Values and Principles – the summation speech

Conference, I want to begin by thanking Duncan Brack, who led the work on this Principles and Values motion with Alyssa Gilbert, on behalf of FPC. Duncan was kind enough to let me take his moment of glory this morning. And he did so because he felt it was important for a new member like me to share my experiences of the LibDems with all of you. So he handed over this slot to me because he felt it would be good for the party. And so we begin, with our principles in action.

Conference, the values put forward in this motion are values that I know we already share. And I know you share them with me because you’re all staring at a screen right now instead of having a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. I suspect I don’t have to work too hard to convince you of the merits of Liberty, Equality, Democracy, Community, Internationalism, and Environmentalism.

Instead, I want to tell you about how I have seen these values practised at all levels of the party, pretty much from Day 1 of my time with the LibDems.

This motion isn’t just about what we believe, it’s also about how we behave. It isn’t just about a set of principles on paper- it’s about how we translate these principles into action. Every single day.

Conference, I moved to this country 17 years ago. I came to study and within the halls of academia, I was welcomed. But outside the university, I felt like a complete outsider.

That changed in 2016 when I joined the LibDems. Just like Thalia Marrington described, I felt instantly at home. I had been a LibDem all my life and I didn’t know it.

It helped that all of you were kind and generous to me, and suggested ways in which I could become involved— from policy working groups and the Federal Policy Committee to door knocking and leafletting. You chatted and danced and broke bread with me at party conferences. You treated me as one of your own. Brexit or no Brexit, you made me feel like I belonged. Liz Lynne’s earlier comments summarised this beautifully.

Whether you are LGBT+ or from a racialised background, or hail from an area that has been neglected by Labour and the Conservatives, I know I’m not the first outsider who has been embraced by the party.

This is to say that we LibDems don’t just talk about Community as an abstract value, we make it real. You all made me feel like I was part of a community.

How many political parties can say that with a straight face?

You didn’t see my foreignness as a problem, but as an asset. As an injection of new ideas. You didn’t treat me as a threat to your job or to British culture. You asked me about how things are done differently elsewhere, and how we might learn lessons from other places.

This is who the LibDems are, through and through. Willing to embrace the new and different and adapt as necessary.

As LibDems, we can see that global problems like climate change, like Covid, like terrorism — can only be tackled when they are approached internationally. We understand that the EU is an amplifier of our liberal values and influence around the world. We don’t just talk about internationalism, we give meaning to it in our interactions and in our policies.

Conference, I see an incredible empathy in our party. It sits at the heart of how we operate as a democratic party. We see unfairness in society and we want to set things right. But we also believe in letting individuals determine their own success. We believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Our policies aim to level the playing field, not level the score.

Unlike other parties, we are also willing to reflect on our mistakes. Perhaps out of necessity. I see this all the time in how we debate issues— especially at Conference. The way in which we really listen to each other. How we are willing to change our minds when a sensible point is made or when we get it wrong. How we are willing to apologise— to each other and to those who we’ve wronged— in this country and overseas.

Our party welcomes diversity. We don’t just tolerate it. We actively welcome it. We welcome diversity of thought and diversity of experience. This is what Liberty means to us in practice – that people should be able to live their lives as they please and to speak our minds– as long as we aren’t harming others. Thank you Fraser Graham for reinforcing this point for us.

Conference, in 11 days, I am set to become a British citizen. When I think about what this country strives toward and how we see ourselves, I think about these six LibDem values.

The best of the Liberal Democrats – indeed, the best of Britain- is encapsulated in this motion. We’ve put these values forward as LibDem values, but fundamentally, these are also British values. And that is why I have so much faith in this party – because we believe in the same things that regular people in this country also believe. We all want the same things. That all children should get a fair shot in life no matter what their background; that politicians shouldn’t be able to dole out covid contracts to their mates; and that democracy happens from the ground up, door-to-door, by listening to our own communities.

Conference, please accept both parts of the amendment put forward by Katharine Pindar and endorsed by Joe Toovey, and vote in favour of this motion as a whole!

And like Lee Dargue says, we need to keep this conversation going about our values – not just inside the party, but with your friends and family outside the party.

* Christine Cheng in a directly elected member of Federal Policy Committee. Outside the party, Christine is Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London.

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6 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '21 - 1:32pm

    If more were like Christine is here, there would be greater results due to positive vibes!

    As true on a site like Liberal Democrat Voice, as in the Liberal Democrat Party.

    Can we also have a link to the statement referenced in this fine speech.

  • Duncan Brack 20th Sep '21 - 11:54pm
  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Sep '21 - 12:07am

    Thanks!

  • Suzanne Fletcher 21st Sep '21 - 10:18am

    Yes it was an excellent speech. One thing that bothers me about conference is that when amendments are made, the papers they refer to, and importantly the papers that are accessed afterwards, do not have what has been agreed by conference in them.
    In this case it was the well received amendment about Human Rights and Equality which strengthen the paper.
    3 years ago there were a lot of agreed amendments to the paper “Making Migration Work for Britain” making important additions. But anyone finding it on the party website ( not that likely I know!) does not know about those crucial additions.
    we fought blood sweat and tears over them behind the scenes, won the case at conference overwhelmingly, but they are not easily findable.
    spent ages and ages doing fact sheets on issues from that paper (including both original and amended words) and they are available on the LD4SOS website, and in paper form at real conference.
    I’d be interested to know the best way forward on this, what do others who have had amendments agreed to policy papers think?

  • Katharine Pindar 21st Sep '21 - 11:00pm

    Thanks, Suzanne, for raising this. As the mover of the amendment on revising the Equality part and bringing in the Human Rights new section of the motion, I am now anxious to access the motion with the amendment incorporated, not least to be able to show it to my local party which backed the amendment. I am thinking of writing to Conference office to ask them to issue a complete list of the many excellent motions just passed including of course the amendments. It is a shame if as you say your work on Making Migration Work for Britain has not been made widely known.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Sep '21 - 4:13pm

    @Suzanne Fletcher “One thing that bothers me about conference is that when amendments are made, the papers they refer to, and importantly the papers that are accessed afterwards, do not have what has been agreed by conference in them.”

    That might explain something that has perplexed me for a few years.

    I believe that the Autumn 2016 Conference called “on the government to abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools” (https://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-16-grammar-schools) and the Spring 2017 Conference voted to ensure “that selection in admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools is phased out over up to six years” (https://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-spring-17-f16-faith-schools).

    Both policies appear to have been studiously ignored in subsequent elections. Did all those Lib Dems campaigning in Chesham & Amersham criticise the grammar and church schools in the constituency?

    I now wonder, back in 2016/17, might there have been unreported amendments that said, “Oh no we don’t!”? 😉

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