Jo Hayes: more on why I am a candidate to be Federal President

I’m a Remainer and proud of it. I have fought tooth, nail and tweet against Brexit and will do to the end. I completely agree with Conference’s decision to revoke Article 50 if we win an election, just as I completely disagreed with Parliament invoking Article 50 without a plan, three years ago.

It’s interesting that those who say it’s undemocratic of us to tell the people what we’d do if we won a General Election are the same ones who doggedly defend our failing electoral system. I want an end to Brexit, I want electoral reform and I want the Lib Dems to lead so we can have both.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that any Brexit outcome will heal this country’s divisions. People will be angry whatever the outcome. Addressing that mood is a matter for the next government. For the sake of the whole country, I hope that will be us.

Radical, systemic reforms in our country are needed. And, if we are to be a party of government, we need to be clever, agile, open and empathetic. That is why I’m standing for the party Presidency.

As President, it will not be my duty to campaign or create party policies. It will be my duty to create an environment where our members can campaign effectively and energetically; where our Parliamentarians, MEPs, Mayors and Councillors can rely on a support structure; where we nurture our future leaders and where all our members feel they belong, are useful and are heard.

To achieve that, the centre of the party needs to release the reins a little and to trust that our members are on our side.

We have just enjoyed the best-attended Liberal Democrat Conference in our history. The many members I met are pretty smart people. They come from all over the country and they understand the issues in their communities, including areas with a majority who voted Leave. They are a vital resource for our party, and more are joining us every day. We mustn’t deter this massive talent pool by micro-managing from the centre.

The preamble of our constitution is one of the best-written mission statements since the American Bill of Rights. We must uphold the values it expresses. It says power flows upwards from the people, not down from above.

I believe not in the Tory method of devolving power – passing the buck while keeping control – but in giving the Regions a real say in the direction we take and the resources to be effective; in creating a system of skills audits in every local party and investing in members to use our talents to the full; in promoting awareness of how the party runs and opportunities to feed in ideas of which we adopt the best, to make us stronger.

Clever, agile, open and empathetic: that is what the next party to form a government will need to be. I want us to be that party.

* Jo Hayes is a party activist and Chair of the East of England Regional Party.

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