of the public purse. Unless fees come down SOMEONE has to pay…

  • Neil Sandison 26th Jul '17 - 1:26pm

    Welcome Azi
    I am sure you will enjoy being in a party where your vote is equal to that of the leader ,where we have real conferences not stage managed media events .and where policy is evidence based and not dreamed up by an inner circle the PMs friends .It can be challenging and frustrating at times but it is an honest form of politics where our members really count.

  • Sue Sutherland 26th Jul '17 - 1:55pm

    Christian, I agree we must help people who voted for Brexit or else we really have turned our backs on democracy.

  • Bill or Breton 26th Jul '17 - 3:13pm

    Nonconformist. I will pay a graduate tax because I am a graduate. If you followed my calculations you will see that the general taxpayer will cop for two thirds the cost. That is taxpayers who have not been to university and graduated.

  • “Hywel, you really should know better as a former party member of the democratic requirements of the party in making policy.”

    Certailnly enough to know they are largely illusory!

  • @ Michael Cole

    I think you may have missed the point I was making. I was adding to your four. Also we stand for freedom, equality and community, not equal opportunities, hence my adding abolishing poverty and reducing inequalities and linking these to an equality of freedom. This is not a wish list that other parties could claim, they are essential to a liberal party and I hope to every member of the Liberal Democrats.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Jul '17 - 2:02am

    Matthew Huntbach. You have consistently read much more into pronouncements on LDV than they justify and developed a ludicrous conspiracy theory about so-called orange bookers that bears no real scrutiny.
    Policy in our party is made by the members. If you don’t like what they are deciding why not get stuck in and try to change it, rather than, as now, pontificating from the sidelines.
    Hywel, your head is stuck so far up your posterior that you can’t see that what you say is nonsense. If you really cared about the direction of the party you’d still be a member fighting for what you believe. I for one am sorry you aren’t.

  • An illustration of the sort of behaviour that made me very unhappy in the party and ultimately turned me against it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jul '17 - 10:59am

    Mick Taylor

    Matthew Huntbach. You have consistently read much more into pronouncements on LDV than they justify and developed a ludicrous conspiracy theory about so-called orange bookers that bears no real scrutiny.

    So, it’s just me, is it? How come support for our party has collapsed? Try asking people who used to vote for us and won’t any more, and I think you will find out it is for the reason I am pointing out.

    Policy in our party is made by the members.

    Hmm, it didn’t seem like that when Nick Clegg was leader. He was very biased in the appointments he made to positions that in effect were running the party. I have actually accepted, and throughout the period of the Coalition vigorously defended the compromises that had to be made as a junior partner – we weren’t running the government, we could not get everything we wanted from it. This was made so much harder to do by the way those at the top seemed to be people who were very happy with the way being in the Coalition gave the impression that our party had made a big shift to the economic right, and did nothing to point out the reality of the case – that we had only a minor say in an essentially Conservative government.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jul '17 - 11:19am

    jayne Mansfield

    The point is, there is an interdependence between STEM subjects and the creative industries and one should not fall into the trap of favouring one over the other.

    Sure. That is the point I was trying to make – the idea that there is a division between STEM subjects and creative subjects is false.

    Try looking at this link which is about the research in the university department where I work:

    http://eecs.qmul.ac.uk/research/impact

    I hope you can see that a lot of it is about creative issues.

    The big problem we face is that it is hard to get young people to appreciate that you need to get the technical background to be able to move to work into things like this, and yes, it’s hard work to get that technical background.

  • Diane Reddell 27th Jul '17 - 11:56am

    Maybe we can use companies like the Juice Academy who train people on social media marketing to build a campaign for the Lib Dems. I would love one on normalising society space for people with disabilities. Also STEM should actually be STEAM because we use Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths in creative industries also. No tuition fees should be on courses which provide innovation of a products/processes for social good.

  • Diane Reddell 27th Jul '17 - 12:08pm

    I normally bring a support worker with me to conference and I always ask their opinion on what they have heard as they not involved in politics and one of them stated that the Lib Dem message is focused to the middle class and it needs to become relatable to the working class. It needs to become the “Cool” party across the different age ranges.

  • ed sheepherd …. with your ‘views/comments’ why are you on this site??

  • Richard Underhill 26th Jul ’17 – 9:49am………… Jeremy Corbyn has a huge credibility problem in that he allowed people to believe that he would write off tuition fees if Labour were elected in the 2017 general election…..

    Where did he promise to ‘write off’ tuition fees?

    Corbyn didn’t lie…As always, Richard, you should read the whole speech (and nothing but the speech) and not just bits selected by the media…

    The full context is important ….

    “There is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.”
    “I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all of this. But I’m very well aware of that problem.”
    “And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”

    Umpteen headlines based upon 5 words, taken out of context????????????
    .

  • Simon Shaw…Up to, or should I say down, your usual standard…
    Conveniently you ignore the the whole of the speech. Which bit of Corbyn’s suggestions…”I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that (debt), ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.” and his conditional, “I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage” did you miss….

    BTW…Considering the importance of the supreme court ruling on tribunal costs I thought there would be an article on LDV…But then I thought, considering LibDem involvement (led by Vince Cable) in pushing this despicable legislation through, it might be a bit embarrassing….

    Apologies for a post on two subjects but the ‘3 posts and you’re out policy’ makes discussion difficult…

  • @ Simon Shaw “Write off” . Doesn’t that mean to clear, get rid of, or cancel a debt ?

    “Reduce”, “ameliorate”, “reducing”, “not burdened excessively”……………… are they not all partial and not complete solutions ?

  • Simon Shaw 27th Jul ’17 – 10:14pm

    ….If you owed somebody else £2000 and they said that they were happy for you to only pay £1200 instead, it would be correct accounting parlance to talk about your creditor “writing off” £800 of debt……

    No wonder the party is in such dire straits with such nit picking…You quote Corbyn’s words as ‘writing off the debt’ and then amend your own interpretation to ‘writing of PART of the debt’…
    Which is it?

    BTW..Again you ignore the parts of the speech that don’t gel with your preconceived ideas…I imagine because, even you, couldn’t fit his ‘lengthen the period of paying it off’ into your rant…

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '17 - 8:46am

    There should be more comment on Jeremy Corbyn’s position on existing student debts, not just on earnings forecasts for graduates.

  • @ Simon Shaw,…………so if three Councillors left a party group, lets say, you wouldn’t describe that group as a “write off” ?

    It would have been reduced and be somewhat less than it was before ?

  • Simon Shaw, trying to have any reasoned argument with you is, as others before me have said, like ‘wrestling fog’….
    You, and those like you, are the reason I have stopped supporting this party…A shame for me, as my support goes back almost 60 years….A shame for the party as, if I find far more in common with Corbyn, so must many others….

    I wish the Raws, Huntbachs and Mansfields (among others) good luck in trying to keep to the values that attracted me so many years ago…I’ll continue with LDV but, as for my support/vote; ‘count me out’…

  • Martin 28th Jul ’17 – 1:39pm……….Just how confused and incoherent do you have to be on Brexit?….

    Being seen as a ‘one-trick-pony’ didn’t do LibDems much good at the last couple of GEs….

    What I find so sad/laughable are members criticising Corbyn over misleading the electorate over student fees….The old adage of, “When in a hole…” comes to mind

  • David Evans 28th Jul '17 - 3:53pm

    Simon,

    I agree with you when you say “it is quite clear that quite a lot of them already think they were straightforwardly misled by Labour.” But it is a worry when you add “That’s not to say that Lib Dems shouldn’t do everything to remind them (targeted mailings??) and I know that is already being discussed in various constituency parties.”

    But why oh why didn’t any(?) constituency parties discuss what to do about *our problem* with tuition fees when we were in government, or since for that matter?

  • @ Simon Shaw

    I’m really amused that a Liberal Democrat Councillor from the Cleggcentric side of the party can’t see the irony of saying Corbyn J. is misleading students on the fees issue. I’m afraid there are not many Angels on the Head of that particular pin these days.

  • David Allen 28th Jul '17 - 6:42pm

    Simon,

    Corbyn supporters are not getting “defensive” they are getting furious with your tedious inteminable distortions. You are playing the Corbynites on side!

  • @ S. Shaw You are misinformed.

    A full apology and a withdrawal of your comments are now due.

    I am a fully paid up party member, was a member of the selection panel for Council candidates in my constituency this Spring and proposed the adoption of the Parliamentary candidate in the General Election.

    I now expect you to contact the Editors of LDV to request the withdrawal your comments. I also expect the Daily Editor of LDV to note this matter and to take what further action they deem fit.

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