On his election as the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said:
My election as leader of this party marks a new beginning.
Today is about two things: ambition, and change.
Renewed ambition for the Liberal Democrats.
Renewed ambition to reach out to the millions of people who share our values, but have not yet voted for us.
It’s about renewed ambition for Britain.
Because we want to change politics, and change Britain.
I would like to thank Chris for the energetic and committed way he has campaigned in this leadership election.
We have been rivals in this contest. From today, we are colleagues again. I look forward to working closely with him for the good of liberalism in Britain.
I would also like to thank Vince Cable for the magnificent way he has led the party in these past two months.
There are few men who have excelled as an economist, a comedian and a ballroom dancer.
Finally, I would like to give my warmest thanks, on behalf of the whole party, to Ming Campbell. He took over the Liberal Democrats at a difficult time, and provided enormous stability and professionalism to the party. Without his work, building on the extraordinary achievements of Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown before him, the party would not have the bright future which it now does.
I am a Liberal by temperament, by instinct and by upbringing.
My own family was marked, scattered and reunited by the tragic conflicts of the last century.
I was taught from an early age that Britain was a place of tolerance and pluralism, with a history steeped in democracy and the rule of law.
I believe that liberalism is the thread that holds together everything this country stands for. Pull out that thread and the fabric of the nation unravels.
We are a people with a strong sense of fair play and social justice. An instinct to protect the environment for future generations. We are suspicious of arbitrary power, wary of government interference. We want to play an active, enlightened role in the affairs of the world.
And we have always put our faith in the power of ordinary men and women to change things for the better.
So why is Britain still not the liberal nation we want it to be?
Look around us:
Our civil liberties casually cast aside.
Gigantic, faceless and incompetent Government bureaucracies.
Security and opportunity in short supply, particularly in the poorest communities.
Families struggling to meet each month’s bills. Struggling to balance the demands of work, and the time for a real family life.
Above all, our politics is broken.
Out of step with people.
Out of step with the modern world.
That is why I have one sole ambition: to change Britain to make it the liberal country the British people want it to be.
I want a new politics: a people’s politics.
I want to live in a country where rights, freedoms and privacy are not the playthings of politicians, but safeguarded for everyone.
Where political life is not a Westminster village freak show, but open, accessible, and helpful in people’s everyday lives.
Where parents, pupils and patients are in charge of our schools and hospitals.
Where fine words on the environment are translated into real action.
Where social mobility becomes a reality once again, so that no-one is condemned by the circumstances of their birth.
Why have we stopped imagining a better society?
Look at what we’ve got.
The Conservatives and New Labour have governed in the same way. Top-down and centralising. I refuse to believe that the only alternative to a clapped out Labour Government is a Conservative party which has no answers to the big issues - environmentalism without substance, social justice without money, internationalism without Europe.
The challenge for my party is clear and simple: to define a liberal alternative to the discredited politics of Big Government.
I want to open up my party, open up Westminster, and open up politics for good.
To lead well, a leader needs to listen.
That’s why I will hold regular and public Town Hall Meetings.
That’s why I want to open up the Liberal Democrats to give people who support us, but aren’t members, a say on the big issues.
That’s why I will spend at least one day every week listening and campaigning outside Westminster.
That’s why I will set up a network of real families, who have nothing to do with party politics, in every region of this country to advise me on what they think should be my priorities.
If you once voted Lib Dem but think we’ve spent too much time focusing on ourselves.
If you once voted Conservative but don’t know what they stand for any more.
If you once voted Labour but feel let down after ten years of disappointment.
If you’ve given up voting altogether, but still care about the world we live in:
Then a newly united, energetic, optimistic Liberal Democrat party is there for you.
This is an unprecedented time of opportunity for liberalism in Britain.
If we are to grab this opportunity, my party will need to change.
We must start acting like the growing national political movement that we are. More professional. More united. More ambitious.
Liberalism is the creed of our times.
The old left-right politics has broken down. Labour and the Conservatives are mutating into each other, united in defence of a system which has let the people down.
Instead, we must start where people are, not where we think they should be.
In short, I want the Liberal Democrats to be the future of politics.
Because Liberal Democrats have the courage to imagine a better society.
To break the stifling grip of the two-party system for good.
To bring in a new politics.
Of politicians who listen to people, not themselves.
No more business as usual. No more government-knows-best.
I want today to mark the beginning of real change in Britain.
The beginning of Britain’s liberal future.