Liberal Democrats, we have now been in Government for 500 days. Not easy, is it? None of us thought it would be a walk in the park, but I suspect none of us predicted just how tough it would turn out to be. We’ve lost support, we’ve lost councillors, and we lost a referendum. I know how painful it has been to face anger and frustration on the doorstep.
Some of you may have even wondered: Will it all be worth it in the end? It will be. And today I want to explain why.
But above all I want to pay tribute to you. Your resilience. Your grace under fire. I have been genuinely moved by your spirit and your strength. Thank you. Thank you, above all, for never forgetting what we are in politics for. After the May elections, Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of our defeated candidates in Edinburgh said that if losing was part payment for ending child detention then, as he said: “I accept it, with all my heart.”
That is the liberal spirit and that is something we will never lose. The spirit that gave birth to our party a century and half ago, that kept us alive when the other two parties tried to kill us off. The spirit that means however great our past, our fight will always be for a better future.
Down in Westminster we’ve been vilified like never before. The Left and the Right didn’t like us much in opposition. They like us a whole lot less in Government. The Left accuse us of being powerless puppets, duped by a right wing Conservative clique. The Right accuse us of being a sinister left wing clique, who’ve duped powerless Conservatives. I do wish they’d make up their mind.
So yes, it has been hard. And adversity tests the character of a party just as it tests any person. We’ve shown – you’ve shown – immense strength. After being hit hard, we picked ourselves up and we came out fighting. Fighting to keep the NHS safe. Fighting to protect human rights. Fighting to create jobs. Fighting for every family. Not doing the easy thing, but doing the ri…