Sal Brinton writes…A final thank you

As my Presidency draws to an end on New Year’s Eve, I wanted to write to you with a final thank you for the extraordinary help that you have given the liberal cause over the last five years.

To have faced three General Elections and the EU Referendum during these five years – as well as the snap European elections this year – has been unprecedented, draining for everyone who has worked in them. Our candidates and teams, party staff and the many members and supporters who have continuously found that extra bit of energy and effort kept fighting the liberal cause.

Added to this, our local government teams, led by ALDC, have worked consistently hard in elections every year and their success has been rewarded with substantial growth in councillors and councils that we control or run jointly with others. And in Scotland our MSPs hold the SNP to account, and Kirsty Williams is a brilliant Education minister in the Welsh Assembly.

I have been really proud to campaign with colleagues across the UK over the last five years, seeing members building the party in their areas and I want to thank you for your warm welcome over my Presidency. In 2017 alone I covered over 4,000 miles, getting to every part of the country! I have also witnessed the party develop its use of online campaigning, not least honed on the Stop Brexit campaign over the last three years.

In 2015 the Conservatives avowed aim was to kill off the Liberal Democrats but we have proved them wrong. Our membership has grown from 40,000 to 130,000, with a consistently high retention rate. If you joined us over the last five years, thank you for joining us and for campaigning for a liberal democracy, for fair funding for mental health, for fighting the climate emergency, for a fair voting system and for major reform of the House of Lords. Your voice is badly needed as we face five years of Conservative rule not least fighting for the UK’s place in Europe and the world.

Next year the independent review of the General and European Elections will ensure we learn the lessons from our campaigns, so please do respond to their request for comments. In the meantime do join the many local election campaigns near you, including the London Mayoral Campaign. In Scotland and Wales campaigns are also underway for their Parliament and Assembly Elections in 2021.

In the last five years we seen an unprecedented time of constitutional crisis and political chaos. I hope that Mark Pack, my successor as President (and Interim Co Leader with Ed Davey) has a slightly calmer time as he takes up office on 1 January. He and his newly elected Federal Board and Committees are ready for the challenge, and I wish him and them well.

My final word is for you, the members. Liberalism is often under threat when populism and nationalism surge. You have stood firm against the recent onslaught from Brexiters, UKIP and the SNP. As I pass the torch on to you for 2020, I know you will continue to light the beacons of liberalism to protect our democracy and our country. Thank you.

* Baroness Sal Brinton is President of the Liberal Democrats. She is a working Lib Dem peer, and was the candidate for Watford at the 2010 and 2005 General Elections.

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  • lloyd harris 31st Dec '19 - 5:01pm

    Thank you Sal for all that you have done in the role of President. A lot has changed since you first took on the role. Reform of the standards system and a more diverse MP grouping will be two of the legacies of your work.

  • Richard Whelan 31st Dec '19 - 5:48pm

    Thank you Sal for everything you have done for the party as President these last five years. They have been difficult years for the party but I hope we are in a stronger position organisationally now to face the challenges that lie ahead.

    My only plea to the party now is that it takes its time in reviewing thoroughly what went wrong during the 2019 General Election campaign which ended in the result that it did. We cannot afford a similar result next time round, for the country’s sake more than anything else, so an early question that needs to be answered is: “How do we avoid being squeezed?” But more than that: “How do we broaden our electoral appeal so that we become significant players in British Politics once again?”

  • Richard Underhill 31st Dec '19 - 6:16pm

    The deputy leader should deputise, why is he being doubly shackled?
    The leader should be an MP. I voted for the incoming President to be President, he is not an MP.

  • Thank you for everything, Sal. I powerfully remember your “Libby is our phoenix” message the morning after the 2015 general election, reporting our membership surge in the wake of Nick Clegg’s inspiring resignation speech. As a relatively new member at the time, I found your leadership and reassurance incredibly reassuring. All the best with whatever you do next.

  • Paul Barker 31st Dec '19 - 8:42pm

    Thank You Sal for all you have done for Liberalism.
    I am not sure if the next Year will be any quieter but I expect our quiet recovery to continue.

  • Richard Church 31st Dec '19 - 9:32pm

    Thank You Sal for being our President. You have been a point of calm in an ocean of storms over the last five years. No president of our party has done the job through such a tumultuous period, and you have upheld Liberal values of fairness and respect for others in the way we conduct our business throughout that time while also overseeing huge changes in our party to reflect our changing circumstances.

  • Personally I prefer to judge by results rather than pre-retirement soft soap.

    Brinton has been on the wrong side of most of strategic decisions the party took in the run up to and during our disastrous 2019 campaign, and exemplifies the obsession with identity politics that has led the party astray. She thought it sensible to spend the majority of an interview on radio Five Live just days before the election talking about gender reassignment.

    We can only hope that Pack has better judgement.

  • Yousuf Farah 1st Jan '20 - 11:20pm

    Couldn’t agree more. I recall near the end of the election with the Lib Dems tanking in the polls, hemorrhaging support, getting bogged down by the Revoke policy and in a radio interview with BBC Radio 4, Swinson was having a very hard time explaining gender reassignment with some very angry voters. No doubt that particular interview hemorrhaged more support from us. It’s time to get smart, I mean really smart, and ruthless as well. I don’t yet know how, but there’s got to be a way we can appeal to many people, yet stay true to our principles.

  • David Garlick 3rd Jan '20 - 8:49pm

    Thank you Sal. You have been an inspiration, a rock of stability in troubled times and a very nice person to boot. Hope to see you around and soon.

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