The Liberal Democrats – a party on the up; a party confident about the future; a party which knows the best is yet to come.

Ming Campbell speech to Campaign Team in North East Fife, 24 February 2006

It is an enormous pleasure to be back in North East Fife as we reach the final phase of the leadership election.

I know how hard you have all worked and I have been humbled by the efforts of hundreds and hundreds of supporters across the country to elect me as leader.

I knew in a contest against Simon and Chris that nothing could be taken for granted and that there would be no room for complacency.

I have been heartened by the overwhelming support of MPs, Peers, MEPs, MSPs and AMs – more than both Chris and Simon combined.

I have been heartened by the support of more Council Leaders than either Simon or Chris.

I have been heartened by the support of figures of real stature like Paddy Ashdown, David Steel, Tom McNally and Shirley Williams.

I have been heartened by the reception people have given me at hustings after hustings, meeting after meeting, conversation after conversation.

There is no complacency but it is looking good.

I also know that people understand that I want the party to be modernised, to be professional, and to be credible and united if Liberal Democrats are to make a reality of three party politics.

I also know that my message of a fair, green, democratic, decentralised Britain with an ethical foreign policy chimes not only with our party but with our country.

In my very first interview I argued that we needed to make a priority of the environment as an issue of conscience and necessity – not just for our generations but for all generations. That will mean changes in all our behaviours – individuals and governments alike.

I have consistently stressed the need for a democratic revolution to make government accountable to the people with fair votes for Westminster, an elected Lords and real Freedom of Information.

Our society has to do more to allow all – not just a privileged and wealthy few – to have the chance to make a success of their lives.

In a fair society we will help the poorest out of poverty. We will help them to keep more of their own money; to go to good schools and great universities; to raise a family and live in a decent home and so achieve their dreams.

I want for every child what I was able to have – good education and a chance to use my skills in my chosen fields. For me it was athletics, then law, then politics – for others it will be other fields, but the key is to build ladders of opportunity so that all can prosper.

I have long been a champion of devolution so that real power is as close as possible to the citizen. I want every part of Britain to be governed locally so that decisions about our schools, our hospitals, our policing and transport can be made by local people for local people. Let’s get central government out of the way so that local government can thrive and serve the local community.

Finally I have stressed the need for internationalism. We must play a more positive role in the world – not hang on the coattails of George Bush. International co-operation is vital to our economic success, our environmental sustainability and our very security. Let us as a party not throw away our hard won reputation for credibility and consistency with easy slogans and simple soundbites.

It has been a few tough weeks but the party is now bouncing back.

Willie Rennie’s victory showed that there is no safe seat left for Labour.

Dunfermline and West Fife showed that Liberal Democrats can defeat both Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

My task as leader is to build on the legacy of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy.

My task as leader will be to harness the great talents – in and outside Parliament – so that every corner of Britain hears a proud and strong Liberal Democrat message.

My task as leader is to proclaim the message – the Liberal Democrats – a party on the up; a party confident about the future; a party which knows the best is yet to come.

An ambitious party – ambitious for Britain because Britain deserves better.