Lib Dem VONC Press Conference
Hello everyone, thank you all for being here today. I’d like to take a moment to thank the wonderful Liberal Democrat parliamentary team - and all the activists, councillors and staff members who help enable their fantastic work. Whereas other parties have descended into leaking, infighting and chaos, we have been a strong and unified team - and, unlike the other parties, have actually managed to grow in number over the course of this parliament (*indicates to Alex Cardigan*).
The ignoble ascension and resignation of Calvin Ward was, I think it is fair to say, an embarrassment. An embarrassing performance at Prime Minister’s Questions is, admittedly, not reason alone to step down - but he provided us a myriad of other reasons, reasons that seemed to flood out shortly after his election. He announced policy u-turns without consulting the Cabinet, a dereliction of the processes of trust and collective decision-making that are at the centre of every government, not least a coalition. He leaked and undermined the previous government. He showed an increasing disregard for the coalition agreement. He was, more fundamentally, part of the problem of toxic political discourse at Westminster. His premiership will not be missed and by resigning Calvin saved us all a lot of effort.
Throughout this all, the Liberal Democrats have been working tirelessly to deliver on the promises in the coalition agreement, working to deliver on the centre-left, liberal, progressive, internationalist governing vision that unites the commitments made to both Labour and Liberal Democrat voters. We have had many successes here: continuing to lift millions out of income tax, investing billions in decarbonising our economy and helping left-behind communities, billions of pounds more invested in our schools and hospitals, standing up for civil liberties, political reform and internationalism. We have done this in partnership with the majority of Labour MPs, who do share that vision for coalition government and do regret the choices made by those such as Calvin Ward.
Going forward, we believe this new motion of no confidence put forward by Dylan Macmillan to be nothing more than a political stunt. He has presided over an increasingly toxic brand of politics and this is but another episode in that. Macmillan has been keen to pursue an election only so long as he has been performing well in the polls.
Let us not forget that, when he himself came to power, without a direct mandate from a general election, after the Cambel scandal, in situations where the reasons for trust were arguably even scarcer than they were now, he did not want to call a general election. He was scared of a Labour-led administration and only went to the public when he wasn’t able to get his way in negotiations. He, too, was the third leader in a minority government, and yet, at the time, he initially had no intention of seeking a public mandate. For Dylan Macmillan, it is one rule for him, another rule for others, and his desire - in William Croft’s own words, an “opportunistic” desire - to return to government is not a good reason to call an election. It is rank hypocrisy.
What is clear, though, is this. Any new prime minister will need to commit, unequivocally, to the coalition agreement, as well as the principles of good governance and collective cabinet decision-making that Calvin Ward - like Mary Cambel and Harold Saxon before him - abandoned so rashly.
I think that a full parliamentary term may now look unlikely - but we owe it to the nation to conclude certain tasks, such as fulfilling key electoral commitments and seeing through the implementation of one of the greatest constitutional changes in our history, before calling an early election. These changes are, I think, necessary to fix the structural flaws and toxic attitudes in our democracy that have allowed premierships such as Cambel’s and Ward’s to occur. An election now, before that has been implemented, will just cause chaos and yet more loss of trust.
For the first time ever, we have been polling above the larger coalition party. This is, no doubt, a great achievement, and it says a lot about how the hard work Liberal Democrat MPs, councillors and activists have put in for the communities they represent. There is every reason to think that our party would benefit immensely from calling an election at this time, but the Liberal Democrats also believe it would be wrong for the country for us to do so. We must put country before party.
In summary, the Liberal Democrats will not be supporting the no confidence motion put forward by Dylan Macmillan - the rationale by which it has been called is a standard that Dylan Macmillan himself would have failed. An early election would, at this time, be a source of even greater instability. Our priority must be fixing our broken politics.
((Questions taken on Discord))
Graham Adiputera (Lib Dem - Sutton and Cheam)
Deputy Prime Minister
Liberal Democrat Leader
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Technology
Parliamentary - 36
Media - 53
Policy - 48
To be honest, people are fairly convinced that this is mostly because you don't like Dylan Macmillan. Of course, your own voters largely hate the Tories and would much prefer you to keep working with Labour - so you reinforce your existing support, even if you don't pick up many swing voters.
Labour Party Adviser
Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence Moderator