On Thursday 22nd January, the University of Birmingham welcomed Lee Dargue, the PPC for the Liberal Democrats in Edgbaston to a talk and question and answer session, the first in the ‘PPE General Election 2015 Debates’.
These are a series of student-led events hosted by PPE students in the School of Social Policy aiming to bring together a range of different individuals from across the political spectrum to discuss the importance and need for being both politically engaged and informed.
Many members of the public but particularly students who attended the lecture with Lee Dargue raised the issue of tuition fees. In response, Dargue said that although the Liberal Democrats are not planning to attempt to lower the cost of tuition fees in 2015, they would be putting in measures that will benefit students. The first of these proposed changes would be an alteration in transport costs for students, so under 21’s will have two-thirds knocked off of their transport fares. Dargue, commenting on the extremely high cost of living that faces students, as well as cases where they are treated unfairly by landlords, reiterated that the Liberal Democrats are keen to focus on the quality of living for university students and that this would be the priority for a Liberal Democrat led government or coalition.
Dargue also expressed his belief in value of freedom of speech as the ‘IP Address’ and the ‘Snoopers Charter’ were discussed. These proposals are part of a large debate about to which lengths the government will go in order to halt the progress of suspected terrorists and whether this is a breach of someone’s own freedom and privacy. Dargue made clear his disagreement with both of these devices and said they were “an infringement on civil liberties.”
Listen to the latest episode of Burning Chat, where Tara and Emily welcome Brooke Snowe to talk about Lee’s speech.
The discussion on civil liberties was wide and varied overall, and covered issues such as the topic of Ched Evans and his attempt to return to professional football as part of a wider debate on whether prisoners should be given the right to vote. Dargue took the view that Evans’ occupation as a footballer means he is a role model, and thus placing him back into this profession and into the media’s attention may be detrimental for young people.
When asked about Liberal Democrat policies, Dargue said the party are aiming to increase pupil premium, which would providing an extra £2.5 billion into schools to give children a fair start in life. They are also focusing on improving mental health services, and improving education funding with the ‘Cradle to College’ scheme. Under this scheme, the Liberal Democrats intend to ringfence education spending for two to nineteen year olds. Finally, Dargue said that the Liberal Democrats are focusing on securing the implementation of Mansion Tax which would be an annual tax on properties worth over £2 million, and by doing this, they are hoping to raise £1.7 billion, which according to the Liberal Democrats is enough to give everyone in the UK a £60 income tax cut.
Overall, the event was a huge success and was well received by the audience. The next talk in the PPE General Election Debates 2015 series will be with Gisela Stuart (Labour) on the 30th January 2015.
Hear the speech in full