Tim began with a story from just after the referendum…
At the start of his speech, Tim spoke about a meeting held in Preston – the town he grew up in and learnt his values in – to talk about the referendum and the realisation he’d had there:
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.
Those people … wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.
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.
…he then set out how he wants to reach out to Leave voters…
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.
…next, he turned to Theresa May and her “plan” for Brexit…
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.
…he then turned to 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.
I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.
…and told a story from Lesbos…
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.
…he then turned to the NHS and social care in England…
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.
…and laid out why improving social care matters to him…
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.
…and proposed a solution to improve social care and make our NHS fit for the future…
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.
We need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money
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.
…Tim then turned to our schools…
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.
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.
…and laid out a plan to reduce testing and give teachers freedom to teach…
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.
…and then launched a blistering attack on grammar schools…
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 school. 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.
…he then turned to his problem with Jeremy Corbyn…
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.
It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.
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.
…and had a message to everyone who wants a real opposition to the Tories..
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.
Britain needs a strong opposition. The Liberal Democrats will be that strong opposition.
…Tim then set out his plan to build a Britain that’s open, tolerant and united…
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.
That is my plan. I need you to join me to fight for it.
…Tim then set out the biggest threat to the Tories…
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.
…he gave a warning about Brexit and coined a phrase…
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.
…and Tim closed with this note of hope for our party.
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.