Neil Darby is a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Ingol Ward, and has been selected as their Parliamentary Candidate for Preston in the event of a snap General Election.
Councillor Darby, thank you for taking the time to speak to Pulse Politics. What made you get involved with politics to begin with?
I got into politics out of a sense of frustration in the first place. There is such a huge scope to use politics to help people and to improve your community, your city, and your country depending on what level you looked at. But it seemed – and still does – that too many of our politicians on every level are more interested in scoring political points than they are on actually using their power and influence to make a positive difference to the world. I identified with the Liberal Democrats as a party as they were very vocal supporters of the freedom of the individual, but balanced this with the need for a government that would provide an equal opportunity to all its citizens, along with a fair safety net.
That’s a very noble reason to join a political party. So, if you could guide the city’s future, what would you do to make Preston a better place?
There are a few things that would help Preston as a whole. I would like to see public transport improved and integrated, as freedom of movement improves quality of life and increases the strength of the labour market. I think a modern conference centre would be a boon to the city.
It would take advantage of our transport links, and therefore would bring a lot of money into Preston allowing the city to do more for its citizens. It’d give us a major venue for big acts, which would be great for people in Preston, but also helps raise the profile of the city as a whole. Finally, the city centre needs a coherent revamp, starting from the train and bus stations. So many people pass through Preston as a major transport interchange – we need to encourage them to make Preston their destination, rather than just part of their route.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what law would you pass?
If parties had to work together to form governments, I can’t help but feel it would be more transparent and less divided.
One of the biggest problems today is the confrontational nature of politics. Look at the bitter fighting in the EU referendum campaign – how can anything positive come from such bitter partisan bickering? So my law would be to change the way we vote to something more proportional.
In 2015 less than 25% of eligible voters voted Tory – yet we ended up with a Tory-only government. If parties had to work together to form governments, I can’t help but feel it would be more transparent and less divided. It’s not right and it’s not fair. Besides which, no single party has a monopoly on good ideas and effective policy- by making politics more consensus-based, we’ve got the best chance of getting better leaders and better laws. It’d make politics less offputting to normal people, and would be a strong way of showing young people that their vote actually does matter.
Youth engagement is a big issue – the Students’ Union have ran Voter Registration Projects in the past. So why, would you say, should young people get involved in politics?
Young people should get in politics for all sorts of reasons, but the strongest argument is self-preservation. If you look at what this government has done since May 2015, you should be angry. Benefits cut for people under 25, university grants cut, soaring accommodation costs, Brexit, the Human Rights Act under threat – all just the tip of the iceberg. All of these affect young people most.
So why does the government push ahead?
Because young people have an awful voting record – consistently the lowest turnout amongst age groups by a long way. If you don’t use your voice to hit them in the ballots, don’t be surprised if the government keeps hitting your living standards and your values. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in. At the very least, VOTE, always.
What age did you get involved in politics?
I joined a political party at 14 after a mock election at school – but I didn’t become seriously active until I was 19 and at university, when I began helping out the local Lib Dems and was elected Chair of North West Liberal Youth. It was a lot of fun and I made a lot of friends I still have today.
How did you find your time as Chair?
Being chair of NW Liberal Youth was in many ways my first experience with a serious role which extended outside of my immediate home. I got to talk to and meet people across the whole region, both young people and people involved in local government bodies around the North West. I learnt a lot about working with different people in the role, which made me much more effective in my work today. This is the sort of opportunity available in politics for any young people willing to take it – if nothing else it looks amazing on your CV!
To find out more about Neil and Preston Lib Dems, go to www.prestonlibdems.com