My Speech at the Lib Dem Conference in Brighton
Good evening conference.
My name is Ian Kearns, and after many months of soul-searching, I joined the Liberal Democrats in June of this year, from Labour.
I’m here on the stage tonight to tell you why.
I’m here because I could no longer tolerate the sight of a Leader of the Opposition, a Leader of the Opposition, portraying himself as a great peacemaker while providing cover for anti-semites and thugs; siding with overseas dictators against the word of his own country’s intelligence services; and touring meetings of the socialist fringe to declare NATO the source of all evil.
I know who the real peacemakers of our history are. They are the men and women who buried fascism on the battlefields of Europe, who came home to build a better Britain on the back of ideas from liberals like Beveridge and Keynes, and who also built NATO to ensure that they, and we, would never have to go through the same catastrophic experience of total war ever again.
I’m here because the Conservative Party, and the Labour Party under Corbyn, are conspiring to deliver a deeply damaging Brexit, one that will harm our country’s economy, devastate our public services, and harm the vulnerable in our society the most.
You know, and I know, that the Liberal Democrats are the only party calling for a People’s Vote and my message tonight is this: Johnson, Gove, Farage and the rest: you lied to the country, you’ve failed to deliver, and now the people must have a vote on the truth!
I’m here tonight because the politics of the extreme, both left and right, is on the march, and because I know what unifies extremists of all persuasions is their desire to bury liberal values. I don’t intend to sit back and watch that happen.
I’m here because our country is being ripped apart by those who want to peddle the politics of division; Not just Leave versus Remain; or extreme Left against extreme Right; but north against south; rich against poor; young against old; Scots against English; black against white; and anti-semitic or Islamophobic racist against the rest of us; And I know we must replace that politics of division, with a visionary and unifying politics of hope that I believe only liberal ideals can provide.
I’m here because I won’t have patriotism defined for me, or allow it to be owned, by people who think it’s about a blue passport, or by those who think its ok to blame foreigners and immigrants for all of our problems. If the flag flies for anything, let it be in celebration of the divides we bridge; the patents we file; the inventions we make; the diseases we cure; the businesses we build; the poverty we abolish; the communities we better; the aid we deliver; the compassion and responsibility we show toward one another; and for the quality of the talent we unleash in all and not just some of our people.
I’m here because I will never believe that a person who disagrees with me about politics is a traitor, but a citizen exercising a right to free speech in a liberal democracy that must be cherished;
I’m here because in the 21st century, we can’t shape our destiny through illusory efforts to take back national control, but only by working with others in Europe, and across the world, to meet the challenges we all face on this planet together.
In a speech to students suffering the indignities and injustices of apartheid in Cape Town in 1966, Senator Robert F Kennedy told his audience they lived in revolutionary times and that the only way to beat illiberal revolutionaries was through a radical politics of reform aimed at enlarging individual freedom.
Bobby Kennedy inspired his audience that day by saying this:
‘each time a man or a woman stands up for an ideal… he or she sends out a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different points of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’
I’m here because we also live in revolutionary times and the central question up for grabs in our politics is whether that revolution advances liberalism or leads to its destruction.
I’m here because the extremists of both left and right won’t be beaten by mimicking their message, or by defending the status quo, but only by radically extending the liberal commitment to equality of opportunity to the millions of people in our country who now, today, are disinherited from its promise.
I’m here because in revolutionary times a citizen stands up and asks: what can I do to change the course of events?
In the end, I stand before you tonight, and I stand with you, tonight to add my ripple of hope to all of yours, so that together we can form a current powerful enough to demand better, to change the country for the better, to defend the liberal ideals that furnish a life worth living, and to have our country not turn inward, but go out once again to make a positive contribution to the world.