As I write, it’s the morning after the Liberal Democrat leadership election result and I’m on my way to see a friend in Cheltenham, a seat which we came within 1.7% of winning from the Tories at the last election. I’ll be completely honest — the next four years are a critical time for our Party, and it is in seats like Cheltenham where we have an opportunity to change the outcome of the next general election and deprive Boris Johnson of another term as Prime Minister.
Although Ed Davey was not the candidate I voted for, his mandate from the Party membership was substantial and it is important that we all now support his leadership and commit to working alongside him to achieve the vision we all share for a decent, fairer and more equal society. Despite not winning the contest, Layla Moran has shown herself to be a very talented communicator and will doubtless have a key part to play in shaping the way forward.
I am more determined than ever to fight for the country that I know we can be — a country that is open, caring and compassionate, a country that doesn’t turn its back on helpless child refugees and doesn’t allow people to fall through the cracks. I want us to be a country that leaves no one behind, irrespective of geography, class, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
However, the challenges ahead of us as a party are immense if we are to convince the electorate that we have a message which is distinctive, relevant and practical in post-Brexit, post-pandemic Britain.
If we can take anything away from the last general election result, it’s that our “first-past-the-post” electoral system is obsolete, unrepresentative and not fit for the challenges of a modern, 21st-century democracy. A major priority, which Ed Davey is fully committed to, is working for a system of proportional representation, so that disillusioned and disenfranchised voters can engage properly in electing Councils and Parliaments which properly reflect the diversity of views across the length and breadth of the country. Nevertheless, achieving this will require an unprecedented level of cross-party cooperation.
Meanwhile, climate change continues to present an existential threat, which cannot be ignored. Ed’s passion for green energy and working towards a carbon-neutral Britain is well-established and will ensure that climate change remains high on the Liberal Democrat agenda. Future generations will judge us not by our words, but by the actions we take to combat this global emergency.
The coronavirus crisis has been a magnifier of inequality. I was delighted when both candidates in the leadership election enthusiastically expressed their support for a Universal Basic Income. The policy will now be put to the membership and debated at the virtual conference in September. This would be a major step towards tackling the systemic inequalities that pervade society. Ed has promised to listen to people’s concerns and rebuild the trust we once had. We are, in terms of membership, a very different party now compared to the one we were at the end of the coalition years. It is now up to us to re-establish our progressive credentials and set out a distinctive roadmap for a liberal forward-looking Britain.
I firmly believe that our country needs a strong and united Liberal Democrat party to hold Boris Johnson’s Government to account and not just challenge, but oust Conservatives in seats across the country at the next election. It is vital therefore that we heal the wounds which inevitably result from a hard-fought leadership election, so I look forward to supporting Ed and the Party in the challenges ahead, communicating our positive vision for the future to the country.