All Gordon Brown and Labour promise is more of the same unfair, unjust, unloved policies.

It is a great pleasure to be with today in Tunbridge Wells in the year of your 400th anniversary.

Everywhere the three of us go record crowds turn out to hear the debates – which has humbled us all.

I want to thank you and all the Liberal Democrats in Kent for all that you do for our cause.

The South East of England is the only region that has returned two Liberal Democrat MEPs for two consecutive European elections.

We all admire Emma Nicholson’s unstinting efforts in the areas of foreign affairs and human rights. I know that Sharon Bowles has made a tremendous impact since she took over from Chris.

Here in Tunbridge Wells, you have some exciting and challenging local elections coming up in May.

I want you to know that as Leader I will fight shoulder to shoulder with you to regain control of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

My view is that we must fight these May elections as hard as we fought the general election.

We’re now coming into the home stretch of this leadership campaign.

Over the last few weeks, I have travelled all over this country, meeting and listening to hundreds and hundreds of people.

People tell me they feel let down by a government that has turned its back on them.

People feel angry at the promises that have been broken and the way they’ve been spun to and fobbed off.

People feel threatened by a government that has forgotten about the most basic values of freedom and justice.

People are crying out for change.

We know what sort of change Labour offers. When he finally becomes Prime Minister, Gordon Brown will try to tell us that everything has changed and that we really have a new government.

Mr Brown will ask us to forget that he has been joint Prime Minister since 1997. He will ask us to forget that when it really mattered, he stood behind every decision this government has made.

It was Gordon Brown who wrote out the massive cheques to pay for the war in Iraq.

It was Gordon Brown who raided the pension funds and in so doing helped to bring about the collapse of occupation and personal pensions.

And it was Gordon Brown who gave us the complicated and unfair tax system we have today. He lets the richest 10% of the population pay a smaller slice of their income in tax than the poorest 10%.

And now the ultimate injustice.

On a par with Gordon Brown’s mean spirited 75p rise in pensions a few years ago.

Last year the government gave every pensioner £200 off their council tax bill.

This year Treasury Ministers have told Parliament they have no plans to renew this.

So for this Government – pensioners matter more before the election than they do after the election.

No wonder there is cynicism about politics and politicians.

I believe it is time to stop central government meddling in local taxes – it is time to scrap the unfair, unjust, unloved Council Tax.

The truth is, all Gordon Brown and Labour promise is more of the same unfair, unjust, unloved policies.

But what should we make of the Conservatives?

David Cameron asks us to take him on trust.

Yet he was the man who wrote the Conservative manifesto for the last General Election. When he had the chance to set out a positive vision for our future, all Mr Cameron could come up with was a calculated appeal to prejudice and fear.

But now, “Dave” tells us he has changed.

He’s a liberal.


Does “Dave” now support proportional representation?

Does “Dave” now support free personal care to our elderly?

Does “Dave” now support opposition to nuclear power?

No, no, no.

“Dave” is no liberal; “Dave” is a Blairite. I believe that Britain deserves better than that.

The Liberal Democrats have exciting new opportunities ahead. After all the empty policies of Gordon Brown and the empty words of David Cameron, the people of this country will seek a fresh alternative.

We must provide the new alternative, the real solutions.

If I am elected as leader, I will make sure that we will live up to that responsibility and make a real difference in this country. That is why I have the support of people like Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and David Steel, as well as over half of our MPs.

Let’s be clear – this election is about change, in our party and in our politics.

And we’re not going to get positive change by just criticising Labour and the Tories.

We have to do a better job of addressing the real problems of real people and explaining the liberal vision for the future and what it means for them.

Our vision is based on the liberal principles of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all.

I want a fair, green, democratic, decentralised Britain with an ethical foreign policy.

When Liberal Democrats talk about freedom, we stand up for the rights and liberties that have been fought for and defended over centuries.

We stand firm against Labour plans to detain terrorist suspects without trial and we reject their ID cards scheme.

If I am elected as leader, we will carry on that work without hesitation or equivocation.

We stand firm against Labour extradition laws which allow America to extradite British citizens on weaker grounds than Britain can extradite American citizens.

This is another example of the Blair-Bush “special relationship” being all about what President Bush wants, he gets.

It is time that we once again became the candid friend of America and were prepared to tell them when they were wrong.

When Liberal Democrats talk about fairness, we mean that it’s time to give people on the lowest incomes some tax relief.

If I am elected leader, I will work to make taxes simpler and fairer; this will be part of a package of tax reforms to promote opportunity.

I am also clear that if we are to combat poverty and injustice, we will need to combine fair taxation and creative local policies to provide homes for the homeless.

When Liberal Democrats talk about opportunity our priority is to make sure that our people can have world-class skills and world-class education.

I agree that we need a more flexible secondary curriculum, so that young people are encouraged to stay on – learning and developing skills needed in a modern economy.

We should provide affordable pre-school for every child whose parents want it. We have always been the party that puts education first. I want us to reclaim this ground and develop new solutions.

When Liberal Democrats talk about decentralising that means we want to give local people the power to decide how their public services are run.

That is why as leader, I will work to make our public services locally provided and democratically accountable.

Labour cannot offer the real choice take flows from local democracy, because above all else they want to keep power in Whitehall.
So do the Conservatives.

Liberal Democrats reject that.

We believe in localism.

We are clear that local democracy is the best guarantor of local choice and local freedom.

Only through local democracy can communities make real choices for the good of all.

The people of Tunbridge Wells must have the power to make decisions about how the local schools, hospitals and policing are run.

When Liberal Democrats talk about democracy we mean bringing the quango state under democratic control, ensuring that both Houses of Parliament are elected by proportional representation and giving every citizen real power.

When Liberal Democrats talk about our environment we do so with a record of consistency and passion.

If I am elected as leader, I will be relentless in my emphasis on tackling the environmental crisis we face.

We must give a big boost to energy saving technology and use tax reforms to give incentives to change individual behaviour.

By investing more in renewables and clean coal, we can say no to nuclear power.

When Liberal Democrats talk an ethical foreign policy, we do so as unashamedly an internationalist party.

We understand that Britain must co-operate with other countries to ensure that we have a world that is secure, fair, prosperous and sustainable.

So this is my vision for the Liberal Democrats.

A strong, distinctive, principled party.

Standing up for freedom, fairness and opportunity for all.

The principles that have sustained us for decades, with new ideas for the twenty first century.

This election contest has shown everyone the strength of our party.

Willie Rennie’s victory in Dunfermline and West Fife showed everyone what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.

We can take on Gordon Brown and win.

We can take on David Cameron and win.

We can go on to win more victories and have even more triumphs.

We can win more votes and more seats than we ever have before.

Our best days still lie ahead.

Britain simply deserves better.

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats will make sure that Britain does better.