Beverley Nielsen placed the EU and the next generation squarely at the heart of her election bid at her campaign launch today in the industrial heart of Birmingham.
Branding herself as the champion for change, the former CBI regional director set out her policy platform at the Wiggin Street factory of JLR supplier Frank Dudley Ltd.
“For far too long, the West Midlands has been sitting quietly at the back of the queue when successive governments decide which region to support - and that has to change,” said Nielsen.
“We've been told by government that the first Mayor must make £4 billion of cuts, because that's the size of the funding shortfall which the Tories want to impose upon us. It's absurd, illogical and unfair, and I will refuse to accept that decision. We all need to change how government looks at this region.
“However, we can not keep voting in the same way and expect change. We have a Tory candidate in denial about his party's austerity policies, which have cost this region tens of thousands of jobs and put many more on zero-hours contracts.
“Meanwhile, Labour is so in turmoil about its views on Brexit, that its leader has imposed a three-line whip on his MPs, and his party has absolutely failed to act as a credible opposition.
”This region needs a strong LibDem voice, as we are the only party with a rational Brexit policy. Once the full exit proposals have been voted on in Parliament, there must be a second referendum so the public can vote on the facts not on the shameful propaganda which dominated last year's referendum.”
Nielsen's platform focuses on improving regional connectivity, incentivising young people to stay and work in the West Midlands through new grants for SMEs and start-ups, delivering affordable housing through a new region-wide development plan, and establishing a major innovation fund to stimulate links between education, business and entrepreneurs.
She has spent the last decade at Birmingham City University, and is responsible for a raft of innovative partnerships bringing employers and students together to create employment and wealth.
“Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with almost 45% of its population under 25, and that's a human goldmine, but we aren't doing enough to help the so-called Generation Z develop their talents and build satisfying careers,” said Nielsen.
“We have to ignore the politics of hate and look to the future, and particularly to our children's future. We can't afford, for their sake, to hurtle head-on into an era where everything which Europe has given us for the last 30 years is simply dismantled and thrown away.
“I'd give our young people a helping hand, at a time when they need it most, by giving everyone under the age of 25 free travel on public transport across the West Midlands.
“Equally, we must do more to help our SMEs survive the current economic and political uncertainty, and focus on creating an environment which allows them to prosper in the future.
“At the other end of the business scale, we must also fight to secure the livelihoods of workers at such global giants as Jaguar Land Rover, GKN and JCB, who depend on continued tariff-free access to the Single Market.”
Contact: Juliana Sancto, head of campaign communications, on 07870 379506, Juliana@beverleynielsen.co.uk