We had an excellent conference in a very sunny Bournemouth this week, and the thousands of you who came created new party policy following some outstanding debates. We had the largest number of first time attendees, and once again, every debate had first time speakers putting their views and influencing members in policy we made. Thank you for making our conference so special: once again, you confounded the press and media, who fail to understand that our conference is our sovereign body and that you have a real say in steering the direction of the party. I’m always delighted to answer their questions about why we are so upbeat: our conference demonstrates our values and we also know how to have fun together too.
Conference also saw Vince Cable’s outstanding speech in which he demonstrated how he is a serious economic thinker, a strong leader respected by many outside the party, with a vision for the UK. He is a grown-up in today's politics, whilst Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn squabble like school children both inside and outside their own parties.
As I went round the exhibition, with its mixture of organisations from inside and outside the party, I am very aware of the commitment and energy of our internal organisations (known as SAOs or AOs for short). They showcase their work, answer questions, and recruit members to their cause. You can find the SAOs here and the AOs here. Please have a look, find out and get involved with those with whom you share an interest.
In particular, the party continues our challenge to increase our diversity. The Ethnic Minority Lib Dems; Liberal Democrats Women; LGBT+ and Lib Dem Disability Association are all working to encourage and support diversity in the party, and in particular to help members of the party to take up roles such as candidates for council and parliament and to stand for local party officer roles.
This autumn our local parties will be having their Annual General Meetings, and will be looking for people to stand for local party chair, officers (treasurer, secretary, campaigns chair, member development officer etc) and members of the local executive. At conference I asked members to really encourage our newer members (half the party have joined since 2015!) to become involved and I repeat it to you today. Please stand, or especially encourage newer members to stand. I want to see our party fully represented, and those who have joined us since May 2015 have done so with a passion for liberalism and for the UK’s place in the EU. By joining your local and regional party committees, and taking up specific roles you can help to make a more liberal Britain.
And that is why our conference this week was so successful. Not only were the policy debates thought provoking and well argued by you the members, there were also a number of meetings about the development of the party. As members return home from conference, I am keen that energy and enthusiasm continues at a local level. We live in the most extraordinary political times, and as Thomas Paine said over two centuries ago “We have it within our power to make our world over again”. Under Vince Cable’s leadership, and with your energy across the country, we can make that happen!