It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to reclaim their place as the party of young professionals

In the ever-evolving landscape of British politics, it’s easy to forget that the Liberal Democrats were once hailed as a natural choice for young professionals. With a steadfast commitment to progressive values, environmentalism, internationalism, and leading the way on equality & diversity, the party had successfully captured the aspirations of a generation. 

Many of these commitments remain today – we remain ahead of the conversation on social care and health, we are leading the way on electoral reform, and we have never faltered in our commitment to standing up for diverse communities. We remain a party which believes in opportunity for all, and we have the policies to back that up.

We are the party of business, and of workers. The Liberal Democrats will invest in innovation and embrace the opportunities of modern technology, while making sure that economic growth is human-led and that workers are at the heart of our industrial strategy.

We are the party of internationalism, and we will embrace the academic and scientific benefit that comes with being able to work with and participate in the international community – opening new opportunities for people and society.

And we are the party which, recently, has felt like we’ve lost our way. Sometimes, as a young person in the party, it feels like we’re chasing votes rather than standing up for our principles. And sadly, when that happens, it’s often our commitment to young people that falls away first.

Today, the Party has a chance to show that we will stand up for young people when it matters – by voting to retain a commitment to house building targets.

It’s a well-known fact that the housing crisis in the UK has reached critical levels. Young people are struggling to get on the property ladder, with soaring rent prices and unaffordable homes forcing many into precarious living situations. Many in Generation Rent feel that home ownership is a distant dream, as inadequate housing supply means it’s hard to see a future where home ownership is affordable. 

The Liberal Democrats voted, in 2021, to commit to national house building targets that aimed to address this issue. However, the party leadership has tabled a motion to this Conference which would abolish this target – and are campaigning against an amendment which would seek to keep it as party policy.

We’re being told that the Young Liberals’ amendment, Amendment 1 on the motion “Tackling the Housing Crisis” is a ‘developers charter’ which acts against the interests of young people. There seems to be a lack of awareness in the irony that the amendment has been tabled by the party’s recognised youth wing.

Before we can truly reconnect with young professionals, the Liberal Democrats must not betray us again by abolishing our commitment to housing targets. This is not just about addressing a practical need; it’s a statement of principle that shows the party’s dedication to providing opportunities for the younger generation. It shows our commitment to a fair deal for young people, and the promise that we will keep the idea of home ownership alive and well. It shows that we want to see an end to a generation which is beholden to private landlords and unaffordable rents.

The challenges facing young professionals today are immense, but by embracing their historic principles and advocating for meaningful change, the Liberal Democrats can show that we are ready to once again become the champions of a generation with a bright future ahead.

* Lucas North is the Finance Officer of the Young Liberals as well as the Vice Chair of the Liberal Democrats in England (writing in a personal capacity.

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12 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 25th Sep '23 - 8:43am

    Might a policy of wholesale taxation reform and clarification help?

    Currently it is understaffed which results in taxes being under collected and proportionally it is distorted to favour the wealthy, eg not paying N I.

    Might this be an oblique form of corruption?

    We are not especially heavily taxed, for example the Netherlands is more heavily taxed and seems to have rates of housing, poverty and infrastructures which are better than ours.

    Without fair, strong, assertive infrastructures, how can the U K flourish and support a robust, equitable and sustainable socio-economic set up?

    P S According to “Transparency International” the U K has dropped to its lowest ever position in its corruptions perceptions index.

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Sep '23 - 8:51am

    “Might a policy of wholesale taxation reform and clarification help?”

    As I understand we have one of the most complex tax codes among developed nations. Are new taxes being added which might conflict with existing ones? Is this a recipe for very clever and expensive tax experts to exploit the system for the benefit of their wealthy clients at the expense of the rest of the population?

  • Sandy Smith 25th Sep '23 - 7:11pm

    @Martin
    An interesting observation…reminds me that the old Clause 4 of the Labour Party constitution used to speak about “securing for the workers, by hand or by brain, the full fruits of their labour”. Seems these early socialists saw all workers as working class so would have no difficulty regarding ‘professionals’ as working class.

  • Gordon Lishman 26th Sep '23 - 10:48am

    I read this the same way as Jonathan. So would most young people where I live. They wouldn’t think it applied to them. And actually, it is worse if you think it’s deliberately excluding any young person who is out of work. It sounds a bit like the Blair dog whistle on “ordinary working people“.

  • @ Martin – re. “Jonathan Calder: You appear to imply that ‘professional’ and ‘working class’ are mutually exclusive terms.”

    Much is about the “baggage” each term carries:
    “Professional” – implies graduate in skilled job with above average pay potential. Regarded as a potential Conservative voter.
    “Working class” – implies low pay, poor education etc. Regarded as a potential Labour voter.

    To me neither are particularly good inclusive terms, if we are to move beyond the institutionalised class mentality of English society, as I suggest many young people aspire to do better and be independent, regardless of the circumstances of their upbringing. However, if you are targeting Conservative voters…

  • @martin – I think we are violently agreeing, my point was not to provide a “definition” but to illustrate the words carried differing baggage and thus validating Jonathan’s observation. I agree with your point, I suspect none of the readers had any real idea what the article’s author meant by “young professional”, yet we all read it and nodded thinking we knew what they meant…

    The real challenge is going to be meeting people’s expectations, based on the past, in a world that is rapidly changing and all the forecasts are that the perfect storm is rapidly approaching.

  • Peter Davies 28th Sep '23 - 11:29am

    You might define Young Professionals as people who know they will never be social tenants, fear they will never be owner occupiers and get annoyed when the discussion of housing assumes those are the only two groups that matter.

  • @Peter – good observation. From memory of the time before I became a owner occupier, I think they also get annoyed that these are effectively the only two groups and they have to chose which one to join, with one being perceived as being better than the other.
    I suspect whilst in the 1980s this description fitted a relatively narrow age group, today it is significantly larger with “young” now stretching to under 50?

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