New Lib Dem leader vows ‘to listen and make changes’

Sir Ed Davey (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Sir Ed Davey (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)


By Sir Ed Davey
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

IT’S AN incredibly humbling thing to be elected leader of a party I joined 30 years ago.

I joined the Liberal Democrats back then because of what it stood for – fairness and equal­ity, social justice and in­ternationalism. I joined to fight to protect our environment, reform our broken politics, and defend the rights of or­dinary people.

And though so much has changed in the last 30 years, I am deter­mined that, under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats will stand for those principles and fight for those goals with more energy and enthusiasm than ever.

Because our values are needed now more than ever. The corona­virus crisis has taken an enormous toll, and will continue to affect our lives for decades to come. The climate emergency threatens global catastrophe. Deep-seated inequali­ties and injustices per­sist throughout our so­ciety. And this chaotic, incompetent Conserva­tive government is just making things worse.

Ever since the start of this pandemic, Liberal Democrats have been clear that the priority has to be keeping peo­ple safe and ensuring no one is left behind. Families across the UK are facing enormous hardship, and we have fought to secure government support for those most affected – espe­cially self-employed people and businesses that have been hit hard­est, such as those in the hospitality, leisure and culture industries.

We all want life to get back to normal as soon as possible. But we also know that our country can’t simply go back to the way things were. As we emerge from this crisis, we have to do far more to tackle climate change, combat racism and inequality, and strengthen our public services. We must, to coin a phrase, build back better.

But if the Liberal Democrats are to be the champions of a greener, fairer, more caring soci­ety – and we must – then we need to change.

After three disap­pointing general elec­tion results, we need to reconnect with people across the UK who sadly don’t believe that we’re on their side. And that starts with listening to them. So I will be a leader who listens. To everyone. To your prob­lems and fears, your hopes and dreams. I want to hear about the things that matter most to you, and I will make your concerns my own.

And I am particularly keen to listen to people from black, Asian and minority ethnic com­munities. Sadly, our party’s record when it comes to representing those communities is poor, and I am deter­mined to change that.

Of course, there are some things we are hearing already, loud and clear. In the months since the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the need for the UK to move fur­ther and faster to address institutional racism across our society.

One major injustice is that black people are disproportionately like­ly to be stopped and searched by the police. That is wrong in itself, but also undermines the very trust and confi­dence in the police that is vital to prevent crime.

So I have put forward legislation to abolish suspicionless Stop and Search, under which a black person is 47 times as likely to be stopped as a white person.

The Liberal Demo­crats are also fighting to abolish the Conserva­tives’ discriminatory Hostile Environment, which has caused peo­ple who have every right to live in the UK – disproportionately those from BAME back­grounds – to be wrongly denied access to health­care, made homeless, detained and even de­ported, as demonstrat­ed by the appalling Windrush scandal.

And we’ve joined calls from leaders of nu­merous BAME commu­nities for the govern­ment to develop a Cov­id-19 race equality strategy, to form part of a new social and race equality contract.

But I know that we must also do more to make sure that our par­ty looks like the com­munities we are seeking to represent, with great­er diversity among our candidates, councillors and parliamentarians. And we must demon­strate to people of all backgrounds, wherever they live, that we care deeply about them.

Because the Liberal Democrats have always been at our best when we represent the whole country, not just some people, and when we stand for fairness and opportunity for all.