As my Presidency draws to an end on New Year’s Eve, I wanted to write to you with a final thank you for the extraordinary help that you have given the liberal cause over the last five years.
To have faced three General Elections and the EU Referendum during these five years – as well as the snap European elections this year – has been unprecedented, draining for everyone who has worked in them. Our candidates and teams, party staff and the many members and supporters who have continuously found that extra bit of energy and effort kept fighting the liberal cause.
Added to this, our local government teams, led by ALDC, have worked consistently hard in elections every year and their success has been rewarded with substantial growth in councillors and councils that we control or run jointly with others. And in Scotland our MSPs hold the SNP to account, and Kirsty Williams is a brilliant Education minister in the Welsh Assembly.
I have been really proud to campaign with colleagues across the UK over the last five years, seeing members building the party in their areas and I want to thank you for your warm welcome over my Presidency. In 2017 alone I covered over 4,000 miles, getting to every part of the country! I have also witnessed the party develop its use of online campaigning, not least honed on the Stop Brexit campaign over the last three years.
In 2015 the Conservatives avowed aim was to kill off the Liberal Democrats but we have proved them wrong. Our membership has grown from 40,000 to 130,000, with a consistently high retention rate. If you joined us over the last five years, thank you for joining us and for campaigning for a liberal democracy, for fair funding for mental health, for fighting the climate emergency, for a fair voting system and for major reform of the House of Lords. Your voice is badly needed as we face five years of Conservative rule not least fighting for the UK’s place in Europe and the world.
Next year the independent review of the General and European Elections will ensure we learn the lessons from our campaigns, so please do respond to their request for comments. In the meantime do join the many local election campaigns near you, including the London Mayoral Campaign. In Scotland and Wales campaigns are also underway for their Parliament and Assembly Elections in 2021.
In the last five years we seen an unprecedented time of constitutional crisis and political chaos. I hope that Mark Pack, my successor as President (and Interim Co Leader with Ed Davey) has a slightly calmer time as he takes up office on 1 January. He and his newly elected Federal Board and Committees are ready for the challenge, and I wish him and them well.
My final word is for you, the members. Liberalism is often under threat when populism and nationalism surge. You have stood firm against the recent onslaught from Brexiters, UKIP and the SNP. As I pass the torch on to you for 2020, I know you will continue to light the beacons of liberalism to protect our democracy and our country. Thank you.