by Steve Beasant on 2 July, 2015
Liberalism is in my bones. Mum and Dad were Liberals and, as a teenager, I set up a Young Liberal Branch in our local town in Norfolk. It took me three attempts to enter Parliament. We started 15,500 votes behind the Conservatives.
I had been an employment lawyer, but also got elected to Norwich City Council and led the Lib Dem opposition. When I finally got to Westminster I wanted to do as much as I could to pursue my Liberal values. There is only any point in this job if you aim to make a difference to people’s lives. Having the chance to do that as a Minister was an opportunity that I had to grasp.
Now we face a massive challenge in building a progressive Liberal movement of change following our traumatic losses.
Thanks, in large part, to the thousands who have joined the Liberal Democrats since the election, we have fresh hope. We know that we are resilient. We know that the liberal voice must and will be heard and that there are millions – many of them young people – who share our values.
But we also know that we need to change. Let me tell you how.
First, we need to regain our role as a source of fresh thinking, coming up with new ideas so that we challenge the conventional wisdom that dominates much of politics today. We must become an intellectual powerhouse – winning the battle of ideas.
The truth is that, having told people we would be different, we were nowhere near different enough.
This won’t be easy. But I have shown how it can be done on issues such as mental health and drugs reform. Now we need to do the same on the NHS and care and in education, prison reform, economic policy, climate change, human rights and the enormous challenge of how we tackle radicalisation and extremism in an effective, Liberal way.
I commit myself to leading a party that will stand proudly for what we believe in and show clearly how our values can be applied to the conditions and challenges of today – both at home and abroad.
Second, we must change the way in which we campaign and how we run our party. We must live out our own values in our approach to organising our party and working with our local communities. We are about empowering people; not just doing things for people but creating a better life with people.
There will be tough decisions but the party’s organisation needs an overhaul. Never again can our parliamentary party be so unrepresentative in gender and ethnicity of our party and the people we seek to serve.
Third, we must inspire a generation of young people to join our cause. The issues that are fundamental to what we’re about – human rights, internationalism, social justice, environmentalism – these are all issues that young people are engaged with. We need to reach out to this generation and make them believe the Liberal Democrats can be a vehicle for them to bring about change in their communities.
I’m proud that so many great Lib Dems are supporting me for leader. There is so much to do but, together, we can build a radical, progressive, Liberal movement for change in this country.Leave a comment