Monday, 28 September 2015

Tim Farron's first speech as leader (continued)

Lord Greaves has responded to the Guardian in a letter about the paper's commentary on the Farron speech:

Your pat on the head is ironic but still welcome. It is 51 years 
since I was first present to hear a leader’s speech at a Liberal 
Assembly - the annual inspiration by that great Liberal Party 
leader, your own Jo Grimond. I do think that Tim Farron’s speech 
this year, in presentation and context and content, is the best 
I’ve heard in all the years of Liberal and Liberal Democrat 
conferences since then.

Members of the Liberal Democrat conference this year were not 
“doggedly cheery” as you suggest. The years we were dogged were 
during the coalition, determined to see it through, to promote 
Liberal policies and to stop the Conservatives doing their worst. 
The mood now is of some relief that we are free of the Tories 
combined with deep anger at what their worst now means for people 
in this country and in the rest of the world.

This had to be a transitional speech but throughout it Tim 
headlined and emphasised our Liberal tradition, our Liberal 
beliefs, our Liberal cause. And in his return to Grimond’s famous 
appeal to march his troops to the sound of gunfire he reaffirmed 
our historic role as the campaigning radical force in British 
politics, based firmly on the Liberal left and actively promoting 
those progressive causes that the other major parties shy away 

This is our role and our destiny. So watch this space because 
it’s ours. 

There have also been comments from Mark Pack, Stephen Tall, Paul Walter and Caron Lindsay. So, rather than dissect the whole speech, I will just pick out a few passages which struck me:

But you know, I have never felt so common as the day I entered the House of Commons. I have never met so many well-spoken, expensively educated people. It doesn’t make them bad people. But it does make me feel like an outsider. But that’s fine, because Liberal Democrats are outsiders.

This is a line which should be dropped - or seriously modified - if we want to be considered seriously as a party of government again. It also comes perilously close to whining.

I think about the Ugandan Asians offered a safe haven by our parents from that murderous tyrant, Idi Amin. And it makes me realise the pride I feel in Britain when we do show such generosity of spirit.

That generosity should be seen in the light of history as set out here. Neither the Conservative government at the time of the expulsions nor the previous Labour government which had nullified the East African Asians' passports covered themselves in glory. But after some initial suspicion most British communities welcomed the immigrants, from whose contribution we are still benefiting.

Business needs stable economic conditions to thrive and grow. A strong, fair, liberal and sustainable economy is the essential core that enables people to succeed, shape their own futures and get support in times of need.

The Liberal Democrats are proud of our economic record in Government and we will build on what we have achieved so far to develop a strong and clear liberal vision for the British economy into the future.

That’s why we remain committed to the abolition of the structural deficit.

Our commitment to clearing the deficit by 2017/18 is right.

Not ending the deficit now means leaving the next generation to clear up our mess, and that’s simply unfair. By ignoring economic realities, Britain would be choosing more austerity, not less.

But what is equally unfair is to place the burden of ending that deficit on the backs of the poorest and lowest paid – we must all play our part, based on our ability to pay.

That, George, is what “being all in it together” really means.

So that’s the Liberal Democrat economic approach. Invest in infrastructure, innovation and innovators. Pay off our debts and share our burdens fairly.

That’s the common sense approach. Ambitious government, social justice, economic competence.

This is a point which needs to be continually made, within the party as much as outside. The Liberal Democrat party is heir not only to Beveridge, Lloyd George and the young reforming Winston Churchill who introduced economic justice; and to Roy Jenkins, the great social reformer; it is also heir to William Gladstone who practically created the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer as we know it today. Nor should we forget that Roy Jenkins, when Chancellor, also balance the books.

There will be calls for unfunded government spending from another seaside resort this week and, while it would be unfair to blame the Conservatives governing alone totally for last month's surge in the deficit, George Osborne has made a number of decisions which will dent future government income. We need to emphasise our financial responsibility along with our social conscience.

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