Kirsty Williams – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Education, made at the party conference on 19 September 2016.

Conference, it’s great to be here today and to be a foot soldier in the Lib Dem fight-back.

And in Wales we’re fighting back, in government, on behalf of pupils and parents right across the country.

As Education Secretary in Wales, I’m still relatively new to Government.

Many of you here will have had the honour of leading your local councils.

Many drove devolution forward in government in Scotland and Wales previously.

And of course, many of our friends held some of the highest offices in the land during the coalition government.

Nick’s decided to call his memoir ‘Between the Extremes’. I’ve been taking some tips, and of course some of the warning signs.

But if he really wanted to experience the extremes, he should try the current Welsh Assembly.

UKIP leading Plaid and the Tories in a merry dance in opposition, pulling stunts such as the initial failure to elect the First Minister.

As the song goes, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right….

Now, this is the first time I’ve spoken with you since the Assembly Elections.

While the result wasn’t one any of us would have wanted, I am immensely proud to have been part of a group that was, no doubt in my mind, pound for pound, the strongest and most effective in the Assembly.

I’ll be honest, being left on my own, as the sole Welsh Liberal Democrat, hurts.

But you know what makes it worse? The fact that when I look around the chamber, it is UKIP Assembly Members that replaced us.

Welsh Liberal Democrats out, UKIP in.

Never could you find two more opposing parties.

We see diversity and tolerance as a strength, not a weakness.

Farage sharing a platform with Trump says all you need to know about what they believe.

You know, in my first Education questions in the Assembly, all of the opposition parties had the chance to scrutinise my decisions.

Plaid’s spokesman stood up and asked his three questions. The Tory stood up and asked his.

UKIP?… Well he stood up… but no questions came.

Mark Reckless, you may remember him, well he let the opportunity pass by saying he had no questions this week.

Well, UKIP’s politics of intolerance, indolence and insularity will never be the answer.

Not this week, not this month, not ever.

Neil Hamilton, another blast from the past who decided to cross the border and try his luck in Wales, thought it okay to launch a sexist tirade in his maiden Assembly speech.

And when I say “crossed the border” – I mean that he crosses the border each and every day when he drives all the way from his Wiltshire home to Cardiff to take up his seat in the Assembly. Yes really!

(No wonder they supported our campaign to scrap the Severn Bridge tolls!)

Conference, I worry that the Brexit vote showed us that perhaps we progressives and liberals have rested on our laurels.

Our victories on feminism, gay rights, devolution, widening access to education, tolerance in society – they may be more fragile than we ever imagined.

We must keep making the case that these advancements are for the benefit of all.

A tolerant, more educated and liberal society is a better society for everyone.

That cause must be our motivation to get back out there, work hard, fight for our communities, and start to rebuild our party.

It can’t be done overnight, but in next year’s local elections, remember our values, then remembers theirs.

Conference, the local elections will we be our chance to start to rebuild, and we must take it.

Of course, following the election, I stepped down as leader after eight years – a role that filled me with immense pride.

But the time had come for someone else to lead to help rebuild and rejuvenate our party.

Mark Williams, who is a good friend, was always there when I needed support and advice. I will now repay that favour.

Mark, there is no-one I trust more to take this great party forward.

And of course the unexpected happened, I was offered the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education.

Conference, the decision whether to take the role wasn’t easy.

I’d spent the last decade holding the Labour Government in Wales to account. Lambasting their failings, nowhere more so than on education where Wales continues to struggle in international tables.

But there were two over-riding factors that swung the decision for me.

Firstly, I am in no doubt that in the eyes of the media, having just one AM was the equivalent of none.

We may have had a seat in the chamber, but we would be ignored – no media coverage, no FMQs, no nothing.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats silenced.

So, I took my agreement with the First Minister to a special conference. It was essential that members across Wales got the opportunity to debate and vote on delivering our manifesto.

And make no mistake, I am in government as a Welsh Liberal Democrat, guided by our values and commitments.

I’ve been fortunate to receive the support of friends, family and fellow members over the country in the last few months.

Everyone is clear that education has always been our number one priority.

It has to be: From it, stems everything we believe in.

It is our national mission that every child, no matter who they are or where they are from, has the opportunity to be the very best they can be.

I want parents dropping their kids off at the school gates to know that they are opening up the world of possibility to their child.

Every parent should have confidence that their son or daughter goes to a school that helps them grow as capable, healthy and well-rounded people.

And every parent should be able to trust the schools system to enhance their child’s opportunities, rather than hold them back.

Wales once led the way on education, parents once had that belief.

Conference, it’s my job to rebuild that belief. It’s our job to rebuild that belief. And that is what we will do.

Now, one policy that it seems the opposition is not happy with, is our plan to cut class sizes.

I’ll let the Tories and Plaid make the case to their constituents that large class sizes are a good thing. I wish them luck with that endeavor.

For teachers and parents, large class sizes are a major issue. The Welsh Liberal Democrats share that concern.

Our plan will be aimed at reducing the largest classes first, and in particular those that have a high proportion of children who qualify for free school meals.

Evidence time and time again shows that reduced class sizes can help close the attainment gap between the poorest pupils and their peers.

This policy will be linked to other reforms that will create space for teachers to teach and pupils to learn.

Our opponents are determined to paint this as a binary choice: either invest in class sizes or in teaching.

Let me be clear: they are not mutually exclusive.

Conference, the Welsh Liberal Democrats will invest in both.

Nothing proves more that we are the party of education than the fact that the Welsh Liberal Democrats prioritised education spending in budget negotiations in the previous Assembly term.

For five years, in negotiations with the Welsh Government, we consistently fought for more investment into our very own Welsh Pupil Premium, also known as the Pupil Deprivation Grant

In England, we dragged the Tories kicking and screaming to introduce this progressive policy.

In Wales, we did the same with Labour.

I will never grow tired of hearing of the homework clubs, the one-to-one tuition and the extra resources that children are getting because of us – because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Helping to deliver this from outside government was one of our proudest achievements.

That is why today I am announcing that it is my intention to double the Early Years Pupil Premium.

Concentrating extra resources on our youngest pupils.

Because it is our mission that every child deserves a fair start in life.

That is the benefit of a Welsh Liberal Democrat sitting around the cabinet table.

Conference, inside of government or outside of government – equal opportunity will always be our priority and it is what we will deliver.

Now, why is it that some terrible ideas simply never seem to go away?

Yes, I’m talking about grammar schools.

In England, the Tories are still banging this tired old drum, they do so in Wales too.

For them, dogma and doctrine rule the day.

As Education Secretary, evidence will guide my decisions.

And Grammar schools tick all the wrong boxes:

– Writes people off at the age of 11, lowering their aspirations – tick

– Gives the majority of pupils a second class deal – tick

– Excludes children from poorer backgrounds – tick

And to think Theresa May made this announcement under the banner of working for everyone.

Clearly irony is not dead.

Grammar schools are a policy based on myth, not evidence.

Proportionately, these selective schools have the lowest levels of children from poorer backgrounds.

Fewer than 3% of grammar school pupils are on free school meals, compared to 20% across England.

I won’t deny that there are big challenges in the Welsh education system. But all of our polices will be targeted to raise standards and address the enduring injustice of the attainment gap.

As Education Secretary, I am pursuing ‘made in Wales’ polices, shaped by the best from around the world.

In contrast, the Tories are intent on ignoring international evidence.

The OECD find that the best performing school systems do not segregate pupils.

Let me be clear conference: social mobility, opportunity and excellence in our schools will drive our agenda.

Mark my words, under no circumstance we will be seeing an expansion of grammar schools on my watch.

Under the Welsh Liberal Democrats, every child will have the opportunity to succeed. Every child.

In this new role, I also have responsibility for Higher Education.

Now, I have no interest in raking up old arguments from the past. The key is that we learn from mistakes.

That is why, ahead of the Assembly elections, I was up front and entirely clear with the nation that the Welsh Government tuition fees policy was unsustainable.

I was also clear that it was living costs, not fees, that are the barrier to poorer people enrolling at university.

Later this month, Sir Ian Diamond will be presenting his independent, cross-party review of higher education funding in Wales.

I have set out clear principles that I hope and expect the Diamond review to meet:

One: I want a progressive system that maintains the principle of universalism and ensures a fair and consistent approach across all levels of study

Two: I want a system that ensures shared investment between government and those who directly benefit.

Three: Student support should be portable for Welsh students anywhere in the UK.

And finally, this system must enhance accessibility, breaking down barriers that reduce social mobility.

Conference, not a single HE system in the UK meets these tests.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will change that.

Now, the Liberal Democrat Constitution states we believe in a society “in which no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.

In Wales, our party has been given the chance to put our principles into practice.

We believe in Freedom. Freedom of the individual, so everyone has the opportunity to be who they want to be and reach their full potential.

We believe in Fairness – for diversity, against intolerance – the voice for the voiceless.

And we believe in Community. Where we as individuals work together for the common good – a nation acting together to ensure that all benefit from an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards.

Education is not just a rehearsal.

It’s not simply the process of preparing our youngest people for the future workplace. It’s more than that.

It involves learners of all ages,

a united teaching profession committed to excellence,

world-leading universities and colleges forging the strongest bonds with international partners and communities at home.

No Minister can do this on their own.

No Government can do this on their own.

This is a national mission.

A National Mission that our party will help drive forward:

Reducing class sizes,

A progressive higher education system,

Raising standards in our schools,

An Academy of Leadership that develops teaching talent,

And yes, the Welsh Pupil Premium – tearing down barriers to opportunity.

I maybe the only Liberal Democrat sitting at that cabinet table – but I’m one with a growing membership behind her – motivated by the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats…. a party that is growing and making a difference to the lives of the people of Wales.

Be proud conference.

Thank you.

Susan Kramer – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, at the party conference on 19 September 2016.

A few years ago, in 2014, a man by the name of George Osborne stood up at Tory Party Conference and announced that the Conservatives had a ‘long-term economic plan’.

It was a plan built on sorting out the financial mess, restoring business confidence, and showing that ‘Britain is open for business.’

… well that went well.

The reality was the moment Osborne was left to his own devises come May 2015, he doubled down on a strategy that was anything but long-term.

It was a plan based on short-term targets for short-term political gain.

Focused on tax giveaways on the very richest

On deeper, increasingly unnecessary cuts in welfare and support for the working poor.

On slashing support for renewables, undermining a new British green industry revolution.

And on setting economic targets that required severe cuts in spending on infrastructure- on the roads, rail, broadband, schools and hospitals.

The very tools people need to keep our economy competitive.

From May 2015 onwards George Osborne hollowed out the economic recovery.

He turned away from the Coalition’s work to put the economy on a path to recovery and instead embarked down a road he hoped would lead him to Downing Street.

…Unfortunately for him it led directly off a cliff.

He suffered a backlash, led by the Liberal Democrats, over his plans to cut Tax Credits.

He proposed plans to hit disabled people so hard even Iain Duncan Smith couldn’t stomach it.

And while job figures and headline economic figures continued to flatter him, underneath the surface we saw the construction sector enter recession, housing starts flattened, and the Bank of England downgraded forecasts for wages, growth and inflation.

…and then Brexit happened.

Let’s be clear, Brexit poses the biggest existential threat to the long-term prospects of our economy in a generation.

Despite what David Davies or Boris Johnson will tell you about a ‘Brexit bounce back’, the underlying picture is already much, much worse than it was on June 22nd.

The pound has plummeted and stayed down- making all of us poorer.

Manufacturing output has had three successive month on month falls as a result of the uncertainty- with the last, immediately post Brexit fall being the biggest fall yet this year.

And the costs faced by businesses importing raw materials to the UK is already increasing rapidly… ultimately ensuring consumers will have to pay more.

And all this has real impacts on people’s lives.

And that is before you even consider the future of the thousands of hard working EU citizens running businesses, creating jobs and paying taxes here in the UK.

Conference, Brexit is casting us into an economic storm and the Government’s short sighted management of our economy means we are sailing on a raft made of twigs.

Three have already fallen off the raft- Cameron, Osborne and Gove.

Boris has a natural buoyancy.

You know, when I hear Boris, I’m always reminded of the late, great Gene Wilder… and it’s not just the ridiculous hair.

It’s that his referendum campaign was essentially ‘Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination’.

So, the three Oompa Lompa’s of politics- Boris, Davies and Fox, rolled out the old Prime Minister, and in his place now stands Theresa May.

And, say it quietly, her rhetoric on her first day was almost encouraging.

She said that her mission was to make ‘Britain a country that works for everyone’…

‘When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but of you.”

Inspiring words- but from the moment they left her lips her actions have done anything but.

From appointing a Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who believes the minimum wage is “actively immoral” to proposing a return to an education system where young people’s futures are determined at age 11, she is leading a True Blue, Tory Government for the few not the many.

And almost nowhere is it more obvious than in her appointment of Philip Hammond as her Chancellor.

I don’t know how much you know about Philip Hammond, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

He makes a point of keeping a low profile.

And since taking on the second biggest job in Government he has pretty much disappeared.

He has left us, during the most tumultuous economic times since at least 2008, without any sense of the Government’s economic strategy.

He abandoned George Osborne’s ludicrous and unnecessary plans for a budget surplus by 2020, but has done nothing to suggest an alternative.

While the Governor of the Bank of England (thank goodness for Mark Carney) raced to prop up a faltering economy, the Chancellor has done nothing but offer the most basic of assurances to key sectors of our economy.

While experts predict a downturn, and new black-holes in public spending, he has hidden away and left businesses, public sector workers and the public to wait.

So we are left to look into his history for some clues as to what our new Chancellor’s priorities will be- to look at what he has said in the past.

And what it shows is not a man who will think of the poor, the voiceless or the general public first.

It shows someone whose first, and only, economic priority is the wealthy elite.

For example, while in opposition, the then Tory Shadow Chief Secretary, claimed that public sector workers aren’t ‘dreading cuts’, because they in fact feel ‘a sense of liberation’.

I’m sure those public workers facing yet further pay freezes under this Government are feeling happy with their new found freedom.

On welfare spending he said that there should be further cuts to social security spending, in order to fund increased spending on defence.

On what to do in the face of a falling pound- well – in the past he has claimed the best thing to do when exchange rates fall is to ‘ease the regulatory burden on businesses’.

More Conservative plans to cut regulations that protect employees and consumers.

When it comes to standing up to those who refuse to pay their fair share in tax- can Philip Hammond deliver on this?

Well, despite being one of the richest MPs in Parliament, it was reported by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme in 2010, that he has done “a Philip Green” and transferred shares to his wife – which can have the happy co-incidence of reducing one’s tax bill.

Certainty not illegal, but is it really the actions of a man willing to put the interests of Britain first, let alone to launch a crusade against corporate tax avoidance?

He too is no fan of the minimum wage- claiming, when it was introduced that it amounted to ‘a tax on business.’

And just two weeks ago he told everyone not to worry about Freedom of Movement- because he would guarantee that bankers from the EU would be able to continue to live and work in the UK.

Just bankers- and maybe a few other wealthy individuals.

Not the thousands of Europeans living, working and paying tax in our country.

The entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, nurses and teachers, the people who pick our strawberries or anyone else.

Just for those most wealthy people.

A divisive society rather than an open, tolerant and united one.

An economy that works not for everyone, but for the select few.

So let’s be clear.

Whatever Theresa May might say, the man she has appointed to deliver an economy that works for everyone, is a man whose every thought and action speaks of a wealthy elite, a shrunken state and a do as you please economy.

And that can only lead to one thing- just at the time when we will need economic dynamism and creativity we will have deadlock and stagnation.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister need to be a partnership- committed to the same vision and the same goals.

At least Blair and Brown were fellow travellers, May and Hammond can’t even agree on a destination.

And yet, when, on November 23rd at his first Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond looks across the Dispatch Box, who will he see staring back?

Labour’s failures as an opposition are many, but nowhere is it more damaging than their ability to present a real economic alternative to the Conservatives.

Instead of offering insight they attack business.

They sneer at those who run businesses, and seem content to refight the battles of the 1980s when it was the bosses versus the unions.

Just recently he proposed scrapping a £1 billion tax allowance for research that supports companies developing new medicines.

In the 21st Century, when our economy is more reliant than ever before on new ideas and innovation, these are the actions of someone with a dislike for business.

McDonell has even, suggested that one of Britain’s most celebrated entrepreneurs, Sir Richard Branson, should lose his knighthood – in petty retaliation against Branson’s criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to find a seat on a train.

But most importantly of all, when it comes to our vital membership of the Single Market, he and Jeremy Corbyn want us to return to a little island, closed to free trade and the economic benefits it can bring.

When we need the country to look out and forwards, he is dwelling on the internal Labour wars of the past.

And I for one find it so frustrating, because never has it been more important to have a Party that’s focused on the next 5, 10, 20 years of our future.

And that means it’s up to us.

But to do so we must challenge not just the Government, not just the Labour Party, but ourselves.

We must become the Party for those who want to succeed, but who want to see no one left behind.

To start with, we need to protect the economic wellbeing of the youngest generations- something successive Government have often failed to do.

In the last 20 years, the average household income of those under 29 have fallen by 2%, while that of those over 70 has increased by 66%.

This isn’t about pitting one generation against another- young people will be old one day too, and (surprise surprise) I care about the lives of my kids and grandchildren.

We should be proud of what we’ve done for older people- ensuring there is a decent, flat rate pension, fighting, as Norman Lamb has done, for a New Deal on the care system, so no one has to sell their home to pay for care – a deal now quietly dropped by the Conservatives, and ensuring the poorest pensioners get extra to help with heating costs when it’s cold.

But ensuring older people have a decent life should not mean foisting all the burden on the younger generations.

Young adults suffered the most joblessness and the greatest wage compression of any group during the recession.

The disposable incomes of young adults have lagged well behind the rest of society.

The big costs in life – education, housing and securing a pension – all cost significantly more than they did for my generation.

As Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies has said, the growing gap between young and old will fuel wider inequality in society because youngsters with rich parents would retain unfair advantage in the important years of early adulthood.

He recently said “it’s become more and more important that your parents happen to have a house”.

Conference, it’s our job to reverse that trend.

To ensure that everyone has the skills, resources and support they need to take advantage of opportunity.

That the circumstances of your birth do not make the difference as to whether you can buy your own home, get a decent job or attend a first class school

And Conference, to do so we need to ensure that balancing the needs of different generations sits right at the heart of the way our Government runs.

That is why last Friday I tabled a Bill in the House of Lords which would require any new spending rules set by the Government to consider the need to balance the taxation and spending burden across the needs of different generations.

We need an economy which works for us all- not one that works for a Tory election in 2020.

Conference, our second priority must be to address the chronic lack of investment in infrastructure.

At a time of historically low interest rates we should be seeking to invest in building the roads, schools and hospitals we need.

And perhaps most importantly, we need to build the houses our county needs.

Putting a roof over everyone’s head is not just a moral imperative but an economic one.

We cannot go on building only half of the 150,000 homes we need each year.

We need to double that number.

And that includes affordable rental and social housing.

A sector gutted by Conservative policies.

I support home owners, but renters, let us tell the Tories are people too.

That is why my Private Member’s Bill also includes rules requiring the Government to prioritise infrastructure spending- ensuring that future generations have the tools they need to compete.

And it is also why I believe we should start, by putting up to an extra £45 billion directly into house building over the next 5 years.
Enough to build the homes we need, and give everyone the stability they need to take advantage of opportunities.

And finally Conference there is a new and rising challenge that we need to face if we are to build an economy truly fit for the future.
The rise of AI and machine learning.

What was science fiction just a few years ago is increasingly a reality- and it will have huge implications for the way we live and work.

From self-driving cars to automated customer services, this revolution can have huge advantages for our economy and our lives.

But we also need to ensure that no one is left behind in such a revolution.

Conference, this challenge is coming, and we aren’t just talking unskilled Labour.

There will be challenges for many of those in society who have traditionally felt safe from automisation.

I’ll give you an example- in the last year one of the biggest financial institutions in this country has been training its automated systems to handle not just routine but complex customer facing services.

Every time one of its highly skilled, highly paid employees in the 50 strong team made a decision about how to help a client, the machine made a parallel decision.

And every time the machine got a decision wrong, the skilled employee would correct it, so that it learnt from its mistakes.

As of now that team of 50 is reduced to 10.

Thankfully, in such a big organisation there are ways to reallocate those staff.

But it shows the scale of the challenges to come.

If Government is not alive to the challenge, we risk a repeat of what happened in great industrial towns across our country in the 1970s happening all over again.

And that means a Government willing to really invest in helping people transition into the new economy by embracing life-long learning, and putting serious investment into ensuring that those whose jobs are at risk are given the opportunities they need develop new skills and careers.

It also means being aware of the potential for exploitation that may come as a result of this transition.

We have some incredibly good businesses in this country, but frankly we have some pretty awful employers too.

And can you imagine the Philip Green or Mike Ashley view of how automation should affect their business?

No more pesky employment rights for staff.

No more payroll taxes or costly pension schemes.

No more bad publicity for exploiting zero hour contracts or cutting pay.

Moving to the future economy means protecting employees from these kind of unscrupulous employers.

And that means rediscovering as a Party our passion for different forms of company ownership.

To re-embrace our reformist zeal for the mutual movement, the community benefit company and employee owned businesses.

It also means understanding that in the businesses of the future the old employer versus employee relationship will become increasingly irrelevant.

The gig economy, as they call it, self-employed entrepreneurs and contractors are now a growing part of the workforce.

But we cannot let this turn into exploitation.

For example- how do we ensure the Uber driver gets access to maternity leave?

How does the self-employed programmer ensure that, if sick, he or she can make ends meet?

Conference, if we are to build an economy fit for the future these are the questions we must answer.

That is why I am so pleased the Party has set up the 21st Century economy working group- led by the excellent Julia Church and Mike Tuffrey, who can look at how we build an economy where people have a stake in their work they do and reap the economic reward.

I believe that, to be the part of the future we must tackle these questions head on, and that is why addressing the transition of a machine economy must be the third plank of our economic rules for the future.

Conference, during Coalition we proved that we are an economically credible party.

Since leaving it the Conservatives have proved they are anything but.

Our country lacks both leadership and opposition at a time when it desperately needs both.

By embracing a vision of a better future, one focused on tackling inter-generational fairness, investing in infrastructure and ensuring no one is left behind by the changes working lives we can build an economy fit for the future.

Willie Rennie – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, at the 2016 party conference on 19 September 2016.

On May 5th this year, in Scotland, Liberal Democrats started winning again.

Not only did I win in Fife with a by–election standard 9.5% swing but the exceptional Alex Cole-Hamilton crushed the SNP in Edinburgh, securing a 3,000 vote majority.

And look what happened in the Northern Isles. Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur confounded the critics and the pundits to win their seats with almost 70% of the vote.

70% of the vote when everyone told us we would be wiped out.

No-one is supposed to beat the SNP. But we did.

North East Fife and Edinburgh West: Lost last year. Gained this year.

The first gains in a decade.

It’s wasn’t in the script.

We tore up the script.

Liberal Democrats – back to winning again.

So how did we do it.

No, it wasn’t just a couple of amorous pigs in the background of my daily TV interview that won the election.

But, like those pigs, we won by casting aside any inhibitions.

We shed any lingering coalition caution.

We told people what we stood for.

Progressive, optimistic, outward-looking.

And we told people with huge smiles on our faces.

We said we wanted to make Scotland the best in the world again.

The best in the world.

Isn’t that what liberals should always aspire to?

Scottish education used to be the best in the world but with the SNP it is now just average:

College places cut

Nursery education roll-out flagging

And schools have seen massive cuts to their budgets.

We said a transformational investment using a progressive penny on income tax for education would project Scotland right back up to the best again.

Progressive, optimistic, outward looking.

Scotland’s police were the pride of the nation, helping to train other forces across the world.

But with the SNP the new force is a shadow of its former self.

Our plans would bring democracy back to the police and would put that pride back.

We would guarantee our civil liberties by rejecting the intrusive super ID database, industrial scale stop and search, and armed police on routine duties.

Progressive, optimistic, outward looking.

With renewable energy resources in abundance Scotland could be a world leader on tackling climate change.

The SNP have struggled to meet their own targets.

Their response is to add 60,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere through tax cuts for the aviation industry, with their proposal to end Air Passenger Duty.

And the SNP is keeping the door open for fracking. They should take a stand against the new frontier of fossil fuels that fracking represents. We say no fracking in Scotland.

Progressive, optimistic, outward looking.

Hundreds of young people in Scotland have to wait over one year to get the mental health treatment they deserve.

A mother told me about her son.

Regularly he would lie curled up on the floor screaming. She had to phone every day for weeks on end to get the mental health support he needed.

That is a disgrace and an embarrassment to our country.

They are not alone.

The waiting lists grow.

People wait an age.

Yet the SNP committed just 22 words to mental health in their long programme for government last week.

Scotland used to have a world leading mental health strategy now it does not even have one.

As a result £70million available for mental health remains unspent because they do not know what to do with it.

I know what to do with it.

Our plan will put mental health professionals into accident and emergency, into primary care, alongside the emergency services, and into child and adolescent mental health services.

We will give people the support they need.

Progressive, optimistic, outward looking.

After almost ten years in government the SNP talk a good game but they are not progressive.

I want to make Scotland the best again so that everyone can have the opportunity to succeed no matter what their background, where people can live as they wish as long as it does not cause harm to others and where we pass on the planet in a better state than we found it.

It’s why we were clear on mental health.

Clear on a transformational investment.

Clear on the future of Scotland together with the United Kingdom.

We were progressive, optimistic and outward-looking.

It was a big, bold programme of Scottish liberal values and Liberal Democrat action.

No more timidity.

No more coalition caution.

Proud of our values.

Proud to be liberal.

Just as I did in the Holyrood elections I intend to use this five year term to provide a progressive, optimistic, and outward-looking voice.

And it will be a voice for the United Kingdom and a voice for Europe.

In a No Borders approach we will oppose independence and we will support strong relationships with Europe.

Tim Farron is spot on about Europe. He spoke for every bereft remain voter in the hours after the result. He was a tall statesman when others never looked so small.

In the direct interests of the country and of our democracy he wants to give voters the democratic choice to accept or reject the deal that the Tories finally agree with the European Union.

He is right to demand that the British people should have their say on the final deal in a referendum.

Voting for departure is not the same as voting for a destination.

This is not an attempt to re-run the first referendum; it is to enable the public to vote on the final deal.

You’ll have seen our First Minister over the summer.

While our Leader Tim Farron was making the case for cleaning up after the chaos of the Brexit vote our First Minister was on a mission to make it a whole lot worse.

Nicola Sturgeon’s response to breaking up Europe is to break up Britain too.

After withdrawing from Scotland’s second biggest economic market – the EU – she thinks it would be a good idea to compound that by withdrawing from our biggest market – the UK.

I had hoped before the summer that she meant what she said about building a broad consensus on seeking solutions to Brexit. I hoped she would act in the interests of the whole country and not just in the interests of the SNP. But with her actions since she has trashed that consensus.

I want to be clear. There is no place on the independence fence for this party. We won a mandate in May to oppose independence and stand up for our place in the United Kingdom. And we will stick to that mandate like glue.

After everything we have been through I can tell you I meant what I said. No independence.

In the face of a belligerent, destructive campaign from the SNP we will oppose independence.

Nicola Sturgeon has adopted a special code book, a new dictionary of nationalism. And I can help you translate.

When they say all of us should keep an “Open mind” they mean independence is back on the table.

When they say everyone else should “consider all options” they mean independence is back on the table.

When they say “Good faith” that means independence is back on the table.

But every reasonable-sounding phrase is code for breaking up Britain.

And I can tell Nicola Sturgeon – we are not falling for it.

We have read the book. We know how you want it to end.

I have already explained that if we leave progressive politics to the SNP then that will fail.

If we leave the campaign for Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom to the Conservatives it will fail too.

When Prime Minister David Cameron had a chance to heal the nation after the bruising Scottish referendum campaign he made a grubby appeal to English nationalism instead.

Exactly two years ago today, at one of the most significant constitutional moments since the formation of the United Kingdom, David Cameron put his party’s interests before our country’s.

The Tories compounded that misjudgement by seeking to scare middle England with the prospect of the rise of the Scots.

Their election poster of a Scotsman, pick-pocketing an English taxpayer was a reckless act, promoting an inaccurate characteristic of Scots and was a disgrace. How on earth does that help keep the country together?

Conservatives were only interested in election victory, and never mind the damage done to the relationship between Scotland and England.

And in the final arrogant misjudgement the Tories divided the country in attempt to heal the divisions of the Conservative Party.

That dragged us out of Europe which has put further strains on the unity of the United Kingdom.

No amount of draping themselves in the Union flag and singing Rule Britannia will hide their record of putting the future of the United Kingdom at risk.

The Tories are not unionists. They are divisionists.

I have a warning to you today here in Brighton.

It is an alarm that should sound across the whole of Britain, and should worry us all.

With the blow of Brexit and the threat of another Scottish independence referendum it means that divisive constitutional politics remain at the centre of our national debate.

It is a dismal scene that has been visited upon us by the Conservatives and the SNP.

Stalled investment.

Uncertain future for EU citizens.

Divided families.

Split communities.

Economic instability.

Tensions between the nations of the UK.

This is the work of the terrible twins of politics.

The Tories and the Nationalists have so much in common. They have a shared interest.

The Tories need nationalists to scare voters in England.

The nationalists need the Tories to scare voters in Scotland.

It’s a campaign based on fear, not hope.

Our future will be a divided one if we leave it to the Tories and the Nationalists.

The terrible twins of divisive politics.

The threat to the UK by a politics dominated by those two should be taken seriously by all liberal-minded, progressive people in Britain.

This is why we need progressive moderate, optimistic, hopeful voices that advance a No Borders approach.

That is why we need the Liberal Democrats.

Progressive, optimistic, outward looking.

That progressive alternative to the terrible twins of division is what our country needs.

And it is the progressive alternative that we will provide.

Liberal Democrats will provide that clear voice.

A clear voice to guarantee our civil liberties.

For our environment.

For education

And for mental health.

A clear voice for Europe

And a clear voice for the United Kingdom.

Progressive, optimistic and outward-looking in Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.

Sal Brinton – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Sal Brinton, the President of the Liberal Democrats, to the 2016 party conference on 20 September 2016.

Good morning, Conference. Here we are, constitutional amendments concluded – how will we all manage next week without the excitement?

But seriously, I want to thank you for your involvement and responses to the challenge I put to you over a year ago to think how we could improve our Federal structures, and how we can work more effectively as a party. The thousands of suggestions and comment that you made to the Federal Executive have truly helped shape what came to Conference, and your contributions to the debates over the last four days has been genuinely helpful.

The policy debates have been outstanding too, and I particularly want to thank the many people who spoke at Conference for the first time. In debate after debate, new members and first time speakers were called to the stage to give your views, and what effective contributions they were!

As we wait to hear from Tim Farron later this morning, I have been very aware how during this conference we have been reflecting on our history, with some on Twitter even going as far back as the Whigs! Tim reminded us at the Rally that nearly one hundred years ago the Liberals lost touch with the base, the core voters, and forgot what we were there to do, and we spent years in the wilderness. And yet, many of our members worked tirelessly even though it was very tough going.

Once again the press and media are bemused that we are in such good heart. I have taken a particular delight in telling them that it is because we are open, tolerant and united, unlike Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP!

Diane James’s honeymoon period as new leader of UKIP was short lived. Within an hour of taking up her post on Friday, she had scrapped the speeches of her four opponents, and perhaps most fun of all, turned Neil Hamilton’s speech on Saturday into a coffee break.

Yes, a coffee break.

What’s more, he discovered this from a reporter from Newsnight who had a copy of the revised schedule before Neil Hamilton. UKIP’s purges aren’t even done behind the scenes.

And then there is THAT photo of her and Nigel Farage that was all over the press and media. I know that Nigel Farage backed Diane James as his successor, but that photo is so revealing. She just didn’t want him that close. So UKIP score nul points for being neither open, tolerant nor united.

And Labour? Well, here in Brighton and Hove, Momentum have taken over the local party, and are so public about their attempts to de-select him that *they* have been suspended. And it isn’t just here in Brighton – across the country, Jeremy Corbyn’s activists are taking over local parties and moving against anyone perceived as anti-Corbyn. Some MPs are threatening to sue those trying to deselect them.

Pro-Corbynites hate dissent so much that anything that doesn’t come out of the Corbyn playbook is attacked in a vile and vicious way.

Unpleasant politics when used against political opponents is distasteful.

When used against people in your own party it is unforgivable. But that is what they are, unforgiving. Certainly not open, tolerant nor united.

And watching all of this from her new home at No.10 Downing Street is Theresa May. Last week she yet again re-affirmed that Brexit means Brexit, even though it is now absolutely clear that neither she nor her 3 Brexit ministers have any idea of what it means….

Does it mean remaining or leaving the Single Market –

Theresa May or she may not.

Does it mean keeping or curtailing free movement of people

Theresa May or she may not.

Does it mean continuing to invest in our universities to keep them the best in the world?

Theresa May or she may not.

Does it mean working with European countries to protect the environment and tackle climate change?

Theresa May or she may not.

The Tories have been good at papering over the cracks of their splits, but the resignation of David Cameron as an MP seems to have encouraged his wing of the party to speak out.

Theresa May’s Conservative party record on police stop and search on BAME people, on immigration, and on the Snoopers Charter are not open, tolerant or United.

And the Liberal Democrats?

This Sunday, one paper’s editorial headline was ‘Lib Dems’ revival is a blow to sorry Labour’,

and it then went on to say:

‘fair play to the Lib Dems.

under Leader Tim Farron the party has risen from the ashes of electoral oblivion to reposition itself as the only effective opposition…

The Lib Dems have not only capitalised on the fallout from the EU Referendum but also the disintegration of the Labour Party…

They are speaking up for ordinary voters on issues that really matter, such as the NHS and education.’

The Observer on Polly Toynbee’s day off?

The Independent?

No, this, my friends, is the Sunday Express!

I’m delighted that Tim is at last getting the recognition that he deserves, and I suspect that phrase ‘the only effective opposition’ might appear in a few leaflets and tabloids over the next few months.

We are the only major party that has not traded on fear, that challenges the racism, nationalism and populism that is sweeping the country at the moment. We’ve not just watched the appalling increase in hate crime, but we heard on Sunday in the combatting racism debate how our own friends and members have been attacked. That is why I still wear a safety pin – and I do get comments from people who say how reassuring it is to know that there are people who will call out any hate crime. Keep calling it out, every time YOU see it. You cannot know how powerful it is to intervene, politely but firmly, to support a victim of such behaviour.

I want to finish by returning to my theme from last year – the future of the party. It’s wonderful that we have had 18,000 new members since the referendum and that we are doing so well in by elections and I want to ask you to do three things over the next few weeks, regardless of whether you are a new member, or an old lag, like myself to help propel the Lib Dems further in winning ways.

Firstly, should Jeremy Corbyn be re-elected, I know that a number of Labour supporters and members will be feeling very lost.

Befriend them.

Let them know that we are still the party that is pro the EU, that whilst Labour are facing inward and fighting, we will be the party who holds the May Tory Government to account, on investment in the NHS, and on fighting against a growth of grammar schools. They may now want to support us, and even join us because they share our values.

Secondly, I want to see new people coming forward to stand for elections in the party, whether local party elections, regional elections or federal elections.

One of the very strong messages you told us in the governance review was that too few people stand for office in the party.

So, do not assume it is someone else’s job! You want fresh faces in these roles – please stand!!

This is especially important if you are from an under Represented group – women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+. Your party needs you!!

Find out what the role entails and put yourself up for election. It’s that simple. And it’s your destiny!

And finally, thirdly, help build on our by election successes.

Go to help in Witney – we have one month to make our mark. Tonight the local party selects their candidate, but the first leaflets have already gone out. Much more help is needed, and parliamentary by elections are so much fun too. I promise you will enjoy it!

And go and help in your nearest council by election – every extra pair of hands truly makes a big difference. I promise you’ll learn skills there that you can use in your patch.

And last, but not least, try to stand a candidate in every election. The reception so different, so much more positive out there than even six months ago.

We won Tupton, in North East Derbyshire, even though we didn’t stand a candidate in the previous election. Even if we won’t do as well every time, standing a candidate reminds the voters we are there fighting for them, and using ALDC’s brilliant toolkit ‘Pick a ward and win it’, you can build up you supporters network, campaign locally, and move on to victory.

I am so proud to be your President.

Proud that you have refused to allow the press and the media to write us off.

Proud that you are in the front line of the revival of our party.

Proud that you stand alongside Tim Farron in showing this country that there is one party, and one party only:-

who will fight for the vulnerable and dispossessed,

who will fight for our place in Europe and the world

And who believes that Britain is and should be Open, Tolerant and United.

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

timfarron

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, at the 2016 party conference.

Liberal Democrats are good at lots of things. But the thing it seems that we’re best at, is confounding expectations.

We were expected to shy away from taking power, but we stepped up and we made a difference.

We were expected to disappear after the 2015 election, but we bounced back, we are almost twice the size we were then, we’ve gained more council seats than every other party in this country put together.

And I’ve being doing a bit of confounding expectations myself. You see, I am a white, northern, working class, middle aged bloke. According to polling experts, I should have voted Leave.

May I assure you that I didn’t.

But mates of mine did. People in my family did. Some of them even admitted it to me. And some of them didn’t. But you told my sister didn’t you, and somehow thought it wouldn’t get back to me. You know who you are.

I have spent most of my adult life, worked and raised a family in Westmorland. I’m proud to call it my home.

But I grew up a few miles south, in Preston in Lancashire.

Preston is where I learnt my values, it’s where I was raised in a loving family where there wasn’t much money around and at a time when, it appeared to me, the Thatcher government seemed utterly determined to put every adult I knew out of work and on the scrapheap.

But our people and our community were not for breaking.

The great city of Preston is a no nonsense place, proud of its history, ambitious about its future.

It is the birthplace of the industrial revolution;

It is the place where Cromwell won the most important battle in the English Civil War. The complacent establishment stuffed by the outsiders.

Which links rather neatly to the referendum. Preston voted 53% to leave. There were some places in Lancashire where two-thirds of people voted out.

And I respect those people.

If you’ll forgive me, they are my people.

And if they’ll forgive me, I’m still utterly convinced that Britain should remain in Europe.

I was on the 23rd June, I am today, I will continue to be.

Not because I’m some starry-eyed pro-European with Ode to Joy as my ring tone – we all know what I have as my ring tone – but because I am a patriot and believe it’s in our national interest to be in.

For more jobs, for lower prices, to fight climate change, to stop terrorism, catch criminals, to have influence, to be a good neighbour, to stand tall, to stand proud, to matter.

And, above all, because I believe that Britain is an open, tolerant and united country – the opposite of the bleak vision of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson.

Britain did not become Great Britain on fear, isolation and division – and there is no country called Little Britain.

There is nothing so dangerous and narrow as nationalism and cheap identity politics.

But there is nothing wrong with identity. I am very proud of mine.

I am a Lancastrian, I am a Northerner, I am English, I am British, I am European. I am all those things, none of them contradict another and no campaign of lies, hate and fear will rob me of who I am.

But we lost didn’t we?

Now – I was born and raised in Preston but the football-mad half of my family is from Blackburn, so I’m a Rovers fan. Defeat and disappointment is in my blood.

So those who say I’m a bad loser are quite wrong.

I am a great loser.

I have had loads of practice.

But the referendum result to me was like a bereavement. I was devastated by it.

We Liberal Democrats worked harder than anyone else in that campaign, we put blood, sweat and tears
into it.

We put the positive case for Europe, while Cameron and Osborne churned out dry statistics, fear mongering and shallow platitudes.

It’s easy to say – after such a narrow a referendum result – that we are a divided country. But in many ways we are.

And the split between leavers and remainers is just a manifestation of that division.

Britain today is far too unequal. There is too much excess and too much poverty.

Too much wealth concentrated in some parts of the country and too little in others.

So a couple of weeks after the referendum I went back to Preston. We booked St Wilfrids Church Hall just off Fishergate.

When my office booked the place they had no idea that it meant something to me personally. You see, the last time I’d been in there was for my Nan’s funeral ten years earlier. The last time I’d walked out of that church was as a pall-bearer for her.

So I was in what you might call a reflective mood when I began the meeting. There were perhaps 70 people there. Most of them had voted to leave. And most of them pretty much fitted my demographic.

They weren’t mostly die-hards. I reckon, honestly, that three quarters of them could have been persuaded to vote Remain up until about two or three weeks out.

One guy said that the clincher for him was George Osborne’s ‘punishment budget’.

And when he said that, pretty much the whole room chipped in and agreed with him.

There was near universal acknowledgement that this had been the pivotal moment.

Here was this guy, George Osborne, who they didn’t really like.

And who they felt didn’t really like them.

And he’d appeared on the telly bullying them into doing something they weren’t sure they wanted to do.

And they reacted.

You see, if you base your political strategy on divide and rule, do not be surprised if the people you have divided decide to give you a kicking.

I don’t blame the people in that church hall for their anger – actually, I share it. I’m angry.

And I’m angry at the calculating forces of darkness who care nothing for the working people of this country, nothing for our NHS, nothing for those who struggle to get by, and who exploited that anger to win an exit from Europe that will hurt the poorest the hardest.

The people in that church hall in Preston, they’d voted differently to me but I thought, you know what, we’re on the same side here.

We see a London-centric – no, Westminster-centric – approach from politicians and the media. Treating the provinces as alien curiosities.

Those people in Preston – and Sunderland and Newport – see a divide between those who win and those who lose. When the country is booming, they don’t see the benefit. And when the country is in decline they are the first to be hit.

At that meeting they talked about low wages. About poor housing. About strains on hospitals and schools.

Their problems weren’t caused by the European Union, they were caused by powerful people who took them for granted.

By politicians who have spent decades chasing cheap headlines and short-term success for their political careers, and never acting in the long-term interests of the whole country.

So those people in that room, like millions of others, wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.

I wanted Britain to remain in the European Union and I still do.

But we have got to listen, to learn and to understand why millions of people voted to leave. We can’t just tell them they’re wrong and stick our fingers in our ears.

So I want to do two things.

I want to persuade those who voted leave that we understand and respect their reasons, that we are determined to take head on the things about today’s Britain that have left so many people feeling ignored.

And I want to give them their say over what comes next.

Theresa May says Brexit means Brexit. Well thanks for clearing that up.

Nearly three months since the referendum and we have a government with new departments, new titles, a new prime minister…but no plan. No vision. No clue.

And no leadership.

Theresa May did so little in the Remain campaign that she actually made it look like Jeremy Corbyn pulled a shift.

And today, the absence of leadership from the Prime Minister is astonishing, the absence of clarity as to what will happen to our country is a disgrace.

Three months on, it isn’t good enough to have brainstorming sessions at Chequers while investment and jobs steadily bleed away;

…while our standing and relevance in the world diminishes in direct proportion to the number foreign visits by Boris Johnson.

…while British industry is crying out for direction, for certainty, for any idea of what lies ahead.

Make no mistake, the Conservative Party has lost the right to call itself the party of business. It has lost the right to call itself the party of the free market

It no longer supports business, no longer understands the need for calm economic pragmatism – but instead pursues the nationalist protectionist fantasies of the Brexit fundamentalists who have won the day.

Indeed, my message to any business in this country – large or small – is if you are backing today’s Conservative Party, you are funding your own funeral.

There is only one party now that believes in British business – large and small; that believes in entrepreneurship and innovation: the Liberal Democrats

We are the free market, free trade pro-business party now.

Theresa May – tell us what Brexit really means.

You’ve had three months. You are the Prime Minister. Stop dithering. What is your plan?

The Liberal Democrats have a plan. We know what we want and we know where we want to take our country.

When Theresa May does agree a deal with the EU, we want the people to decide.

Not a re-run of the referendum, not a second referendum, but a referendum on the terms of the as-yet-unknown Brexit deal.

And if the Tories say, ‘we’ve had enough referendums’, I say ‘you started it!’

We had a democratic vote in June. We can’t start this process with democracy and end it with a stitch up.
If we trusted the people to vote for our departure then we must trust the people to vote for our destination.

Short-termism

Politics is about serving people. And millions of people have not been well served by generations of politicians who put their own short-term political needs before the long-term interests of the people they were supposed to be serving.

David Cameron’s handling of our relationship with Europe is a master class in selfish, shallow short-termism. Party before country at every turn.

The Conservatives risked our country’s very future, the life chances of millions of our young people, all in a failed attempt to unite their fractured party.

David Cameron risked our future, and he lost. And while he waltzes off to riches and retirement, our country is plunged into economic uncertainty, insecurity and irrelevance on the world stage.

The Tories took the gamble, but Britain will pay the price. What an absolute disgrace.

Their short-termism doesn’t stop with Brexit.

Look at their handling of the refugee crisis. The biggest crisis facing our continent since the Second World War.

They did nothing to help right until the point they thought it was in their short-term interest to act, when a photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down in the sand was on the front page of every newspaper.

The people were shocked, heartbroken, they demanded action and the Tories did the bare minimum.

But since the front pages have moved on, they have barely lifted a finger.

Now there are some on the centre left who are squeamish about patriotism, but not me.

I’m proud of my country; I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.

When I was on the island of Lesbos last year, after we’d helped to land a flimsy boat of desperate refugees, I was handing out bottles of fresh water.

And a few yards away was an aid worker from New Zealand, who knew that I was a British politician.

She looked at me and shouted, “stop handing out bottles of water and take some f***ing refugees.”

Because that is how Britain is seen. Mean and not pulling its weight.

And maybe that doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers me.

Because I am proud of who we are – always a sanctuary for the desperate, the abused and the persecuted; and I will not stand by and watch my country become smaller, meaner and more selfish.

That is not Britain. We are better than that.

And a year on. The crisis is worse, not better.

Not that you’d know it. We don’t see those desperate families in the media every day.

We aren’t confronted so often with the knowledge that they are just like us and that they need our help.

Much to the Government’s delight, compassion fatigue has set in. The news has moved on.

We’ve had Brexit, a new Prime Minister, a Labour leadership contest.

And none of that makes a blind bit of difference to a nine-year-old kid stuck alone and hungry and cold in a camp in northern Greece.

Or to the family, this morning, fleeing their burning camp in Moria.

This government wants us to forget this crisis, it’s too difficult to solve, too risky to take a lead.

But we have not forgotten, we will not forget, those children could be our children, how dare the Government abandon them.

But short-termism in politics goes back a lot further than just this government.

Look at the way the Conservatives in the 80s and Labour in the 90s treated the banks. Sucking up, deregulating, encouraging a culture of risk and greed.

Instead of building an economy that served the long-term needs of the whole country, they put all their eggs in one basket – the banks.

And, for a while, things were good. Britain boomed.

But they didn’t invest in the modern infrastructure that could benefit the north of England, or Scotland, or Wales, or the Midlands, or the South West.

They didn’t invest in the skills the next generation would need.

They didn’t invest in our manufacturing base.

All they did was allow the banks to take bigger and bigger risks, and build up bigger and bigger liabilities.

And when the banks failed, we were all left paying the price.

In lost jobs, in lower wages, in debt, in cuts to public services.

Short-term thinking. Long-term consequences.

And nowhere is the danger posed by short-term thinking greater than with the future of the National Health Service.

Can you remember a time when there weren’t news reports on an almost daily basis saying the NHS is in crisis?

For years, politicians have chosen to paper over the cracks rather than come clean about what it will really take – what it will really cost – not just to keep the NHS afloat but to give people the care and the treatment that they deserve.

And that means, finally, bringing the NHS and the social care system together.

In my Grandpa’s journey through Alzheimers, he had good care in the home he spent his last couple of years in. But when he first became ill after the death of my Grandma, the place he was put in was despicable.

Lonely, unclean, uncaring.

It’s a few years back, but as I fought to get him out of that place and into somewhere better, it occurred to me that this was a standard experience for too many older people and their loved ones.

Maybe some people can just shrug and accept this, well I can’t.

I’ve seen enough terrible old people’s homes. And I’ve seen enough people who’ve had to wait forever for treatment – particularly people who don’t have someone to fight their corner.

It’s not civilised to let people slip through the net.

It’s not civilised towards the people who love them, who go out of their way to try and make their lives easier when everything else is making their lives harder.

It’s not civilised and it’s not good enough.

I worry about this, not just for the NHS in general, but, if I’m honest, for myself and my family.

We will all, if we’re lucky, grow old.

We all deserve to know that, no matter what happens, we will be cared for properly and treated with dignity and respect.

If the great Liberal William Beveridge had written his blue print today, when people are living to the ages they are now, there is no doubt that he would have proposed a National Health and Care Service.

He would have been appalled about the child who has to look after their disabled parent or the hundreds of thousands of women across the country who are unable to work because they are disproportionately the care givers.

So let’s today decide to do what Beveridge would do. Let’s create that National Health and Care Service.

And let’s stop being complacent about our NHS.

We have of course a brilliant NHS, the best staff in the world, free care at the point of access…but we are spending far less on it every year than we need to.

Of the 15 original EU countries – including Spain, Greece and Portugal – we rank behind them in 13th place when it comes to health spending. It would take tens of billions of pounds a year just to bring ourselves up to their average.

It’s not good enough.

So we need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money – not just to stop it lurching from crisis to crisis but so that it can meet the needs and the challenges it will face in the years ahead. So that it can be the service we all need it to be for the long-term.

That means having the most frank and honest conversation about the NHS that the country has ever had.

What Beveridge did for the 20th century, we need for the 21st century.

In Norman Lamb we have the politician who is most trusted and respected by the health profession – and deservedly so. And Norman and I are clear, we will not join the ranks of those politicians who are too scared of losing votes to face up to what really needs to be done.

We will go to the British people with the results of our Beveridge Commission and we will offer a new deal for health and social care, honest about the cost, bold about the solution.

If the only way to fund a health service that meets the needs of everyone, is to raise taxes, Liberal Democrats will raise taxes.

Short-term thinking is the scourge of our education system too.

Governments have designed an education system – especially at primary school level – that is focused not on developing young people for later life, for work or for further study, but on getting them through the wrong kinds of tests.

It’s not about whether kids can solve problems, or converse in other languages – or even their own. It’s about statistics. Measurements. League tables.

Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.

It’s no wonder so many teachers are so frustrated. No wonder so many leave the profession.

Parents deserve to know that their child’s teacher is focused on teaching.

Teachers are professionally undervalued, driven towards meeting targets instead of developing young minds.

And, as ever, it is the poorest kids who suffer the most.

In the last government we introduced a policy – a long-term policy – to try and help the poorest kids keep up with their better off classmates: the pupil premium. And this school year more than two million children will benefit from that Liberal Democrat policy.

And I am so proud of Kirsty Williams, who is making a real difference, every day, to the lives of children of across Wales.

The Pupil Premium is not safe in the Tories’ hands – but it is safe in Kirsty’s.

And what’s more, she’s doubled it. That’s what happens when you get into power.

But we need to do so much more.

I talk a lot about opportunity – about breaking down the barriers that hold people back. Nowhere is that more important than in education.

I want our schools to be places where our teachers have the freedom to use their skill and their knowledge to open young minds, not just train them to pass exams.

I want them to be places where children are inspired to learn, not stressed out by tests.

So I want to end the current system of SATS in primary schools that are a distraction from the real education that professional teachers want to give their children; that weigh heavy on children as young as six and add nothing to the breadth of their learning.

What are we doing wasting our children’s education and our teachers talents on ticking boxes?

And what are we doing, in 2016, threatening to relegate 80% of our children to education’s second division by returning to the 11-plus?

Every parent wants to send their kids to a good schools. But more selective schools are not the answer.

We need better schools for all our children, not just those who can pass an exam at the age of 11. We can’t just leave children behind.

Over the last 40 years, millions of children have been liberated by comprehensive education who would otherwise be consigned to second class status in the secondary audience.

And it’s important to remember who did that: Shirley Williams.

We will defend your legacy Shirley. It’s not just about being a liberal – this is personal.

Assessment is vital, exams are important, but let’s have assessment that leads to a love of learning and a breadth of learning; that is relevant to what children will need next at school and in their future as adults.

There is nothing more long term than the education of a child that stays with them for their entire life.

So let’s end the box ticking. Let’s teach our children. And let’s trust our teachers.

The country needs an opposition

One thing you can’t accuse Jeremy Corbyn of is short-term thinking. His lot have waited over a hundred years for this.

Finally, they have taken the Labour Party. Like all good Marxists, they have seized the means of production.

They’ve even seized the nurseries too – opening branches of ‘Momentum Kids’. Or as they are also known, Child Labour…or Tiny Trots.

The Lib Dems have never had any trouble with entryists – unless you include the Quakers.

My problem with Jeremy Corbyn is nothing personal. After all, I used to see him quite a lot. In the Blair years he was always in our lobby.

No, my problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that, for him, holding the government to account is not a priority.

Winning elections is a bourgeois distraction – unless it’s his own leadership election.

It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.

Can you imagine that? The Liberals and Liberal Democrats spent decades out of power and then when the opportunity finally came – in incredibly difficult circumstances, when the easiest thing in the world would have been to walk away – we chose to take power because we knew the point of politics is to put principles into action. To get things done. Not just to feel good, but to do good.

So we took power … and we got crushed.

So you could forgive us for thinking twice about whether power is really worth it.

But of course it’s worth it.

Having fine principles but no power is just turning your backs on the people who need you the most, its letting someone else win the day.

We have huge crises in Britain today – in our NHS, in our economy, in our relationship with the rest of the world.

We have a Conservative government that got the support of less than a quarter of the electorate at the last election, led by a Prime Minister who nobody elected, that has plunged our country into chaos.

They spent a year going for the working poor, refugees and junior doctors.

And what have the Labour Party been doing? Going for each other.

Instead of standing up to the Conservatives, they were sitting on the floor of half-empty Virgin trains.

Because maybe Jeremy Corbyn thinks there are more important things than winning elections, but for millions of people desperate for an affordable home, for a fair wage, for a properly funded NHS, they cannot wait. How dare the official opposition abandon them?

Whichever party you supported at the last election, we all know that Britain needs a decent, united opposition.

So if Corbyn’s Labour has left the stage, then we will take the stage.

People say to me, ‘this is a great opportunity for the Liberal Democrats’…

…but this is more than opportunity…it is duty.

Britain needs a strong opposition. The Liberal Democrats will be that strong opposition.

Do you ever listen to these Labour people arguing among themselves, throwing around the word Blairite as if it’s the world’s most offensive insult?

I even hear some of the Momentum folks referring to Gordon Brown as a Blairite – I’m pretty sure he’s a Brownite.

So, just to reassure you, I am not a Blairite.

I was proud to march against his illegal invasion of Iraq. I was proud to stand with Charles Kennedy. And I was incredibly proud when Charles’ brave stance was vindicated in the Chilcot report.

I was also proud to be in the party that stood up against his government’s attempts to stamp on our civil liberties – from compulsory ID cards to 90-day detention without charge.

And I was proud of Vince as he called out his government for de-regulating the banks.

But there is more to Tony Blair’s legacy than that.

I kind of see Tony Blair the way I see The Stone Roses, I preferred the early work.

Tony Blair’s government gave us the National Minimum Wage.

It gave us working tax credits.

It gave us NHS investment and a massive school building programme.

I disagree with him a lot, but I will not criticise him for those things. I admire him for those things.

I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win.

Otherwise you’re letting your opponent get stuff done instead.

The Corbyn crowd like to talk in terms of loyalty and betrayal.

Well, there is no surer way to betray the people you represent than to let your opponents win.

I believe in working across party lines. I’m prepared to work with people of all parties and none if it will make people’s lives better.

But I couldn’t work with Jeremy Corbyn, because Jeremy Corbyn would never work with me.

I wanted to work with him during the referendum campaign, but he wouldn’t share a platform.

Labour is having its leadership contest in a few days’ time, so of course Jeremy Corbyn may not be leader for much longer. In which case, it could be Owen Smith.

Now, I don’t know Owen Smith that well. But, unlike Corbyn, he is certainly on our side of the European debate.

So, if Owen Smith wins, I want to make clear that I am open to working together.

And there are others I could work with too.

There is a contest happening now for the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee – it is an important position but, let’s face it, it’s a retirement position.

Among the contenders are Yvette Cooper, Caroline Flint and Chuka Umunna.

Shouldn’t that be their leadership contest?

What are these people doing, jostling for position in a sideshow. They should be centre stage.

The Government needs an Opposition, and that means progressives should be prepared to put our differences aside in order to hold them to account.

But if Jeremy Corbyn does win, where does that leave us?

A Conservative Brexit Government that, without us to restrain them, are showing their true colours: reckless, divisive and uncaring; prepared to risk our future prosperity for their own short-term gain.

And a Labour Party that has forgotten the people it is there to stand up for. Hopelessly divided and patently unfit for government, with no plan for the economy or the country; led by a man who is obsessed with re-fighting the battles of the past and ignoring the damage the Government is doing to our future.

There is a hole in the centre of British politics right now; a huge opportunity for a party that will stand up for an open, tolerant and united Britain.

There is a hole in the centre of British politics right now for a rallying point for people who believe in the politics of reason, of evidence, of moderation…

…who want facts, not fear;

…who want responsibility, not recklessness;

…who want to believe that someone is looking out for the long-term good of our country.

There is a hole in the centre of British politics right now that is crying out to be filled by a real Opposition.

We will stand up to the Conservative Brexit Government.

If Labour won’t be the opposition Britain needs, then we will.

That’s what we’re fighting for. A Britain that’s open, tolerant and united.

And we will only build that Britain if we win. So here is my plan.

We will dramatically rebuild our strength in local government, deliberately, passionately, effectively.

Winning council seats is our chance to shape, lead and serve our communities to put liberalism into practice.

Liberals believe in local government, I believe in local government, every council seat matters to me.

So my challenge to you is to pick a ward and win it, and my commitment to you is that I choose to build our party’s revival on victories in every council in the country.

And my plan includes continuing to grow our party – our membership is up 80% in just 14 months – but that is merely a staging post, we will continue to build a movement that can win at every level.

I will lead the Liberal Democrats as the only party committed to Britain in Europe, with a plan to let the people decide our future in a referendum on the as yet non-existent Tory Brexit deal.

I will lead the only party with a plan for our country’s long-term future. Green, healthy, well-educated, outward-looking, prosperous, secure.

I will build the open, tolerant, united party that can be the opposition to this Conservative government. On NHS underfunding, on divisive grammar schools, on its attacks on British business.

I want the Liberal Democrats to be ready to fill the gap where an official opposition should be. I want the Liberal Democrats to be the strong, united opposition.

I want us to be audacious, ambitious and accept the call of history.

A century ago, the Liberals lost touch with their purpose and their voters, and Labour took their chance and became Britain’s largest progressive party.

Today I want us utterly ready and determined to take our chance as the tectonic plates shift again.

I didn’t accept the leadership of our party so that we could look on from the sidelines, I did it because our destiny is to once again become one of the great parties of government, to be the place where liberals and progressives of all kinds gather to provide the strong opposition that our country needs.

That is my plan. I need you to join me to fight for it.

Let’s be clear, we’re talking about doing a Trudeau.

Now, he’s better looking than me and he’s got a tattoo – I can fix one of those things, if you insist.

I wouldn’t get into the boxing ring with him, but I reckon I could have him in a fell race.

But the point is Trudeau’s Liberals leapt over an inadequate official opposition to defeat a right wing Conservative government. Do you fancy doing that? ‘cos I do!

And there are some who will say…steady on. You’ve only got eight MPs.

Well look, maybe for the time being you might be sceptical about us doing a Trudeau, but let’s agree that we can definitely do an Ashdown.

To take this party from a handful of seats to dozens of seats, from the fringe to the centre, from irrelevance to importance.

But what would us doing an Ashdown mean for Britain today?

Well, look, no one believes, whether boundary changes happen or not, that Labour will gain a single seat from the Tories.

The SNP could only possibly take one seat off the Conservatives.

But there are dozens of Tory seats in our reach.

Which means that the only thing standing between the Conservatives and a majority at the next election is the revival of the Liberal Democrats.

So let’s make it happen.

And we have to make it happen. Because there is a new battle emerging – here and across the whole western world – between the forces of tolerant liberalism and intolerant, closed-minded nationalism.

Of all the things that depressed me the morning after the referendum, seeing Nigel Farage celebrating really took the biscuit.

Here is a man who fought a campaign that pandered to our worst instincts: fear, anxiety, suspicion of others.

And he is not alone. His victory was welcomed by Marine Le Pen in France, Golden Dawn in Greece and by nationalists and populists all across Europe.

And in a few weeks he went from standing in front of that odious Breaking Point poster demonising desperate refugees…

To standing on a podium in Mississippi next to Donald Trump.

And make no mistake, Farage’s victory is becoming the Government’s agenda.

When Conservatives talk about a ‘hard Brexit’, this is what they mean.

A Brexit that cuts us off from our neighbours, no matter what the consequences for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

A Brexit that toys with the lives of hard-working people who have made Britain their home, paid their way and immersed themselves in their communities, just as more than a million Brits have made their homes on the continent.

A Brexit that will leave us poorer, weaker and less able to protect ourselves.

But we will not let Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain win.

To coin a phrase. I want my country back.

To people who support Labour who look at the last election result and say, can I really take the risk of backing the Liberal Democrats? Let me blunt with you: the risk is for you to do nothing.

In 20 years’ time we’re all going to be asked by our kids, when our NHS, our schools system, our unity as a country has been impoverished by 20-odd years of Tory rule, and when our economy has been relegated, our green industries trashed, and our status diminished after two decades of isolation from Europe.

We’re going be asked, why did you let that happen? What did you do try and stop it?

You might explain, well we lost the referendum so we had to move on and live with it.

Or you might explain, well I was in the Labour Party, Momentum destroyed it but I couldn’t bring myself to leave and back someone else.

And they’ll look at you and say, why didn’t you even try?

Why did you let us limp out of Europe? Why did you stick with a party that handed the Conservatives unlimited power?

And you’ll know that you could have done something different. You could have joined us. You could have fought back. You could have taken a risk.

Because joining the Lib Dems today, is a risk. It’s a big ask.

But let me very clear. As we stand on the edge of those two horrific realities: Brexit and a Tory stranglehold on Britain, the biggest risk is that you do not join us.

So be absolutely certain of this reality.

The only movement with the desire and the potential to stop the calamity of Brexit and the tragedy of a generation of Conservative majority rule, is this movement, is the Liberal Democrats.

So, you can despair if you want and accept the inevitability of a Tory government for the next quarter of a century.

Or you can recognise that the Liberal Democrats can prevent that inevitability.

That means you. It means us. Together.

Together, we must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

Together, the Liberal Democrats must be the real voice of opposition.

Together, we must win.