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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

National News

  • Vince Cable at 2018 Spring Conference
    Article: Mar 17, 2019


    It is a sobering thought that just under 2,000 years ago there were people gathered on this spot no doubt complaining about a treaty from Rome… with tiresome regulations about daily baths and straight roads; muttering under their breath that these legionnaires should go back to Gaul or Carthage.

    And you would have heard lots of people saying Interum sumo inferium. For those amongst you who don't converse in classical languages, that means: take back control!

    It then took them over 300 years to get their 'Rexit, when the Romans went home. That's the kind of timescale Theresa May seems to be working on. It then took about 700 years for York to recover from this early Brexit.

    Eventually it did, mainly thanks to French newcomers. They and their descendants left much that is beautiful in this city, like the Minster.

    But there are also reminders of past ugliness. Only a few hundred yards away from here one of Britain's early displays of organised antisemitism when Yorkshire's Jews were rounded up, locked up in Clifford's Tower and burned to death.

    That the country should still be battling the scourge of anti-Semitism today is a terrible reflection on our society.

    And after this weekend's horrors in New Zealand, Islamophobia is another scourge, indulged by populists and conspiracy theorists - with terrible consequences.

    But back to my home city. York is where my life, and my upbringing and my political career began. I have fond memories as a returning native, and I am heartened that York now enjoys a luxury which I hope will soon be more widely shared: a Lib Dem-led council.

    And it is a place which is proud of its traditions and identity as a great British city, but open and welcoming to outsiders. York University, a symbol of that openness, welcomed as its first ever student, in 1963, a young woman from Kenya who a few years later became my wife.

    And, by the way, the city voted to Remain.


    Brexit is dominating the life of Parliament and the country and not in a good way. It is dividing families, communities, and even the United Kingdom and sucking the energy out of government. Last week's farcical debates have diminished even further the standing of Parliament.

    Many of the really big issues which will dominate the future - how we live sustainably; how we adapt to and control a new generation of technologies; how we plan for our ageing population - all of these are being put on one side: postponed, ignored, neglected.

    I am not surprised that growing numbers of people are simply reacting with a mixture of boredom and anger: boredom because the same arguments are being advanced with robotic regularity; anger because what we were told would be very simple and straightforward is, in reality, hideously complicated.

    I am proud of the role our party has played, unapologetically leading the case for Remaining for an Exit from Brexit through securing and then winning a People's Vote. Against all the odds, our cause is very much alive.

    We have been quite clear that the 2016 referendum, now more than 2½ years ago, was not a good basis for leaving. It was undertaken solely to satisfy an internal quarrel inside the Conservative Party. A narrow majority of voters, and only 37% of the electorate, voted to Leave.

    Facts change, and they have changed. We also now understand much better the scale of the cheating and lying, which went on to secure the result. Without a confirmatory referendum there will be no such thing as the 'settled will of the people': merely a feud without end.

    I remain astounded that some people claim a new referendum would be undemocratic. What is democracy if it is not the right for a country to change its mind?

    I, myself, serve as an illustration of this principle. In 2015, I was defeated in the General Election and lost my seat. Two years later, in another election, they told me on the doorsteps, and the in the privacy of the voting booth, that they had had a change of heart and I got back with a near 10,000 majority.

    Twickenham changed its mind. Britain is now changing its mind too.

    And anyone who imagines that getting Theresa May's proposed Brexit through Parliament at the - third, fourth, fifth - time of asking will bring closure and stability is suffering from serious self-delusion.

    The Withdrawal Agreement - the divorce - is the easy bit. If Brexit is a political Everest, we have only just got to the Base Camp.

    The brief, vague, woolly, Political Declaration doesn't even tell us where the summit is, let alone how to get there. It promises years and years of frustration and friction.

    We keep being told, not least by the Chancellor, that once Brexit is agreed and delivered, the fog of uncertainty will lift and there will be a surge of renewed confidence in the UK. Business investment will pour in. We will all live happily every after.

    But this is a triumph of political fantasy over economic reality. Any well-run business can see that chronic uncertainty would follow any endorsement of the Withdrawal Agreement. The cliff edge would merely have been postponed for 20 months. Not a great offer. 

    But it isn't just about business, and economics, important though they are.

    As an MP for a university area, containing one of the leading scientific research centres in the country, I see a generation's worth of work going up in smoke. Pan-European teams; the free movement of students and staff and crucial research funding… are all being seriously damaged.

    And we are turning our backs on the most successful peace project in European history; a project which brought democracy to Southern European military dictatorships and then to the former communist countries of the East.

    That is why Europe is worth fighting for. That is why we will continue to fight to Remain.

    Whatever happens in the next few weeks of parliamentary twists and turns, we must argue that none of the many, mutually exclusive versions of Brexit now on offer - soft or hard - are as good as the deal we currently have.

    To those outside the Westminster bubble, the parliamentary games on Brexit are baffling: a weird combination of snakes and ladders, chess and all-in wrestling.

    So I want to pay tribute to our anti-Brexit parliamentary team, led by Tom Brake, Sarah Ludford and Dick Newby, who together have helped us ensure that we are in the right place on the panoply of Brexit legislation.

    I am grateful, too, to all of you. You keep campaigning; You never give up; You continue to believe we can win this historic argument. I am looking forward to joining you and leading you once again in a show of Liberal Democrat strength on the march next weekend. Together we will make a statement, on the streets, that the fight continues, and can be won.

    I got into some hot water with some of you last year, suggesting that ours might be a 'movement for moderates'. Naturally, we are - economically - in the centre; supporters of private enterprise, unafraid of active government.

    But in the new world of identity politics, we are on one side, not in the mushy middle. We are Remain.

    The choice between good and bad, right and wrong, isn't to split the difference. As King Solomon once observed: you don't settle a dispute on the parentage of a baby by splitting it down the middle.

    In a world of Trumps, Le Pens, and Putins… the new champions of nationalism and Xenophobia… we are firmly on the other side.

    We are Remain. We are internationalist, liberal, outward looking.

    If there is one issue which exposes the motives of British politicians today, it is the current bitter arguments over the 'Irish backstop'. For the hard Brexiteers, the pure identity of the United Kingdom as a 'sovereign' entity - which can do what it likes and close its mind to the world - is more important than peace, trade, and prosperity.

    For them, our shared history with Ireland is irrelevant; of second order to their own obsessions with nationalism. And to make things worse, this government is so lacking in talent that it employs a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who makes even Chris Grayling look like a serious figure.

    Karen Bradley says she doesn't understand sectarian voting patterns, and then compounds this public declaration of ignorance with a blatantly and naively one-sided view of the killings in the Troubles. Ireland, like Czechoslovakia in pre-war days, is seen as a faraway country of which they know nothing and care less. She has revealed an ugly truth: that peace in Ireland matters less than peace in the Conservative Party.


    But just as we are committed to fighting the consequences of Brexit, we are committed to tackling the underlying causes. That isn't straightforward.

    We shouldn't be seduced by the lazy clichés and the simple idea that Brexit was caused by deprivation. In fact, some of Britain's poorest cities voted to Remain. And many of the most prosperous towns and villages, in the South voted Leave. But there was a clear pattern of towns in the North, the Midlands, Wales, and coastal England which felt neglected and voted Leave to give the Government, and the wider establishment, a good kicking.

    Government must invest heavily in the infrastructure and public services in former industrial or mining or seaside towns. I have set out in a pamphlet, which will be available as you leave, my ideas about how government should approach this. It may not be the most exciting bedtime reading, but it should provide some material for the train home!

    The big challenges which my booklet addresses have been obscured not just by Brexit, but by the upheaval in Britain's two main parties. The Conservative Party was, until recently, a broad church; but now it is narrowing to a party of English nationalism. The UKippers are quietly taking over that hollowed out, geriatric, structure and those that don't fit in are being pushed aside.

    This is a mirror image of what has already happened to the Labour Party. Ever since the Labour civil war 40 years ago, which led to the social democratic split, there has been an unresolved conflict between revolutionary and democratic socialism. And now there is a nasty twist; the anti-Semites who feed off the conspiracy theories of the 'far left' are back. Reminding us that there is more that unites the far left and far right than divides them.

    But the problems of the Labour Party are not just a problem for them, but for all of us.

    There are millions of Conservative voters who are disgusted with the incompetence, the self-indulgence and the inhumanity of this Tory Government but so long as Labour appears to be a nightmare, they will cling to the Tory nurse, for fear of something worse.


    The question I have been asked from the day I took on this job is "why don't the Liberal Democrats fill the political space created by these extremes?" I believe we should, we can and we will.

    But anybody who thinks it's straight forward to rush in and fill this so called 'centre ground' will soon encounter the barrier of which we are all too painfully aware. The first past the post voting system.

    Every parliamentary constituency and council seat in England and Wales is fought on this basis, crushing the life out of insurgent parties trying to operate as if they were in Holland or Sweden, where there is proportional voting.

    Dozens of new parties have been registered in the last couple of years, many claiming to be the Holy Grail of the 'Centre Ground'.

    They need to ask themselves a simple question: why isn't the Women's Equality Party running the country? With a potential voter base of over half the population; many sensible policies; lots of committees; a clear, attractive, brand; and some nice people…but they haven't got anyone elected.

    They can't get over the hurdle of 'first past the post'. So, when people tell me that a new force can win in France, why not here, the prosaic answer is: this isn't France.

    We don't have a Presidential system; and we don't have a transferable vote.


    These are the problems and we are all too familiar with them. But there's no reason for giving up.

    The massive challenge we face now is to create an alternative to the politics of fear and division; which has attractive, liberal and social democratic values; but is also grounded in the political reality and experience of winning in the current system and running things well at local and national level.

    This year's local elections must be the place where we finally shake off the set-back of two damaging general elections, and regain confidence, building on the advances of the last year. We can and will.

    The environment in which we do so has now changed. We are seeing early signs of some realignment. The breakaway group of independent MPs is a sign of that.

    I have been very clear that we must welcome a realignment of British politics and the opportunities it presents. I have also been clear that we should offer the hand of friendship to those who want to work with us rather than against us.
    Most of their statements of policy could have been cut and pasted from ours. But these are early days.

    The new group has a following wind from people who are curious about something new, and who admire their decision to break with their parties. But there is nothing yet beyond Westminster.

    No local infrastructure. No local base.

    They are very exposed to a wipe out in an early election. We aren't. As Tim Farron once observed, we would survive as cockroaches would survive a nuclear war. Speaking as Chief Cockroach, I would prefer a more flattering metaphor, but his point is well made.

    But I think we can do more than survive. We can do much more and much better by working with them and others who share our values, to take on the decaying and dysfunctional Labour and Conservative party machines, which have dominated British politics for far too long.

    The fringe this weekend where Jo Swinson welcomed Anna Soubry to conference was a very positive step.


    One of the reasons that there appears to be some public appetite for something new is frustration with the relentlessly negative and adversarial nature of British politics. There was some tut-tutting in the party when I forged an agreement with the Green Party covering national and local elections in my part of London.

  • Christine Jardine
    Article: Mar 17, 2019
    By Christine Jardine

    It's fantastic to be back here in York… and a bit eerie for me. You see making a speech on this stage to all of you was the very last thing I did before my selection process in Edinburgh West.

    A lot of things have changed since then… and there is a lot more we want to change.

    Some of them are about the party…. Some are about the country. And then there's Brexit,… but let's not bring the mood down. Certainly, that is one of the things we are working to change.

  • Tom Brake
    Article: Mar 17, 2019
    By Tom Brake

    This week Jeremy Corbyn stuck two fingers up at Remainers.

    When the time came to vote on the People's Vote amendment, he sat on his hands and ordered his MPs to do the same. My colleagues and I were livid - and judging by the reaction on social media, so were millions of Remainers.

    If we've learnt anything this week, it's that Brexit is too important to be left in the hands of the politicians - a People's Vote is the only way forward.

  • Sir Vince Cable MP
    Article: Mar 16, 2019

    This has been a dramatic week in Parliament with Theresa May's Brexit proposals heavily defeated, and a very clear statement that a 'no deal' Brexit must be avoided. It is now clear that Brexit will be postponed, and very possibly stopped.

    The future is very uncertain but despite Labour's continued prevarication, there is still a real chance of securing a People's Vote and, indeed, of stopping Brexit.

  • March 25th C
    Article: Feb 25, 2019

    Why do people join the Lib Dems? Here's a piece by Duncan Stewart that gives you one new party member's thoughts.

    The curse of living in interesting times is surely upon us and the major casualty of the recent completely unnecessary upheaval in our political scene is the virtual disappearance of the political centre ground. We have been forced, and may have been so again by the time you read this, to vote either 'in' or 'out' at the referendum when 'don't know' would have been a reasonable third option ahead of informed debate.

  • Layla Moran
    Article: Feb 19, 2019
    By Layla Moran

    Yesterday, 7 MPs left Labour to form an independent group. I felt they were brave and said I hoped we'd be able to work together.

    What I didn't say is I felt the answer to many of their reasons for leaving are addressed right here, with the Liberal Democrats.

  • Article: Feb 15, 2019

    Jamie Stone, MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Scottish Affairs spokesperson has today backed young people who are striking over climate change.

    Inspired by 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who held a solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament, this movement has now seen protests from 70,000 schoolchildren each week across 270 towns and cities worldwide.

  • Wera Hobhouse
    Article: Feb 13, 2019
    By Wera Hobhouse

    Tuesday 12th February saw two parliamentary bills become law.

    Two bills that the Liberal Democrats have been fighting on, to improve the lives of those living in Britain.


    Back in June last year, my Private Members' Bill making upskirting a specific criminal offence was kicked out of Parliament by a Tory dinosaur - for no good reason. But we didn't give up.

  • Layla Moran
    Article: Jan 31, 2019
    By Layla Moran

    The title of this article should be common sense, shouldn't it?

    And yet, between 2014 and 2016 alone, over 3000 people were dragged before the court. Not for doing anything wrong, but for falling foul of a 195-year-old law.

    The 1824 Vagrancy Act was drafted with soldiers coming home from the Napoleonic Wars in mind. It's a cold, archaic relic from a bygone age. I will do everything in my power to ensure it doesn't reach its 200th birthday.

  • VInce Cable
    Article: Jan 18, 2019
    By Vince Cable

    All 11 Lib Dem MPs voted against this shambolic Conservative Government in Wednesday night's vote of no confidence.

    In the aftermath, Theresa May invited me to discuss the next steps. I accepted, but in our discussion, I was clear.

    There will be no progress until no deal is off the table. We won't vote for this needlessly destructive Brexit. We need a people's vote.

  • Article: Jan 10, 2019

    The Prime Minister has spent 18 months putting together a compromise Brexit deal that doesn't deliver on what the Brexiteers promised and pleases no one.

    Theresa May is making a mess out of Brexit and her deal is a national humiliation.

    She doesn't have the support of her backbenchers, or of the DUP. Fifteen government ministers have now resigned over Brexit.

  • Article: Dec 31, 2018
    By Greg Foster

    As we enter 2019, time is ticking down on Brexit, and with it the whole future of the country.

    The history books will look back on these coming three months as critical.
    It is almost unbelievable that Parliament is waiting a further week to return!

    After two long years of negotiation, the Prime Minister has brought back a Brexit deal that satisfies no-one. Her reaction is to try to scare people with the prospect of a 'No Deal' Brexit. In reality, that can't happen unless she decides it should.

    So the only way forward - now - for the country and the Prime Minister is for the public to have the final say, and the option to Remain.

    It's a campaign we Liberal Democrats started more than two years ago. Now millions of people have joined us in demanding a better future than Brexit Britain has to offer.

    And the power of the millions who have signed petitions, lobbied their MP, or marched on Parliament - 700,000 of them just this year - is beginning to bear fruit. A People's Vote has moved from being a possibility to being a probability.

    But only if we keep the pressure up. If we succeed, 2019 will be a year remembered not because we harmed our country with Brexit, but because we - the people - stood up and stopped it.

    And if we do that, our Parliament and Government can once again deal with big issues like climate change, rising crime, the social care crisis, homelessness and housing supply, all of which have been neglected because of Brexit.

    Enjoy your New Year celebrations and then let's get out there in 2019 and win the fight for a People's Vote and a brighter future for Britain.

  • Article: Dec 28, 2018

    Since learning of Paddy Ashdown's death last night people have been taking to social media to share their memories of this incredible man.

    We've collected a few of those memories of Paddy from members, supporters and the public at large here. You can also share your memories of Paddy and add your name to the book of condolence here: www.libdems.org.uk/book-of-condolence-paddy-ashdown

  • Article: Dec 14, 2018

    After years of putting pressure on the Government, on Tuesday they agreed major concessions on the Tenant Fees Bill.

    We campaigned to:

    • significantly limit the fees that could be charged to a tenant by their landlord or lettings agent,
    • require a greater amount of transparency when deciding not to refund a holding deposit, and
    • limit the maximum security deposit a landlord can require to five weeks rent.
  • Article: Nov 25, 2018

    The latest report from Shelter has revealed that 1 in 52 people living in the capital are homeless.

    That's thousands of vulnerable people forced to go without food, warmth and a roof over their head.

    The report also shows that around 320,000 people are now homeless across the country.

    It's an absolute disgrace.

  • Tom Brake, from national party web site
    Article: Nov 21, 2018
    By Caroline Brown

    A report of the talk by Tom Brake MP, Shadow Spokesman for Exiting the EU, at the South-East Region AGM & Conference, Canterbury, Sat 17th November 2018

    Such was the level of ignorance, egotism and unpreparedness on the part of Brexiteers that David Davis was in Washington, DC, attempting to st

    rike a trade deal with the USA, while Dominic Raab had been taken aback on a visit to Dover to find that our current position, surrounded by a body of water, posed a few problems. After some 30 years' campaigning, they had no plan.

  • Article: Nov 13, 2018
    By Sal Brinton

    Across the Atlantic, Trump and his cronies are doing their very best to rewrite the definition of transgender out of existence. An agenda of social cleansing that feeds into his administration's insular and antagonistic narrative. We may like to think that Trump's views are in isolation, that his fear of difference does not seep to our shores, but it does.

  • Poppies (wiki images)
    Article: Nov 11, 2018

    Lest we Forget..

    On Nov. 11, 1918, fighting in World War I came to an end following the signing of an armistice between the Allies and Germany that called for a ceasefire effective at 11 a.m.- it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

    The terms of the agreement called for the cessation of fighting along the entire Western Front to begin at precisely 11 am that morning. After over four years of bloody conflict, the Great War was at an end.

  • Article: Nov 7, 2018

    The result of the EU referendum changed an awful lot: the Prime Minister, the economic outlook, Britain's political discourse and our standing in the world. But there are 3.6 million people whose lives have been affected more than most. These are the citizens of other EU countries who live in the UK.

  • budget
    Article: Nov 1, 2018

    Philip Hammond tried to strike an upbeat note in this week's Budget, declaring "austerity is over". Cossetted inside Westminster for the afternoon, he hid away from the storm clouds gathering over our economy.

    Brexit is making the situation worse.

    In truth, austerity cannot be brought to an end without difficult decisions involving an increase in taxation. Excluding the Government's promises on the NHS, maintaining real spending on public services will require an additional £19bn in extra tax and borrowing. And Brexit itself is making the situation worse.

  • Article: Oct 29, 2018
    By Simone Van Beek

    The Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens are working together, alongside rebels from Labour and the Conservatives, to fight Brexit. Vince Cable pressed Barnier on the need for the EU to make contingency plans for a People's Vote and to protect EU and UK citizens rights in the event of a no deal Brexit.

  • B&H Lib Dems at People's Vote march Oct 20th
    Article: Oct 22, 2018
    By Caroline Brown

    25,000 demonstrated against Brexit in March 2017; 50,000 in September and over 100,000 in June 2018. As the Tory Government manages our exit from the European Union with all the grace of a wounded rhino backing out of a beach hut, 700,000 people from all over the UK descended on London in October to demand a vote on the final Brexit deal that will include an option to remain in the EU. The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was notably absent and so was our Kemptown MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

  • Article: Oct 17, 2018

    The Government's Counter Terrorism Bill has now moved to debate in the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats opposed the bill in the House of Commons for a simple reason: this bill does little to keep us safe, but a lot to erode the individual freedoms of people in the UK.

    In the future we might have a Government who are prepared to ride roughshod over our freedoms as citizens.

  • Article: Oct 17, 2018
    By Vince Cable

    Recorded hate crimes are up 17% from last year, and have more than doubled in the last 4 years.

    Racial hate crimes have increased 14% year on year, while those based on sexual orientation have risen a terrible 27%. Attacks on people based on religion, disability and transgender people have also risen year on year.

  • Vince Cable at 2018 Spring Conference
    Article: Sep 21, 2018

    The Leader's Speech

    The tectonic plates of British politiccs are shifting. In these uncertain times, Vince Cable set out his vision for the future of the Liberal Democrats and the future of Britain. Here's what he had to say in the closing speech of conference.

    Conference, we meet at an absolutely crucial moment.

    In the next few months the future of our country will be decided for decades to come. And history will record that Liberal Democrats have been on the right side of the Brexit argument.

    Right to oppose Brexit in the first place. Right to predict a bad deal. And right to campaign for a 'People's Vote'.

    But this party knows better than any other that there are no prizes for being right. We have to win…. And the good news is that we are winning the argument.

    Brexit has left millions of people feeling frustrated, powerless and unrepresented. So as we campaign for a different future, we are inviting those people into our movement.

    It is not only those who voted REMAIN that are with us. More and more people are thinking again.

    There is now a growing realisation that Brexit will be costly and painful: very costly and very painful if we crash out without a deal. The Brexit date may be 29th March, but it is only may be. Brexit is not inevitable. It can and must be stopped.

    Over the summer, I spoke to rallies and meetings across Britain from Bristol to Newcastle to Cambridge. There are huge numbers of people who simply do not accept that we should drift into a messy, costly, divorce… who don't accept that the country cannot change its mind… or that a narrow decision taken by a majority of one generation should blight the chances of the next.

    There are millions of people out there who haven't given up the fight. and nor will we.

    I have put the Conservative Brexiteers into categories. There are 'the True Believers', 'the Chancers', and 'the Conscripts'. Let me say a little about each.

    For the 'True Believers' - the fundamentalists - the costs of Brexit have always been irrelevant. Years of economic pain justified by the erotic spasm of leaving the European Union. Economic pain felt - of course - not by them but by those least able to afford it. And the latest piece of nastiness from Jacob Rees-Mogg - calling into question the right of Europeans to stay in Britain and of Britons to stay in Europe: creating unnecessary worry and insecurity for millions. The public don't mind what these people dream about behind closed doors - so long as their dreams don't become nightmares for the rest of us. It really beggars belief that the army and the police are now being asked to prepare for riots in the chaotic aftermath of a botched Brexit. And billions - billions - of taxpayers' money spent preparing for disaster. Do you remember what we were promised? It was all going to be so easy: a painless, quickie, Las Vegas style divorce.

    That brings me to the Chancers and to Boris - the Chancer in Chief. He and Michael Gove embraced Brexit after tossing a coin, or making a cold calculation about the quickest route to the top of the Conservative Party. As Boris discovered in the last Tory leadership election, Michael Gove is the ideal man for a penalty shootout - right to the last moment you never know which way he will go. For his part, Boris Johnson is a real danger to Britain. He doesn't just resemble Trump - large, loud and blonde - he behaves more like him by the day. Their cynical disregard for the truth, their treatment of women, and their inflammatory divisive language make Boris and Donald the Terrible Twins of the Rabid Right. The Chancers' answer to the prospect of pain is to ignore it; or lie about it; or say it is all the fault of Europe.

    But the True Believes and the Chancers all save their greatest contempt for their colleagues... 'the Conscripts' - among them, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and the Business Secretary. These are people who have signed up to Brexit out of a misplaced sense of duty. They see all the benefits of staying in the single market and the customs union, but feel they must pretend otherwise.

    'The Conscripts' are resigned to a bad outcome so rather than fight, they have elevated damage limitation to high principle. They fantasise over something called "Frictionless Convergence". No wonder the public doesn't understand what Brexit is supposed to mean. I would go so far as to say that some of us are starting to feel sorry for the Prime Minister. It seems that even the European Leaders are moved to pity. It is obvious why. She is dutifully delivering a policy she doesn't really believe in; failing in negotiations; losing public support; and all to appease a dwindling group of angry people in her party who will denounce her as a traitor, whatever she comes up with.

    But when we feel sorry for the country's Prime Minister, something is seriously wrong. Our sympathy can only extend so far, while she puts the interests of the country second to the whims of the extremists in her party. Deep down, the Prime Minister knows Brexit is a bad idea. A bad idea whose time has gone.

    Even now, Theresa May could shock us all, by displaying true leadership. She could admit that the Brexit project has gone badly wrong… by conceding that the deal - any deal, or no deal - that she will bring back from Brussels is not going to be better for Britain than remaining in the European Union. Instead of kowtowing to her enemies in the Conservative Party, she could lead her party and the country by opening her mind to a 'People's Vote' on the final deal.

    It is far, far easier for Jeremy Corbyn to be brave on Brexit. This is his big chance. He used to be the campaigning backbencher who joined us in opposing the Iraq War and defending civil liberties. In his new role he has kept his hands clean and his image polished by hiring hard left bootboys and girls to do his dirty work. They do the bullying and the intimidation of colleagues and he claims not to know. He indulges anti-Semitic bigots and pleads ignorance. But the nastiness shouldn't be allowed to obscure his abstention from the biggest issue of the day.

    Next week hundreds, thousands, of Labour members and MPs will demand he changes course and backs a public vote on the final deal. If Jeremy Corbyn will not say "I will support a People's Vote and I will fight Brexit", Labour members should wave him goodbye. He is currently letting down the many people in Labour's heartland who now see Brexit for what it is A Tory project, pursued for Tory ends, of which working people will be the main victims.

    But when we secure a People's Vote, we then face a huge task: Winning it.

    Brexit still appeals to many hearts, if not to many minds. The Brexit campaign stoked the worst prejudices about race and immigration: remember those loathsome advertisements featuring queues of dark-skinned people; the mendacious claim that we needed to leave the EU to stop 80 million Turks coming to live here? Dreadful stuff. But that was the Leave campaign. Not Leave voters.

    We must sell better the benefits immigration has brought to this country… workers who pay taxes to support the welfare state and an ageing population; and who are crucial to everything from the NHS - where there are 100,000 vacancies even today - to the high-tech industries. But if we want to be heard, we have to listen. We have to recognise that although overall immigration has not depressed wages, there is a strong public perception that it has done so in particular places and particular occupations, or exacerbated pressures on housing and services. So we need to invest in those parts of the country which feel 'left behind' and ensure that public funding keeps track of population growth, so public services can keep up with demand.

    And I don't accept the idea that it is some form of racism to want immigration to be managed like other parts of the economy. I have personal experience of racism. I embarked on a mixed marriage in this country when racism was rife. My wife and children were being denounced as people whose very presence here would lead to rivers foaming with blood. And I was thrown out of the parental home.

    So I will never waver in my commitment to call out and stand up to racism in all its forms. But we must understand that to dismiss all Brexit voters as racists is simply wrong and utterly counterproductive.


    And as we persuade people of a future within the European Union, we need them to know that the EU is changing. I want the Liberal Democrats to be in the vanguard of a Europe-wide movement for reform.

    Opinion polling shows that disillusion with the European project is not unique to Britain. Across Europe, one in three members of the public express anti-European sentiment. Rather than let that grow, we must take on the those who got Britain and the EU into the Brexit mess. And we cannot do this by going on about the virtues of the status quo.

    Macron and Merkel are recognising this in their countries too. They are in a very different place from the position taken by the French and German governments in 2016. Whilst free movement is a fundamental principle of the European single market, the EU may yet conclude that protecting free movement means reforming free movement. So, just as staying in the European Union is essential for the future of the UK, it is crucial to the future of the European Union to have a British, liberal voice at the table.

    To argue, as Ed Davey did on Sunday, for a liberal approach to managed migration and to the refugee crisis, for compassion, for the right to a better life…and for respecting family ties. More broadly, Europe needs a positive message of hope for those who look back to the past because to them it seemed genuinely better. And for those who have experienced a decade of depressed living standards since the financial crisis, through no fault of their own.

    Deindustrialisation, globalisation, competition, liberalisation, automation - all these 'shuns' that were supposed to represent progress - have often meant a move from skilled and respected jobs to crap jobs… from certainty to insecurity.

    We need a positive message and positive argument for a reformed Europe, co-operating more, not less, on research, harnessing new technologies and setting world-leading standards.

    A Europe which can stand up to threats from Trump's America and an increasingly aggressive Russia.

    In short, a better Europe. A Europe fit for the 21st century. A Europe focused on its citizens, and with the UK at its heart.


    A deep sense of nostalgia has driven British politics in the last three years. But I want you now to imagine a future where the Brexit story has reached its conclusion.

    We have secured a People's Vote and won. We are back at the negotiating table, no longer seeking to leave Europe, but once again leading the debate. Try to imagine what a liberal, social democratic, reforming government would bring to Britain.


    Our over-riding purpose would be to restore a sense of fairness and opportunity to a country where both have been lost.

    I have always been a believer in a liberal approach to the economy but we are currently getting all the disadvantages of a market economy and few of the benefits. An economy unhealthily built on debt: overindebted households; overindebted companies; over-indebted government. Inadequate investment. Stagnant wages. Grotesque rewards for undeserving fat cats: for short term performance or even for outright failure.

    Yet it doesn't have to be like this.

    A better approach to business isn't an idealistic fantasy. When I left Parliament for a brief exile, I became - and I remain - the chair of the country's largest social enterprise (for the benefit of all the journalists present…it is unpaid). HCT is a highly successful transport company combining commercial discipline and social purpose. Many companies can and do operate in this way: it must become the norm not the exception.

    We believe there should be ample opportunities for business to invest and innovate, make money and create jobs. We also believe in active government. We're not afraid to intervene when the market fails.

    As a Minister, I was proud to launch the Financial Tech sector through the British Business Bank, as well as the Green Investment Bank and the Catapult network which has created a launch pad for many technological advances as part of a long-term industrial strategy. That's our model for the future.


    In the face of relentlessly advancing new technologies, it is easy for people to feel powerless and threatened. So we have to understand and regulate some of the technologies coming down the track.

    Jo Swinson and I are setting up a commission to look at how to turn emerging technologies from a threat into an opportunity. And if we embrace these technologies, imagine the potential:

    • for robotics in care homes;
    • for machine learning which can detect the first signs of malignant tumour or detect fraud
    • for blockchain which can enable massive, secure, clinical trials
    • and quantum computing which can out-compute computers.

    Britain could and should be a leader, investing massively in our science and technology base.

    And imagine how a government that wasn't distracted by the cost, and the trouble, of Brexit could use its strength and its borrowing power to invest in the environmentally sustainable infrastructure modern Britain so desperately needs…

    Travelling from Workington to Hull, or Swansea to Wrexham, or Dover to Penzance - let alone smaller places on the way: these are epic journeys which show how poorly connected modern Britain remains. Even the much-hyped Northern Powerhouse has now dwindled to little more than an unheeded cry for help.

    We can start to put this right, by breaking with the economically foolish conventions of public sector accounting which treat borrowing for productive investment in the same way as day-to-day spending.

    The demands of climate change alone require that boldness. Take the tidal lagoon in South Wales. The Tory government has killed it; we would resurrect it. And imagine putting the country to work, building the green Britain of tomorrow, with hundreds of miles of new railways and broadband cabling. That is the future a liberal, social democratic, reforming government could bring.


    We would also resurrect a sense of fair play in the way the government raises money. The tax proposals you endorsed this week would be a start. We need to reverse the trend of fewer and fewer people hoarding the nation's wealth.

    Those on modest incomes should pay less tax, and - indeed - Liberal Democrats in government delivered lower taxes for the low paid. But the wealthiest should pay more.

    We would tax capital gains from assets at the same rate as income from employment, instead of discriminating against workers and the self-employed. We would abolish inheritance tax and replace it with a levy on large financial gifts received over a lifetime. And we would rebalance pension tax relief away from the highest earners, towards those least able to save.

    These reforms could raise substantial sums. We would not splash the money on short term spending. It could be invested in a sovereign wealth fund, saving for the future. And that fund would be further boosted by the eventual sale of RBS shares.

    The public do need to be assured that their taxes are put to good use. That is why we argue for a penny in the pound on income tax, earmarked for the NHS and social care, as a stepping stone to a tax specifically set aside for the NHS.

    And we would concentrate funding on the mental health crisis, building on Norman Lamb's work in government.

    There are other services crying out for money. Schools are seriously underfunded. The police are being cut back to dangerous levels and crime is rising as a consequence. And local government has been outrageously undermined.

    Addressing these and other interventions will require additional tax revenue. When the next election comes, our manifesto will spell out progressive tax reforms. And also an honest approach to tax. The principle is clear: every citizen and company should pay their fair share, and get back something for what they put in.

    Nothing gets up the noses of honest taxpayers more than a government squeezing every penny it can out of small firms, while rolling out the red carpet for world-class tax-dodgers like Amazon, Facbook and Google. To that end, we want a renewed offensive against individual and corporate tax dodging. In addition, we will scrap outdated business rates, which are destroying our high streets, and reform company taxation for the digital age.

    Contrast that with today's Labour party, from the coterie of people around Jeremy Corbyn who until recently were on the Stalinist wing of the microscopic British Communist Party, and from economic policies based on a nostalgic view of the commanding heights of the economy - more relevant to the steam age than to the digital age.

    Unlike them, we do not believe in magic money trees and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.


    What we do believe in is the power of education.

    Layla Moran has set out the blueprint for a Britain which will prepare young people with both the academic and the vocational education they need to get on in life. Putting the education profession back in charge, cutting testing and valuing teaching. Re-imagining inspection, so that schools are judged not on how many boxes they've ticked but how many children's lives they've changed. And supporting schools who teach the most disadvantaged children. The pupil premium was a Liberal Democrat invention, and success, and must be increased so more money is targeted towards helping children from the poorest backgrounds.

    By contrast, the present government's financial squeeze on schools is leading to teachers and assistants being made redundant, and special needs being neglected. All while scarce resources are diverted to the Tory ideological hobby horse: grammar schools. Selective admissions are creeping back a generation after the 11+ was consigned to the history books.

    We should be clear: selection is a byword for division. It sets school against school; pupil against pupil; and it drives down standards overall. It is totally the wrong priority.

    Beyond school, we have to ensure a better future for all young people. Those with A stars at 'A' level usually leave their home towns and don't come back; but those who struggle to get a few GCSEs stay behind. The bigger cities and towns boast their own university; the rest make do with the local tech. But it's the local tech which should be at the forefront of the drive to equip the country for wrenching technological change and global competition.

    As the fourth industrial revolution takes hold, only Liberal Democrats recognise that education is for all and for life… and not just for the very clever, the very rich or the very fortunate. Government has a key role in making it happen, so I will bring to the Spring Conference detailed proposals for the Individual Learning Account, to finance training and retraining all through life.

    Contrast that approach with the Tories' version of the apprenticeship levy, which is actively discouraging training, and to the Tory axe being taken to funds for lifelong learning.

    Liberal Democrats would offer young people the prospect of decent education from nursery on; the lifelong learning required for the emerging job market; and one final piece of the puzzle: the prospect of a decent home. Because nothing illustrates the government's paralysis of will more than the abject failure to get to grips with the inadequate supply of housing.

    Tory Governments under Churchill and Macmillan built 300,000 houses a year. Now they struggle to deliver half that for a much bigger population. New social house building has almost stopped. Owner occupation is becoming a distant dream. The Conservatives used to be the party of the home owner, now they are the party of the absentee landlord and the insecure tenant. Sleeping on streets has become appallingly commonplace. It cannot be justified in a civilised society.

    The government pursues a failed model under which developers only build and landowners only sell when they can confidently expect rising prices. Big housing developers like Barratts, Berkeley Homes, and Persimmon are mainly land speculation machines with a side line in house building.

    There must be an ambitious programme of council house building by councils freed from central government control; an end to the enforced sale of social housing; and we desperately need a programme of low cost homes for rent leading to purchase for first time buyers and key workers.

    It can be done. Longstanding, successful Lib Dem councils like Eastleigh have got on and done it. No ideological dogma. Just hard work and commitment.

    That is what people have come to expect from their Lib Dem councils and councillors.


    We've begun to imagine a better Britain after the Brexit nightmare.

    But the challenge remains: how to give people a way to engage in politics which offers genuine hope things can get better.

    And that's why last week, I put forward proposals to remake and open up our own party… to turn the Liberal Democrats into a growing movement.

    Our party is still very pale and very male. We must change that, and keep growing: welcoming more and more people in:

    • extending our trust to supporters by giving them a say in our leadership,
    • opening up the field of leadership candidates
    • and making it easier for people to get involved in community politics, and stand for political office.

    Reaching out, we start from 100,000 members and another 200,000 supporters. 10,000 more have come on board, in just the last ten days. And thanks to your efforts, we start the job of building this movement from a position of greater electoral strength than was apparent a year ago.

    At the last conference, I ended my speech by urging that we should all get out there together and win. I want to say 'thank you' to each and every one of you for answering that call.

    75 net gains at the local elections last May. Four new councils in Liberal Democrat control, including mine. Our best results in 15 years.

    And shortly afterwards, following a massive effort from Liberal Democrat activists, a 19% swing to Lucy Salek at the Lewisham East by-election… our best result against Labour for fourteen years. There can be no doubt: the Liberal Democrats are growing and winning again, and this is just the beginning.

    The next step is to win - and win big - in the local elections next year, and Willie Rennie, Jane Dodds and Caroline Pidgeon are readying us for big devolved elections in 2020 as well.

    Meanwhile, as we grow, the tectonic plates of British politics are shifting beneath us.

    The two big parties have changed from broad churches into intolerant cults. And those who question the faith are unwelcome.

    The Labour leadership is dominated by people who believe in doctrines far removed from the sensible social democratic tradition which prevailed from the days of Clement Atlee to Gordon Brown. They in turn are the mirror image of the Tory zealots who have more in common with UKIP than their party's one-nation traditions.The alt-right, the extremists, are well organised and operate as smoothly across frontiers as any multinational company. People of moderate, decent, humane views are being marginalised as this new Illiberal International takes shape.

    Much now depends on the courage of mainstream MPs in the Labour and Conservative parties. They are losing control and if they can't stop the rot, they should leave. But we, too, must be bold.

    There may be a temptation to be what our colleagues in Scotland might call the 'wee frees' of British politics, sniffing suspiciously at newcomers and outsiders, who lack doctrinal purity. We cannot afford to do that. We have to become a bigger, more diverse movement.

    If you don't call yourself a 'moderate', fine. I am a liberal and a social democrat and far from moderate in my detestation of what is happening at the extremes of British politics. But if others choose to identify themselves as moderates who hate extremism in their own parties, we shouldn't be quibbling about labels.

    Let them in. And if they are too shy to come in, let us extend the hand of friendship and co-operate with them.

    Millions of dissatisfied people are currently waiting for a lead. Millions who can see that the two main parties have been hijacked by those who want to turn their backs on the modern, interconnected world. Millions who can see that there are massive challenges - the housing crisis, an ageing population, a damaged environment, a fourth industrial revolution - which our paralysed political system can't handle.

    Those millions of people are potentially on our side. It is our job to be on theirs.

    It will require bravery, single-mindedness and discipline for those in the progressive centre of British politics to make common cause. But it can be done….And I am determined that our party should be at the heart of it. Leading the Resistance to the forces of illiberalism. Leading a crusade to give the people the final say on our future in Europe. And looking outwards to a changing world, with confidence and determination that our values will outlast and out-class the forces ranged against them.

    So I want to address the public directly:

    If YOU demand a better future, this is your chance.

    Our movement is your movement.

    An open movement, with an open leadership.

    Join it…..

    Shape it……

    Build it……

    Because together, we can - and we will - win.