Ros Scott’s closing speech to ALDC Kickstart

The newly elected President of ALDC, Baroness Ros Scott, closed the ALDC Kickstart event yesterday afternoon. She has kindly made available the text of her speech…

I hope that you have all had a wonderful weekend.

These are the most difficult and unpredictable political times that I can ever remember. There’s no way of knowing what the backdrop to next May’s elections will be.

But some things never change.

When I joined in 1991, I was a community campaigner in my home town of Needham Market. The only political party who were really engaged with the community were the Lib Dems, and that’s why I joined them.

The local councillor, who signed me up is about to retire after holding her seat for over thirty years, told me at the start that the secret was to be active in the community, to put what what you were doing on a Focus leaflet, and get them out all year round.

That hasn’t changed. With no national newspapers banging a Lib Dem drum, and with local newspapers in such trouble, there is only us to get our message across.

She also told me that the Party had a local government wing called ALDC, that I should join it, and do everything they said.

That hasn’t changed either.

We have become much better at the nuts and bolts of local elections. Running full slates, effective targeting and great local campaigners, is how we win seats when the opinion polls might suggest otherwise. And we have seen that in by-elections across the country in the last two years.

After fourteen years as a councillor and eighteen in the House of Lords, I can say that my ability to affect lasting change was much greater as a councillor. As Sal mentioned on Friday, in the 1993 County Council elections, the Tories virtually vanished, having lost the plot on the economy and become hopelessly split over Europe.

In Suffolk, which had been Tory since the Black Death, and I blame them for that too, we found ourselves with a Lib Dem/Labour coalition. A county which had the poorest level of nursery provision in the country, provided young children with the country’s best early years schooling within five years. We introduced sustainable transport, ethical investment and locality budgets. In our communities many of us far outpolled our national ratings.

Local government gives the Liberal Democrats a chance to show what liberalism means in action.

Politics and politicians are not held in high regard, and I can understand that. But this poses a real threat to our democracy, and runs the risk of a rise in authoritarian politics.

Success locally can go a long way to countering that risk.

So, no pressure.

Just get out there and save democracy.

* Baroness Ros Scott is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, a former Party President and now President of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors.

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This entry was posted in Local government and Speeches.
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