Gina Miller, the next leader of the Liberal Democrats – not

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Gina Miller, businessperson and Brexit campaigner, just received a long and strong standing ovation, after delivering a spirited speech at the party conference in Brighton.

Ms Miller was quick to quash media reports that she might be angling to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. Those rumours have presumably been spread by people who know absolutely nothing about our party.

In the speech, Gina Miller referred to a non-political movement which she launched last week:

I stood on a cliff top close to another seaside town last week, not minded to jump, but minded, to ensure that we do not all of us jump off collectively. I was in Dover launching End the Chaos – a new non-political movement – to help people make an informed choice when the politicians own up to the fact that the only morally and democratically way out of this chaos is to let the people decide.

Here is Ms Miller’s prepared speech in full:

Good morning and thank you. It is a great privilege to address your conference here in Brighton.

Today I speak to you as a friend and someone who feels a bond with you on many issues, but may I say straight away, particularly for the benefit of the journalists here in this hall who have been doing a great deal of speculating lately, I am not addressing you as your leader-in-waiting.

Truth be told, I am not a member of your party, or indeed any party now, but I want, all the same, to see the Liberal Democrats thrive, because in a healthy democracy we need a strong third party, every bit as much as we need a strong Opposition, and, for that matter, a strong Government and a strong Prime Minister.

Now more than ever, on all sides of the political arena, we need statesmen and women doing what they genuinely believe is right for our country – not just reflecting society, but shaping it.

At home each of our political parties has, goodness knows, its problems, but centrist politics throughout Europe and the United States is now really struggling to make headway, at the very time when the western world needs reasonable, conciliatory, sensible voices more than ever.

As the great Dame Shirley Williams has warned, the fascism of the left is every bit as terrifying and destructive as the fascism of the right.
Liberalism has become a dirty word in the mouths of both the extreme right and the extreme left because it interferes with their hard and cold ideologies – both of which abhor the freedom of the individual.

Over the last six weeks I have travelled around our Great Britain, listening and talking with people from all walks of life, of all ages and too many – especially our young – are feeling a sense of powerlessness – worse, alienation – which is profoundly troubling because democracy only works when enough people are interested.

A great many of our people feel that things are going to get a lot worse in this country in the years ahead, and there is nothing that they can do about it. That they have no political home and no trust that politicians will put them before their own personal quests for power and glory.

Today we hear that Brexiteer MPs will be touring the country to sell ‘no deal’ – I challenge them to speak to ordinary people – not an orchestrated audience – and explain to people what leaving the EU with no deal will mean to every part of their lives – the fact that no deal means no transition, no safety nets. If they’re struggling, we have a handy guide on the Home Page of our new End the Chaos website that they’re welcomed to use – which includes real view from voices across many sectors.

But back to people and their feelings of defeatism. Just ringing our hands and moaning about the extreme right and the extreme left – is not going to get us anywhere. It only serves the interests of the tiny, selfish, but brilliantly exploitative minority in our midst who have seen an opportunity to enrich themselves still further – at the expense of us all.

Our politics has become warped. Suddenly our friends are our enemies, our enemies our friends. Lies have become facts, facts have become lies.

The Labour position on the most important issue of our times is indistinguishable from the Tories’. ‘Taking back control’ now means the prospect of losing everything we hold dear – from the funding of the NHS, education, jobs, prosperity, security, social cohesion, maybe even our sense of who we are and what we stand for.

We will all of us be judged by future generations – by our children and grandchildren – by what we do during the defining weeks and months ahead.

Believe me, none of us is going to be forgiven by these future generations if we tell them we decided just to sit this particular national crisis out, just waited to see what would happen, felt there was nothing we could do, or, worse, stayed silent and hoped others would sort out the chaos.

Do you think that our forebears when, out of the blood-stained, bombed-out crater that was Europe in the forties, began to see a vision of a union of countries working together peacefully and prosperously for the common good – when over many years they and those that followed them fine-tuned it and developed that vision – do you think that they did not know what they were doing?

In 1879, in a foreign policy speech given by the great Gladstone he said, “mutual love is not limited by the shores of this island. The ground on which we stand here is not British or European, it is human.”

They had a dream not for themselves, but for those who followed them – yes, for us, people not yet born – and over almost half a century we have had the privilege of freedom, prosperity, peace, the chance to live the lives they wanted for us. Not always perfect lives, I agree, and a lot tougher for some than others, but it was in the main lives that were infinitely better than theirs.

Too many of today’s politicians presume they know better than that great, idealistic generation – whose leaders included Winston Churchill, Attlee, Lloyd George – that generation that made such sacrifices for our country – they who fought for it, they who were willing to die for it. Who are we, seriously, who have mostly not had to bear arms for our country or bear real hardship, to tell that generation we know better than them?

Let’s be clear, in the debate we had in 2016 about Europe, there was scant idealism. Lies were told.

Let’s be clear, too, that when Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and all the others who won that debate, they entered into a contract with the British people to deliver a workable, realistic plan to leave the EU that would work – not just for the millionaires who backed their campaign, but for everyone.

After all this time, they have failed to come up with such a plan. They’ve failed to honour the contact.

Instead they are focussed on inward power plays, indifference that leads to gambling with people’s lives, beating a path to No. 10 Downing Street; whilst the lives of ordinary people will have a very different drum beat – one that will lead to hardship, loss of rights and freedoms, loss of job security and loss of opportunity.

I stood on a cliff top close to another seaside town last week, not minded to jump, but minded, to ensure that we do not all of us jump off collectively. I was in Dover launching End the Chaos – a new non-political movement – to help people make an informed choice when the politicians own up to the fact that the only morally and democratically way out of this chaos is to let the people decide.

Even though I am now politically independent, I am here to cheer you on, and to walk side by side with you all as Liberal democrats seeking to stop the decay in our democracy,
to stop the politics of division,
to unite rather than to divide,
to offer hope and to recognise that we must defend liberal values founded on equality of opportunity, tolerance, respect and humanity.
Above all things, humanity.

We must all step up – talk to people across the United Kingdom and to listen and to encourage an informed and practical discussion about our future – and, where we identify problems – to address them, head on and to speak truth unto power.
To see to it that our democracy, our laws, and our parliamentary sovereignty and our hard-won freedoms are all acknowledged and respected.

I challenge you – and the members of all the parties – to take part in this debate and to play your part – as I know so many of you are already doing with such passion – in making sure we get the best possible outcome for all of us.

I want, as I know you do, the opportunity for a people’s vote, but, before that, we really do need to know all the issues, all the facts, and how each of the options will affect every part of our lives – including, yes, remaining in the European Union.

Make no mistake – time is running out. We have just 193 days to go until our scheduled departure from the EU, and, as things stand, we have no agreed plan, no prospect of an agreed plan.
A leader in charge of what looks like an increasingly unleadable party.
An Opposition that is not opposing, and reasonable, sensible, conciliatory voices – such as your own – being all too often drowned out and suppressed by what I can only describe as hysteria.

It’s time for politicians to do the morally and democratically right thing – to let the people decide their own future on the facts – before it is too late.
It’s time to stop the lies and the deceit.
It’s time to shine a light on the dark, extreme agendas and the foreign money that is already beginning to divide and destroy the values and principles we all hold dear.
It’s time for more politicians to put national interest before ideology.
It’s time to put values before vanity and careers.

Politicians must find the courage to end the chaos by letting the people decide.

This is so much more important than party politics. I say to you, conference, keep on being willing to work – either officially, or unofficially – with people from all parties to do what is best for our country.

Be quick to see in politicians from other parties – and individuals in your communities – a shared patriotism and a shared determination to do what is right by the generations that follow us.

We must all of us be prepared to do our bit, to raise our voices, to make ourselves heard, to argue our case with even the most implacable of opponents.

We have every right to expect more of our politicians to be better than this: to stop the lies, to find their courage and honesty – to put the country before their careers.

We must not let them get away with anything less.

The only way to end the chaos is to let the people decide.

Thank you<\blockquote>

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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24 Comments

  • Michael Cole 17th Sep '18 - 12:51pm

    We should remember that in 2016 the day after (as I recall) the referendum result Tim Farron said that since the process began with a referendum it should end with a people’s referendum on the final deal – not a politicians’ ‘stitch-up’.

    He was ridiculed by many for that but to my mind he showed great courage and foresight.

    There is now considerable and, I hope, inevitable momentum for a referendum on the final deal – whatever that may be.

  • William Fowler 17th Sep '18 - 1:50pm

    “great Dame Shirley Williams”

    I misread that as Great Dane which I thought quite funny.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '18 - 2:11pm

    @Michael Cole “He was ridiculed by many for that but to my mind he showed great courage and foresight.”
    Unfortunately, we also have to remember that a few weeks earlier in 2016 a lack of foresight lead to him saying, “This isn’t another Neverendum. Farage usually has a go at the EU for not listening to the will of the people.” and “This issue is too important to give people like Nigel Farage as many goes as they want until they get the result they want”. So a little ridicule was only to be expected!!

  • Michael Cole 17th Sep '18 - 5:03pm

    @Peter Watson,

    Let’s be accurate. He was advocating a referendum on the deal, not a re-run of the yes/no referendum.

  • Colin Paine 17th Sep '18 - 5:34pm

    Great speech! Can’t we at least get Gina to join the party?

  • Nigel Hardy 17th Sep '18 - 6:26pm

    Gina Miller has, and continues to show great courage and determination. She would be a huge asset to our party as leader, if she were encouraged to join.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '18 - 6:48pm

    @Michael Cole “He was advocating a referendum on the deal, not a re-run of the yes/no referendum.”
    The ambiguity around that is why Tim Farron and the Lib Dems have failed, even on such a core issue as Brexit, to give a clear unequivocal message.

    After the 2016 referendum, many Lib Dems were calling for people to sign a petition which stated “We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60% based on a turnout less than 75%, there should be another referendum.” Ironically it had been created before the referendum result was known by a Brexiter who feared losing and it was calling for precisely the sort of neverendum that Tim Farron dismissed.

    Meanwhile, Vince Cable said, “The public have voted and I do think it’s seriously disrespectful and politically utterly counterproductive to say ‘sorry guys, you’ve got it wrong, we’re going to try again.’”

    “Voted for departure but not a destination” was a weak line (and a little confusing since it implies a subsequent referendum should be a choice between departures) and when asked by Andrew Neill if Lib Dems would campaign to Remain in the EU in any such referendum on the deal, Farron managed to look evasive.

    Lib Dems obviously want to overturn the 2016 referendum result but have been hamstrung by a strategy that avoids actually saying so because the impression has to be given that the party respects the result of the referendum despite it being apparent that Lib Dems don’t!

    Hence, “ridiculed by many for that”, and not a lot of “courage and foresight”. 🙁

  • Michael Cole 17th Sep '18 - 7:51pm

    @Peter Watson. You are patently wrong to assert that the LDs have “failed … to give a clear unequivocal message” with respect to Brexit.

    You have chosen selective quotations of dubious accuracy in an effort to make your case and I do not want to turn this thread into a private argument. Therefore I will not spend futher time refuting your arguments in detail.

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '18 - 8:28pm

    @Michael Cole “You have chosen selective quotations of dubious accuracy”
    “Selective”, yes (I selected them! 🙂 ).
    But I would dispute “dubious accuracy”. Are you claiming that Farron (ref. Farron’s Twitter feed and the Telegraph), Cable (ref. BBC report of speech to conference fringe meeting) and the petition (ref. the actual petition with >4 million signatures) said something different?

    My case however, is simply that a clear and unequivocal message immediately after the 2016 referendum would have been along the lines of “The voters got it wrong and , for the good of the country we will do everything we can to prevent Brexit and to convince them that the UK should remain in the EU.” If that had been coupled two years ago with an approach that favoured co-operation with Remainers in the other parties instead of pursuing a more unilateral strategy that prioritised party political advantage in terms of membership and votes, instead of waiting until now, then perhaps opposition to Brexit and Lib Dem support would both be in a better place.

  • Chris Lewcock 18th Sep '18 - 8:33am

    If the original remain campaign had had that level of historical and emotional heft instead of cautious managerialism, project fear and complacency the referendum wouldn’t have been lost the first time round. I do hope the lessons have been learned if there is a second chance.

  • Jack Graham 18th Sep '18 - 9:44am

    @ MIchael Cole

    “You are patently wrong to assert that the LDs have “failed … to give a clear unequivocal message” with respect to Brexit.”

    Just because you believe that, as a devout LIbDem doesn’t make it true.

    As Peter Watson has clearly pointed out, if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck then it is probably Anas platyrhynchos in the UK. Whether or not you personally or a small group of people trying to hide their duplicity think it is a pigeon is irrelevant.

  • David Evershed 18th Sep '18 - 10:48am

    We have to ask ourselves why Gina Miller chooses not to be a member of the Lib Dems.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Sep '18 - 10:56am

    The Party has become a Cargo Cult.

    It is busy in Brighton trying to build a run way onto which a special leader will land to bring us all the worldly goods we desire viz buckets Party has become a Cargo Cult. It is busy in Brighton trying to build a run way onto which a special leader will land to bring us all the worldly goods we desire viz buckets of votes in Ballot boxes.

    We have probably been active in this endeavour ever since Charles Kennedy was forced to step down as leader. It can be seen that the campaign against him was the building of the ground works for the runway.

    It is all a distraction from rebuilding an effective welcoming responsive campaigning party.

  • ” i don’t agree with Nick”

  • Michael Cole 18th Sep '18 - 3:15pm

    @Jack Graham. I am simply asserting that the Party was the first to support a ‘people’s referendum’ and is almost alone, at present, in advocating an ‘Exit from Brexit’.

    Your reference to ‘waddling ducks’ is completely irrelevant.

  • Innocent Bystander 18th Sep '18 - 3:41pm

    “He was advocating a referendum on the deal, not a re-run of the yes/no referendum.”

    Soooo…… if the ballot question was either accept the deal or leave without any deal and no third option that would be OK? Because Yes/No has been decided.
    If a reversal of the yes/no referendum is on the ballot then it patently is a re-run of the yes/no and to attempt to convince the people otherwise requires word skills and powers of persuasion not shown by any member of the party and only serves to insult the public.

  • Andrew Tampion 18th Sep '18 - 5:46pm

    @Michael Cole. The only person you are, possibly, fooling by asserting that the “Peoples Vote” is not an attempt to re-run the 2016 EU Referendum is yourself.

  • David Allen 18th Sep '18 - 6:54pm

    The truth is that the Lib Dems are struggling to make an impact. You can’t spend years making Charles Kennedy’s pitch to the liberal-left of Labour, talk about opposing “the two old Conservative parties”, and then enthusiastically throw everything into a coalition with Austerity Toryism. It just doesn’t wash. Tell your left of centre supporters to go away, as Clegg did, and they assuredly will do.

    Our best hope is for something like SDP Mark 2 to emerge, and take on the Liberal Democrats as loose allies. Gina Miller would be well advised to seek to shape that new force, not to lose her distinctive appeal by attaching herself to the old Lib Dem party.

  • David Allen wrote: “The truth is that the Lib Dems are struggling to make an impact.”

    If you added the words “in 95% of the country”, David, your statement would be entirely accurate. The trouble with the doom and gloom approach is that in a small number of areas the party is achieving a level of support not very far short of what it got in the Ashdown/Kennedy years. I am talking about places like Twickenham, Kingston, Bath, OXWAB, North Norfolk, East Dunbartonshire. What would be the result if what has been done right in those places was done in other places, too? Ah, Vince Cable, Ed Davey, Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson are famous people with lots of local support. Yes, true. But was it also true of Wera Hobhouse and Layla Moran before they were elected? According to the recent YouGov survey, there are 27 constituencies where the Lib Dems lead among under 25s. How is this achieved? Do under 25s read Focus? Do they even glance at the local rag? The answer has to be that in a few areas we are winning through because of our stance on national issues rather than potholes. Why, for instance, are we doing better at a national level in Winchester than Eastleigh, but better in Eastleigh than Winchester at a local level? These are questions that those around Dr Cable probably are already are asking.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '18 - 7:34pm

    She was certainly outspoken in her support for the Party and for a People’s Vote. She is possibly more use to us from outside than inside the Lib Dems. Perhaps she would go on Question Time and articulate her support to a larger audience.

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