As a country, we are at a crossroads and the Liberal Democrats have a unique role to play as both the party of Remain and as proud members of ALDE (the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe).
When fighting the European Elections we will not just be one party from one member state but part of a powerful EU alliance of pro-European liberals and centrists that can shake up our political system. It is no wonder the Lib Dem MEPs consistently punch above their weight – and I want to take full advantage!
I believe the three most important campaign issues will be:
- Remaining in the European Union.
- The benefits of immigration and free movement.
- Making the European Union work for us!
Remaining in the EU
As the chief party of Remain we must shout firmly, loudly and clearly about our belief that Britain is stronger in the EU and that a European future has the kind of values and ideals that Britain ought to live by. Although the East Midlands is a majority Leave area, in a proportional system we can appeal directly to Remainers – targeting our efforts at groups most likely to vote Remain – and peel off voters from Remainers sick of Jeremy Corbyn.
The benefits of immigration/free movement.
The Brexit referendum was lost on the issue of identity, on what kind of nation we want to be, and the treatment of migrants is totemic of what kind of party we are – as well as appealing directly to disillusioned supporters of a Labour Party that, despite their soft exterior, continues to push a hard line on immigration that can be exposed and challenged.
Although polling shows immigration is one of the least important issues for Lib Dem voters (11%, MORI, March), it is one of the biggest issues nationwide and one it will be easiest to get press coverage on. By praising free movement, the effect on the economy, and the benefits of immigrants for hospitals and schools, we can have something unique to say on issues that Labour voters care deeply about: poverty (24%), schools (21%) and the health service (29%). In so doing we can appeal directly to the hearts and minds of Labour voters to help them give Brexit Jeremy a shot across the bows
Making the European Union work for us.
As Liberal Democrats we are better than anyone at campaigning for local issues and building a reputation as people who get stuff done in our communities. If we are to build on that brand, and resonate with Lib Dem local election voters who aren’t motivated by Remain, we must ‘think global, act local’. We should campaign to save business training hubs in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, run campaigns like protecting EU funding for flood defences in Boston, demand more from EU training budgets to increase support for FE colleges as part of ALDE’s “Digital Economy” initiative, and campaigning fiercely for proper rural broadband to allow new businesses to thrive and grow. It is only by showing what the EU can really do for you, and why the Liberal Democrats are the only people you can trust to stand up for you and your communities in Europe, that we can give people a glimpse of what a successful Remain vote would really look like!