Congratulations to all the very many Liberal Democrats who stood for local council seats this month.
Local democracy relies on those who put themselves forward to represent residents, so whether you won or not, I hope you will be proud of having stood.
As a party, we saw results greatly exceeding expectations, with a big net gain of 75 councillors and four new councils under Liberal Democrat majority control.
This is a better performance than Labour and a much better performance than the Tories.
We succeeded in Conservative facing areas like Kingston, Richmond and South Cambridgeshire, and made significant strides in Labour-facing Hull, Haringey and Liverpool.
All over the country our message that Liberal Democrats listen, work hard and get things done made a major impact.
Meanwhile, Labour voters are beginning to recognise how much their party is letting them down over Brexit. The Conservatives’ cuts to schools and policing are a growing source of discontent.
Now we have a new opportunity to add momentum to our campaigning, with the by-election in Lewisham East.
The departing MP, Heidi Alexander, vehemently opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s complicity in Brexit, and voted against his whip.
But a new Labour MP in Lewisham will almost certainly toe the Labour leadership line.
By contrast, our candidate, Lucy Salek will stand up for a constituency which overwhelmingly voted to remain. A Liberal Democrat win can help secure a final say for the public on the final deal, with the option of remaining in the EU.
Lewisham is Lucy’s hometown, and I know she will represent it very ably on the issues people are already raising on doorsteps – secondary schools and knife crime.
She is an exceptional candidate.
To win, we will need a huge Liberal Democrat effort from members all over the country: we have just four short weeks to get our message to voters in Lewisham. Please do come and help, offer to make calls, or donate to the campaign if you can’t make it in person libdems.org.uk/byelections
Our electoral success from local by-elections to the recent council elections to the Lewisham by-election gives us the credibility we need to be heard on the big national issues of the day.
We are, of course, central to the national debate on Brexit. And at our Spring Conference, we endorsed proposals for ring-fenced funding of the NHS, for restoring respect for teachers and for a broad school curriculum. In April, I kickstarted a debate about the future of big data, and the power of big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. In the coming months, I intend to set out Liberal Democrat ideas on a number of big questions facing the country like the housing supply crisis, our prospectus for responsible business and for lifelong learning.
I want our party to be a workshop for big ideas to change the country.
Ideas to win votes, and ideas we can put into action when we win elections.
There is a big opportunity for members to contribute at our autumn conference in Brighton. Look out for registration information in the next couple of weeks, and if you can’t join for the whole time consider coming just for a day, for a weekend, or following the key debates online.
Thanks to you our party has grown dramatically in membership; now it is growing in support and we are making the political weather.
There are still big challenges for us to return to our previous strength in Parliament and in devolved and local government: there’s a lot of hard work to do, but we can see this month’s results as the foundation stone for our renewal.
Thank you to everyone for helping to make it happen.