Tim’s speech – Did you have to be in the hall to get it?

Yesterday I had to work so I couldn’t be at Bournemouth to watch Tim’s speech.

So, through the miracles of the smartphone, the BBC and the car auxiliary connection point, I listened to Tim’s speech on the way to work this morning.

I therefore had a chance to test how the speech came over via audio only on the M4 in Berkshire. Were all these rave reviews coming from people in the hall yesterday mere hype? The result of mass hysteria which would not catch on outside the immediacy of the hall?

Well, no.

I approached my listen of the speech with my normal “seen it all before” cynicism. When you’ve seen umpteen leader’s speeches by Paddy, Charles, Ming and Nick, you’ve seen them all – yes?


This was quite definitely the best speech I have ever heard. And remember that I was listening over the car radio only – not watching the video. The “embrace that diagnosis” passage and the ending paragraph were astonishingly strong. And the passage on refugees was quite simply the most powerful minute of speech I have ever heard in my 56 years on this lovely planet.

In terms of the words, I think a Nick Clegg speech or a Paddy speech scores equally when compared to Tim’s speech yesterday.

But the delivery – the raw emotion, the sincerity, the passion were sublime.

Tim has this relaxed northerner “cheeky chappy” persona. But he has a superb talent for oratory. And I think it is a natural talent. He knows how to use the orator’s tools. He knows when to slow down, when to pause, when to go very fast, when to be quiet, when to be loud – and uses all those skills to huge effect.

So, well done and thank you Tim!

And here are those three passages I referred to above:

The “embrace that diagnosis” passage

From the mouths of too many politicians come words of division and separation, spite and displacement.
It’s all the fault of Brussels, or the English, or the Scots, or the immigrants, or the idle poor, or the idle rich or business people, or the young, or the old, or foreigners or anybody else.
If you think that is wrong. If you reject the politics of blame and separation. If you say Britain is best when Britain is together. If you say Britain is best when it is outward looking, modern and inclusive. Then guess what? You’re a liberal.
Embrace that diagnosis. It is an utterly decent and British condition.

The end bit

Today, with four and a half years until the next general election, the Official opposition seems to have left the playing field.
Less than five months since the worst result for our party in 45 years the circumstances have contrived to make our party more relevant, more central, more essential than we have ever been.
Britain needs an opposition that is economically credible, radical, liberal.
Britain needs an opposition that is passionate and socially just.
Britain needs an opposition that is serious about power to make a difference, to improve all our lives.
Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats will be that opposition, because if we do not do this, it is clear now that no one else will.
The alternative will be years of a disastrous one-party monopoly.
We do not have the right to rest after the trials of government.
As Jo Grimond said, ‘in times of war, in times of doubt Generals were advised to march their troops towards the sound of gunfire’
Well, troops I hear gunfire.
Fellow Liberal Democrats, there has never been more space for us, never been more need for us, never been a bigger challenge for us.
Against all the odds, we have just been given the chance to take centre stage.
We will accept that role.
It’s time for Liberal Democrats to win again.

The refugee passage

As many of you know, during the summer, I went to Calais.
I went because I wanted to see what was going on for myself and because my liberal instinct told me to be suspicious when the establishment started pointing the finger at outsiders.
I wanted to gauge the scale of the problem, to see whether we were being told the truth, I wanted to see the people and not the label.
So I met with people and heard their stories of harrowing risks, dangers fled and desperation for their children.
I have to tell you, not a single one of them mentioned coming to Britain to draw benefits.
Indeed, more than that. Not a single one of them had ever heard of Britain’s benefits system.
They wanted to come to Britain to be safe, to work, to contribute.
They see our country as a place of opportunity, a place where you can make the most of yourself, a place where you can be the best you can be – a liberal place.
Because I tell you frankly: you don’t risk everything clinging to the bottom of a truck if you’re looking for an easy life.
I met a 14 year-old boy who had broken both of his legs trying to board a lorry. He was in a wheelchair pushed by a boy who was 11. Both had lost their parents, both were alone.
And I realised that the UK government was ignoring their humanity, it was just stuck in media management mode, following not leading.
And the Government is still following the story. It’s just a rather different one.
It’s the body of a three year old boy face-down in the surf.
And what we’ve had from David Cameron is a careful calibration of what it will take to manage that story, the minimum effort for the maximum headlines.
And a policy which will not directly help a single one of the hundreds of thousands currently on the move across Europe.
It’s pitiful and embarrassing and makes me so angry.
Because I am proud to be British and I am proud of Britain’s values, so when Mr Cameron turns his back on the needy and turns his back on our neighbours.
I want the world to know, he does not speak for me, he does not speak for us, he does not speak for Britain.
You know after the Second World War, Britain offered homes to several thousand children who had survived the death camps but whose parents had been murdered in the Holocaust.
Only 700 children came.
That was all who were left alive to take up our offer.
I know this story because 300 of them were sent to my patch to recuperate and became known as the Windermere boys.
This act was not an aberration; this was instinctively consistent with British values.
And so I find myself thinking about the Jewish refugees that our grandparents saved in the 1930s.
And I think about the Ugandan Asians offered a safe haven by our parents from that murderous tyrant, Idi Amin.
And it makes me realise the pride I feel in Britain when we do show such generosity of spirit.
But not only that. I realise how much richer – culturally, socially, economically – our society is today, because of our generosity then.
What a lesson in seeing the best in people and not the worst.
What a lesson in liberalism.
As the party of outsiders, we will stand up for the outsiders. And I will start today.
Winter is coming and the risks and hardships faced by those seeking sanctuary will only increase.
If you are shocked by the pictures on our TV screens today, just think how much worse they will look when the snows come to the Balkans.
If we don’t act now, many more will die.
So I am calling on our Government to opt in now to the EU plan to take our share of the refugees to be relocated throughout the continent.
And I call on them to work with our neighbours to establish safe and sustainable reception centres, not only to process claims but to provide the shelter and security which the refugees so desperately need.
And I call on the Government to provide the necessary financial support that our local authorities will need to help settle refugees, so as not to set community against community.
This is an international solution to an international crisis.
This is the Britain Liberal Democrats want to live in.
And if that’s the Britain that makes you proud too, then join us,
We need you and you need us.

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

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This entry was posted in Conference and Op-eds.


  • The most important point was not what hit us but what hit the BBC News. Given the nasty Guardian pre-speech ‘spin’ about Tim looking for another coalition with the Tories (when actually he just said that the doors had to be kept open if the Party was serious about exerting any useful power for the people who elect us) the important image that was left with the viewer was that David Cameron, you do NOT speak for me/us. It didn’t really matter that this particular bit of the speech was about the refugee issue. The clear and honest passion was what mattered. He was saying very clearly, by his tone and body language as much as by his words, “I may occasionally some time have to sup with the devil (but he IS a devil!!) but I shall be using a very long spoon” !! 🙂

  • Though the two big parties want us off the political map, we have a mission to stand up for all ‘outsiders’, the minorities who care, and those who cannot fight their cause – often because they do not have the means.

    Inspirational speech from Tim – everyone should hear it – now let’s fight for everyone and do our best in the new wilderness years produced by Tory tactics of greed. Are the Tories helping the poor, helping small businesses, the sick, the refugees fleeing the wars? Do Tories care about the environment and fossil fuel pollution, climate change, working for peace in a united world? Of course not – Tories support bankers and the rich class they come from or aspire to become – so they can dominate those less able to defend themselves.

    Without Liberals, and liberal allies, in every Council and National and Regional Assembly – our country will be so much poorer. The Tory juggernaut of disdain for the majority of citizens will be hard to overcome – but overcome it we must. Britain can do so much better without Tories to strangle our endeavours.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Sep '15 - 6:39pm

    I’ve just checked out Ipsos MORI’s concerns index and its results are frightening for Liberal Democrats:

    Concern about immigration is the highest they have ever recorded at 50%, 13% higher than the NHS and 23% higher than the economy.

    Yet Tim gives a speech effectively saying we need more immigration and lots think it is a resounding success.


    People need to stop listening to the Guardian so much. It is unusually out of touch. Even for a centre-left newspaper it is out of touch.

  • Eddie,

    We have always known our normal view on immigration is not a populist one… But it is a conviction issue on both sides of the argument and there are many more than 8% of the population who would agree with Tim.

    If I had been polled I would definitely have said immigration is one of the biggest issues facing this country – so would anyone who cares about the fate of the refugees and migrants. It does not mean that I am opposed to all immigration. That figure of 50% needs to be viewed with caution

    By coming down clearly on the unselfish, un-Nationalist side of the immigration debate Tim is doing the only sensible thing for a Liberal Democrat leader. It is not going to get us into a position of majority government, perhaps, but we can hardly be realistically aiming for that..

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Sep '15 - 9:13pm

    Hi Andrew McC, I agree that 50% concern for an issue doesn’t mean they don’t want a compassionate solution. But people aren’t really offering many solutions.

    My big gripe is I think Twitter and the media are more out of touch than they think. We saw this with the election result and the growth of Corbyn and I think we need to throw caution to the wind a bit and demand higher quality analysis.

  • Dave Orbison 25th Sep '15 - 9:49am

    Eddie – “Twitter more out of touch more than they think?”

    Well that’s my first big laugh of the day. Thank you. Yes Twitter, the voting public – why they are all out of touch with the LibDems, Also, I don’t think we should take note of the fact that many LibDem members have left the party, we have sustained huge losses of council seats, have just 8 MP’s, came fourth or worse in many elections, lost untold deposits and are generally regarded as feed corn for comedians who want to get a cheap laugh. You’re right the world’s gone mad – we are the LibDEms of course we are right.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Sep '15 - 10:08am

    Dave, one thing Twitter needs to do more is read below-the-line comments and take them seriously. Headline comments and below the line comments appear to be almost opposite and public opinion lays somewhere between the two. I’ve been reading them for years.


  • Oh well, we’ve had a huge surge of new members, we’re winning local by-elections all over the place (more wins than anyone else since the election) and Dave Orbinson is determined to make us wallow in the dumps. Eddie picks out a high level of concern about immigration (which in fact is coupled with support for welcoming refugees) and as soon as Tim takes a brave stance, worries that it’ll lose us votes. Here is a simple message. If the Liberal Democrats are chiefly driven by fear of losing votes, we will lose votes.

    I agree with Eddie that Tim’s speech was short on specific solutions, but that isn’t what a leader’s speech is for. If it gets into a lot of specifics it’s either a boring recital of what we’ve just debated or it’s making policy without the rest of the members.

    I disagree to some extent with Tony about what matters in the speech. Positive BBC coverage is welcome, of course, but at this stage in the Parliament we can do without it and nothing is going to deflect the fascination with Corbyn. Our chances will come later if we’re in the mood and mindset for it: and that’s what the Leader’s speech is about, especially after a crushing electoral defeat. Reinvigorate. Restate our basic Liberalism. Fire us up. Prepare us for the tough challenges ahead. And it worked.

  • Simon feet on the ground please, we are not winning by elections all over the place, we are mostly second or third and in Scotland hardly existing. There is a mountain to climb, we should aim for 100 net gains next May. We must keep things in a proper perspective otherwise it will be 2012 – 15 all over again.

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