This has been a dramatic week in Parliament with Theresa May’s Brexit proposals heavily defeated, and a very clear statement that a ‘no deal’ Brexit must be avoided. It is now clear that Brexit will be postponed, and very possibly stopped.
The future is very uncertain but despite Labour’s continued prevarication, there is still a real chance of securing a People’s Vote and, indeed, of stopping Brexit.
The fact that these possibilities are still alive is a great tribute to our Party. Unlike the Tories and Labour, we never saw it as our duty to ‘deliver Brexit’. The tribute is primarily to you as members, for marching and campaigning so energetically. Thank you for securing the progress we have made.
I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation. I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.
So I wanted you, our members, to know that, assuming Parliament does not collapse into an early General Election, I will ask the party to begin a leadership contest in May.
At our spring conference this weekend, members will have the chance to make that contest the biggest and most open leadership election British politics has ever seen. It’s a real opportunity for our party to seize the radical and liberal centre of British politics.
We can and should invite hundreds of thousands of new supporters in, with the chance for us to choose a new leader together.
It has been my great privilege to lead the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time. I inherited the leadership after two difficult and disappointing General Elections. But I take pride in seeing the party recovering strongly, with last year’s local election results the best in 15 years, record membership and a central role in the People’s Vote campaign.
And long after my period as your Leader ceases, I will continue to work with you and my successor to make sure the Liberal Democrats are at the centre of Britain’s rapidly changing politics. By building a movement of voters who share our values, we can help rescue the country from a profound political crisis and give hope of a better future.