These are extracts from Lord Rennard’s closing speech to the Liberal Youth Conference in Manchester yesterday. Lord Rennard worked for the party for 27 years, he was Director of Campaigns & Election 1989 – 2003 and Chief Executive 2003 – 2009 and he is now a Liberal Democrat peer speaking mostly on issues of political and constitutional reform. Follow him on twitter at @LordRennard
It is more than 30 years since I was Chair of the Liverpool Young Liberals and then the Liverpool University Liberals. My time at University (to the annoyance of my tutor!) was spent more on practical politics like helping to win the Liverpool Edge Hill by-election and get Shirley Williams elected in Crosby in a 1981 by-election.
Party youth groups were always crucial in the key by-elections that I was involved in during the 1980s and later when some of the great by-election wins that I helped to deliver rescued our party and helped it to gain many more parliamentary seats. Active Liberal youth helped to make the difference in many of the seats that we now hold at different levels.
I often talk to sixth form and university groups about young political leaders who inspired me and I say that youth is not a barrier to being anything in our party. People in other countries have been imprisoned, tortured or killed fighting for democracy. Steve Biko was just 27 when he was murdered because of his campaign to bring democracy to South Africa. Martin Luther King was only 25 when he led the march on Washington to demand civil rights enabling black people to vote and he spoke of his dream that one day people would “not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character“.
We have to fight now to make sure that complacency does not allow our own democracy in Britain to be undermined. A combination of a flawed constituency boundary review (that would enable the Conservatives to win 50% of the seats for 36% of the vote), potential changes to the electoral registration system and failure to reform party funding rules or prevent a few rich men dominating most of the media could prevent real choice in future and pave the way for Conservative domination in future decades. Liberal Democrats have to make the difference to prevent this happening.
Liberal Youth and the Libertine would like to thank Lord Rennard for coming to speak to us and delivering such an inspirational talk.
Liberal Democrat Voice, the most widely-read Liberal Democrat blog, reposted extracts from Lord Rennard’s speech here.
We got retweeted by the @LibDemLords twitter account, and others have noted the story.