"Getting rid of the Conservatives will not be enough to bring about the radical change we need."
That’s how Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey began his New Year message to the country. 2024 is almost certain to see Rishi Sunak call a general election, with April or May looking increasingly likely as Conservative Party infighting grows.
Ed made clear that defeating the Conservative Government is “absolutely necessary”, but argued it is “nowhere near enough to solve the big, deep-rooted challenges in our country” – from poverty and inequality to climate change.
Underpinning these huge challenges, he said, is “a political system that has been fundamentally broken for generations.”
Ed described it as “a two-party system that leaves millions feeling powerless and excluded; makes it impossible to hold those in power properly to account; rewards short-term self-interest at the expense of actual solutions; and serves no one, except the vested interests of the Conservative and Labour parties.”
Neither the Conservatives nor Labour can really tackle the country’s most serious problems, he argued, because they are both wedded to the current system, which “suits them just fine”.
Ed said Labour “think they can simply take their turn, without ever grappling with the big challenges we face, or the radical solutions they demand.”
He pointed to Labour’s support for Conservative spending plans – including the two-child limit for benefits and cuts to international aid – as well as their rejection of the Liberal Democrats’ clear, detailed plan to fix the UK’s broken relationship with Europe. “And, of course,” he said, “the Labour Party is still wedded to First Past the Post – even though the majority of voters want change.”
“So it falls to us – to Liberal Democrats – to be the agents of change, once again.”
As Liberal Democrat campaigners make a flying start in 2024, Ed reminded the country why this year’s election is so important:
“Not just to beat the Conservatives, though beat them we must. Not just to change who sits in power, but to change where power sits. We must do nothing less than transform the nature of British politics for good.”
As Liberal Democrats, we know: Getting rid of the Conservatives will not be enough to bring about the radical change we need. Though absolutely necessary, it is nowhere near enough to solve the big, deep-rooted challenges in our country.
The change we seek, the change our party has always sought, the change liberals have championed for generations - is so much bigger than that.
Because, beneath the daily stream of crisis and scandal, lie much older and more fundamental problems; that neither the Conservatives nor Labour are capable of tackling.
Entrenched poverty and inequality. Systemic injustice. Climate change and the nature crisis. Britain’s diminished standing in an increasingly authoritarian world. The concentration of so much power in the hands of so few.
And underpinning them all: A broken political system.
A political system that leaves millions feeling powerless and excluded. That makes it impossible to hold those in power properly to account. A political system that rewards short-term self-interest at the expense of actual solutions.A two-party system that serves no one, except the vested interests of the Conservative and Labour parties. That swings from blue to red and back again, while nothing really changes. A political system that has been fundamentally broken for generations.
And only we – Liberal Democrats – will fix it. No one else will.
Labour certainly won’t. They’ve made that crystal clear. Because the truth is – the current system suits Labour just fine. Yes, it lets the Conservatives in most of the time. But they are bound eventually to let people down so badly that Labour think they can simply take their turn; without ever having to actually offer a convincing vision of the future. Without ever grappling with the big challenges we face, or the radical solutions they demand.
So look what we have as a result:
A Labour Party fully signed up to Conservative spending plans; even when it means leaving millions of children to grow up in poverty. A Labour Party with nothing to say about Britain’s place in the world; following the Conservatives’ lead on cuts to the aid budget, and rejecting our plan to rebuild our critical relationship with Europe. And, of course, a Labour Party still wedded to First Past the Post; even though the majority of voters want change.
And so it falls to us. To Liberal Democrats. To be the agents of change, once again. And bring millions with us, to make it happen.
That’s why cold hands clutch wet phones to canvass voters.Why worn-out shoes walk miles to put leaflets through letterboxes.Why tired voices urge neighbours to lend us their votes.
Not just to beat the Conservatives – though beat them we must. Not just to change who sits in power – but to change where power sits.
We must do nothing less than transform the nature of British politics for good.
Hand back far more control to individuals and communities. Fight for a fair deal, that empowers everyone, and holds the already powerful to account. Smash the two-party system, reform our elections, and give everyone an equal voice.
Because that is the only way we can build a fairer, greener, more caring country.
That is our goal. That is our calling.
So Happy New Year, and I’ll see you out there!