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Alex Cardigan speaks at Eastwood Liberal Democrat HQ – “We did it!”
Alex Cardigan speaks at Eastwood Liberal Democrat HQ – “We did it!”

Speaking inside Liberal Democrat HQ in Eastwood after the count, alongside the new Democrat MP for Eastwood Allan Steele, Alex Cardigan stood on a table holding an unopened bottle of champagne. He calls members and activists around to deliver a barnstorming victory speech.

“Here we are. In a seat held by a Conservative Home Secretary, that has been deepest blue since 1923. The last Liberal MP here, was under Lloyd-George’s leadership! Well, I have to say, though I wish it had stayed Liberal for that period, I am bloody proud that we’ve won today, and that the people of Eastwood have returned to us. This win - Allan’s win, no, our win - is a testament to community politics. Against the Labour and Tory machines, with huge union and big business backing, in a three-cornered fight, we’ve proved ourselves to be every bit as capable as we know we are. I have never seen us win in a seat where top Labour staffers were briefing that they thought they were ahead - local listening beat national lecturing. Be under no illusions - this is a tremendous win, and proof that we are back. Liberal Democrats, put simply – we did it!”

“Throughout this campaign, we have had a lot levied at us. We didn’t run our campaign with Saatchi and Saatchi, or with top strategists. We ran our campaign from here in the constituency, we printed our leaflets and letters on a tinny little printer here, and we went out day in day out and spoke to ordinary people right here. This was not a diktat from the little room in Westminster where I sit when I’m in Parliament, this was a genuine grassroots movement. Most importantly of all, though, we listened to people. We put our trust in people. And that trust was rewarded – as I’ve said already in response to a Labour MP, as of tonight, I’ve now got more MPs than I have chickens on my smallholding!”

“I want Eastwood to be a model for Liberal Democrats up and down the country. Here we have proof of concept – whatever the national polls say, whatever is slung at us, if we keep to the tenacious local politics, then we can win. And now we will have an MP who is not just a fantastic local representative, but who will bolster our movement for real reform. Proportional representation, home rule for Scotland, regular referenda, a proper defence policy for a modern world, and another Parliamentary voice who will make the case to renew Britain’s tarnished international reputation. Britain has been done down by this Government – and we are internationally regarded worse. The Democrats are at the forefront of real radical policy changes, and this win will provide real opposition from a former Tory heartland. If the Prime Minister thought harbouring pro-Apartheid MPs would go down well in his former “safe seats”, then he has been proven very wrong tonight.”

“We have been accused of not having a policy catalogue, this campaign. Having sat through far too many talking shops and witnessed far too much surface-level tinkering with no real impact on the average person’s life, I rejected that. Especially from a Government which has done so little in so many key fields, and failed to answer essential questions to the Defence Secretary and Environment Secretary. Our policy catalogue is not about technocratic tinkering – it is about real, radical, reforming politics. It is about fundamentally changing the nature of how we govern, and making government by consent mean something. Do we have solutions and policies on schools, the police, and breakfast table issues? Of course we do, and we have a 1p on tax plan to fund them too. But our focus is on making sure that the last decade – of rioting, of unrest, of inequality – never happens again. And if we have results like here in Eastwood up and down the country, we can make that change happen. And we will make that change happen one day.”

"This by-election win is about more than just self-congratulation though. It is about that fine, romantic spirit of British liberalism. It is about us standing up and going, you know what, yes, we can win toe-to-toe with the major parties and win. It is about the lives that having a proactive local Liberal Democrat MP will change for the better, and the thousands of pieces of casework that Allan will do for his constituents. It is about the sort of country we want to live in, and the internationalist, outward-looking, yet still fervently patriotic and proud vision that we all have for Britain. Be under no illusion, this is not the win to end all wins - we have a mountain to climb to make the change that our nation so desperately needs to come into fruition. We have a mountain to climb to be ready for the next General Election. What we've proven here, though, is that we have the mettle for that ascent - and I am enormously proud to be leading an emboldened party after tonight's result."

“Tonight, though, we can celebrate. This is a fantastic win and a testament to hard work. So, Liberal Democrats – cheers!”

Cardigan proceeds to pop open the Champagne cork, filling glasses, as tired-looking but ecstatic members and activists with drinks in hands raise theirs for a cheers too.
An enthusiastic and passionate speech from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, focusing on the important by-election win but also how the party can build upon it.

The initial tagline about 'proof we are back' makes the news bulletins, though understandably news coverage in general focuses more on how bad the result is for the Government more than how great the win is for the Liberal Democrats.

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