Every single person should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and the security to live their life as they choose. That’s at the core of our values as Liberal Democrats. To achieve this vision, however, we need to be bolder in dismantling barriers to equality – and we need to be honest about where we are now.
Far too often in our country, inequality starts in childhood. As a former teacher, I’ve witnessed first hand the vital importance of early years education. That’s why we must invest to close the disadvantage gap well before school. But our work can’t stop in the classroom. In our fast-changing world, we must ensure everyone can access genuine opportunities for life-long learning and re-training: no-one should be excluded from tomorrow’s opportunities just because their childhood prepared them for yesterday’s world.
And no one’s health needs or disabilities should prevent them from living the best life they can. We must tackle inequalities in health and care, increasing income tax by a penny in every pound to deliver social care for those that need it, reinstating funds for independent living, and reversing cuts to the carer’s allowance.
Equality is a core value for the Liberal Democrats. But turning the fine words printed on our membership cards into reality needs more than just good intent.
We must be willing to try bold new approaches, which is why I am advocating a Universal Basic Income. We need to be both thorough (tackling racial discrimination across our economy, and in our public services, not just in our justice system), and resolute (safeguarding the rights of all our LGBT+ communities).
Crucially, we must show we can be trusted on these issues again.
At the last election, we had a clear, effective policy platform for a more equal Britain – improving accessibility and abolishing the cruel system of “Work Capability Assessments”, ending period poverty, and ensuring that our health services fully meet the needs of ethnic minorities and LGBT+ people.
Too often, those proposals went unheard because voters saw our leadership as still tarnished by its coalition past. We had lost voters’ trust. This trend has only continued since December, with our polling sinking to 6%. If we want liberal ideas to shape Britain’s future we must be honest with ourselves. We cannot continue like this.
But we can regain trust. We can do it by listening to voters, and delivering on the issues that matter to them; by living our values on diversity (not just speaking them); and by working with other progressive politicians to challenge conservatism – just as we’ve done in my own constituency.
As Leader, I will support strong measures to ensure our party gets its house in order, and I will ensure that equalities issues are front and centre in our public message.
The Liberal Democrats can be the party to make the case for change in our country – as long as we can show that we have changed, too.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon. She tweets @LaylaMoran.