I am honoured to have been elected as your next President and know that following Tim Farron will be a very hard act to follow.
I want to thank Liz Lynne and Daisy Cooper for being such amazing co-candidates. We did 14 hustings together, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, and from Newcastle to Exeter, organised by state, regional and local parties, as well as one with the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats. We also visited many local parties, whether for canvassing, socials or AGMs. We got to know each other very well, and I am looking forward to working with them in the future. I also want to thank Candy Piercy and my team who ran my campaign so brilliantly.
The next year is going to be very challenging for the Liberal Democrats. Our first priority must be to run the best campaign we possibly can for 7 May next year. We need to return as many MPs and Councillors to ensure our voice is heard both in Westminster and local areas and we know it will not be easy. But all the evidence shows that our MPs are liked and supported in their seats much more than any national poll indicates, so we have a strong base to build on. Please help me and them as much as you can.
Our Councillors represent the real grassroots campaigning in every local area – just what we stand for as Liberal Democrats. I was delighted today to go to the Association of Liberal Democrats Councillors Kickstart Weekend held in Birmingham for our candidates and their teams. I was very encouraged by their energy and commitment, and preparation for next year. Our local party championing has revived our party in the past. We can and will do it again.
During my campaign I spoke about the need to reform the party, the constitution and some of our processes which are no longer fit for a 21st Century party. Although I don’t take up my office until 1 January, I will be putting in the groundwork now so that the new Federal Executive and the State Parties can work with me to act on the most urgent things as soon as possible, and also set the review in motion as soon as practical after the election. I am absolutely certain that members must be fully involved in this from the start, so please respond with your views when we ask.
This year is the fortieth anniversary of my joining the Liberal party. All the principles that the party stood for then are as relevant now. The Preamble to our Party Constitution says we “exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
My role as your president will be to continue our fight to make this happen, and to hold the party in trust for, and with you the members.