This movement has been fighting for Liberalism for a century and a half. Such a great cause is not going to be destroyed in a month and a half.

Ming Campbell made the following speech at the Plymouth Hustings on January 28, 2006

I am delighted to be back in the West Country and to return to the debate about the future that our party wants and our country needs.

I want to thank you for all you have done to build up the strength of the Liberal Democrats in this region.

Once again in 2005 you led the way for the party with superb results.

We are all pleased to welcome Julia Goldsworthy Dan Rogerson and Jeremy Browne to Parliament.

They are making a tremendous contribution.

What a week.

Rocked by scandal.

Finished as a serious political force.

It is hard not to feel sorry for George Galloway.

So far 2006 has not exactly been a vintage year for Liberal Democrats either.

Some critics have been quick to write us off. But I’ve got a message for the writers of political obituaries.

This movement has been fighting for Liberalism for a century and a half. A great cause is not going to be destroyed in a month and a half.

The Liberal Democrats are here to stay.

We have more seats than at any time in 80 years.

We run a record number of councils.

All across the country it is we who are the main challengers.

Of course our enemies want to say that we are finished. Because they dislike the values we stand for. They fear us and what we can achieve.

So we must not give up. Run for shelter and wait for the storm to blow over. What we must do now is to make the political weather.

It is the role of the party leader to do exactly that.

I have always had to work hard – as an Olympic athlete, as a lawyer, as a politician.

It took me 11 years and three elections to win my seat from 4th place.

If ever there was a moment to work hard, extra hard, for our party, it is now.

If elected, I will use my experience, my authority, my energy to work with you, campaign alongside you.

I am passionate about our party, passionate about my politics, determined to lead this party, not for my own sake but for what liberal democracy can achieve.

We must make our unique values – liberty, equality, and community – more relevant than ever and set a new agenda for progress in this century.

We must be the party of ideas, to re-energise our stale politics and make the twenty first century the liberal century.
That is why I have set out five key areas for our future direction.

First, as a progressive, I will pursue the war on poverty.

We must lift those on the lowest incomes from tax and help women who bear the worst effects of low pay, poor pensions and inadequate childcare.

Second, as liberal I will be a strong advocate of civil liberties, equal opportunities and political reform.

Parliament, fairly elected, must hold the Government to account both with a stronger Commons and an elected Lords.

Third, as an environmentalist I will be relentless in my focus on tackling the crisis we face.

At home we must give a big boost to energy savings and encourage people and businesses to play their part.

Abroad we must work to persuade the United States to take climate change seriously and work with developed and developing nations to take positive action – this is one of the most pressing issues for British foreign policy contraction and convergence.

Fourth, as an internationalist I am determined that Britain must co-operate with other nations to ensure a safer and more secure world.

I raised with the Prime Minister this week obligations which must be met.

Darfur is a scar on the conscience of the world – hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced. It is time to back up fine words with real action.

Fifth, as a democrat, I would reduce the power of the over-mighty, authoritarian state – with community services, locally provided, democratically accountable.

This party over 150 years has played a major part in building British democratic politics.

Since 1945 we have come back from near extinction, built our strength at Westminster and in the Council chambers and today exercise a position of power and influence in our national and local life.

Our voice has never been more needed.

It is Liberal Democrats who stand, often alone, between liberty and the nightmare of the big brother state towards which we have been sleep-walking under this Government.

It is Liberal Democrats who stand, often alone, as guardians of the quality and efficiency of our public services.

It is Liberal Democrats, often alone, who stand up for an enterprise economy but who want to see the wealth created shared more fairly.

It is Liberal Democrats, often alone, who understand the challenges of globalised world and seek international co-operation to guard our common security and environment.

So I say to my fellow Liberal Democrats: hold steady, keep calm.

Be proud of who we are and what we have achieved. But the best is yet to come.

Not a time for caution and consolidation.

Time for confidence and commitment.

I am confident you are committed.

Together there should be no limit to our ambition.