Fighting the Battle for young Britain

Nick Perry stood as a parliamentary candidate in Hastings and Rye for the Liberal Democrats, when he saw a photograph of local youngsters taking part in the recent pro-Brexit demonstration he says he was ‘sad and disappointed’ and worries that, ‘we have failed these young people…’

Writing today in the Lib Dem Voice he shares his thoughts on how it might be possible to persuade young people that membership of the European Union has serious benefits for them, and for their future… We reprint his piece below.

The photograph above made me catch my breath when I saw it on Facebook says Nick Perry.

These were obviously young people from Hastings & Rye – where I live; and where I was our parliamentary candidate for the last three General Elections.

It is easy to go along with the narrative in the left-leaning press outlets that I read: that our young people are instinctively progressive – anti-racist, environmentalist, socially liberal. And yet, clearly – as the photo proves – this isn’t so all across the country.

On some level it makes sense that there would be some Hastings young folk at the pro-Brexit demonstration. The constituency voted pretty clearly to leave (55 per cent to 45 per cent) back in 2016 and yet I found it genuinely sad and disappointing that we have obviously failed these young people in particular – failed to persuade them that membership of the European Union has serious benefits for them, and for their future.

This only goes to cement my view that, should we end up having elections to the European Parliament later this next month, or even the month after, we need to elect a cohort of Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament who are committed to holding routine surgeries in schools and colleges the length and breadth of the country. MEPs who are committed to working in partnership with teachers; and to spend time listening to the views of our young people, on how they see our country; and how they imagine their own future.

I believe there is an opportunity, with the help of simple surveys, to start to get a more scientific understanding of the political priorities of our school-age citizens. And this is not only interesting for the media and wider country; but it is useful to us as a party: to help us to understand how better to engage with a generation of young people who may be our allies and supporters of the future.

There has been a good deal said in the national media that the Remain campaign failed in 2016 largely because Project Fear was rejected. There should, instead, have been a passionate, emotional, gut-grabbing case for the benefits of EU membership.

How we have secured peace, prosperity, freedoms; how we have worked together to progress action on climate change, robust corporate taxation; how we have harmonised phone tariffs and late aeroplane reimbursements; how we have made progress on food labelling, ethics and standards.  How we have secured greater prosperity and assisted small and larger businesses with the removal of non-tariff barriers. All these things that are the important stuff of the daily lives of British families.

Now, with Parliament in chaos – in this uncharted political territory – in this limbo, when we do not know how long the UK will remain a full, top-table member of the European Union – it is the time for our party to work with our Liberal Democrat parliamentarian in the European Parliament (and any new team of MEPs, if elections do go ahead) to double-down; to do this work with our young people.

And then to shout about it.

imagesNick Perry is an approved mental health professional and was the parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye at the General Elections in 2017, 2015 and 2010.



Photo by Leslye Stanbury

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