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.