Farron's Leader's Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

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Today, at Liberal Democrat party conference in York, leader Tim Farron will say the party is Britain's best vehicle for political change.  He will boldly say that the party want to replace Labour and be the progressive opposition to the Conservatives.  He will attack Labour for their failure to provide an effective opposition and slam the Conservatives. He will call on business to 'dump' the Tories and for moderate Conservatives to defect. 

“Theresa May is treating British businesses the way Labour has treated the working class for decades. Taking them for granted because she thinks they have nowhere else to go.

She could have fought to keep us in the Single Market if she wanted to. She has chosen not to. She is pulling us out before the negotiations have even begun. 

And because of that choice, she is to blame for every job that is lost, every shop that closes, every company that downsizes, every factory relocated overseas. There was nothing inevitable about leaving the Single Market. That’s her choice. The blame for the damage lies at her door. 

… 

The fact is that there is only one party that is providing real opposition. 

There is only one party fighting for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united. 

There is only one party with the desire and will to win – and that is the Liberal Democrats. 

Theresa May obsesses about her UKIP flank. But she should fear the Liberal Democrats far more. 

We are the only party winning votes off the Conservatives week in and week out. 

In council elections everywhere, every week. 

Because there are millions who voted Conservative at the last Election who are worried by the direction she is taking the country. 

Tim will set out an alternative vision for the country as a whole, saying: 

“Brexit is not the root of every issue we have in this country. 

Inequality is growing. Our society is ageing. Productivity and economic growth are down. The NHS is in a state of perpetual crisis. Social care is broken. Climate change threatens our future.  

The challenges facing Britain are bigger than Brexit. 

The Conservatives are not going to fix those things. They are under no political pressure to do so because the main opposition party in this country is not interested in winning power off them.  

We need a real opposition, with an alternative plan for the country and the will to win. 

Progressives and liberals need a rallying point. Britain needs a business friendly, socially just, electable alternative to the Conservatives. So let’s be it. 

Britain needs a new deal for the NHS and social care. Let’s create it. 

Britain needs a new dynamic, innovative, entrepreneurial economy. Let’s design it. 

Britain needs a school system that gives our children the knowledge and skills to thrive in that new economy. Let’s do it. 

I want a Victorian-scale transformation of our country. A unifying mission of national renewal – from a green revolution to make Britain self-sufficient in energy, to a new deal for the NHS and social care.  

I want three million affordable homes, I want the best railways in Europe.  

Britain is bigger than Brexit. 

Our future will be defined by more than Brexit. 

There is an enormous challenge in front of us – so let’s rise to it.” 

Tim will also make a bold pitch to reclaim patriotism for the left, slamming nationalists of all colours who seek to divide the country, saying that “Patriots love their country, nationalists hate their neighbours.”

“I want to reclaim that most emotive and unifying thing that we have as a society: patriotism. 

There are too many on the centre-left who are squeamish about patriotism. Not me. I love my country. I’m proud of my identity. 

There was a poster that Van der Bellen used in his campaign to defeat the far right that said simply: ‘People who love their country don’t divide it’. 

He’s right. Patriotism isn’t about dividing our society. It is about celebrating it. It’s about our shared experience, our shared history, our shared destiny. 

I am proud of my country. Our ambition. Our optimism. Our generosity. Our openness to new people and new challenges.  Our sense of humour. Our sense of fair play and decency. 

I love my country because it is my country. There’s nothing logical about it.  It’s emotional.  And its good.  This is where I’m from. It is a part of the story of who I am. And you should never be ashamed of who you are. 

How dare the nationalists steal my flag and turn it into a symbol of division? 

I love my country. I am proud of my country. And I’ll tell you what: I want my country back.” 

Tim will also talk about how the Liberal Democrats have changed the law over the last year in a variety of areas, and position the party as the main opposition to the Tories. 

“We are winning in local by-elections left, right and centre. We’re winning seats off the Tories, off Labour, off UKIP. 

We are the real opposition to the Conservative Government. 

We may not yet have strength in numbers in the House of Commons, but we are holding the Government to account every day. And we are still able to change our country. 

We forced the Government to scrap their cuts to working tax credits. 

We fought for the rights of tenants and got private letting fees banned. 

We brought to an end decades of injustice by winning the pardon of thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of crimes that should never have been crimes. 

Our role is to be the real opposition this country needs. 

Our purpose is to create a better future for Britain. 

Our ambition is to change the country we love for the better. 

Our time has come.”

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