Over the past three years, I have been proud to help lead the calls for a People’s Vote in the belief that the challenge of Brexit required not only the strong leadership provided by the Liberal Democrats but also for us to work together with people of all parties and none.
I never imagined that I would be able to say that Michael Heseltine and Alastair Campbell voted the same way as me, but our message to stop Brexit brought together voters from all corners of our politics.
I think this movement of people giving us a fresh look is reflective of the fact that our two-party politics is fracturing. The hard-right Conservatives are running off courting voters they’ve lost to the Brexit Party, and hard-left Labour has departed the field entirely, unable to bring themselves to pick a side at all. But there are good people in the abandoned wings of each party with whom we can, and must, work.
Our two-party politics is fracturing.
Over recent days, this has included speculation that some of the former Change UK MPs may join the Liberal Democrats. I have worked with a number of these MPs and greatly respect them and admire their bravery in leaving their broken parties behind. I also believe passionately that to advance our causes in politics, we have to be willing to reach beyond our current membership and bring on board people who are liberal, but not yet Liberal Democrats.
Over the next few months, there will no doubt continue to be speculation about whether MPs, whether sitting as Independents or not, will seek to join the Liberal Democrats. I have been clear that if those people share our vision for the country, then they would be welcome. If they can read that famous pre-amble of our constitution and find themselves nodding along, then they are welcome. If they believe that we need to fight for our place in the EU, if they believe immigration is a good thing and they want to transform our economy so that it promotes well-being alongside profit, then they are welcome.
But, under my leadership, this will not be a decision taken solely by the Leader, the parliamentary party, or Federal Board. Our members and local parties will play a vital role in any decision to accept new MPs.
Ask any elected Liberal Democrat and they’ll tell you that our members aren’t just a part of our party, they ARE our party, so I want them involved in that process too.
We have to be willing to reach beyond our current membership and bring on board people who are liberal, but not yet Liberal Democrats.
They have welcomed thousands of people into our party in the last three years, and more than 20,000 in the last few days alone, and many of these ‘newbies’ have now gone on to become hard-working local Councillors, Parliamentary candidates and even new MEPs.
We are the party of Remain, and we are also the party best placed to take on the division and populism of the Brexit Party. To do this, we need to build a liberal movement that can build a better society. And as the thousands of new members will attest, our party is a welcoming place for those who want to build a liberal movement to take on the growing forces of nationalism and populism.
Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats will be the rallying point for the movement that this country desperately needs. I am ambitious for our party and want to see us continue to grow with our members, old and new, integral to our success.