In this campaign, I’ve really been put through my paces. Through 20 hustings, with more to come, and hundreds of media interviews for newspapers, blogs, TV & radio, I’ve been making my pitch for the leadership.
That’s how it should be. We need to make sure our next leader is battle tested, because they face a big task when they take over this party at the end of August. The election review was 61 pages of recommendations, and Dorothy Thornhill rightly pulled no punches in identifying many of the big structural issues our party faces. I’m proud that as a party, we’ve been honest about what has gone wrong over the last decade, and I’m personally proud that Dorothy is backing me as the candidate to fix it.
But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will be easy. There are no quick fixes to the challenges we face as a party, and there never have been. Whether that is our structural issues around campaign resourcing, our lack of a coherent message to the electorate, or our poor record on diversity, we can’t wave a magic wand and make those problems disappear overnight.
A lot of the work the next leader will have to do isn’t exciting, it won’t be front page news but it’s absolutely critical to our future success and will take hard work and graft. Fortunately, I’ve spent my life rising to challenges and have never been scared of a bit of graft. From when I was a young carer to my Mum, to when I won Kingston by 56 votes in 1997 when it wasn’t even a target seat, to beating the Tories in Government and more than trebling renewable energy, I’ve never backed down from a big challenge.
That’s why in this contest I’ve been talking about my plan to rebuild the party on solid foundations around a coherent core message, because we can’t go into another election with big ambitions that are built on sand. I’m determined to work with every part of our party, from the grassroots to the President and CEO, to deliver on the election review and make sure we can put the party in a position to win again.
I’m excited for the opportunity to take that experience and apply it to leading our party, rebuilding from the grassroots upwards, making sure people know Liberal Democrats stand for a fairer, greener and more caring society and making sure that our campaigners have everything they need in order to win in elections next year and beyond.