In the lead-up to the General Election 2017, Impact Magazine sat down with representatives from the four political societies at the University of Nottingham: The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens. From the Liberal Democrats, we spoke to Sammy Barry.
The Liberal Democrats were a part of the coalition that tripled tuition fees back in 2010, and reducing or removing them is not part of the overall Lib Dem manifesto? What is the rationale behind this?
SB: “Well I think it is such a difficult one, with tuition fees. All the slating we have had has been from Labour, and that’s rich considering they introduced them and doubled them. We cannot say now that we are going to get rid of them because where is the money coming from?
“We should be focusing on mental health and the NHS, and worrying about what’s going to happen when we leave the EU. I just think it would be too difficult right now.”
What specific policies have been, or are due to be, put into place to help those aged between 18 and 25?
SB: “The Mental Health one is really important, especially for the LGBT+ community. Also, for young mothers, we are increasing the help they are given before anything else, to help combat post-natal depression and things like that.
“The Coalition was a long time ago, the one that gets most people is the tuition fees”
“Regarding apprentices, the Lib Dems want to double the amount of businesses taking apprenticeships. In education, the Lib Dems want to put £7 billion into education. We also do not agree with the expansion of grammar schools, and we think the money would be better put into state, where it would help the majority, not the few.”
For any young voters unsure of whether the Lib Dems have their best interests at heart, what do you say to them?
SB: “The Coalition was a long time ago, the one that gets most people is the tuition fees. We are fresh, we are new, our leader [Tim Farron] wasn’t part of the coalition, hence why we voted for him and not Norman Lamb.
“We are trying, we want to bring back maintenance grants for the poorer students, and want to bring back bursaries for student nurses, which is again really important. We want to build 300,000 new houses a year for the next five years, which a lot of young people including myself are struggling to find. All that is being built currently are council flats, and are very difficult to get unless you have a reason, as such!
“I think it is very important to look at that and consider that we’re the ones that have the interest in welfare as a whole.”
One of your biggest manifesto points is that a second EU referendum will be held. Why do Lid Dems feel this is important to give to the nation?
SB: “Both sides of the campaign lied, not just Leave. No-one really knew what we were going for. A lot of people believed we would stay in the single market, and still have the trade deals, and not the roaming charges.
“I think it is important to get a vote to say what we do get, because we are the people who are going to be affected, especially the younger ones that couldn’t vote, this is their future.”
Why do you think that typical voter turnout among 18-25 year olds is so low?
SB: “Education. I genuinely believe that we do not have enough education in schools, so when we’re young, if we are not told it is important, we’re not going to vote. We probably just vote with our parents, which a lot of people do.
“Why would you try and make time for something you feel does not affect you?”
“Once you get to 18-25, you’re focusing on your career, university, and often people say that they do not have the time to vote, which is really interesting, considering it is open all day. But I do get it; why would you try and make time for something you feel does not affect you?”
What can be done to combat this?
SB: “Better education from a young age, lower the voting age to 16, and electronic voting, or even just applying for a postal vote online. It comes down to time and it is a shame.”
What do you think the General Election result will be?
SB: “I really do not know, we are all expecting a Conservative majority. I think the Lib Dems are going to gain 13, lose 2.”
Images: Sammy Barry and the Liberal Democrats.