21 Sep 2011

Who are the Lib Dem stars of the future?

Channel 4 News speaks to some of the “ones to watch” in the Liberal Democrat party at their annual conference, about nastiness, Barack Obama and tuition fees.

Who are the Lib Dem stars of the future? (Getty)

Six years ago, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was head of communications at the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Now he is part of the group known as the “Quad”, four men in the coalition government who make all the decisions about how this country is run. The other three members are David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and George Osborne.

His rise was meteoric – but others could follow similar paths to power. Channel 4 News has scouted this year’s Liberal Democrat conference to find out who could be running the Liberal Democrats – and possibly the country – five or 10 years from now.

Get the latest in the Channel 4 News live blog
LibDem rising star Tom Wood

Tom Wood, Chair of Liberal Youth, 24

Why the Liberal Democrats? I always knew I was left wing – I was never going to be Tory. And there seemed to be nothing I liked in Labour. So the Lib Dems were right for me.

I think people agree the state should do things, we don’t just want low taxes. But the real issues in our society – equality, civil liberties – that’s where we’re showing our best, like rolling out plans for gay marriage.

How are the Lib Dems doing in government? We can’t pretend we are equal in the coalition – we have a lot less MPs. But if you look at our manifesto and the amount we have got through, and think about the bad stuff that the Tories could have done, we are doing 10 times what we should be.

But for me it was really hard to see Lib Dems walking through the yes lobby [on higher tuition fees]. I joined the party on free education, and we broke our pledge and Nick has said that was wrong. But I think overall now we do have a fairer system, a better system – I just find it frustrating that we have not sold this properly.

What’s your ambition? Right now I’d like to help build a stronger voice for young people in British politics. For the long term I honestly don’t know, I’m constantly driven to prove myself to always go just one step further beyond what I thought was my limits. Clegg said he wanted to be Prime Minster and he made it one step away so I think that sounds like a good goal!

Who is your hero? Barack Obama – he is the kind of inspiration that comes along once in a generation. And Josh from the West Wing – I know he’s a fictional character but I want to be Josh! And of course Nick is very inspiring – when I am annoyed at the party and I think he is going to have to work hard if he wants me to clap at this speech – one minute after opening his mouth, he’s got me.

LibDem rising star Chris Lucas

Chris Lucas, District Councillor in Three Rivers, south west Hertfordshire, and speaker at the opening rally at conference, 40

Why the Liberal Democrats? Politics has been part of my life for many years but I sat idly by for some time – I was around and watched when the last Conservative government dismantled the welfare state and there was nastiness in the air – but I didn’t do anything. Then after the early optimism of the Blair years I got more and more depressed when they squandered their majority on imposing ID cards, and an illegal war. I thought enough is enough – I’m getting involved.

The only party which offers any solutions for the kinds of issues I care about is the Liberal Democrats.

How are the Lib Dems doing in govt? Politicians get into politics to share their ideas, philosophy, and values, and when given the change to get up and talk about this, we would have been mad not to. But we didn’t win the election and when that happens, and two parties work together, people find ways of needling away and then you add to that the backdrop of the worst economic situation for years – if there was a time to choose to be at the top table this is not it. We’ve done what we had to and taken the tough decisions. You can kick lumps out of us but the country is better because of us at the top table.

What’s your ambition? I will stand as an MP in the next election – I am not sure where yet but I’m taking part in the candidate leadership programme [which was launched at the conference]. Our headquarters can’t impose candidates – it’s up to the local party. So I’ll get the training and the mentors and then it’s up to me to convince the local party!

Who is your hero? Paddy Ashdown. He is a true conviction politician and I’ve never met anybody who is more articulate, and strongwilled, and has the admiration of everyone, notwithstanding his energy and enthusiasm for a man of that vintage.

LibDem rising star Adrian Trett

Adrian Trett, Chair of LGBT + Liberal Democrats, also other voluntary roles including party secretary for local Lib Dem group, 32

Why the Liberal Democrats? I studied European Studies at the University of Kent so I have a very pro-European view and the Lib Dems have the most positive view of Europe. Also they have the best equalities policy of any political party.

How are the Lib Dems doing in government? I am happy with the majority of our policies. There are always policies that are difficult because we are in coalition and have not got everything we want, but mainly I am happy. I’m particularly pleased with the progress made on same sex marriage.

What’s your ambition? My long term ambition is to be an MP. It’s not as my first step but that is my long term plan.

Who is your hero? I admire Barack Obama – his election in 2008 was a critical change that was really needed for the United States and the whole world. I also admire Shirley Williams – she speaks what she feels and is honest and frank with the party and I admire that.