More than 800 years ago, St Albans Abbey hosted some of the very first meetings that led to the drafting of Magna Carta - the “great charter of liberties”.
That started a proud tradition here in our wonderful city – a proud tradition of fighting for greater democracy, liberties and freedoms.
And in the last few years, there have been many such fights.
We took a stand when our parliament was unlawfully prorogued. We took to the streets to fight the reckless and damaging Tory Brexit. And we took the knee to join with all those who fight institutional racism.
Having been brought up to think the Tories were the bad guys, I was shocked in my twenties when it was a Labour Government that waged an illegal war in Iraq.
if a government can propose measures like this, where do we end up as a country?"
But it wasn’t the war that got me involved in politics – it was what followed. The Labour government’s so-called war on home-grown terrorism saw the introduction of suspicion-less stop and search, and proposals for secret inquests and 42 days’ detention without charge. Measures that were deeply illiberal but also ineffective.
I remember thinking at the time – if a government can propose measures like this, where do we end up as a country?
Fast-forward to today, and those same rights and liberties are under attack again. But this time, from a nationalist Tory government.
This government is failing to take the urgent action needed to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, which will cause untold human suffering. This government is failing to deal with the Brexit fallout, which is screwing over our farmers, our fishermen, and our food supply. And this government is failing to outline a plan on how we recover from the pandemic in a way that builds back better.
Instead, this deeply illiberal nationalist Tory government is waging an attack on our liberties, and our freedoms and our global reputation.
This Tory government is attacking our right to peaceful protest.
The Conservatives' protest crackdown bill seeks to undermine our democratic values by taking away away our right to legitimately and peacefully protest.— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) July 6, 2021
Yesterday I and every other @LibDems MP voted against giving police arbitrary and unnecessary powers against protesters. https://t.co/nm3Jul2JPO
This Tory government is weakening the right of every individual to take the government to court when it fails them. This Tory government has put forward a so-called “free speech” bill that gives a platform to hate speech.
The so-called #FreeSpeechBill would not only give Holocaust deniers & anti-vaxxers a platform, but also allow them to sue unis for alleged breaches of ‘free speech’. The fear of litigation in Higher Education will reduce debate & have a chilling effect: stifling free speech. pic.twitter.com/eke77SjoVy— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) July 13, 2021
And at a time of rising fake news and misinformation, this Tory government is trying to pull the rug out from underneath our world-class public service broadcasters.
Liberal Democrats have always stood up for our rights, liberties, and freedoms. And we must do that now more than ever before.
And around the country there are millions of people like us, who want to stand up, who want to stand up for our values and help kick out this lying, incompetent Tory government.
Because people are sick. People are sick of a Tory government that would wage a phoney culture to win votes even if it divides our communities and our countries.
People are sick of a Tory government that will dish out contracts to their mates whilst leaving front-line workers without PPE. And people are sick of being led by a man who lies and lies and lies again.
People are sick of being run by these illiberal elites. People are tired of being taken for granted. And now, we are all ashamed that under this government, “Global Britain” has been reduced to a sad delusion.
But Liberal Democrats are showing people that there is another choice. And while we are ashamed of this government – we are proud of our country.
Liberal Britain believes that our responsibility for protecting rights and freedoms extends beyond our national boundaries. Liberal Britain believes in localism and internationalism, not nationality alone. And liberal Britain believes in individuality over conformity, ideas over identity, and the power of local community.
A liberal Britain would give people the freedom to be whoever they want to be, and live their lives as they choose.
A liberal Britain would give people the freedom to be whoever they want to be, and live their lives as they choose"
A liberal Britain would break up the cabal of decision-making in Westminster and give people power to make decisions in their communities, at work and in their everyday lives.
And around the country, there are millions of people who want to live in a liberal Britain like this. And it’s up to us to show them that it’s possible.
When we won St Albans, it was a win for our liberal values. When we won Chesham and Amersham, it was a win for our liberal values.
The trend is clear: at the local elections and the Chesham & Amersham by-election, voters in many current Conservative seats are backing the @LibDems as the only party that can take the fight to the Tories and win. My comments to @BBCPolitics #PoliticsLive yesterday👇 pic.twitter.com/SOYt8tX3xe— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) June 24, 2021
But in both cases, it was also a win for hard work because the system is stacked against us and elections like these don’t win themselves.
When I became Deputy Leader a year ago, I promised you that my top priority would be to help build a winning campaign machine so we can get more Liberal Democrats elected at all levels, but especially to get more Liberal Democrat MPs elected to Westminster.
Behind the scenes, I’ve been mentoring the next generation of our diverse parliamentary candidates, and I’ve been working with local parties to get those parliamentary candidates in place, so they can help build and lead those winning teams.
Now is the time for you to find your role in our fight for a liberal Britain"
And it is fantastic news that we are starting to get the first of those parliamentary candidates in place. Bobby Dean will be taking on the Tories in his home of Carshalton and Wallington. And Zoe Franklin will be looking to knock another brick out of the blue wall in Guildford.
We may only have 20 months until the next general election. So we must start building those winning machines now.
We need people like you to stand for local council and to stand for parliament. We need people like you to run our fundraising teams, to run our social media teams, to run our canvassing teams. We need people like you to run the canvass training teams, to design literature, and to do all the other tasks that makes a winning team. We need to harness those skills, we need to get organised, and we need to build, build, build.
Remember what it is that we are fighting for. We’re fighting for our rights, to protect our democracy, and for Britain’s place in the world. Now is the time for you to find your role in our fight for a liberal Britain.