I spent much of yesterday amongst starry eyed freshers at the University of York's annual freshers fair, trying to convince all comers to ignore the lure of many of the other more extravagant student socities and throw their lot in with the Lib Dems. As ever our stall was very well supported and generated a lot of interest, even if the odd client was more interested in getting their hands on one of the iconic 'homophobia is gay' badges, than actually joining the party. Although we appeared to attract as many supporters as in previous years, there was one recurrent theme amongst a significant proportion of the students that i spoke to; that of hostility towards Ming Campbell.
Comments ranged from the predictable 'politics is all about image now', to "David Cameron just seems a more approachable man", comments that would be music to the ears of the Tory PR machine. In a majority on instances, once one of us on the stall engaged the students on the relative merits of Liberal Democrat policy and steered the conversation away from Ming Campbell, the reception we received was far more positive. I do however believe that this hesitancy towards Ming Campbell amongst students is something that the party needs to actively look to combat. Ming's pledge upon becoming leader about surrounding himself with a young team needs to be fulfilled; as although we certainly have many young stars in key frontbench positions, the public profiles of the likes of Clegg, Goldsworthy etc is still very limited. Equally, i am not claiming that we should patronise our student voters by arguing that they only respond to youthful faces; alongside promoting our young stars, it is imperative that we continue to paint Cameron's Conservatives as being opportunist and wholly bereft of substance. The key being to engage young people not on the relative merits of Cameron vs Campbell (a battle i fear we would lose) to a battle between the party's relative positions on the major issues of the day. With a special focus on the the environment, foreign policy (particularly Iraq) and public services. Let battle commence!
Oh and if you happen to be reading this post on my York facebook account- then please come to our Lib Dem welcome event- &:30pm on Monday 16th oct- see