Tim Farron – 2017 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, at the party’s conference in Bournemouth on 18 September 2017.

I was at Euston the other day and a lady came up to me, half my size but still somehow able to look down her nose at me.

She said ‘well, I’m not surprised you stepped down! Never trust a man who wears Doctor Marten shoes!’

If only we’d known. I’d have worn the boots instead, cherry red with yellow laces up to my knees. And that would be the only thing I’d change.

I’m not giving up, so this won’t be a giving up speech. And I’m not retiring, I mean I turned down celebrity Dancing on Ice! Because Lembit Opik is a friend. Not a blueprint.

Look, I’m not going to give you a long list of advice – I’m not Paddy.

Just one bit of advice really, it’s this:

If you have joined this party as a fast track to a career in politics, then your careers officer wants sacking.

This is not the place if you want an easy life. It is the place to be if you want to make a difference.

31 years ago I joined the Liberals.

Like the rest of you I chose the tough route in politics, I chose that tough route knowingly.

Any old mediocrity can join Labour or the Tories, hold office, be someone for a bit, but do exactly the same as any other careerist would have done.

But I also know you can only make a difference if you are brave enough to be different.

When I first got elected, getting lost on the parliamentary estate was pretty much a daily event. Its like going to big school for the first time. One night Greg Mulholland and I were trying to find our way out of parliament, and we got lost, its just possible that we might have had a pint.

Anyway, we wandered into the house of lords lobby by mistake and Greg whispered to me ‘I think we’re in the wrong place’ to which the policeman on the door responded ‘not in the wrong place sirs, just 30 years too early.

Which tells you something about how folks see the comfortable trajectory of the career politician.

Anyhow, about a week later I decided to join year 6 of Dean Gibson Primary School from Kendal on their tour around parliament. Everything I know about what’s where in parliament I got from that guided tour.

As the tour progressed we ended up again in the House of Lords lobby, and I got distracted by Geoffrey Howe moving rather slowly out of the chamber and into the lobby.

I don’t mind telling you, I was rather star struck, I mean he was chancellor of the exchequer when I was at school!

One of the kids saw who I was looking at, and she said ‘who is he?’ and I said ‘that’s Geoffrey Howe, he brought down Margaret Thatcher’ and she said, ‘who’s Margaret Thatcher?’

Which goes to show that, you know, there is some justice.

Margaret Thatcher love her or not, was a great leader, immensely significant, and, apparently… forgettable.

Those whose driving motivation is a glittering career, the fulfilment of personal ambition, are not only vain, their efforts are in vain.

Careerism is futile. But changing people’s lives isn’t. So winning elections isn’t.

These last two years, we have begun to win again.

And we have a great, new leader in Vince.

He is exactly what we need, just when we need it – and I still aim to encourage, inspire and support you as we seek to win, in councils and in parliaments, in your community, and across our country.

To me, the Tories aren’t the enemy, Labour aren’t the enemy, defeat is the enemy.

Because defeat robs us of the ability to make people’s lives better.

The Women’s Hour survey last week showed that the South Lakes is the best place in the north for women to live… and it was pretty clear why, because of housing, affordable housing.

And that’s down to us. Having built something like a thousand social rented properties, the liberal democrats have halved the housing waiting list.

It wasn’t rocket science: you have a vision, a plan to make people’s lives better, you inspire your volunteers you inspire the voters, you win, you change people’s lives.

I joined this party because I agreed with it. I stayed in this party because I fell in love with it. Because this is the party that is in no one’s pocket. This is the party that lets you think for yourself.

This is the party that treats people like people, not pawns in an ideological game. This is the party riddled with compassion, and we are terminally infected with optimism. And guided by rational thought, by a refreshing wisdom in the face of extremism and dogma.

Given that we are now led by the wisest person on the planet, it’s probably a good time for me to tell you that it is this party’s wisdom that I love the most. Wisdom is not always popular, but wisdom is what any country needs, especially this country and especially now.

You can win elections and win power by being crafty and clever. But you only do any good by being wise.

But choosing wisdom over populism can leave you pretty lonely. Just look at our record of being right, but standing alone. We spoke out about climate change decades before anyone else. And we were right.

We spoke out about the impending banking collapse before anyone else. And we were right.

We called for Britain to join Europe from the start. And we were right.

We opposed the illegal Iraq war. And we were right. We called for Britain to take our fair share of refugees. We were right. We are right.

And we said that leaving the EU is the biggest mistake we have made in a hundred years and that we should resist it. And we are right.

But I am fed of being right and getting beat.

And when I took on the leadership of this party, we had been beaten beyond our worst nightmares.

It had been an honour to see Nick Clegg and our team in government put liberalism into practice for 5 years in coalition, but in July 2015 the question was not whether we would return to government it was whether we would survive at all.

Our challenge wasn’t ‘trust’ or defending our record in government, it was far bigger and more basic than that.

Our challenge was basic relevance.

We simply didn’t matter.

And because of the disaster of 2015, I was the first and hopefully last lib dem leader to fight a general election when we weren’t even the third party.

90% of our MPs defeated, 50% of our councillors defeated, 50% of our members departed. Ejected as the 3rd party.
Dismissed as irrelevant.

The day I took over as leader one journalist predicted confidently that ‘the party that began with Gladstone will now end with Farron’.

So that was cheerful.

Well, not cheerful, but utterly motivating to me. I saw those assumptions that we were dead and buried and I resolved that we were going to survive and we were going to grow and we were going to matter and we were going to win again.

The Liberal movement that gave us the welfare state, the old age pension, freedom of religion, the health service, LGBT equality, council housing.

The Liberal movement of Gladstone, Lloyd George, Shirley Williams, Jo Grimond, Nancy Sear, Charles Kennedy – the movement I joined as a 16 year old, was not going to die on my watch.

And so 2 years ago, in this very hall, I set you a challenge and you rose to that challenge, you picked a ward and you won it, we had the first local election gains for our party in 8 years, we grew our membership, we took risks, we made ourselves matter.

We saved the Liberal Democrats and I am proud of every single one of you.

In the early hours of the 24th June 2016 I took our biggest risk. A considered risk.

You see, unlike David Cameron, I had made a plan as to what we would do if the EU referendum was lost.

It was a simple plan, and it was to stick to our principles.

It was to defiantly say that the Britain we love is a Britain that loves the world.

That the Britain we love is open, tolerant, united, it is not insular, suspicious and divided.

That to be a patriot is to do what is best for your country what is best for your children’s future.

I respect the majority, because I am a democrat.

But I resist Brexit and I want the people to have the chance to change and rescue their future, because I am a patriot.

June 24th 2016 was a long day, but it was a day we turned a corner, with a conviction and clarity that meant for the first time in ages we actually seemed to matter.

It was an especially long day if you worked in the Lib Dem membership department.

When I arrived at HQ that morning everyone’s eyes were fixed on a TV screen, not BBC, ITV, Sky, no, the screen that displays the party’s current membership figures.

That number was rising at the rate of a new member every single second, and it went on, and on and on and we grew and grew and grew.

We made a risky call that morning, but since then our membership has doubled to 100,000, the highest it has ever been in the history of our party.

We had the best run in council by-elections for more than a generation, we had Witney and then we had Richmond Park.

We experienced something we had hardly experienced for years: winning, and the joy and energy and momentum that comes from winning, which leads to more winning!

And for all the challenges of the June election, for the first time in four general elections, our party came back with an increase in MPs and our most diverse parliamentary party ever.

I said during the campaign that my motivation for fighting the madness of Brexit was that I wanted to look my children straight in the eye in the years to come and say that I did everything, everything to prevent this disaster.

And that is still my motivation.

It is not too late. The Britain we love can still be saved. Do not give up.

We will be mocked, we will be vilified, we will be snarled at as enemies of the people, remoaners, losers and it will feel easier to walk away, to keep your head down, to change the subject.

Believe me, since the referendum there were times when I was tempted to do that.

But I remembered Charles Kennedy.

I remembered Charles Kennedy stood in the Commons speaking wisdom and reason as Tories and Labour ganged up to take us into that illegal war in Iraq, I remember Charles being screamed at for being a traitor, and hounded for daring to stand up to Bush and Blair.

And I remember public opinion against us at first. I remember Charles determination to keep going all the same, he was right, he knew it and he wasn’t going to let it go.

And as the months went by and our cause was proven right and just, the mood changed and Britain agreed that Charles Kennedy was right.

We need to follow Charles example today.

We are right, we will be proven right, we must not give up.

But lets not fixate on the disaster that is Brexit, let us build the positive case for a Europe that is Britain’s home.

Back in 1977, at the height of the Cold War, Jimmy Carter sent a recorded message up into space on board the voyager spacecraft.

He said we are trying to survive our time so that we may live into yours.

Well, Voyager has now left the solar system and so far we have survived.

When he recorded those words the nuclear arms race was at its most terrifying. Six countries who are now members of the European Union had nuclear weapons on their soil, pointed at us. But today, instead of plotting one another’s annihilation we are friends who trade and share a destiny…or at least we did.

The European Union is flawed, imperfect, in need of reform…for sure… but in its sinews and veins, in its very existence, it remains beyond compare the world’s most successful peace process.

That is why I will not let it go, get over it, suck it up.

Patriots are never populists. Because patriots tell their country the truth, it is a treacherous act to tell lies to your country, Boris ….. or to be a coward, acquiescing while lies gain a foothold, Jeremy.

So we must tell the truth. Britain’s exit from the European Union will make, is making, my country poorer, my country less safe, my country less powerful… and it is damaging the future for our children.

Of course there is one promise that Brexit will fulfil. It will reduce immigration, without changing a single law. Because if you turn Britain into a poorer, meaner, insular place, no one in their right mind will choose to come here.

So the Tories are breaking Britain to repel the immigrants. And they do it with Labour’s shameful connivance. What a disgrace!

You want to know why we need Liberals?

That is why we need Liberals.

You can be a Corbyn or a May and change your mind on Europe to suit the weather.

Too afraid of the people to ever deserve to lead them.

Leadership requires courage…not cowardice.

We stand between two parties led by cowards.

We stand between two parties leading Britain to disaster.

And people know it.

They vote for one because they’re terrified of the other.

We must give people hope to vote for not fear to vote against.

Britain deserves something better. Liberal Democrats are that something better.

Theresa May. With whom in the early 1990s I once shared a ballot paper, and a hairstyle, Rick Astley’s hairstyle to be precise. We wore it well.

Let me say this about Theresa May. When she and I fought North West Durham in 1992, she did actually turn up to the debates!

It didn’t do her any good mind, not that it did me any good either – But today she embodies perfectly the bankruptcy of the Tory party.

People act surprised that her manifesto was a vacuous disaster.

Why the surprise?

Why would the Tories bother with a serious manifesto – the only conviction they have is that people like them should run the country.

Holding office is more important than wielding power. Policies are mere details, why would you bother with those?

Theresa May, is still in number 10 because the Tories think that however dreadful she is, everyone else is worse.

And you can see their point.

You see, once upon a time, Michel Barnier would have croissants and coffee for breakfast, now he has David Davis.

Every flipping day.

Its embarrassing because my kids future depends on this circus, in which our representatives are the clowns and the rest of Europe is the audience, not sure whether to laugh at us, shout at us, or increasingly to just to walk away and spend their time on something less boring.

Because this is what this Conservative government is really doing.

Its making Britain weaker, smaller and less important.

Its making Britain smaller overseas, and its making Britain smaller at home.

Diminishing our schools as this summer, most head teachers had to lay off staff because of budget cuts.

Letting our NHS shrink, demoralising clinicians, betraying patients.

Pushing those who were just about managing into poverty and family crisis.

After the dementia tax disaster, going from a bad plan to no plan for the future of social care.

Turning its back on affordable and social housing.

Cutting rail investment.

Downgrading the green energy revolution that Nick and Ed delivered in government.

Brexit was never just about being out of Europe, it was always part of a wider plan: to shrink the state, cut the green crap, small government, weak citizens, everyone for themselves, a small Britain, a weak.

Britain, a mean Britain.

But that is not our Britain.

And this menace to our future is multiplied because the official opposition is a joke.

The party of Atlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown… is now run by the kind of people who used to try to sell me newspapers outside my students union. A party which now has more in common with Class War than they do with the Fabian Society.

But Labour’s election result in June was better than expected.

Labour MPs won who had expected to lose. And so we have the born again Corbynistas.

Those who fought to get rid of him then, but who are happy to support him now.

I say this to the majority in Labour who are social democrats.

You may have saved your seats, but you have lost your party.

I’d argue that Labour’s most effective leader was actually Neil Kinnock. Blair would never have won without him.

Kinnock took a party in the grip of the extreme left, and he transformed it -he made it a social democratic party not a hard left socialist party.

Hard left socialism is an assault on our economy, an assault on our internationalism, an assault on our liberty. If you are social democrat in labour today, you know that.

and if you’re breathing a sigh of relief that you held on in June, you need to have a good long look at yourself.

You do not belong now to the party that you joined. You know that Labours leadership would keep us apart from Europe, trash our economy and lead us to the worst austerity in living memory.

And you know that the people who would suffer the most wouldn’t be the rich it would be the poorest.

It would be those who most rely on strong public services, health, social care, schools, welfare, pensions.

Those who would suffer from extreme socialism would be the many and not the few.

But for the thousands of labour members across the country who know this, its too late to do a Kinnock now.

You have lost your party for at least a generation.

Your party has left you, so its time for you to leave it.

Because it is now clear if there is to be a realignment of progressive forces then it can only be around this party.

Liberal Democrats, we should embrace that role, seize this moment, lead that movement.

So our job is to do good, not to attempt to leave vain personal legacies.

Careerism is futile. But there is nothing wrong with ambition, so long as your ambition is to do the right thing.

For me, I joined the party at 16, I’ve been a student activist, union President, councillor, parliamentary candidate in a winnable seat…that I lost, and then won, so then an MP, shadow cabinet, party president, party leader.

I guess if I had personal ambition, then I’ve done everything I realistically could have done.

So now is the time to do what I love to do.

And with a bit more time on my hands, I have done a bit more running, seen a lot more of my kids… and I co-authored a book with JK Rowling.

Well, sort of.. we both wrote chapters in the RAM album book which came out a fortnight ago.

She wrote about the Violent Femmes and I, as you know, wrote about NWA’s straight outta Compton having now established myself as the party’s leading authority on gansta rap.

Which is a niche position.

As, some would say, is our position on Brexit.

Indeed despite all the challenges we have faced it is true to say that we’ve 99 problems but the niche ain’t one.

But doing what I love, means being here.

I love being a campaigning MP, and I love being part of the lib dem family I have belonged to for 31 years.

So if its alright with you, then I’m here for at least the next 31 years too. Which would put me in my 70s… which is of course the perfect age to run to be party leader.

We’ve got a brilliant leader in Vince. A uniquely impressive leadership team in Vince and Jo. I’m very very proud to fight under their banner. Just as you have fought under mine, and for which I am so grateful.

And so I want to focus my final words on the most important people in our party. You.

This week, you are here, giving up your time and money.

All year, your work in your communities, fighting elections, running the local party, building our campaigning infrastructure on the ground is what really saved this party.

Half of you joined in the last 2 years, but you are the movement that forces this party through its dark times and which has now filled it with its greatest ever purpose and mission.

You make sacrifices for our cause, you are selfless in your commitment, you are all that stood between this party and oblivion and I salute you all.

And now I rejoin your ranks, proud to march alongside you.

Because activist I was since the day I joined, activist I was as leader, activist I remain until the day I die.

On the desperate plight of refugees,; on the dishonesty and calamity of Brexit; on the tragedy of homelessness; the horror of climate change; the chaos in care.

You are the people who will not walk on by, because you cannot walk on by.

That is why you are different and that is why I love you

And that is why our ambition matters.

Britain needs the Liberal Democrats, sanity in economics, compassion for all, a plan for the long term, an exit from Brexit… what’s not to like?

And there’s no one else in our market.

Of course celebrate our survival, but if we love our country then our ambition cannot now just be to survive, it must be to grab this moment, take that space and fill it with all that we have.

When I needed you, you were always there.

But your country needs you now.

It needs you to win, it needs you to grow, it needs you to get behind our outstanding leader and it needs you to believe that you belong to the only movement that can rescue our country and the generations to come from the disaster it now faces.

That is the ambition we all share, that is the ambition that burns within when personal ambition fades, that is the ambition that gives clarity to our mission, purpose to our campaigns, a reason to fight.

We have made our party matter, now we must make our party win.

Tim Farron – 2015 Speech on the Future of the Liberal Democrats

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, then standing in the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, at the IPPR on 25 June 2015.

Thank you, David, and thanks also to IPPR for inviting me to deliver this talk. IPPR has always been one of the leading think tanks on the progressive wing of British politics. I welcome the interest you’ve shown in Liberalism, and I hope that in the next few years you will further develop the arguments in your 2007 book on Liberalism, Beyond Liberty.

Now let me be frank. The election on May 7th was an utter disaster for the Liberal Democrats. In terms of our vote and number of MPs we are back to the level of the 1970 general election, when the Liberal Party won six seats on 7.5 per cent of the vote, compared to this year’s eight seats and 7.9 per cent.

Compared to the last election, in 2010, we lost almost two-thirds of our vote and over 85 per cent of our MPs. There is no other occasion in the entire history of the Liberal Democrats or the Liberal Party, stretching back to the early nineteenth century, on which we have lost such a high proportion of our vote or our seats.

It’s therefore entirely reasonable to ask the question: what is the point of the Liberal Democrats? Do we have a role to play in a country which appears to have rejected us so comprehensively?

It won’t come as a surprise to you that I think we do! And I’m not alone. Since the election Party membership has surged by more than 30 percent, we are the fastest growing political party in the UK – that 18,000 people have, without being prompted, had the same thought, at the same time, and then done something about it… well that’s a phenomenon, indeed it is a movement. That’s more than just encouraging – it’s a signal that there are so many people out there who are Liberals at heart, who understand the threat that Liberalism faces, who think Liberalism’s worth fighting for and who see the Liberal Democrats as their vehicle and their voice.

Even The Guardian has now reached that conclusion. Having compared us during the campaign to ‘rinse aid in a dishwasher … probably useful, surely not essential’ – they decided after the election just three weeks later that, ‘in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed … one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt’.

The result on May 7th might have been a rejection of the Liberal Democrats, but it was not a rejection of Liberalism. Rather, it was a consequence of our decision in 2010 to enter into coalition with our historic political enemies. We did the right thing by our country, and I am proud of Nick and all that we achieved, but our party was hugely damaged by the perceived submerging of our identity and by the tuition fees issue which undermined the electorate’s trust in us. Our election campaign did not help too much either: a campaign which seemed to say that we were desperate to get back into government and didn’t much mind with whom, while wholly failing to communicate what we stood for and what we believed. We said something about what we would do, but we did not tell people who we are.

I want to be very clear, though: I am not repudiating the coalition. We were right to enter into coalition in 2010 and can be proud of what we achieved. Indeed, we proved that coalition government can be stable and successful and that people should not fear coalition in the future. But I spoke about all this at length to the Gladstone Club a couple of weeks back, so you’ll forgive me for not repeating myself here.

In fact we achieved a lot for Liberalism in the coalition. The Agreement included: a rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000; the pupil premium to give extra resources for children from disadvantaged backgrounds; restoration of the earnings links for the state pension; a banking levy and reform of the banking system; investment in renewable energy; the immediate cancellation of plans for a third runway at Heathrow; an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes; the dropping of plans for identity cards; agreement to reach the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for overseas aid by 2013; the introduction of a fixed-term parliament of five years; and reform of the House of Lords.

With the exception of Lords reform, every single one of those objectives was achieved. And we managed more in the five years that followed: same-sex marriage, the world’s first Green Investment Bank, the triple lock for pensions, two million apprenticeships, free schools meals for the youngest pupils, and much more. I don’t believe any of that would have happened without Liberal Democrats.

And that’s just the positive things we achieved; I don’t have time to list all the Tory commitments we blocked. Over the next five years people will see exactly what a difference we made. In fact, the last six weeks have shown pretty clearly what an outstanding job Nick Clegg and his team did.

So why did we do so badly in the election? Ask random members of the public what they remember about the coalition, and will they list any of those achievements? While we were sweating over our best policies, people weren’t listening. Tuition fees created a barrier – like those force fields in Science Fiction films. We fired our best policies and achievements – and they were brilliant policies and achievements – and they just glanced off the electorate because the tuition fees barrier – that lack of trust – was too strong.

So we need a fresh start. We have to prove, from first principles, why Liberalism in Britain still matters. So I’ll start by defining what I mean by Liberalism – what are the underlying beliefs and values that underpin our approach.

All political philosophies rest on a view of human nature. The Liberal view is an optimistic one. We are not naïve about human beings, but we are not cynical and negative either. We believe that people do not need an overbearing state to help them do right. When afforded the freedom, dignity and respect that is due to all individuals, people generally show an enormous capacity to use their talents for good.

We believe that, as rational beings, individuals are capable of judging their own self-interest. Indeed, they are the only ones able so to judge; no one else, whether politicians, priests or officials, can do that so well. The enabling society is therefore one in which each individual has the freedom to pursue their own ends as they judge best.

My first core value, therefore, is liberty – the right of people to make the most of their lives: free to develop their talents, to say what they think and to protest against what they dislike according to their own values, free of a controlling, intrusive state and of a stifling conformity, and free to choose their own occupation or to set up their own business. A diverse society is a stronger society.

This liberty must be protected with a framework of law. We have a steadfast commitment to human rights, because there are some things no government should ever be allowed to do to anyone, because the rule of law is the bedrock of freedom and prosperity, and because people are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect whatever their nationality or background.

Since Liberals believe that every individual is of equal value, we are internationalists from principle. We believe that the free movement of people and the free exchange of ideas, goods and services across national boundaries enrich people’s lives, broaden their horizons and help to bring nations together in shared understanding. We believe that immigration is a blessing and not a curse.

My second core value is democracy – but by democracy, I mean much more than just a mechanism for counting votes. I mean a spirit of equality, openness and debate, a coming together to decide our future fairly and freely, without being dominated by entrenched interests or financial power. A state that supports freedom has to be a democratic state, with power dispersed as widely as possible and built up from below, in which politics is not an activity confined to a tiny elite but something everyone can take their part in, as and when they choose. And we believe in the decentralisation of power – both political and economic – to the lowest level consistent with effective government, because the more locally an institution operates, the more responsive and transparent it can become.

My third core value is fairness. Every individual is entitled to respect, whatever their income,

way of life, beliefs or sexuality. That means that the state must treat citizens fairly – whether in the way police officers deal with young people on the streets, the way Jobcentres treat benefits claimants, or the way the tax authorities treat small businesses. It means fairness in other aspects of life, too, such as employees having a say over their conditions of work.

But liberty and democracy and fairness alone are not enough, because people’s ability to realise their own goals is critically affected by their circumstances. Nothing robs you of your liberty more than poverty, ill-health, poor housing, or a lack of education.

This isn’t just about high-quality public services and an effective welfare safety net, vital though they are. An unequal society – and Britain has one of the most unequal in the Western world – is weaker not just for those at the bottom of the pile but for everyone. The citizens of a less equal society suffer from poorer health, lower educational attainments, higher crime rates, and lower levels of trust and co-operation than their more equal counterparts. Government therefore needs to act to reduce inequalities in income and wealth. Inequality is not just immoral, it is impractical – it wastes the talent of the diverse people and places of our country.

My fourth core value is environmentalism. Climate change, pollution and the degradation of the natural world pose one of the biggest threats to our welfare, to our economy and to our freedom that we have ever seen. We have to act both at home and internationally to promote green technologies, producing clean energy and transport, stopping the waste of natural resources, and protecting nature. The market by itself cannot achieve this; government action is needed across the board to set standards, provide new infrastructure and promote innovation – and in the process build a competitive economy and improve everyone’s quality of life. If we are going to defeat climate change, we need bold action. What the Green Party don’t get is that we won’t create and sustain the positive action we need on climate change with a message of doom and gloom. We need to communicate hope – because going green can bring a better quality of life for everybody, whether they’re climate wonks or not.

This leads on to my fifth core value: quality of life- because some things, like the beauty of the natural world, or music and poetry and art, or spending time with friends and family, should never be sacrificed on the altar of profit or growth. A society in which people feel happier and more satisfied in life is one which is answering the needs of its citizens.

Where else in the political spectrum are these core values represented? Is there another party that fights for liberty, democracy, fairness, internationalism, environmentalism and quality of life?

It shouldn’t take too long to dismiss the Conservatives. David Cameron’s attempts to present himself as a liberal Tory, hugging huskies, hugging hoodies, building the big society, are long gone. Whether he really believes in any of that I strongly doubt – but if he does, he shows no signs of reining in Theresa May’s introduction of the so-called snoopers’ charter that we blocked.

He stands behind George Osborne’s assault on the welfare state, with £12 billion of cuts to who-knows-what benefits to come – a Chancellor who could with a straight face claim that ‘we’re all in it together’ while cutting the top rate of income tax. Cameron fought the election on a manifesto that simultaneously promised to cut ‘carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money’ and to end all public subsidy to onshore wind, the cheapest form of renewable electricity – therefore ensuring that the average cost of renewables will go up, while losing jobs and investment.

He has no interest in reforming the electoral system that gave his party a majority on 37 per cent of the vote. He will block any attempt at reform of party finances or election spending limits, to make sure that the bankers and hedge fund managers who fund his party can buy future elections too.

He won the election not on a story of optimism, of a plan for ensuring better times for families and communities, but on a narrative of fear, of a Labour government propped up by Scottish Nationalists – in the process claiming that a vote for the SNP was illegitimate and thereby fanning the flames of Scottish separatism. When it comes to a choice between the good of their party and the good of the country Conservatives always put their party first.

What about Labour? Liberal Democrats have tended to see the Labour Party as closer to our own progressive aims, partly because we have more of a history of cooperation with Labour governments – in Scotland from 1999 to 2007, in Wales from 2001 to 2003, or in the Lib-Lab Pact in the 1970s.

And I think they score a little better than the Tories on some of my tests: the last years of the last Labour government saw positive developments in environmental policy, they fought the last election on a redistributive package that nicked one of its main planks – the mansion tax – from us, and they’re generally supportive of UK membership of the EU.

But just remember what they were like in government. Even ignoring taking Britain into an illegal war, their record in other respects was unimpressive. Income inequality actually rose during New Labour’s term in office, while the seeds of the banking crisis were sown in their failure to regulate effectively the financial services sector.

Their record on civil liberties was shameful; they were just as eager as the Tories to encroach ever more on freedom in the name of the war on terror. Even their cheerleader in the quality press, the Guardian, recognised, in an editorial on 15th May, that the Labour Party ‘is just as authoritarian as it is libertarian, and – with the impressive exception of the early Blair years – has been constitutionally conservative through much of its history’. The Guardian obviously forgot, incidentally, that Blair’s constitutional programme was set for him by the Cook-Maclennan Agreement, drawn up with the Liberal Democrats. In the last Parliament Labour joined with the Tories to block reform of the House of Lords and were at best lukewarm, and often hostile, over the AV referendum.

What about UKIP? I’m not aware we share any value with them; they are the polar opposite of everything we stand for. And while the SNP is unlike UKIP in many ways, in one way they are the same: they exalt the race over the individual, they value people in terms of their nationality, not their character, they foster intolerance of others just because they are different.

Finally, the Greens. I admire their dedication and their commitment to environmental aims, but at base they value the planet over its human inhabitants, which leads them into authoritarian and illiberal territory. It’s attractive to some because it promises a short cut to solve the huge problems of climate change, or inequality. But it isn’t rooted in a reality that understands how people behave – emotionally or politically. Policy by wishful thinking or authoritarian dictat ultimately doesn’t work – and I fear that many of their policies haven’t been rigorously thought through . Ultimately though, my concerns with the Greens are that they simply aren’t liberal. Free choice isn’t an inconvenience – it’s a fundamental part of what it means to be human, yet for the Greens it’s treated almost as an add on.

So my conclusion is clear: while there may well be other parties with whom we can agree on particular policies, with whom we could cooperate in campaigns – for example for a yes vote in the EU referendum – there is no other party that is remotely Liberal in its basic philosophy, that shares our beliefs and values. So if Liberalism is worth fighting for, then logically the only course open to us is to rebuild the Liberal Democrats into a force than can fight for it effectively.

And in turn that means building a campaigning movement, not just a political machine. It means ensuring that all of our campaigns – to stay in the EU, to retain the Human Rights Act, to defend the pupil premium because it attacks inequality, to oppose the Tories undermining the welfare states and selling off housing association homes, to promote green energy instead of shale gas – must be underpinned with a positive message of belief in this country, in its citizens and their communities. Our policy must be not just about what we will do but whom we are.

This has always been the great cause of Liberalism, a creed which is now needed more than ever – an optimistic confidence in the capacity of ordinary people to make the most of their lives, fulfil their talents and realise their dreams, and the belief that it is the duty of government – active, ambitious, liberal government – to make this possible, to create the conditions in which people and their communities can flourish.

I want to lead a party that motivates people to care about great causes, not dull managerialism. To inspire the movement that has come about since May 8th.

I want to argue that inequality is wrong because every individual is equally precious, because inequality crushes the spirits of those at the bottom of the pile, because it creates a poorer society where the bonds between people count for less, because it is a stupid waste of talent, effort and resource. It is a brake on prosperity and work.

I want to campaign for a bold environmental policy, not just because I believe that climate change must be tackled, though I do, but because green energy and transport means cleaner air and water, because green products and green exports will be the ones that succeed in global markets, because, as David Attenborough put it, ‘the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.’

I want to persuade people to vote for the EU, not just because of jobs and trade, important though they are, but because the European Union is the most successful peace process in human history, because we do not resent our neighbours, we love them; because open societies allow the human experience to widen and the human spirit to flourish, because it is better to treat foreigners as sisters and brothers, not as people to be feared or scapegoated when things go wrong.

None of this will be easy, it will be a long hard slog, but I am confident that it’s possible. Remember, there was only seven years between David Steel taking over the Liberal leadership in 1976 after the devastation of the Thorpe scandal and the Alliance’s record-breaking vote in 1983. I don’t see why our recovery shouldn’t be much more swift than we fear, but it is not a given, we will have to earn it.

We’ve done it before, in the 1950s and ’60s, when the Liberals under Jo Grimond recovered from near oblivion to challenge the Tory-Labour stranglehold on power; in the 1970s, when we adopted the approach of community politics, building on our local roots, fighting alongside local campaigners to make life better in a myriad of little ways for individuals and their communities; and in the 1980s, when I was a proud foot soldier as Paddy Ashdown and colleagues rebuilt the Liberal Democrats from the ashes of merger to argue the case for a fairer, freer, greener Britain.

In each case we recovered because we knew that there was a cause worth fighting for: Liberalism. Liberalism is unique, it belongs to no other party. I am not about to allow the movement of Gladstone, Lloyd George and Grimond to die on my watch. Britain needs Liberals, it needs Liberal Democrats. Our cause must be fought for. I hope to lead that fightback.

Tim Farron – 2017 Speech at Liberal Democrat General Election Manifesto Launch

Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 17 May 2017.

A couple of weeks ago, in Kidlington near Oxford, I met a guy called Malcolm. I say met…he came up to me in the street and started shouting at me.

You might have seen it on the news. Or the internet.

In the end we actually got along. But he was angry with me for not getting behind Theresa May and backing Brexit. I think I calmed him down a bit when we spoke, but I don’t think I changed his mind.

And that’s fine. You see, when last year’s referendum took place I campaigned harder than anyone else to remain. I believed passionately that our children would have a brighter future if Britain remained in the European Union.

But we lost – and I accept that.

But that doesn’t mean I have changed what I believe.

I believe that our children will have a brighter future if we are inside the European Union. That they will be safer and better off. That our economy will be stronger and our country will have more influence in the world.

But just because I believe that doesn’t mean I think people who voted to leave are bad people. Of course they’re not. We just disagree.

You see, I grew up in Preston in Lancashire. And most of the people in Preston voted to leave. There are parts of Lancashire where two-thirds of people voted to leave.

Friends of mine did. Members of my family did. They don’t all admit that to my face, but I know they did.

Those people, they’re my people. I like them. They’re good people. Decent people.

And, as it happens, I liked Malcolm too. Once he stopped shouting at me.

But here’s the difference between me and Theresa May – I want Malcolm, and everyone in Preston, and every single one of you, to have your say over what comes next.

Nobody knows what Brexit will look like.

The choices Theresa May will make will affect your life and our country for decades – your job, your weekly shop, your environment, your safety, where you can travel to and where you can live.

And she’s already making choices that will affect those things, including the most profound choice she could make – taking Britain out of the Single Market.

That decision alone is a time bomb under our economy. And when it blows up it is going to take our NHS and our schools down with it.

It is going to wreck our children’s future for decades to come.

And it is a choice. Plain and simple. It wasn’t inevitable.

There was nothing on the ballot paper last June that said we were choosing to pull out of the Single Market. There are other countries that are outside the EU but inside the Single Market – just look at Norway or Switzerland.

There was nothing on the ballot paper that said that people and families from Europe who have made this country their home would be left in limbo, not knowing if they can stay in the country they raise their kids in.

And there was definitely nothing on the ballot paper that said we would turn our allies into enemies. Yet here we are, with our government making accusations of our neighbours and even threatening war with Spain.

The choices Theresa May makes – and the compromises she negotiates with bureaucrats in Brussels – will affect our children’s future for decades to come.

My children, your children, Malcolm’s grandchildren.

In June last year we voted for a departure, but we didn’t vote for a destination.

So I want you to have your choice over your future.

Someone is going to have the final say over the Brexit deal.

It could be the politicians or it could be the people.

I believe it should be the people.

You should have the final say on whether Theresa May’s Brexit deal is right for you and your family in a referendum.

And if you don’t like that deal, you should have the choice to remain in the European Union.

Giving you the choice over your future is exactly what our manifesto is about.

I want you to imagine a brighter future.

Imagine a future where our children can grow up in a country where people are decent to each other.

Where we have good schools and hospitals.

Where we take the challenge of climate change seriously.

Where give our teachers and nurses and soldiers the pay rise they deserve for the service they give our country.

Where we have an open, innovative economy.

Where we treat the poorest and the most vulnerable with compassion.

Where we don’t turn our back on desperate refugees.

That’s the Britain I love. That’s the Britain I want to lead.

But that’s not the future Theresa May is offering you. If you want to know the most revealing thing that has been said during this election, look at Nigel Farage’s Twitter.

He wrote: “Theresa May is using the exact words and phrases I’ve been using for twenty years.”

Think about that for a minute. The ‘exact words and phrases’.

The Prime Minister of our great country saying the same things that Nigel Farage has been saying for twenty years.

And not just the words and phrases. The policies too, that’s what UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn said this week.

Brexit never did just mean Brexit. For Nigel Farage, Brexit was always part of a package, a world view.

It’s a world view that includes shunning climate change…

…that includes shrinking the state by starving our schools and our NHS of the funding they need.

…that includes turning our backs on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, as Theresa May did when she shamefully closed the door to desperate child refugees.

That’s Nigel Farage’s world view. The same one that leads to Donald Trump banning Muslims and building a wall. The same one that Marine Le Pen tried to impose on the decent people of France.

Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain is now Theresa May’s. He has taken over the Conservative Party.

Anti-Europe. Anti-refugees. Slashing funding to schools and hospitals.

No wonder UKIP is standing down candidates and backing the Tories.

After all, who needs UKIP if the Government is doing what they want anyway.

Somebody has to stand up to them. Someone has to fight for the decent, compassionate Britain we love.

But it won’t be Jeremy Corbyn.

On the biggest issue facing us all in a generation, when all this is at stake, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour hasn’t shown up.

Jeremy Corbyn even ordered his MPs and Peers to vote with the Tories and UKIP.

Not against them. With them.

Before the vote on Article 50, he said he would order his party to vote in favour even if the Government made no concessions to them whatsoever.

So, surprise surprise, they didn’t.

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have to do that. He could have voted with us to stay in the Single Market, or to give European citizens living here the right to stay. He chose not to.

Jeremy Corbyn has always been pro-Brexit – he campaigned against Europe for years – so we shouldn’t be surprised. But we should be disappointed.

Labour are supposed to be the opposition, but they haven’t opposed anything.

They are supposed to stand up for working people, but they haven’t stood up for anyone.

They are supposed to care about our children’s future, but they are letting the Conservatives wreck it.

They have lost the right to call themselves the opposition.

Labour has lost its purpose but we have found ours.

The brighter future we want for all our children is at stake. Our economy is at stake. Our schools and hospitals are at stake.

This is about the future of the open, tolerant, united country we love.

I am here tonight to tell you that we won’t roll over.

A few weeks ago in France, the two parties that had run the country for decades came third and fifth in the election.

Third and fifth.

The decent people of France decided that they did not want to just simply accept one of the two tired old parties. So they rejected them.

And when the two old parties had been eliminated, the decent people of France faced a stark choice: a liberal, pro-European candidate who believes in an open, tolerant and united France, and the leader of the National Front.

Hope versus fear. A brighter future versus a cold, mean-spirited one.

Nigel Farage pinned his colours to the mast. Just like when he backed Donald Trump in America, he backed the candidate who represented his world view – anti-Europe, anti-refugees.

He backed the National Front.

Well, the decent people of France chose hope over fear. And the National Front lost.

Don’t let anyone tell you the only choice you have in this election is between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

This election is about your choice and your future.

You can choose a brighter future where our children grow up in a country where people are decent to each other…

…where we have good schools and hospitals so that our children have a fair chance in life and our elderly are treated with dignity…

…where we have a clean environment and an innovative economy.

The more Liberal Democrat MPs you elect, the better the deal we will get on Europe.

The more Liberal Democrat MPs you elect, the more jobs and more money for the NHS and schools.

The more Liberal Democrat MPs you elect, the brighter the future for our children.

Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s cold, mean-spirited Britain is not the Britain I love.

The Britain I love is generous and compassionate.

The Britain I love is one where we are decent to each other.

The Britain I love is open, tolerant and united.

If that is the Britain you love too then this is the moment to stand up.

This is your chance to change Britain’s future.

I am here tonight because when my children are my age I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them honestly that when the moment came to stand up for their future, I stood up.

I am determined that our children will grow up in a country where people are decent to each other.

I am here tonight because the Britain I love is not lost yet.

That’s the country I want to lead.

Tim Farron – 2017 Statement on Westminster Terror Attack

Below is the text of the statement made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 23 March 2017.

I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and for early sight of it. I also thank her for her words from the steps of 10 Downing Street last night, which were both ​unifying and defiant, and in which she really did speak for us all. We always know that the police keep us safe, but yesterday, in the most shocking of ways, we saw how true that really is.

In my prayers are Keith Palmer, his family and all the victims of yesterday’s outrage, and they will continue to be there. I am, and we are, beyond thankful to the police, the NHS, the emergency services and the staff of this House for keeping us safe and being so utterly dedicated to their roles. Those who attack us hate our freedom, our peaceful democracy, our love of country, our tolerance, our openness and our unity. As we work to unravel how this unspeakable attack happened, will the Prime Minister agree with me that we must not, either in our laws or by our actions, curtail these values? Indeed, we should have more of them.

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference


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.


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.

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech on the Chilcot Inquiry


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in the House of Commons on 6 July 2016.

Today, we stand alongside the families of the 179 British servicemen and women and 24 British civilians who died in the Iraq war. We also stand beside the many more who continue to live with injuries sustained while serving their country in Iraq. We are proud of them and we honour them.

The Chilcot report makes clear the absolute determination of the former Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair to pursue war in Iraq, no matter what the evidence. There is a stark contrast between that single-minded determination to go to war and the reckless and complete absence of any plan for what would come next. What came next was 179 British servicemen and women killed, as well as 100,000, or more, Iraqi civilians. What came next was the fuelling of what is now ISIS-Daesh, which threatens not only Iraq but the middle east and the safety of us all.

In 2003, the much missed Charles Kennedy said in this House:

“The big fear that many of us have is that the action will simply breed further generations of suicide bombers.”—[Official Report, 18 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 786.]

Will the Prime Minister now take the opportunity on behalf of his party and this House to acknowledge that Charles Kennedy was right all along in leading opposition across the country to a counterproductive war? Should not those who accused Charles Kennedy of appeasement—some of whom are still on these Benches—apologise to him, his family, our servicemen and women, our country, and the people of Iraq?

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech on the EU


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 6 June 2016.

Thank you all for being here. And thank you David Cameron, Harriet Harman and Natalie Bennett for what I think you’ll agree is an unprecedented – and, frankly, pretty unlikely – showing of cross-party consensus.

We are about to face the most important decision of a generation, and one that that will determine the future of our country.

And the fact we’re all here today shows how important we all feel this is. I know, in Europe, Britain can thrive. Together we will be a stronger and more prosperous nation, creating opportunity for future generations, respected all over the world.

I believe in the positive case for Europe. But I cannot stand back and allow the leave campaign to guide us towards economic ruin, because of a campaign based on lies.

How betrayed will people feel if they vote to leave Europe based on the reasons presented by the Leave Campaign, only to see in the weeks, months and years that follow that those reasons were utter, invented rubbish?

You won’t find me saying this about the Prime Minister very often, but what he has just said is absolutely right.

It’s not just that the Brexit camp won’t say what sort of deal we’ll get – and what rules we’ll have to play by – it’s that they will literally say anything and everything.

The list of countries they have claimed we can emulate – Norway, Switzerland, Albania, Iceland, Turkey, Ukraine and all the others… A reminder of how absurd the Leave campaign has become, and that I really need to crack on with my Euro 2016 Panini sticker album.

But seriously, nowhere is Leave campaign’s con-trick more pronounced than when it comes to public spending.

Their big red bus says you can save £350m a week, and then spend it all on the NHS. A complete con. And they’re still driving it round despite the figure being rubbished by every economist under the sun.

And it’s not just the NHS this made-up, magic money is spent on. This dossier shows they have made two dozen different spending commitments.

Want more money for schools? You got it. Roads, railways, houses. Yep. Do you want to pay junior doctors more, increase welfare spending and slash the deficit all in one go? Of course you do.

You can even have more submarines if that is your thing.

How about abolishing prescription charges? Cutting your council tax by more than half? Slashing VAT – and your energy bills too while they’re at it.

They have even said they’d spend millions and millions filling in Britain’s potholes.

All of which sounds very tempting, especially that last one – filling in potholes is a cause very close to every Liberal Democrat’s heart.

But, if you add all these things up, it would cost £113bn.

One hundred and thirteen BILLION pounds.

Another clear as day example of one of their cons was just this week. On Saturday, they said by 2020, we can give the NHS a £100 million per week cash injection. On Sunday, they said we wouldn’t leave the EU until after 2020.

So where would this magic money come from?

They are literally making it up as they go along, trying to con the British public along the way.

And that’s not the end of it. Every major financial institution – from the Treasury and the Bank of England to the IMF, the OECD and the World Bank – not to mention just about every credible economist in the country, thinks leaving Europe will hurt Britain’s economy.

A few days ago the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that it would leave us up to £40 billion short in the public finances by 2020 – and that’s before all that extra magic spending.

It is a black hole at the heart of their spending plans of more than £150bn.

So they’ve got to come clean to the British public. Will they now disown these commitments and admit this is fantasy economics? That these are lies? That they add up to one, big massive con-trick?

That’s why the four of us are here together today.

There’s not much we all agree on, but we agree on this:

It’s time for the Leave campaign to come clean about what will really happen if we leave the European Union.

It’s time for answers.

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech on the EU


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 11 May 2016.

So much of the debate around Europe has been about financial projections, trading complex cost benefit analyses about what will happen if we stay or leave. And fascinating though that all is, my hunch is that it might not, on its own, clinch the right result.

Because there is much more to this Referendum than the economy, crucial though that is.

It is also about more fundamental questions such as: what sort of country will my children be living in when they grow, what sort of country will their children live in?

What is the international legacy we want to leave to the coming generations?

We should be clear with ourselves. This decision is not so much about the here and now, but about the impact on our children and our children’s children.

It is about the character of our country. For instance, do you see Britain as a country that stands apart from others, glowering across the White Cliffs of Dover in bad-tempered isolation? Or do you see Britain as an outward-looking country that works with its neighbours to build a more prosperous and secure world?

Do you see Britain as a country that should resist any changes to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century? Or do you see Britain as an adaptable country that can thrive, innovate and lead in an open, global economy?

Do you think the only way we can protect our security against distant threats is by standing alone? Or can we make ourselves safer by sharing our response with those countries who are our friends, who share our values and who also face those threats?

I’m a natural optimist: Liberals are natural optimists. Last Thursday, as the biggest gainers in the local elections, my optimism was vindicated.

As a movement, we want to look forward, not back. We are in the future business.

A few weeks back I spoke to a 97 year old chap back home in the lakes. I asked him if he was voting in or out. He looked at me and said very matter-of-factly ‘well, either way, it’s not going to affect me for long’, which was a bit grim. And whilst I was trying work out how to respond he chipped in ‘but I’ve got grandchildren and great grandchildren, so I’ll be voting to stay’.

He didn’t expand. He didn’t need to.

Not everyone gets it though. Yesterday, Roger Daltrey came out for Brexit. He had his reasons, I’m not going to slag him off. In the 60s he led the youthful mod revolution. He’s 72, a slip of a lad compared to my constituent. But Roger, we’re not talking about your generation. We’re not talking about mine either. The referendum is about the generations to come.

So let me be really blunt. You may be grumpy about Brussels. But I suggest that you have no right to prejudice the future of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Liberal Democrats fought harder than anyone to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in this referendum. The government blocked us and let those young people down. But this vote is still more about them than it is about people of my age and above.

Of course, if you want, you can cast your vote in a self-regarding way. But I want to challenge you, before you vote, to think of those people that your vote will actually affect the most – Britain’s next generation.

Have you the right to limit, bind and impoverish their futures? To narrow their horizons, curtail their freedoms, hamper their ambitions and isolate the country that they will inherit?

Some may regret that Britain is no longer the imperial power it was generations ago, sovereign over India and much of Africa., But those same individuals often fail to recognise that our own sovereignty in a complex world is a much more complex thing – shared and limited whether in Europe or out of it.

And let’s face it. The past wasn’t all that glorious, after all: it involved massive defence spending, national service, a succession of colonial conflicts in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and Borneo and – let’s be honest – the empire didn’t do that much for the sovereignty of those countries that we occupied…

But it’s Britain future that this Referendum is about, not its past – glorious or inglorious.

We shouldn’t allow the Referendum to become a collective exorcism of our Brussels demons at the expense of a rational consideration of what is in the long-term best interest of our country and our people – and what role we want to play in the world.

I don’t want Britain to become an offshore financial centre, hoping like a Switzerland or a Panama, helping the global rich hide their wealth from tax authorities in other countries. I don’t want Britain to lose the rest of its manufacturing capabilities, which is what would happen if we go for the unilateral free trade approach that Brexit economists have suggested as an alternative to the European single market.

I don’t want us to become a society riven with nationalism, viewing foreigners as hostile and dangerous, closing its frontiers to outsiders– a second incarnation of King Zog’s Albania or a partner to Putin’s Russia.

I want us to recognise the future benefits of close relations with our neighbours and natural partners, how investing in each other’s economies and sharing in prosperity can make Britain even greater than it is now.

People talk about Europe being very good for business. The single market, no tariffs, free movement of labour. And they are right, but you know what? Even more than that, the thing that business and economies need more than anything else to prosper is…peace.

Today we sit around the table with people that seventy years ago we were at war with. We sit around the table with people that, twenty-five years ago, had nuclear weapons on their soil pointed at us. Europe is the world’s most successful peace process.

Our generations have enjoyed that peace, how dare we recklessly risk that peace for the generations to come?

I want my children to grow up in a society that shares security, shares political values and shares social standards with our European neighbours, rather than risking a return to mutual hostility.

Now, these are just a few of the vital arguments that need to be made by those of us who consider ourselves progressives.

David Cameron’s approach seems to be to point at the door to exit and say ‘there be dragons’, to emphasise the danger. Now, there is of course much to fear from the isolation that exit would bring, but I say that the progressive case for Britain in Europe is the positive case for Britain in Europe. One the focuses on hope not fear, on opportunities not threats. A case that is uplifting, inspiring, and – crucially – patriotic.

This is a decision too big for tribal loyalties. Progressives need to come together – and be seen to come together – to build a progressive political alliance. Because this is a choice between liberals and progressives on one side – and on the other, nationalists, who suspect foreigners of conspiring all the time to do Britain down.

This is not about loving everything that comes out of Brussels. It is about recognising that there is a vision of co-operation, collaboration and mutual support which Britain can play leading part in.

Look at the other side – Farage, Johnson and Goldsmith – the most conservative forces in British politics have already made their agenda clear. “These ‘Go’ rallies are one lurid blazer away from John Redwood’s fantasy cabinet.”

They are English nationalists who want to reduce workers’ rights, reduce environmental protections and reduce financial regulations on the banks.

Lord Lawson, the former Tory Chancellor, is just one of several Brexiteers who have argued that a vote to leave would free Britain to return to a full-blooded, hard-right Thatcherite agenda.

Those of us who share a positive vision of a community of nations working together to tackle the immense challenges we face must come together. Those of us who claim the mantle of progressive politics have to champion the positive reasons for being in Europe. It is not enough to point out the calamity that Brexit will be.

That is why I call on the leaders of all the progressive parties in British politics to join me on platforms such as this, going round the country making that case.

Because fighting a positive campaign is the right thing to do.

Last week saw the culmination of a despicable campaign for London Mayor by Zac Goldsmith, and saw the election of Sadiq Kahn, to whom I offer my warmest congratulations.

But it also saw the emergence of a new and credible progressive voice for Londoners: Caroline Pidgeon.

Her campaign buzzed with energy and creativity. Above all else, it was decent, positive and Liberal. Caroline’s campaign has enhanced her standing, it has enhanced the Liberal Democrats and it has enhanced London.

But there is one thing on which I can agree with the Leave campaign:

This is a once-in-a-generation decision.

That’s why it’s so important that young people register to vote before the 7 June.

We can choose isolation, only to leave our children trailing around after our European partners, haggling pathetically for the chance to get back into their markets, watching them implement the rules they tell us we have to adopt but without any influence.

Or we can choose to remain, playing an active part in shaping the future of the European Union.

And here’s the thing that frustrates me the most. We are one of the EU’s largest and richest countries. Why are we not leading from the front in Europe? For decades we haven’t been in the driving seat. We haven’t been in the passenger seat. We haven’t even been in the back seat. We have been rattling around in the boot with the spare tyre.

But that’s been our choice, the choice of the British establishment, our stupid fault. Let this be the moment when we choose to use Europe to boost our power, boost our independence, boost our influence.

We have a wealth of talent and creative energy in our tech entrepreneurs that can help shape the digital economy across Europe and that can help us tackle the delicate balance between open access and individual privacy.

Take our creative industries, often driven by young people for the benefit of young people. One of the great British success stories and the fastest growing sector of our economy.

The British music industry alone contributes £3.8 billion to the UK economy – over half of this comes from exports, and it is Europe that is its second-largest market.

The EU and its member governments have led global negotiations on containing climate change – magnifying Britain’s influence through working with like-minded European partners.

It’s only by working with our fellow European democracies that we will tackle the hiding of money around the world by the global rich revealed in the Panama Papers.

More importantly, it is only by working with our European partners that we will tackle the kind of corporate tax evasion that is too dull to make the news but which has the most significant impact on revenue. Companies that use our infrastructure and resources, yet fail to pay their fair share.

Their workforces are educated in our schools and treated in our hospitals. They use our roads and our railways. What an outrage that the likes of Amazon and Google who benefit from the investment of our tax payers, choose to sponge off those tax payers. Taxation is not a penalty. It is the subscription charge you pay for living in a civilised society. It is time that those corporations joined the civilised world. Remaining in Europe gives us a better chance of keeping those companies civilised, making them honest, collecting their taxes.

And as we look forward, the Leave camp still can’t answer basic questions about what will happen if we do vote for exit.

If we vote to leave, we will face years of uncertainty while our government negotiates different arrangements with individual governments: hitting UK employment and investment – and therefore jobs.

In a global economy in which networked services operate across national boundaries, and cars, aircraft and smart-phones are assembled out of parts designed and assembled in different countries, we will be a bit-player, on the edge of the world’s largest single market – which is the EU.

And as the Prime Minister said on Monday, we shouldn’t take the peaceful and open world we have benefitted from over the past 20 years for granted, either.

Putin’s Russia is economically weak but militarily powerful and relies for its legitimacy on stoking anti-Western nationalism. So let’s not stoke our own anti-European nationalism. We’re best off working with our partners in the EU and NATO – two closely-linked organisations, as President Obama has reminded us – to contain the threat.

Rapid population growth, economic weakness and political disorder across much of Africa and the Middle East are pushing waves of migrants cross the Mediterranean.

There’s no way any European country can manage this long-term challenge on its own.

The Leave campaign have conjured up the idea that the greatest threat to Britain’s future comes from Europe itself: that Brussels is a new Roman Empire, aiming to reduce Britain to colonial status. That’s absurd and the politics of the conspiracy theorist.

And as for Trump in the latest Leave.EU video… Could anything set the bar for credible celebrity endorsement any lower?

Our neighbours are also democratic states, with open societies and vigorous political debates. These societies share our values; they share our recent memory; if you want to know why they say to us ‘stay’ it is because they share the same experience of total war that we did. They’re like us, warts and all.

Our British Identity

We should celebrate our diversity and the fact that Britain’s character and identity has been shaped by successive waves of immigration from the continent: Saxons, Danes, Normans, then later French Huguenots, Russian Jews, and in the turmoil of two world wars German and Austrian Jews, displaced Poles and Ukrainians, Italian prisoners-of-war who stayed here to work.

The British Establishment is as diverse as the rest of us. Winston Churchill’s mother was American. Boris Johnson’s grandmother was Turkish. Zac Goldsmith has a French grandmother. Nigel Farage has a German wife.

Michael Gove has a romantic fantasy of Britain as naturally free and perfectly democratic, facing a continent that is naturally authoritarian: he’s even described the EU as ‘Soviet’.

What an insult to those now free countries, once our enemies, now our friends within the EU who could tell Michael Gove all about life under soviet imperialism. The EU is the antithesis to that authoritarianism. They should know – they were liberated from it and chose instead to belong to an international club that has freedom and liberalism at its heart.

Of course the EU is far from perfect; but then Westminster and Whitehall are far from perfect – for example, Michael, thanks to you, the Department for Education is now a basket-case. It doesn’t mean that I want to leave Britain.

Even though of course Britain isn’t a spotless miracle of democracy either. As police investigations into the Conservatives’ election expenses show.

Liberal Democrats are as frustrated at the obstacles to political reform in Westminster as in Brussels. But that doesn’t mean we want to blow the Palace of Westminster up, any more than we want to take our bat home from Brussels.

The Leave campaign has vigorously dismissed the long succession of English-speaking heads of government, the Australian and Canadian prime ministers, the US President, who have told them they are wrong. These are the leaders of the countries Boris Johnson and Michael Gove think we should be moving closer to, in an imagined ‘Anglo-sphere’ of special relationships. But the reality is that the people they want to work with think they are fools – and they certainly believe that to leave is the most foolish course of action.

Since they see European governments in the EU as hostile to Britain, and find American and Commonwealth leaders urging us to remain an EU member, they might like to adopt the old Millwall chant as their theme song: ‘Nobody likes us, and we don’t care’.

I care about the future of this country, and I’m sure that future will be more secure and more prosperous if we continue to work together with the Dutch and Danes, French and Spanish, Germans and Italians.

The EU is not a monster directed against Britain by a secret conspiracy in Brussels. It’s a grouping of friendly democratic governments, struggling to master the many challenges we all face.

The unavoidable compromises among 28 governments, with different pressures from their domestic publics, don’t always reach the perfect answer that some in Britain demand.

But life isn’t perfect, and politics is about compromise; and political negotiation among democratic governments across Europe is far better than what our grandparents suffered in war, or the numbing fear and anxiety of those of us who grew up through the cold war.

So in this referendum, my challenge to voters of my age or older, is to use your vote in the interests of those that your vote will affect the most. Your children and grandchildren. And my challenge to younger voters is that you should leave no-one in any doubt that the Britain you will inherit must be outward looking, positive, ambitious – not isolated, limited and negative.

I want my children to grow up in a confident Britain that pursues prosperity and peace in cooperation with our neighbours, countries that are also our cousins; not a sullen country cut off from the continent. Britain is a European country; we share democratic and liberal values.

We share Europe’s history.

We share Europe’s future.

That’s why I vote to remain.

Tim Farron – 2016 Speech to Commons on Queen’s 90th Birthday


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in the House of Commons on 21 April 2016.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak, especially as I managed to make it into the Chamber only when the Prime Minister was concluding his remarks—my apologies to him. On this occasion I am convinced that, not having heard one of his remarks, I would have agreed with them all.

It is a massive honour to give praise and to acknowledge the service of Her Majesty on her 90th birthday. Unlike many people in this place, I have spoken to Her Majesty on only a limited number of occasions. It was on one occasion really, as a very new Member of Parliament. She was asking me how I was getting on as a new MP and how I was coping with the correspondence. I did confide that, on occasions, people would come up to me in the street and say thank you, or acknowledge a letter that I had written to them, and I would sometimes just go blank. I am sure that colleagues share that sensation and think, “Right, what are they talking about? I can’t quite remember the detail.” Her Majesty said, “Yes, that happens to me all the time. I always say that it is the least I could do”. Perhaps we should all cling on to that as a good get-out-of-jail card.

Her Majesty has had occasion to visit formally my part of the world—Westmorland—on two occasions in her reign. The first was in 1956, which was 14 years before I was born. It was the year of the Suez crisis; the year of the Clean Air Act; and the year that the United Kingdom turned on its first nuclear power station. The second occasion was three years ago, when I was privileged to meet her in Kendal as the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale. In the 57 years between those two visits, and indeed since she assumed the throne, so much has changed for all of us. Much, much more has changed for Britain and the world in which we live. The Elizabethan age will be reviewed by history as a vast, transformational and tumultuous era, during which our Queen has provided immeasurable constancy, which will be looked back on as the thread that runs through all of it, and that has made change possible without the uncertainty and instability that could have come about otherwise.

In Her Majesty’s time, Governments have indeed come and gone. She has seen them lead Britain into the European Common Market, and then seen her people vote to remain—that was when I was five years of age. She has seen Britain lead the world by becoming the first G7 country to commit 0.7% of GDP to international development aid. She has seen Britain become a world leader in renewable energy and make great strides in tackling climate change. She has seen technological advances race ahead from when a telegram or a radio programme was a thing of great excitement to the prevalence of satellite television, the iPhone, letters being supplanted by email and playground conversations by tweets and Facebook status updates.

Through all those years of change and upheaval, Her Majesty’s selfless service to Britain has remained a constant. She is admired at home and around the world for her constant and consistent advocacy of Britain at its best. I am bound to say—others have reflected on this—that she embodies the value of a constitutional monarchy. She is a neutral person who is above politics and who is the foundation of our constitution. She is someone to whom all of us, whatever our political views, can look, and with whom we can share an allegiance. That is an immeasurably valuable thing.

Even as we contemplate the monumental things that have occurred during Her Majesty’s reign, it is worth remembering that birthdays are very personal occasions. They are opportunities to celebrate the lives we lead and give thanks with friends and families. Hers has been an extraordinary life and she is an extraordinary example to all of us in public life of the meaning of public service. As we and others pay tribute to her example, I hope that she, who has so many friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a loving husband, experiences the same joy and pleasure that we all do when we get together to celebrate with those whom we love. On this wonderful and historic day, on behalf of my party and my constituents in Westmorland and Lonsdale, I pay tribute to Her Majesty, to her dedication, to a lifetime of public service and to her faith, and wish her a very happy birthday and many more to come. I thank God for her service. Long live the Queen.

Tim Farron – 2016 Opening Speech to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Farron, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat, at the party’s spring conference on 12 March 2016.

When you’re sat in the front row, it’s impossible to miss your cue to get on stage.

But for those of you who were at conference in the autumn, you may have noticed I was a little late to the stage.

I was sitting very happily having a cup of tea in the green room, completely oblivious to what was happening

I didn’t think I was due on for at least 5 more minutes.

So, in my own good time, I wandered on stage, reasonably calm and collected, unaware that panic had set in.

People were dashing around backstage trying desperately to find me.

One member of my team, frantically rushed into the toilets thinking I was stuck inside and broke down a door.

So, not only do I have to apologise to the Bournemouth Arena for the broken door but also to the poor person who was actually sat on the toilet at the time.

Thank you so much to Lauren and all the amazing people who’ve spoken tonight.

With talent and energy like that we know that our future is very bright.

I met Lauren when I went to campaign in her council by-election.

She knew everyone and everything about that community.

I was massively impressed. I said, “Lauren how long have you lived here?”

“18 years she said”. I thought for a second. “How old are you Lauren?” … 18.

Well for Lauren, and anyone here who wants to, I hope that each one of our new members tonight has the best opportunity to become a member of parliament.

And I’m not going to be neutral about this. I am crystal clear that we can make a difference and make that happen by supporting Sunday’s diversity motion, and creating a better chance of getting them there.

I don’t believe in laissez faire economics because it doesn’t create fairness. Surely now we understand that laissez faire doesn’t create fairness when it comes to diversity.

And that’s one of the reasons we’re all here in York, and why we come to conference.

To debate our polices;

debating diversity;

debating cannabis when no other party has the confidence to do so;

and debating the intrusive way the Government wants to gather our most personal data.

Together we are shaping the fightback…

one member one vote, opening our doors and opening our debate to every member, shaping this movement, building our distinctive, radical, Liberal agenda that can transform Britain from the grassroots up.

And there are millions of liberals in this country. Our mission is to turn them into Liberal Democrat members.

As we heard from Saleyha, she joined because she believes in what we believe in.

Of course, Saleyha joined – crucially – because someone asked her.

So, I’m sure you have seen there are two membership forms on every seat.

My challenge to you is to recruit two new members each before the end of this month.

And together we will be part of a growing, exciting team that will make a difference in May, and secure the result we all want in the referendum.

So, the EU referendum. If like me, you were born after 1957, this is the first time you will get to vote on our future in Europe.

This is likely to be the biggest vote you will ever cast.

So it’s important we weigh up all the arguments. And in that spirit you’ll see that there is a stall here for the Leave campaign.

And they are here for 2 reasons.

One, we are lovely liberals who like a debate.

Two, they are giving us cash.

Cash, ladies and gentlemen, we will spending on a campaign, to beat them.

So, this is the biggest campaign you will ever fight.

The biggest stakes, the most to gain, the most to lose.

So the campaign has begun.

Lots of noise and it’s only going to get louder.

People in the UK are waiting for a clear honest case.

Over these last few weeks as I’ve been knocking on doors, more and more people are mentioning Europe.

And most of them, don’t want to tell me their views, they want to know mine.

Now obviously, they’ve come to the right person – trust me, I’m a politician.

So let’s be honest about where we stand.

We believe that Britain is stronger in Europe.

And this vote is so much more important than the tedious internal Tory party soap opera that’s playing out in the news every day,

And more important, indeed, than what the Queen really thinks… about Michael Gove.

I, of course, would not dream of speculating as to Her Majesty’s views on Europe.

All I will say is that she is a shining example… a shining example of European integration and harmony – of how a Greek family and a German family can be united in peace and happiness for 70 years.

Aside from the soap opera, people really want to know the substance.

They want to know what it will mean for their family, for their business, their job, their children’s future, our safety.

So here goes:

200,000 British companies currently export goods to Europe.

Yes we pay in, but the CBI says Britain’s access to the European single market is worth 78 billion pounds.

The car industry, reliant on European trade, employs 700,000 people.

The single market gives us access to 500 million consumers.

British families benefit from cheaper goods and services – everything from phone tariffs to flights – are cheaper because of European cooperation.

So you can fly on holiday for less, and then when you get there post really tedious selfies from the beach at a fraction of the cost.

Thousands of criminals are no longer on our streets because our police can share information.

And hundreds of criminals have been brought back to justice here in Britain.

And British workers have better annual leave, they have better protections from harassment at work, and better maternity leave.

Strength in numbers, clear benefits, common sense.

So there is an enormous net financial, economic and business benefit of being Europe.

That doesn’t stop those who want to exit, constantly talking of the cost of being in Europe.

But I look around our continent, at the scars of the last hundred years, and I see a far more painful cost of a dis-united Europe.

People have different reasons for their stance on Europe.

Business interests, the opportunities for their children, or maybe they just saw an opportunity to gain a bit more attention in their bid to become the next Tory leader.

But for me, one thing stands out above all else.

Countries who once had warheads pointing at each other, today work together in peace.

I don’t remember the last war.

But I remember the cold war.

There’s an odd, stone building in the woods near our village, and I always joke with the kids that it’s the entrance to a nuclear bomb shelter, that there are four men from Kendal still down there, fighting over the last potnoodle thinking the bomb dropped three decades ago.

When I was a teenager, I remember coming down Fishergate Hill in Preston on a Sunday morning.

I did a double take because the old laundrette had changed hands, instead it had become a showroom for nuclear fallout shelters.

I was 14, and I thought: One, nuclear fallout shelters cost a lot of money,

Two, nobody I knew in Preston had any money, Three, here was a shop apparently successfully selling these things anyway,

Four, ergo, the end of the world was imminent.

And that threat might seem laughable now.

But it wasn’t then.

It was 1984, we lived in a divided Europe, we lived in the shadow of the bomb.

Now, as it happens, I drove down Fishergate Hill with my dad a couple of weeks ago and its gone back to being a laundrette.

Over those years, Paranoia and aggression has given way to cooperation and hope.

After decades of brutal conflict, European nations came together.

Countries behind the iron curtain are our allies.

The Warsaw Pact gave way to a unified Europe.

Those who wish to turn their backs on Europe, turn their backs on history.

When we face a dangerous world, I want to stand with my neighbours.

I thank God that today, that our leaders sit around a table with leaders of countries who a generation ago had nuclear weapons on their soil pointed right here.

If that was the only reason to remain, it would be good enough for me.

So, our arguments are powerful, the cause is crucial but the campaign is not going to be easy.

But we will make it even more difficult if we refuse to accept that things aren’t perfect.

Just as we know that Westminster is not perfect. So Europe is not perfect.

Just as we want to change Westminster, we should also want to change the European Union.

And you don’t affect change by storming off in a huff.

As any kid who’s picked up the ball in a sulk and stalked off home will tell you, that’s not the way you make friends.

And it’s definitely not the way to win the match.

Before we can convince the British people that Europe offers a great future for Britain, we should recognise that too often the Union appears out of touch and out of reach.

It needs further renewal and reform to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

By leading, and not leaving, we can maximise our influence to drive renewal and reform of the EU.

This is Britain’s time to lead the way.

Let’s reduce the moments where it has become too burdensome, bureaucratic and bloated, but let’s drive forward the things it does so well, to create opportunity, drive prosperity and open our eyes to the world.

Let’s complete the single market, and drive forward the digital economy.

Let’s give small business much greater representation in Brussels.

And let’s spearhead green growth and sustainability.

Some of the rhetoric in the campaign recently has been unpleasant to put it mildly

Iain Duncan-Smith has said we’d be at greater risk of Paris style terror attacks if we remain, and people on both sides have tried to scare monger about borders, refugees and migrants.

Using desperate people fleeing war and terror, as pawns to score points, is appalling and it is weak.

This campaign needs the opposite.

This campaign needs strength and compassion.

If the leave campaign wish to play nasty, we can’t really affect that.

The same forces who used images of babies in incubators to campaign in the AV referendum can’t wait for a race to the bottom on immigration, migration and refugees.

But Liberal Democrats, I will not stand for it.

There are many people on the leave side who are complaining about something they call ‘project fear’.

Now, as you know, I believe that being in Europe is better for Britain, and I know I can run a campaign that is positive, that is hopeful, optimistic and praises the benefits of our membership.

But, I can’t ignore the fact, that the prospect of leaving scares me.

It’s quite sensible to be afraid of something that is dangerous.

But to use fear of the other, to demonise those who are different to you, that is disgraceful and we will call it out whenever we see it.

And to make matters worse, all this anti-European nationalism is charting the way for Neil Hamilton’s political comeback.

The Hamiltons!

Neil Hamilton is now the top of the list for UKIP in Wales.

What on earth has Wales done to deserve that?

And not only is Neil Hamilton on the list. Mark Reckless, the poor-man’s Douglas Carswell, is also looking to Wales for his comeback.

Two Englishmen who took democracy for granted, assuming that Wales will accept what England has rejected.

Another reason why Kirsty Williams’ leadership is so vital in giving Wales positive politics against the rise of nasty isolationism.

So… the referendum, do you remember AV? That went well.

Do you remember, at the time, there was a newly elected left wing Labour leader who wouldn’t put his back into the campaign?

Sound familiar? History seems to be repeating itself.

Jeremy Corbyn, please do not let your own internal party chaos get in the way of winning this campaign.

I know you may have wanted to leave in the past, but we treat your conversion as genuine and so I ask you to show the zeal of the convert and get on board.

If ever there was a time you needed to show your party, and the country, that you can lead, now is that time.

Shall we cross party lines, put our party interests aside for the good of our country?

Because if you won’t, I’ll make a direct appeal to those Labour party members now.

The Liberal Democrats are a united force.

We are Britain’s internationalist party.

We believe in international cooperation, that Britain stands tall in the world because we stand tall in Europe, that British business is more successful, that our streets are safer, and we are better equipped for those challenges that don’t stop at borders.

If your party leadership remains blinkered to the risk, then your party is sleepwalking to the exit.

So, come with us, share a platform, and let’s make the positive, unified case that we all believe in.

In together, let’s make Britain’s future better, by making Britain’s future one that is in Europe.

Recently, Nicola Sturgeon gave a big speech, on why we should remain in Europe.

It was a strong pro-European speech. She made this important speech in London, which is not in Scotland.

Perhaps she didn’t want the Scottish people to hear it.

She called for a positive case to be made for Britain to stay in Europe…

And then focussed her entire attention on threatening the rest of the UK with a leave campaign of her own.

In fact Nicola has spent the last month talking about what’s going to happen if we lose the referendum, rather than working with others to try and win it.

We know that the EU referendum is just another opportunity for nationalists to pursue their single minded, destructive goal of separation at all costs.

They are lining up to tell us that a vote to leave would inevitably lead to a second referendum on independence for Scotland.

That will not help persuade a single wavering voter.

What Nicola Sturgeon is doing is blowing a dog whistle giving permission to separatists to vote to leave the EU so that Scotland can then leave the UK.

The EU referendum is too important to be treated as an excuse to hark back to the independence debate.

When we look to Scotland we should remember how the referendum there was won.

Charles Kennedy, Michael Moore, Jo Swinson, Willie Rennie – they were out on the streets with campaigners from all parties and none. Making the positive, liberal case.

They shunned the aggression and nastiness of the online battles, and offered hands of friendship and cooperation.

I am a patriot, and patriots love their country. Nationalists hate their neighbours.

We will campaign as patriots, as liberals, we will campaign together.

In Britain we have a menu of parties in this debate:

Those that are resolutely anti Europe – UKIP

Those split down the middle – Tories and Greens

Those who are half hearted with ulterior motives – the nationalists

Or the half-hearted and just a bit rubbish – Labour.

And then there’s the party, the only party, passionate about a reforming Britain, in a reforming Europe.

A prosperous Britain in a prosperous Europe, a green Britain in a green Europe, a secure Britain in a secure Europe.

There are millions of people in Britain who know that this is the biggest choice for our country in their lifetimes, and that just as Britain is stronger together with others, so are we as individuals stronger when we join those of like mind to achieve what is right.

The Liberal Democrats offer you the chance to work with those who think like you about our future in Europe.

We need you, you need us – join us today, join the party that is united in the shared belief that Britain’s position in Europe is vital to the country’s future security and prosperity.

And this campaign will be a major focus as we rebuild our party.

In together we will fight for a stronger and more prosperous nation, creating opportunity for future generations, respected all over the world.

The global issues that we face can only be overcome by international cooperation.

Those who believe we can be stronger alone are turning their backs on the real world, a modern world, lost in a sepia tinted view of memories and false nostalgia.

We could once separate our politics between domestic and international.

But not anymore.

The questions is not whether Britain can survive alone,

it is whether Britain can better thrive with others

When we face the world together, there is no doubt in my mind that for our future prosperity and safety, we should vote to remain.

There is no doubt in my mind that to work alongside those countries who share our interests and share our values, we need to remain.

And there is no doubt in my mind that to be the beacon of hope and freedom, in a turbulent and dangerous world, we must vote to remain.

We are a proud nation that stands tall in the world.

We are home to freedom, ingenuity, creativity.

In these next 14 short weeks, the post-war European project of peace, co-operation and prosperity lies in Britain’s hands.

Europe looks to us.

We are clear.

Britain must not leave.

Britain must lead.