Liberal Youth storm Spring Conference

Last Friday night Liberal Democrat conference was blown away by 19yr old Londoner Yahaya Kiyingi’s heartfelt and incredibly delivered rally speech about Liberalism, opportunity and the next generation.

Yahaya talked about his family moving from Uganda to London, growing up in one of the poorest areas of his borough, but aspiring to where he is today through the principles of opportunity and empowerment which define our Liberal identity.

Everyone, starting with Nick Clegg wanted to meet him and sing his praises afterwards, and as Simon Hughes told conference “You are why we are in politics Yahaya”.

But Yahaya’s narrative wasn’t just a storm because he is a beacon for greater diversity in our party. It is because his words epitomized a set of values, an attitude, which resounds with the membership of a progressive Liberal party.

The voice of Liberalism has been passed down to us from Mill, Lloyd George and Gladstone as Nick reminded us in his Leader’s Speech. And on the doorstep, in colleges and universities and amongst communities there is a new generation taking up the mantle of our beliefs.

Liberal Youth has come under criticism in the past. There are times when it has been too insular, too divided. But this weekend I was proud to be part of a storming presence of young party members. From the ages of 26 (our cut off) right down to 12, we turned out in force.

Members came from the tip of Cornwall, to Newcastle Uni down the road, many for the first time. We hosted a brilliant fringe event on Youth Unemployment. Thanks to Harry Matthews for organizing, to Kavya Kaushik for chairing and to Mike Bird who shared a panel with Vince Cable, Lord Razzall and others.

Throughout the weekend we manned a stall, picked out the young faces in the crowd, and got stuck in to policy motions, debates and fringes.

And the tone of conference was brilliant,  focusing on our achievements in government, and how we can proudly communicate these to the public and recruit more members. Many speakers, including our MPs in video clips, recalled when they joined the party, not least Tim Farron who got stuck in at Uni in Newcastle!

This is the forward looking, confidence-building and passionate attitude we need to engage more young members. From outlining the policies we are proud to be in government delivering, to sharing our experience and anecdotes,  party members need to be reaching out to young people in schools, colleges, youth groups, and wherever else they might be hiding in your area.

So this is a call to go out and engage with the next generation. Our best and brightest are still out there somewhere, and it’s down to us to reach out and pass on the mantle of Liberalism.

Whether you phone the head of your local Sixth Form to arrange to go in and talk about politics, or start sending out 18th Birthday Cards to new people on the electoral register, make sure you and your local party are playing your part in the future of the party. No excuses.

If you wish to support our party’s youth & student wing across the country you can become a “Friend of Liberal Youth”. To find out more/donate please email [email protected]

* Sean Davey is the Chair of London Liberal Youth

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