Conference Speeches: Jo Swinson to Conference rally

Jo swinson 2014 rally glasgowHere is Jo Swinson’s speech to the rally last night:

Conference – hello and a very warm welcome back to Glasgow!

It may still be a bit wet and chilly, but it’s still the friendliest city, and most importantly, still in the United Kingdom.

A lot has happened since we met here last year.

Fantastic year for sport:

Winter Olympics, record medal haul for the UK

Huge success of the Commonwealth Games here in Glasgow this summer – inspiring athletes from 13year old swimmer Erraid Davies to Jo Pavey’s fantastic gold medal at 40

England won the World Cup – obviously in women’s rugby

We’ve seen some key political milestones:

No one pays income tax on the first £10,000 they earn

We said goodbye – and good riddance – to the last BNP Parliamentarians in the UK

Celebrated, courtesy of Lynne Featherstone, the first gay marriages

And of course it’s been pretty eventful on the home front too –

Duncan and I were delighted to welcome little Andrew to the world just before Christmas.

In fact I think there must be something in the water in my office as since December my small Parliamentary team has produced no fewer than 4 babies.

You can’t accuse Team Swinson of failing to deliver.

The referendum has dominated Scottish politics all year, in fact arguably for 3 years.

Have to confess, I wasn’t too chuffed when the No campaign decided on the name “Better Together”, as that was also the song we had for the first dance at our wedding.

I didn’t really want to start associating that with Alistair Darling.

That said, the campaign and the wedding had their similarities.

The exchange of vows of course.

And you know that feeling at a wedding where you see the eccentric relatives from the other end of the country, and hope desperately that cousin George and Uncle Nigel won’t get overexcited and do something embarrassing?

The bigger problems of course tended to be with the other side.

But I think sometimes Yes activists were unfairly maligned.

Admittedly it isn’t ideal to graffiti a polling station with the words “vote Yes” – but at least whoever did so added a helpful public information message to reassure people that “No voters will be shot” – presumably No voters at all, not even one.

But seriously, this was a thrilling campaign to be a part of.

Engagement by the public was huge – people wanted to be informed, discuss the issues, and get involved.

Over the last few months I spoke to thousands of people along with my brilliant team in East Dunbartonshire.

New volunteers signed up and joined in.

We delivered leaflets and letters, and more leaflets and letters.

We knocked on doors, and got the telephones buzzing.

We held public meetings all around the constituency

Real traditional Liberal Democrat grassroots community activism.

It was a rather strange polling day

People were queueing up for the polling stations to open at 7am.

They flocked in throughout the day.

I was struck by the quiet power of our democracy.

Our television screens show us horrendous images of places where people turn to guns, bombs and violence to settle their differences.

Instead, our weapon is a stubby pencil making a mark on a piece of paper.

And in East Dunbartonshire, people voted in their droves, with the highest turnout anywhere in the country, a massive 91%

Thank you to everyone who helped make that happen – in East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, the Islands, the Borders and everywhere in between.

Together we campaigned and won the best future for Scotland, as a valued part of the UK family of nations.

A particular thanks to all those who you who took time out from your own campaigns south of the border to visit and help, or sent money, or hit the phones.

We saw from the video montage earlier how much our party relishes getting out there and communicating with voters – it’s in our DNA.

And we have seen some storming successes recently in by-elections.

A few weeks before we saw a swing from Labour to us of 14% in Newcastle.

And just last week we gained two seats from the Conservatives last Thursday – one in Epping and one in Guildford on a fantastic 47% swing.

In the local elections we marked 25 years of running Sutton by electing our biggest ever number of Lib Dem Councillors.

Oxfordshire, Northumberland, Maidstone, Brentwood, Westmorland…  Up and down the country, we’re taking the fight to both Labour and the Conservatives and showing we can win.

To those of you who are standing in the local elections, I hope you will take inspiration from these campaigns, and I wish you all the best of luck.

Looking ahead to the General Election, we have an exciting team in place.

With candidates like

Lisa Smart in Hazel Grove,

Dorothy Thornhill in Watford,

Vikki Slade in Mid Dorset,

Christine Jardine in Gordon,

Julie Porksen in Berwick,

and Layla Moran in Oxford West and Abingdon,

I’m looking forward to welcoming a new generation of Lib Dem women to Parliament next year.

There is everything to play for and the stakes are high.

Our democracy needs strong liberal voices.

Our political debate needs the Liberal Democrats.

Labour can’t be trusted with the economy – their leader can’t even remember the deficit in his speech.

No doubt they hope that somehow the public will forget the mess that Labour left.

And the Conservatives can’t be trusted to govern fairly – just look at Tory conference last week, where Osborne’s speech to balance the books on the backs of the poorest received rapturous applause.

It’s up to us, Liberal Democrats, to campaign hard to deliver both a stronger economy AND a fairer society.

We have a fantastic few days ahead here in Glasgow, as we debate and discuss the big issues:

Reducing poverty

Fairer welfare

Doing what works to cut crime

Climate change

Equalities

Housing

And our pre-manifesto bursting with liberal ideas.

There’s fringe meetings galore, excellent training on offer, and plenty of opportunity to network and share experiences over coffee or a drink in the bar.

Whether it’s your first conference or your fiftieth, it’s a great chance to celebrate our achievements in Government and get battle-ready for the elections ahead.

And as a lovely Scottish welcome, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to the stage an acapella group from St Andrews University who have just celebrated their 10th anniversary, and the 2014 Scottish acapella champions, conference, please give it up for ‘The Other Guys’….

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