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I’m proud to be a be a Lib Dem newbie

July 26, 2017 1:04 PM
By Azi Ahmed in Liberal Democrat Voice

Lib Dem NewbiesDuring last month's election campaign, I made the most important political decision of my life. I resigned from the Conservative Party, for whom I had stood as a parliamentary candidate in 2015, to join the Liberal Democrats

As I explained in an article for The Guardian, I could no longer support a party trying to drive through an extreme Brexit with disastrous consequences for our country. Unlike Theresa May, I was not prepared to campaign for a cause in which I did not believe.

I was honoured to be asked to introduce Vince Cable at a packed election event in London, where he made a brilliant speech, deconstructing the arguments for Brexit and laying out in forensic detail the dangers that lie ahead for Britain.

When I announced I was leaving the Conservatives, just days before an election they expected to win by a landslide, many of my former colleagues thought I'd taken leave of my senses. I'm not sure they're laughing now!

I know the election result was disappointing for us too, but I really can't share the sense of gloom you often hear expressed in the party. Call it the enthusiasm of the new girl if you like, but I feel hugely optimistic about our prospects.

A lot of that is down to the fact that Vince Cable will be our new leader. I am a big admirer; he has been involved in politics for 40 years and having an experienced leader, who's widely known and respected, is more important now than it's ever been. We saw what happened when Theresa May relied on two 'kids', Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, to run No 10 - it soon ended in tears. By contrast, we will get sensible, grown-up politics from Vince at a time when the government is in chaos. That matters, it's what voters expect, and it will give us credibility.

By itself, that's not enough. We need to carve out a clear identity for the party. I know that's a cliché we hear all the time, but coming from a non-Liberal Democrat background, I can honestly say it's a criticism that's always being levelled at the party and it's what most of my friends say when we discuss politics.

What excites me is joining a democratic party where every member is given the opportunity to get involved in shaping policy and to openly debate ideas. I have plenty of ideas I'd like to contribute and look forward to sharing them. One of my main concerns is how we equip future generations for the world of work, a problem we've hardly begun to address. I'd like to see tuition fees abolished for STEM subjects; it's a practical, realistic response to the issue, unlike Labour's fantasy politics, and would send a clear signal of where our priorities lie as we come to terms with robotics, artificial intelligence and all the other technological developments that will transform the workplace.

I have a background in digital marketing and I'm also interested in exploring how the party can connect more effectively with young voters. We saw how important that was in the election and how Labour used social media to promote political engagement. There's no reason why that can't be our territory too and finding innovative ways to grow our own mass movement is one of the most important challenges we face in the next five years.

* Azi Ahmed joined the Liberal Democrats during the 2017 election campaign, having previously stood as a Conservative.