Our real fight is not against each other, it is a fight to promote the great cause of Liberal Democracy, a fight for a better Britain.

February 23, 2005: Ming Campbell’s address to the London Hustings

As my good friend and constituency neighbour Willie Rennie MP has observed, this party seems to do pretty well without a leader.

Perhaps your journey tonight has been unnecessary.

Perhaps we could soldier on as we are, leaderless but regularly trouncing our opponents at by-elections.

Let it be clear tonight, whichever of Simon, Chris or I win – our real fight is not against each other, it is a fight to promote the great cause of Liberal Democracy, a fight for a better Britain.

We need unity certainly. But we also need clarity.

I know what I stand for and I’m determined that the country knows too.

A fair, green, democratic, decentralised Britain with an ethical foreign policy.

Values, beliefs, policies that chime with the vast majority of people in Britain.

First, a commitment to fairness and opportunity.

It’s a scandal that so many people living in Britain are living in poverty.

Here in London, there’s a huge problem of homelessness and poor housing.

Nationally, there are a million and a half homeless and 750,000 empty homes. That’s unacceptable.

And I can tell you a good way we can begin to tackle it.

Scrap VAT on home renovation. Then we can give people a real incentive to bring these empty homes back into use.

A decent home is a critical start to a decent life.

I want every child to have the chance to do what I did – develop their skills and talents, not because they have parents with money but because they have skills and talents.

Second – internationalism.

We’re the only major party at Westminster which has consistently fought for the international rule of law.

I have never been more proud of this party than when every single Liberal Democrat MP went through the lobby together to vote against the war in Iraq.

Next we must have a clear strategy for withdrawal – based not on an arbitrary deadline, but on achieving key milestones towards stability.

Third – the environment – a cause which is becoming increasingly urgent.

CO2 emissions have actually gone up under Labour.

We must have a tax system which offers clear incentives for environmentally friendly behaviour and penalties for environmentally damaging behaviour.

If I can give up my old Jag – I don’t know why Ministers can’t forsake their new Jags. No Jags Ming against two Jags Prescott!

And I am also determined to oppose the government plan to bounce us into a new generation of nuclear power plants.

The risks associated with nuclear power are just far too great. And the sums simply don’t add up.

It requires enormous amounts of public money – money far better spent on developing wind, wave and solar power, as well as the clean coal technology.

Fourth: human rights and civil liberties. We Liberal Democrats know why we’re against ID cards.

We know why we’re against gimmicky new anti-terror laws which stifle freedom and do nothing to stop terrorism.

What sort of signal will it send about Britain that we will lock up people who refuse to have an identity card?

I’ll do everything in my power to stop the rights and liberties of British citizens being eroded.

And more – I want to extend those rights by getting a fair voting system for the Westminster Parliament.

This is part of a powerful programme of radical constitututional reform – that gives power back to the people.

Proportional Representation is crucial and we must never miss an opportunity to ensure we have an electoral system where every vote counts.

Fifth: I want to get rid of the dead hand of central government bureaucracy and bring power far closer to the people it affects.

I want local people making far more local decisions.

Both in the London boroughs and at a London-wide level.

In London despite having a GLA we also have the waste of the Government Office for London.

It manages 40 programmes on behalf of 10 Government Departments. Hard to justify? You bet – let’s just abolish it and give more powers to the Boroughs and the GLA.

I know that excellent Lib Dem Councils and our top team at the GLA would be far more effective than GOL.

I want the Government to give power away – since my principle is that Government should be as close as possible to local people.

Fair, green, decentralised and democratic.

A strong Britain with an ethical foreign policy.

Those are the principles which brought me into politics. They’re the principles that I’ve applied throughout my political life. One of the great advantages we Liberal Democrats have over the other parties is that we have shown such consistency over our ideals.

If we are to exploit that consistency to the full, we need, I would suggest, a Leader with a long personal record of consistency.

We also need a Leader who can make the most of the enormously talented team which we have in our party – and particularly in our Parliamentary Party.

The Liberal Democrats can offer an unbeatable combination of experience and youthful vitality. I am grateful to over half of all MPs who have expressed their confidence in me. I believe I can deploy that first class team to first class effect.

The London region in particular has provided the party with a huge range of talent. Maybe it’s because he has Hampton Court Maze in his constituency that Vince Cable is so good at penetrating the labyrinth of Gordon Brown’s tax and benefit schemes – and at exposing the waste and injustice.

I know that Ed Davey will continue to bring his abilities to the policy challenge of improving the skills of our workers. It can’t be right that in London eight agencies fund programmes for skills. It is time to ensure that we have businesses leading the skills programme not bureaucrats.

And the presence of Sarah Teather on our benches just reminds the Labour Party of what a formidable campaigning organisation the Liberal Democrats are. When the May London Borough Elections come round I am determined that our advance will continue – Londoners need the Liberal Democrats to lead more councils.

I want as Leader to fight those elections as hard as the general election – to show Liberal Democrats winning at the expense of both Labour and the Conservatives.

It is time to put David Cameron under the microscope.

I have to say I find it hard to swallow the idea that David Cameron is some kind of Liberal.

Not when he wrote the hard-line Tory manifesto of 2005.

Not when he abandons the mainstream centre right in the European Parliament to seek common cause with the every oddball extreme right-wing party he can find.

Not when he sends his emissaries over to Washington to make it up with the hard-line right of George W Bush’s Republican Party.

Let us also show that we can move further and faster than either of the other two parties in making our party more representative of Britain.

We need more women candidates and more candidates from ethnic minorities.

And that means the party putting proper resources into supporting women and ethnic minority candidates. I propose creating a trust fund for this purpose.

I want our Parliamentary Party to reflect far more closely the rich diversity of 21st Century Britain.

Never more important than in London.

There’s something else I want to encourage in the party – professionalism. I want this party to look like a party which could become the Government of Britain tomorrow.

And I also want our party to campaign in a professional manner. We have enormous enthusiasm, enormous dedication. But techniques are advancing all the time. We mustn’t rest on our laurels. We need to stay ahead – to prove more effective than the others in reaching every corner of Britain, every part of the electorate.

So those are my watchwords – experience, consistency, principle, professionalism.

It is a great joy to me that London will host the Olympic Games.

I’ve run in the Olympics.

You won’t find anyone in politics more competitive than I am – more determined to win.

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats won’t be content with bronze medals.

We’re going to go for gold.