Profile Series: Bristol's Political Societies - Lib Dem Society

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At Bristol University, the student political spectrum is wide; we have societies to represent four of the parties, and most students seem politically engaged to some degree. The societies engage in both debates and more playful events (such as the cross-party speed dating event which took place earlier this month). I am interested in which issues polarise student opinion and which transcend politics to unite us. In this series I will be asking Bristol University's four political societies (GreenSoc, Bristol Labour Students, Conservative Association and Liberal Democrat Students) to answer the same set of (mainly a-political) questions. For the second article of the series, I spoke to Laura Sheppard, President of the Liberal Democrat Society at Bristol.


Firstly, can you explain why you identify with the Liberal Democrat Party, and why you felt you wanted to get involved with the society at university?

I joined the Lib Dems nearly three years ago after the 2015 election, as I their values for wanting to create a fairer society as well as having a strong economy resonated with me and I felt like, at the time, they were in the middle between the views of the Tories and Labour and encompassed the best bit from those parties. I got involved with campaigning for the Lib Dems at home before university and so joined up and fresher’s fair. It was probably the only society I got properly involved with through the whole of first year.  


What is the gender balance like in your society? 

I would say that it is not very good; I would like it to be better. It is about 25% girls and 75% boys.


How do you feel your society gets on with the other political societies at Bristol; will you be attending the cross-party speed dating event this week?

I think we get on well and have hosted several events this year together, more so then previous years. People from all the societies have seemed to enjoy the cross-party events and we are running a “Spirited Discussion” in a couple of weeks so that should be fun but unfortunately no, I wasn’t able to attend the cross-party speed dating.


Recently, there were protests after Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Moggs came to speak at UWE. How do you respond to the events? 

I think it was unfair. Obviously he has controversial views that on the whole I do not agree with. However, when he came to speak at Bristol last week he spoke a lot about democracy and freedom of speech. I think that everyone is entitled to voice their own opinion, even if it is controversial and contrary to the majority of people’s views. I think it is important to hear what other people have to say and respect their views.


What is your opinion on Bristol University’s freedom of speech policy?

I do not know a lot about it, but I have heard that it is not very good. Obviously free speech is very important and it is good to have contrasting values and views about topics. But as I do not know much about the university’s freedom of speech policy I don’t feel as if I can comment on it.


How did you feel about Brexit at the time; how do you feel about it now?

I remember at the time I was quite angry and also surprised that Brexit actually happened. I suppose I did not really expect that outcome, but now I am less angry and just want to get the best deal possible. I don’t think there will be the opportunity to go back on the decision with the current government’s views. Maybe in the future we will have an opportunity to re-join the EU but I’m not sure that will be anytime soon unfortunately.


Would you vote for same-sex marriage in the UK; was there a general consensus amongst your society?

Yes, definitely and I think everyone else in the society would agree.


Should Trump be allowed to come to the UK?



Do you feel like the current leader of your party is doing a good job?

Yes. I think that Vince Cable became leader at a difficult time in the party’s history and so started with a hard job and needed to do a lot of work to improve the public feeling towards the Lib Dems. I think he is doing well, considering the public’s opinions on politics at the moment. He has been quite visible in the media and getting the views of the party across well. I also thought he was very nice when I met him.


How well do you feel you’re represented at Bristol University?

In terms of being a Liberal Democrat probably not very well, although our membership has increased this year which is good. I find that the majority of people support the Greens or Labour but that may all change and in a few years’ time there may be lots more Lib Dems at Bristol.