Ed Davey: Lib Dems focus on the realities of people’s lives

This weekend Scotland and Wales have combined their Autumn Conferences. On Friday, Scotland held its Autumn Conference, yesterday there was a day of joint Scottish and Welsh panels, debates and keynote speeches and today there is a Welsh Conference.

Yesterday, Ed Davey gave his keynote speech, contrasting the Lib Dems as fighting for a fair deal for people with cruel, out of touch Conservatives.

He highlighted our fight against illiberal, impractical vaccine passports:

Friends, we show through our federal party the best of what a federal United Kingdom can be.

“Understanding that each nation, region and community must often respond to its own challenges in its own way.

“But also working together in close partnership, united by our shared principles and our shared values.

“Just look at how Liberal Democrats responded to vaccine passports – or Covid ID cards, to call them what they really are. And compare our principled response across the United Kingdom with the other parties’.

“Liberal Democrats have always been clear. Covid ID cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal.

“They are not a real solution, and they would place an unfair extra burden on local businesses who’ve been through so much already.

Here’s the speech in full:

After all the out-of-touch, parallel universe nonsense we’ve heard from the Tories in Manchester –

It’s good to be at a conference that’s focusing on the realities of people’s lives, debating real solutions to the challenges we face as a country –

Not just taking people for granted, like the out-of-touch Conservatives.

What we saw from Boris Johnson and his Conservatives this week was frankly more of the same:

Pretending that somehow long queues at the petrol station and empty shelves in the supermarket are all part of their cunning plan. I’m sure Baldrick would be impressed.

We saw a Government refusing to take any responsibility for the multiple crises we face: the fuel shortages, the labour shortages, the cost of living crisis.

We saw a Government blaming anyone they can think of but themselves: business, journalists, the British public, the EU – and immigrants, of course.

Trying to distract from their appalling failures by waging their deliberately divisive Culture War.

All while pressing ahead with the Conservatives’ unfair jobs tax, and slashing the incomes of millions of hard-pressed working families by £1,000 a year with their cut to Universal Credit.

Just at a time when heating bills are up, food bills are up… It doesn’t bear analysis.

They’re not just incompetent. These Conservatives are cruel.

And the contrast between their policies, their conference and ours –

Between our party that truly cares about people’s lives, and this Prime Minister who clearly doesn’t –

The contrast could not be starker.

It’s a reminder of why we have to win more votes and more seats at the next General Election, and get Boris Johnson out of Downing Street and his Conservatives out of government.

Because in the face of all these crises, our country needs us.

A party that listens to people, understands their concerns and works hard to address them.

A party that believes in empowering individuals and communities, and believes in holding the already powerful properly to account.

A party that fights for the fair deal I spoke about at our Federal Conference last month.

Our fair deal says this: if you do your bit, if you play by the rules –

You should be able to afford a decent home in a safe, clean neighbourhood.

You should be able to get a good, secure, well-paying job, and have a comfortable retirement when the time comes.

Your loved ones should get the high-quality health and social care they need.

This fair deal has been broken – not just by the Conservatives in Westminster, but also by Labour in Wales and the Nationalists in Scotland.

Both of whom have mismanaged the NHS so badly that they’ve had to call in the army to drive ambulances.

Conference, our country needs us too, because we need the Liberal Democrats to stand up and protect our precious Union – our family of nations.

Our liberal values – of community and internationalism, of openness and tolerance – they are the antidote to the nationalists in Scotland, Wales and England who divide people and who threaten to tear our Union apart.

Our country needs us – winning elections, delivering for our communities and changing people’s lives for better.

And on that note, I want to pay tribute to two people in our party who’ve been doing just that, year after year after year.

Two tireless campaigners and inspiring leaders who’ve done so much for our party and delivered so much for people in Scotland and Wales.

Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams.

Willie – who led our Scottish party with his magical blend of conviction and charisma for a whole decade.

Who steered us through three UK General Elections and two Scottish Parliament elections.

Not just the undisputed master of the photo op, but also a constant champion for better mental health services, investment in early years education and closing the disadvantage gap at school.

Willie, thank you.

And Kirsty. Kirsty who gave 22 years of service to the people of Brecon and Radnorshire in the Senedd.

Who became our leader in Wales back in 2008.

And who spent the last five years delivering again and again for children and young people, parents and teachers across Wales as Minister for Education.

Kirsty, cutting infant class sizes. Reforming the curriculum. Getting extra money and super-fast broadband into rural schools.

And – crucially – listening to parents and teachers, and working with them to help get children through the Covid pandemic.

What a contrast to Gavin Williamson’s hopeless, incompetent performance in England.

Kirsty didn’t have to be shamed by a Premier League footballer into extending free school meals for disadvantaged children into the school holidays.

Kirsty didn’t take months on end to get laptops and routers to children who needed them.

Kirsty didn’t try to dodge the big decisions, or blame parents and teachers when things were tough.

Before the Covid pandemic and during it, Kirsty showed the people of Wales that the Liberal Democrats are the party of education.

So thank you Kirsty.

Friends, I’m determined that now we build on the work of people like Kirsty, so we can show people across the whole United Kingdom that we are the party of education –

With new ideas to empower parents and give every child the best start in life.

New ideas like the Catch-Up Vouchers I proposed for children in England last month –

To give parents real power to get their children the extra support they need, after all the learning they’ve lost during Covid.

Now, as Kirsty and Willie handed on their respective batons, two very exciting and capable leaders have picked them up.

The superb Alex Cole-Hamilton, who is now breathing new hope into Scottish politics.

Alex is a formidable campaigner – as anyone who’s seen him out on the doorsteps can attest.

And he holds the record for most votes ever for a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

Overtaking – by the way – the previous record set by a certain Willie Rennie just two hours earlier.

And then the brilliant Jane Dodds, the passionate and principled champion the people of Wales need.

Kirsty showed what a difference a single Senedd Member could make – especially to the lives of children and young people – and I know Jane will do the same.

It makes me immensely proud to have Jane and Alex in the Senedd and Holyrood – and Beatrice, Willie and Liam – standing up for their local communities and standing up for our liberal values.

I’m proud, too, of our team in the UK Parliament, including our incomparable Scottish contingent of Wendy, Christine, Jamie and Alistair.

I want to thank them all for their unwavering hard work – and their staff and families – especially during this pandemic, when travel restrictions and parliamentary duties have kept them apart from their families for longer than usual.

Friends, we show through our federal party the best of what a federal United Kingdom can be.

Understanding that each nation, region and community must often respond to its own challenges in its own way.

But also working together in close partnership, united by our shared principles and our shared values.

Just look at how Liberal Democrats responded to vaccine passports – or Covid ID cards, to call them what they really are. And compare our principled response across the United Kingdom with the other parties’.

Liberal Democrats have always been clear. Covid ID cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal.

They are not a real solution, and they would place an unfair extra burden on local businesses who’ve been through so much already.

But what have the other parties said?

The Conservatives? Well they’re still pressing ahead with plans for them in England, while they’re opposing them in Scotland and Wales.

The Greens seemed to oppose them – until they went into Government with the Nationalists and the Greens voted for them.

And Labour aren’t sure where they stand in England, but they oppose them in Scotland, but are bringing them in in Wales. And they even required Covid ID cards for their own party conference in Brighton.

It’s only been us – the Liberal Democrats – with clear principles across the United Kingdom, taking a clear and principled position that unites our party across England, Scotland and Wales.

Alex Cole-Hamilton – standing up for people, businesses and liberal principles by leading the opposition to Covid ID cards in Scotland.

Jane Dodds – standing up for people, businesses and liberal principles by leading the opposition to them in Wales.

Just as Alistair Carmichael and I have been standing up for people, businesses and liberal principles by leading the opposition to Covid ID cards in Westminster.

Friends, there will be many more battles like these, where the country needs Liberal Democrats to fight for liberal principles.

Whether it’s winning the education catch-up funding for children, which is so desperately needed, or demanding real climate action – in the run-up to COP 26 and beyond.

Or standing up for the millions of carers who are too often ignored and forgotten by governments – including, for instance, the latest flawed social care reforms for England.

Or Liberal Democrats defending the Human Rights Act from the renewed threats from Dominic Raab and Priti Patel.

And making the case that our family of nations will always be stronger together.

Or Liberal Democrats arguing for a fair electoral system so everyone’s vote counts equally.

To win these liberal fights – and we must – we need to get more Liberal Democrats elected in every part of our country and at every level of government.

And that starts with next year’s crucial local elections.

Now I know we’ve just been through an enormous set of elections in May, in extremely tough circumstances.

I’m truly grateful to you all for your hard work and determination – but we need to work just as hard to win council seats across Scotland and Wales next May.

If we do, we can deliver the change our local communities need. And so we can show people that we are a force to be reckoned with in every part of our country at the next General Election.

Our fantastic victory in Chesham and Amersham this summer demonstrated – if it needed to be demonstrated – that there’s nothing more powerful for changing the political narrative in our favour than winning elections.

So let’s get out there and win those elections!

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5 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 10th Oct '21 - 11:24am

    I have a meeting on housing tomorrow. That’s how we prove we mean to make change happen, be part of positive action.

  • Peter Martin 10th Oct '21 - 11:33am

    “He highlighted our fight against illiberal, impractical vaccine passports”

    It’s curious how those who claim they support the EU the most often disagree with it the most. They want EU membership but they don’t want the euro, and they don’t want Schengen. They do want lots of opt outs.

    The issue of vaccine passports is just another disagreement. Most EU countries seem quite keen on the idea. In France, Macron has cracked the whip on the issue to encourage a greater take up amongst the young and Italy “is now making the Green Pass compulsory in the workplace from mid-October.”

    https://www.france24.com/en/tv-shows/talking-europe/20210924-covid-passport-do-they-work

  • George Thomas 10th Oct '21 - 1:23pm

    Latest SAGE advice includes the following:

    “SAGE reiterated the importance of acting early to slow a growing epidemic. Early, “low-cost” interventions may reduce need for more disruptive measures and avoid an unacceptable level of hospitalisations. Late action is likely to require harder measures.”

    At the same time, in terms of percentage of population vaccinated and infection rates, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland numbers look worse than several nations within the EU who have introduced covid passports.

    I agree fully that “Covid ID cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal” but what early and less disruptive measures are LD’s in favour of bringing in now instead? Or a case of wait and see with higher risk of disruptive measures required further down the line?

  • Chris Moore 10th Oct '21 - 1:47pm

    I live in Spain.

    I have a COVID passport held digitally on my phone and a hard copy back up.

    It was free. There’s nothing complicated about it. I’ve recently used it to enter various venues in Spain and France.

  • I live in Scotland, and like Chris Moore, I too have a Vaccine passport….. it fits snugly in my wallet and I have yet to feel my civil liberties are threatened by it.

    I’ve also had my third ‘jab’ ~ as well as my flu jab…… so, well done NHS Scotland. The only people I feel threatened by are vaccine deniers and I don’t feel the need to go to England for my medical needs, thank you.

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