The case for the Lib Dems in post-election Cambridge

It’s not over yet.

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Having lost 49 of their 57 seats, their place in government and their leader, the Liberal Democrats look like a spent force. But the argument for why British Liberalism is not dead starts right here at Cambridge.

The Liberal Democrats’ constitution gives a great summary of what Liberalism really means:

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community”

The message is empowering and positive; it focuses on equal opportunity whilst avoiding collectivism. Our current government has made it clear that individuals are not priorities, making it more important than ever for us to push the liberal cause.

He’s coming for your human rights

We are also fortunate to live and study in a city where liberalism is more than an ideal. 18 047 people voted for Julian Huppert, who lost by only 599 votes. Obviously some of these votes were tactically placed against Labour, but even so, we cannot underestimate the Lib Dems on a local level. They have a substantial foothold here and control five out of fourteen council seats.

Julian Huppert’s impact on over the last five years goes beyond these numbers, and his impact on the treatment of mental health and the introduction of post-graduate loans has been particularly important for Cambridge students. He has been described as a ‘local champion’ and the enthusiasm, energy and thoughtfulness that he brought into the House of Commons on behalf of Cambridge will be greatly missed.

Bye bye Julian

It might not be the most opportune time to be a Liberal Democrat, but it is the most important. A huge amount of work needs to be done: the party needs a new leader and an image that relies on more than being less ruthless than the Tories and more economically responsible than Labour. It is vital that the Lib Dems appear not as an alternative to greater entities, but rather as a progressive movement that thrives on its own terms.

I’m optimistic for the party’s future. Labour seems to have lost all sense of identity – I wonder exactly what Daniel Zeichner hopes to accomplish through the party now that he has finally gained a seat after so many years. Labour has been left with the issue of how best to squeeze their way back into the centre-ground.

What next, Daniel?

But for the Lib Dems, the combination of freedom from Tory influence, a new leader and a surge of over 12 000 new members has brought a great amount of energy with it. Lib Dems are faced with the comparatively uplifting prospect of reminding the public what we really stand for. It will be a long recovery, but it will be exciting.

At the end of the day, the liberal ideal is one of hope and empowerment. It advocates social mobility in a way that the Conservatives fail to, whilst avoiding the irresponsibility that now defines Labour. The Liberal Democrats’ worth will be recognised more and more as the effects of their absence in government become increasingly obvious.

But in the meantime, public awareness of liberalism cannot be allowed to die out.