I’m delighted that the Liberal Democrat Leadership campaign is now fully underway. The first few days of hustings have been so much fun and incredibly successful with a record number of people participating.
If you have already attended, or are planning to, thank you.
If you haven’t, you can see some of the hustings that have already taken place on the party’s YouTube channel. The TV style debate on the economy was great to take part in. You can see the recording of it here.
I want to take this opportunity to set out in more detail my vision for how the Liberal Democrats can change for the better, and why I am the candidate to steer us into a brighter, more positive future.
But to start with, we have to face facts.
We achieved some great things in coalition but we also made mistakes, and we suffered from them. Many voters felt betrayed, and, over the past three general elections, as a party we have keenly felt the effect of this loss of trust.
It’s not good enough to simply shove our history under the rug. The coalition is and always will be part of our history. But we cannot allow ourselves to be bogged down having to constantly explain our past.
We need to look forward towards our future and, rather than explain the old, we need to get out there and campaign for something new. “Steady as she goes” simply won’t cut it anymore.
We now face a clear choice for the future of our party.
We could continue as we are: low in the polls from our coalition and Revoke baggage, with no clear direction and only eleven seats – barely a blip on the electoral radar.
Or, we can chart a new course for the Liberal Democrats, with a positive campaign and a fresh vision that cuts through to voters and makes the emotional case for progressive, liberal values.
Policies like a Universal Basic Income to ensure no one is left behind, striving to be a carbon negative society, not just carbon neutral, and a national retraining programme for all ages are exciting policies that can make us relevant again.
We cannot fail to recognise the mistakes we made in coalition. But we must not let them define us. Under my leadership, we will restate the case for a kinder, more liberal and more diverse politics which works for everyone.
So when you cast your vote, ask yourself: “Do we want more of the same?”. “Do we want to keep being bogged down?” Or will you put your faith in me so we can move forward together and build a brighter, better party?
The Liberal Democrats have always been at our most successful when we have developed radical new ideas. Paddy Ashdown always said he wanted us to be ‘fizzing with ideas’. Under my leadership, that’s what we will be.
We’ve always done best when we have been willing to challenge the status quo, as Charles Kennedy did on Iraq. Not the left of Labour, but certainly often more progressive. Under my leadership, that’s what we will be.
And we always do better when we live our own values. So whether it is the need to invest more in training our own activists and staff, or ensuring that everyone in the party is treated with dignity and respect, that’s the kind of party I want us to be.
Now that the campaign is fully up and running, I hope you will join the debate.
I look forward to seeing you at any one of the many hustings events to come, which you can find here!
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon. She tweets @LaylaMoran