Vince: Lib Dems are about openness, equality, civil liberties and protecting democracy and environment

Much has been written about Vince’s proposed reforms to our party. However, we thought it might be worth fishing out that bit of his speech where he talked about our values and where he set out what he wants to achieve as leader:

I used the break to give some thought as to the role my party should be playing in the British political system.

The country is bitterly divided over Brexit and the politics of the main parties leaves millions of voters, broadly those in the ‘centre ground’, feeling ignored while they get on with their internal civil wars.

And little attention is being paid to some of the big long-term challenges around climate change, an ageing population, new technologies and stagnant productivity.

To be sure, the sense of political malaise is not unique to the UK.  Ever since the global financial crisis, frustration over the failure of market economies to deliver rising living standards, and a sense of unfair rewards, has fed the politics of extremism.  Parties in the liberal and social democratic traditions have struggled.

Liberal democracy itself is under threat notably in the USA, in Eastern Europe and perhaps here.  Authoritarians and extremists of both right and left are on the march and are coordinating their tactics and propaganda: an Illiberal International.

The problem is obviously not the same everywhere and in some countries – France, Canada, Ireland – there are encouraging counter-currents and we need to learn from them.
But in Britain there is the additional problem of a first-past-the-post voting system which entrenches the position of the two established major parties.

This system has worked after a fashion when politicians aimed for common ground.  But when, as now, the main parties are driven by their party fringes, politics become dangerously polarised.

And when democracy also seems unable to deliver, the frustration opens up a space for various forms of ugly populism.  The summer of 2018 offered us verbal attacks on Muslims and Jews as the staple of political debate.  And, of course, wall to wall Brexit.

It is a worrying picture.  So, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have naturally asked myself how I, and my party, can help protect, and develop liberal democracy in Britain, at a time when it is in grave danger.  Perhaps the gravest since the 1930s.

I see two big steps we need to take:
First, I want to bring values back into our politics providing a rallying point for those who are committed to defend liberal democracy; challenge extremes of inequality and barriers to opportunity; uphold our civil liberties; maintain an open, outward looking country and protect our environment.

My colleagues and I have sought over the last year to demonstrate how we can put those values into action in respect of the economy and tax policy, the housing crisis, schooling and lifelong learning, the new data technologies, the governance of companies, and much else.

And it reassuring to know that these instincts are shared not by a few in this country but by many. In fact, recent research indicates that about 40% of voters share the essential values of the Liberal Democrats.

His 4 objectives as leader

To conclude, I am determined to lead the Liberal Democrats through this, turning us into a genuinely remade, new force.

From the fourth party in the House of Commons, to the first party in the minds of the country – and a contender once again for government.

But in calling for such change in political thinking and practice I am aware that the question will be asked as to whether this is my ‘last hurrah’.

I do not wish to emulate Gladstone who kept going into his mid-80s nor any wish to outlast Robert Mugabe.

Yet I still have four clear objectives, which I intend to see through:

I want to ensure we remain the leading voice against Brexit, demanding a People’s Vote and winning that argument.

I want to ready the party for any general election emerging out of the Brexit chaos and lead us through it.

I want to lead it to further local election success in May, rebuilding the local government base on which both community politics and parliamentary advances are founded.

And – crucially to the others – I want to begin the process of transforming the Liberal Democrats from an old-style political party into a new, open movement.

That means reports of my imminent departure are wide of the mark and now is certainly not the time for an internal election.  There is serious work for our party to do.

To that end, once Brexit is resolved or stopped and if the new rules are agreed, that will be the time to conduct a leadership contest under the new rules.

I invite all those who believe in a big centre-ground, liberal movement in British politics to join us. You could be the leaders of tomorrow.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • So “if” we agree the new rules we can have a leadership election?

  • Peter Watson 9th Sep '18 - 6:35pm

    “a contender once again for government”
    Out of curiosity, if the leader of the Lib Dems is not an MP, as has been discussed recently, could they be the prime minister of such a government (or even a deputy PM as Nick Clegg was)?

  • Christian de Vartavan 9th Sep '18 - 8:16pm

    Hear, Hear. I am looking forward to seeing this vision come to life.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Sep '18 - 8:32am

    My (admittedly long shot) prediction is that David Miliband makes an unannounced appearance at the conference and addresses a fringe meeting on “A new party for the centre ground”.
    This steady drip of leaks, announcements and “clarifications” has all the hallmarks of a “cunning plan”.

  • The analysis given by Vince I do not recognise. From the perspective of London, and especially Westminster, I am sure there are bitter divisions over our future in Europe – I read about them every day in the press. However I live on Merseyside. Now I am a pensioner with my free bus pass, I use the buses a lot. I listen to people there and in bars and so on. I do not hear the bitter divisions. I do hear a mounting confusion and unhappiness about what is happening in Westminster. We are only too aware of the battles in the two largest parties about little except personal advancement.
    My vision for the Liberal Democrat’s is one which has a genuine belief in, and proper methods of, involving people. This is not happening in the party. Obviously plans are being made by a small group of people, and they are using the Party to sell it as a done deal. This is not liberal democracy.

  • Richard Easter 10th Sep '18 - 10:21am

    David Miliband is a warmongerer who’s brand of corporatism has nothing in common with this party.

  • Richard: can you explain your comment please.

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '18 - 12:09pm

    Innocent Bystander “My (admittedly long shot) prediction is that David Miliband …”
    Or Chukka Umunna perhaps. Or Tony Blair, making overtures for Chukka Umunna and others to follow at a later date.
    I’m not sure that any of this qualifies as a “cunning plan” though, and I wonder if it will all be a bit of a damp squib when the new leader turns out to be PPC Sarah Olney while she waits for the chance to regain a seat. 🙂

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Sep '18 - 12:11pm

    Quite so but I just can’t see these recent announcements as disconnected.
    If “supporters” can vote for a leader who doesn’t have to be a LibDem MP they might be prepared to choose a “recognisable name” rather than someone who would not be, as you say, a traditional LibDem’s first choice.
    Anyway, it was only my long shot prediction but conversations have been had with someone.

  • Carl Reader 10th Sep '18 - 7:40pm

    Stop banging on about Brexit. You fought a General Election as the anti-Brexit party and got 8% of the vote in 2017 GE. You are still in single figures in the polls. Start addressing the concerns of the vast majority of the people. Explain what Liberalism is for and become a radical party distinct from the 2 major parties and less establishment sounding. Turn up the volume and stop being a single issue party

  • Peter Hirst 11th Sep '18 - 8:10pm

    Expressing values themselves are not sufficient. We would all vote for a Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa because they espouse the values and live by them. Stating your values does not allow you to win over people; in fact I doubt the two above mentioned them. With politicians in low regard and the so called post-truth era, you earn respect by what you do, not what you say.

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