This essay was originally posted here
I want to live in a Britain focussed on what unites us, rather than what divides us. I want to live in a Britain that focuses on achieving a stronger economy and a fairer society where everyone can get on in life. The experience of Britain in the last 30 years shows that we can’t trust Labour with the task of building a stronger economy as Labour’s spending policy in government was unsustainable and weakened the British economy. Labour knows how to create a big government, it doesn’t know how to create a sustainable one.
We cannot trust the Conservatives with building a fairer society either, as they are all too often focussed on destroying our vital national services. The Conservatives know how to give responsibility to individuals, but they don’t know how to create the equality of opportunity that we treasure as Liberal Democrats.
Labour governments’ know how to spend money on ‘redistribution’ projects to secure that all important backing from their trade union barons, but they don’t know how to spend money on helping the poorest and most vulnerable in our society get on in life. Labour made the lowest paid workers pay tax by keeping the 10p tax rate; we, the Liberal Democrats, created a 0p tax rate so that the lowest paid workers (that is, those earning under £12,00) didn’t pay any tax on their earnings at all; because of the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to no taxes for the lowest paid, you, the cleaner, you, the factory worker; you, the barista; don’t pay any tax on the first £12,000 that you earn. We need to cut the deficit to have a stronger economy, but that should be intertwined wih a fairer society, where the most vulnerable groups in society have opportunities, not burdens.
So, the Conservatives; hmm, how do I say this? The Tories have, over the 30 years before the economic crash, got the economics side of government right. Britain, without the privatisations that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, would be a very different country, crippled by state monopolies by state monopolies, uncompetitive in a rapidly changing economic environment, and unsustainable. But they have neglected both the services, such as the NHS, and the laws that are needed to create a fairer society. The Tories under Thatcher and Major left the NHS, the revered national institution that we all love, chronically underfunded and on life support. We, as Liberal Democrats, believe that the NHS should have enough funding for it to provide world-class services to its users. I feel that, in order to create a sustainable NHS, we must focus on prevention rather than cure, so that we can have a healthier, fairer, and more sustainable society where everyone can get on in life. We need a government that is in touch with the 21st Century. We need to ensure that no legal discrimation exists against individuals and minority groups. As such, the Liberal Democrats, in government, were able to deliver legislation such as the equal marriage laws, which means that same-sex couples will be able to marry the people that they love; it was an abhorrent situation that existed previously, as the law did not permit individuals to marry their partners just because they were of the same sex. Such an important change would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats in government, as neither the Tories nor Labour would have had the conviction to tackle the vested interests that hold our society back. As a disabled person, I am proud that, in government, we were able to limit the barriers that disabled people face in their everyday lives through the introduction of the Equalities Act in 2010.
We, as a nation, must focus during these tough times on what unites as a nation, rather than what divides us. It is very easy, during these periods of economic strife, to get distracted by the siren noises of left and right; it would be really easy to say that we don’t need to take the choices necessary to reform our economy as many on the left do; it’s just as easy to blame the crisis on institutions, such as the EU, or vulnerable groups in society, such as immigrants, as many on the right do. This crisis is a world crisis that it will be tough to get out of anytime soon, but it is through focusing on what unites us at home and working through supranational institutions abroad to deliver stronger economies and fairer societies across Europe and the world, that we shall get out of this crisis.