Over one million children live in bad housing in our country – the poorest in our society suffer the most. Labour should be ashamed of this.

It was during the 1997 election that I heard the best ever line from a Labour party spin doctor.

Talking about Tony Blair and his speeches.

He said today Tony Blair will be passionate, tomorrow he will be spontaneous!

You couldn’t make it up!

It is terrific to see such a large crowd here today.

I know I speak for Simon and Chris as well by saying that the huge turnout to these hustings has shown the strength of the party up and down the country.

A strong base on which to build.

I am serious about my politics and so is this party.

I have always worked hard – as an Olympic athlete, as a Scottish lawyer, as a National politician.

I know the value of hard campaigning and hard work – it took me three elections to win my seat.

It took three elections to move from 4th place to 1st place.

Building up strength on the ground – taking control of the Council, recruiting members and energising supporters.

Winning through campaigning.

As you know there are no short cuts to success.

So I will use this – my experience, my authority, my energy – to work with you, campaign alongside you as part of a formidable team.

In every generation the shining talents choose one party to make their home.

We are fortunate that this generation has chosen the Liberal Democrats.

Under my leadership talent will be nurtured from all sections of the party in Parliaments, in councils and in the nations and in the regions of Britain.

I know this party, I have lived and breathed this party all my life, and I want to lead this party.

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

We have exciting new opportunities as a party.

As Dunfermline and West Fife showed there should be no limits to our ambitions and our aspirations.

But Tony Blair fades from the scene – why would people turn to David Cameron, the new Tony Blair? As Tony Blair fades – why would people turn to Gordon Brown, the same old Gordon Brown?

Liberal Democrats must take our unique values – liberty, equality, and community – more relevant than ever and set the new agenda for progress in this century.

We must be the party of ideas, to re-awaken our stale politics and make the twenty first century the liberal century.

A time when we can make our politics and our country – fairer, greener and more democratic.

That is why I have set out five key areas for our future direction.

First, I will pursue the war on poverty.

I have made housing a theme of my campaign.

Homelessness has doubled under Labour – 1.5 million await a council house whilst 750,000 homes are empty. Labour should be ashamed of this.

Over one million children live in bad housing in our country � the poorest in our society suffer the most. Labour should be ashamed of this.

In urban and rural areas millions of young people unable to find a house which they can buy or rent. Labour should be ashamed of this.

So Liberal Democrats must be radical. One idea – remove VAT on house repairs which would encourage empty houses to become homes once again. With over 90,000 empty houses in the public sector government must be more determined to tackle this.

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

It is time to make it clear that the Liberal Democrats believe in a democratic revolution – proportional representation for the Commons, and a fully and fairly elected Lords would really hold the Government to account.

We must be clear that people will only trust Politicians and Parliament when there is a fair voting system for both Houses of Parliament.

We have been too silent on this for too long and now is time to reclaim the ground of democratic reform.

Third, I will be relentless in my focus on tackling the environment and energy crisis we face.

At home we must give a big boost to energy saving 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.

On energy we must invest dramatically in renewables and new technology so that we can say no to nuclear power.

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

Make no mistake – I want to bring our troops home from Iraq as soon as possible.

But I am clear that that process should be driven by events on the ground in Iraq, not by arbitrary deadlines marked on a calendar in London.

We have seen how Paddy Ashdown has managed this same process in Bosnia.

There, the release of international money and the withdrawal of international troops were conditioned at every stage on real progress being made in strengthening the country�s democratic institutions.

The faster the Bosnian�s reformed, the quicker the international presence was wound down.

And we � the international community – have left behind us a stable, democratic state that is increasingly at ease with itself and at peace with its neighbours.

So let us never lose our hard-won position as the party of credibility, authority and judgement on critical issues of foreign policy.

Fifth, I will reduce the power of the over-mighty state � with community services, locally provided, democratically accountable.

In short, here in Coventry locally elected people responsible for local schools, local hospitals, local police and local transport.

It is time to trust people in Coventry to make the key decisions about services for themselves rather than wait on bureaucrats in London.

If it is good enough for the people of Scotland, it is good enough for the people of Coventry.

My leadership � about values and integrity, judgement and credibility.

Taking our values and restating them for our time.




A strong, distinctive, principled party.

Working together, going forward.

Not looking inwards, but reaching outwards.

Taking our message not to a few seats but every seat – to every town and village, every city and metropolis.

Nothing less will do – not for our sake, but for Britain.