Leader's speech, Brighton 2016
Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat)
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
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.