In Full: Tim Farron’s speech, transcribed by Joanne Ferguson

Since she joined the party in May, Joanne Ferguson from Hamilton has thrown herself into Lib Dem life. She’s stood for election in Liberal Youth, she’s been to hustings meetings, policy roadshows and worked like a demon for Tim Farron’s leadership campaign. She’s also written twice for us.

I wanted to put a full transcript of Tim’s speech from the rally. The one on the party website is good enough, but I decided to go for the one Joanne did on her blog because of her commentary and because of the effort she put in to doing it. So, enjoy.

“Shall I … Do you want me to say something? Is it a cunning ploy to make sure we get a standing ovation by just … making you stand?

Wow, well look, for years I stood where you are now. I joined this party when I was sixteen. I watched some great liberal leaders give some incredible speeches: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy, Campbell, *he looks at Nick* Clegg. Imagine following in their footsteps. To say it’s an honour is an understatement of epic proportions. I remember sitting in the winter gardens at the Blackpool conference, watching Paddy give his first leader’s speech when I was 18. I remember feeling not just inspired but incredibly guilty, because I’d left home in Preston that morning, and there on the kitchen table was my round of Focus leaflets and I’d not delivered them yet. I got home and discovered that my mother had done them for me … just … bless her.

So I get to lead the party I joined as a kid. Thank you, thank you very much. I will work every day to repay the trust you have put in me, but there is someone else I want to say thank you to as well, and that is Norman. *clapping* There’s more. *more clapping*. Norman is an outstanding liberal who’s been a mentor of mine since I was first elected in 2005. I got really bored of hearing myself speak during the leadership campaign, but I never got bored with Norman. As I consider Norman’s achievements on improving mental health, I am reminded how vital it is that we win elections so we can make that kind of difference again. If there were more Norman Lambs in politics, people’s opinions of politicians would be so much better. They said of Jo Grimond that he gave politics a good name. Now I don’t go around comparing people to Jo Grimond lightly, but Norman is exactly in that mould. I am proud of his achievements in government. I am incredibly proud to work alongside Norman as we rebuild our party. To Norman and all of his team, you fought a brilliant campaign. We owe you a massive debt of thanks.

So … do you remember where you were on the morning of the 8th of May. I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I was completely gutted. I watched people that I’d worked alongside for years lose their seats when I knew that every single one of them had given blood, sweat and tears for their constituents and for their country. It felt overwhelming, utterly desperate, heart-breaking. But that morning, something happened that snapped me out of it. I saw a great leader give an incredible speech.

*a LOT of cheering* *Tim glances at Nick a lot*

Nick stood up after what must have been one of the most appalling nights of his life and with dignity and humility he said – I’m gonna read it out to you: ‘On the morning of the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded, it is easy to imagine that there is no road back. But there is. Because there is no path to a fairer, greener, freer Britain without British liberalism showing the way. This is a very dark hour for our party, but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight. Fear and grievance have won. Liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it.’

*loads more cheering*

There was not a dry house – or, a dry eye in the Farron – a dry, uh, that’s the Liberal Democrats for you. *I’m pretty sure he winks??* In the Farron household at least, there was not a dry eye, mine included. To go through what Nick had been through that night and come out with words of such passion and gravitas and sanity, well that is the mark of a truly remarkable man. And all of a sudden instead of feeling desperate I felt proud – proud of every single one of my colleagues in parliament – proud of Nick and all of our ministers who served in coalition government: Vince and Ed; Jo and Danny; Lynn and Norman; Simon and Susan; everyone else. You get involved in politics to get stuff done. Well we got stuff done, and we owe it all to Nick.

*more applause*

So Nick’s speech made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I felt proud to be a Liberal Democrat. And you know what, I clearly wasn’t the only one, because what happened next constitutes a phenomenon. Seventeen thousand people joined our party since that dark morning and that is a phenomenon. Seventeen thousand people chose to do the same thing at the same time for the same reasons without anybody asking them, and at hustings up and down the country what has happened was this: Norman has got to ask first. So I get to do it now. Okay? Cos I was backstage, and I can, I can hear but I can’t see people’s hands going up. Raise your hands if you joined the party since the seventh of may. *a LOT go up* Thank you.

*applause for new members*

That is a new army of Liberal Democrat members, seventeen thousand and rising, who are not prepared to see liberalism disappear in our country. People question, how can we come back from such a devastating defeat? Well I can introduce you to 17,000 answers.

You know, it’s almost like you can see the penny dropping for the British public. First with the Queen’s speech, and then with the budget. What’s this, the Tories want to scrap the Human Rights Act? They want to snoop on our emails? They want to flog of housing association homes? They wanna cut billions of pounds from some of the poorest families in our country? If only there was some way to stop them … Oh right, that’s what the Liberal Democrats were doing.

And now day after day we get reminders. Tuesday’s ‘Today’ programme listeners being told that promoting equal pay was a Liberal Democrat policy not a Tory one. Yesterday the Guardian writing how Nick Clegg had fought so hard to get big money out of politics. Are you alright?

*someone has collapsed/fallen over in the front row*

Tim: Are you okay?

The person: I’m so sorry.

Tim: Don’t apologise are you alright?

The person: yeah I’m fine.

Tim: That’s okay. You don’t need to stand sit down … We’re alright.

*some cheering*

It is warm in here, alright. So yeah, the ‘Today’ programme and the Guardian this week giving us plaudits for our time in office and I kind of thought, in the nicest and most generous possible way, you could have mentioned that before the election. *some giggling/chuckling and applause* Without inviting any gags about how many of us can fit in a big yellow taxi, they say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. You know what, we’re not gone. We are not gone. And we are not gone and no matter how tough the fight, there is nowhere else for us to go. No other movement that is home. You know, growing up where I grew up, in the circumstances I grew up in, you might have thought I should have been Labour. I grew up in a terrace on a main road in Preston. I was brought up by my mum, often struggling to put food on the table. I was politicised by ‘Cathy Come Home’, I should have been Labour, surely, but I wasn’t. And why not? Because I saw Labour were just part of the system. Small ‘c’ conservatives. Two parties, happy to collude and protect the establishment, locking out people like us.


I was an outsider and I wanted a party that spoke for me. That spoke for me and let you think for yourself. That wanted to win elections so they could change lives not just so they could feel self-important. And lives needed changing, a difference needed to be made. I learnt at first hand that nothing robs you of your freedom like poverty and poor housing. *applause* I also learnt that dependency can stifle freedom just as much. I saw the potential for people to change their own lives if only we gave them the freedom to learn, the freedom to earn, the freedom to be the best they can be. In the election campaign which has just gone, we weren’t bad at telling people what we were against but frankly we were a bit terrible at telling people what we were for. So let’s be crystal clear what the Liberal Democrats are for. We are the party that sees the best in people, not the worst; we are the party that believes that the role of government is to help us be the best we can be, no matter who we are or what our background. That is it. That is it.


That is our mission. We see people as individuals, not as opposing tribes lined up against each other across borders. We favour co-operation over isolation. Your failure is not my success. We stand up against the abuse of power for entrepeneurship and individual endeavour. We see immigration as a blessing, not a curse. *cheering* And we do that because we value the contribution every single individual has to make to this beautiful country of ours. As the world changes around us, we see the opportunities and not just the dangers, because we see the best in people. We trust people. That’s why we stand up for the individual against the state. Why we stand up for the minority against the majority. Why we stand up for the outsider against the establishment. Because that is not just what we do, it is who we are.

*applause and cheering*

It is who we are and because, despite what happened on May 7th, this is still an open, generous and tolerant country: a liberal country. And the pathway to our revival is visible, even in that terrible result, because what we saw was people still looking for answers. They are less tied to the old tribes of self interest than was ever the case in the past. Even with the collapse in our own support, over one third of us could not bring ourselves to vote for Tories or Labour. So if we work hard, and we strive to understand each other – not just people’s concerns but their values, we can win again.

You know, the Dutch, they are so liberal, they’ve got two liberal parties. *laughter* Who’d have thought it? And one of them, the one that’s most like us, D66, were the smaller party in a coalition, and then in 2006 they got stuffed. 2%, 3 MPs, they came ninth. Wow, these are the good times. *more laughter* But you know what, just scroll forward to last year at the European elections. Ninth? No. First. First. So revival is out there. There’s a model we can copy. Survival and revival is in our grasp. Have hope. Have belief.

July 2015, well the start for our 2020 campaign begins right now. And the fightback will begin well beyond Westminster. Westminster is only one brick in the governance of this country. It is a place I come to do a job for the people who elected me, but it is utterly divorced from the reality of people’s lives. Home for me is Westmorland, surrounded by lakes, mountains and vibrant self-reliant communities that share my disdain for the Westminster bubble. And the challenges we face in the lakes or anywhere else amongst the cities, towns and villages of these islands are ones which we can help to address wherever there are Liberal Democrats. In parliament, okay, but also in the town halls, in the city halls, the National Assembly in Wales, and Holyrood, even Brussels. Next year, in Scotland, Wales and London, we will see elections with the potential to change the lives of millions of people. Those elections are utterly critical. They matter to me just as much as 2020 and they are the first staging posts of the comeback.
Ward by ward, council by council, seat by seat, we will fight and we will win. And if the Tories really are determined to make everyone have a Metro mayor too, we’ll just have to win those elections as well. *applause, cheering and laughter* I am up for this, you are up for this. I’m optimistic. But it will take hard work, guts, and bloody-mindedness. There will be defeats and injustices. Winning has never been easy. We have no automatic right to bounce back. We have to do it ourselves, but we will. I am going to make sure of it.

You see, losing robs you of the ability to make a difference. As a party, we have been proven right so many times. On Kosovo, on Iraq, on climate change, on the financial crisis. But do you know what, I am fed to the back teeth of being right and losing elections. *applause* As David Steel once said, I am not interested in power without principles, but I’m only faintly interested in principles without power. There is nothing grubby about wanting to win. You can’t change people’s lives from second place.
So here’s my challenge to you: pick a ward, any ward. Win it. Winning elections isn’t rocket science, but it is a science. Do it. Enjoy the fight. Enjoy stunning the opposition as the comeback kids prove them wrong. And be uplifted by the difference you can make when you win. We may not be able to change Britain from the top down, just for the moment, but we can change lives from the bottom up. That’s community politics.

*applause and cheering*

And community politics is about mobilising our communities to build the homes that we need, to win a local battle in the war against climate change, to get the resources to strengthen our schools. I want more MPs, and before that, I want hundreds and hundreds of new Liberal Democract councillors, immersed in their communities, living their values by getting things done. Step by step, we will change people’s lives for the better and as we do that we will regain their trust. You see, our survival, revival, our rebirth, our rebuild, will happen in communities, in councils, in common rooms, away from the stuffy corridors of Westminster and Whitehall.
Many watched the horror of election night unfurl, standing as spectators, all across the country, devasted by what they saw, powerless to affect what was happening. Well, I am telling you now, here in this hall and around the country, you are not spectators, you are players. You don’t like the way Britain is now governed? That makes two of us. Let’s stop complaining about it. Let’s do something about it.

*lots of cheering and applause*

We will make our own look and we will do it together. It is time for the Liberal Democrats to win again. *more cheering* So, none of us joined the Liberal Democrats as a smart career move. That is because we have never seen this as a career. That’s for the others. This is a vocation, a mission. So the Tories and Labour have their vested interests. We say we have no vested interest. Actually, we do. Our vested interest is the people in our street, our town, our village. Our vested interest is your vested interest. Our liberal voice is your liberal voice. So let’s together make our liberal voice stronger.

If you care about human rights, join us. If you think you shouldn’t have your e-mails snooped on, join us. If you think everyone deserves a decent home, join us. If you think it is wrong to demonise immigrants, the young, the poor, foreigners, Brussels, the English, the Scots, join us. If you are fed up of self-satisfied politicians, ambitious for themselves and unambitious for their country, then guess what … you are a liberal. Embrace that diagnosis. It is an utterly decent and British condition so join us, join today.

*cheering and applause*

So here’s the call. Here is our call tonight. Liberals of Britain, if you want a better Britain then you need to do something about it. Come and be part of the most joyful, inspiring and worthwhile comeback in political history. Becaues that comeback starts right now, right here, it starts with us. Thank you.”

It’s good to read, but if you want to see Tim deliver the speech, you can do so here.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Thank you for posting this. 🙂 One of the best leader’s speeches I can remember (and Nick’s were pretty darn good, and all).

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jul '15 - 8:07pm

    There were no seats for the audience downstairs, as with a promenade concert at the Albert Hall.
    There were seats upstairs, plus phoning to a by-elelction in Kingston.

  • Joanne, thank you for all your hard work on this which I’m sure will be appreciated by so many people. You’ve done a great job.

  • Pete Dollimore 19th Jul '15 - 10:05am

    To Joanne – thank you hugely for posting this. Sadly I wasn’t able to be at the rally as I was needed elsewhere to chair a School Governor’s meeting. Afterwards I watched the video from the party website but I found it difficult to make out what was happening as the camera was so far back. So your write-up added in the missing parts – I didn’t even know that Nick was there ! Thank you again for incorporating all those details that I would otherwise have missed. Very much appreciated !

    One thing though. Whether from the webcam at the back or the Sky News footage I’ve now seen, I can’t make out many women or black members in the audience. Was the audience really representative of our party, of London, of Islington?

    Pete Dollmore
    London Campaigns Chair

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Jul '15 - 11:41am

    I owe Joanne an apology – I hadn’t realised that such a horrible comment had been posted. The rudeness within it was way beyond the boundaries of our comments policy. It, and references to it, have been removed and its author placed on pre-moderation.

    It was actually Paul Walter who noticed it and he removed it while he’s on holiday on an Italian beach.

  • Is Tim serious about re-naming us the liberal party?

    Will he respond to the liberal party letter?

  • Matt (Bristol) 20th Jul '15 - 11:51pm

    @John, Mark
    Let’s not give up the word ‘democrat’ — if nothing else, if Labour did split, it’d give the Blairite wing a much harder search for a new name…

  • One could always go from being the Liberal Democrats to the Democratic Liberals!

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