Leadership Candidates Q & A
Speakers: Sir Ed Davey MP, Wera Hobhouse MP, Layla Moran MP
5 pm to 6.30pm Saturday 20th June
Conference Hall at 2020 Green Liberal Democrats Vision Conference
Chairs: Keith Melton & Alison Rouse
Moderators: Simon Oliver and Diana Catton
Needs thumbnail for facebook short code to this page http://grn.lib.dm/a81dzz
Keith Melton (GLD Chair): The order of first speaking starts as I said randomly Wera, Ed and Layla. So the first person to appear for the first five minutes will be Wera and then we will go to Ed and then we will go to Layla. And then when the questions come, the first person to answer the first question will be Ed and then it's Layla and then Wera and so on, if that's understood by everybody. Okay. Keep sweet everybody and keep the audience smiling!
Wera is up now for five minutes,
Wera Hobhouse MP: Hello and thank you very much for having me. It's a great pleasure. This time last year I was with you in Nottingham and presented our Lib Dem climate change policy and I'm still very proud of it. Its main headline is to cut most emissions by 2030 and to get to net zero by 2045. It is detailed, it is evidence-based and underpinned by our values. One of the big debates amongst ourselves was the 2045 target. Was it ambitious enough? Could we do better?
The reason for the 2045 target was the difficulty for reducing emissions in the farming, the negative emissions and aviation sectors. We couldn't quite see how the drivers that would force those industries to change could be put into place quickly enough and today I'm making the case that as a result of the coronavirus crisis we can bring our party's ambition for net zero down from 2045 to 2040 and let me explain that. It's the aviation industry that can be forced to accelerate the pace of change.
The problem with flying is jet fuel. We need to replace jet fuel with synthetic fuel. Synthetic fuels are made from green hydrogen and carbon dioxide. We are talking about carbon dioxide that is already around and rather than capturing and putting it under the seabed or into the seabed we capture it and use it again.
And we are talking about green hydrogen that is not made from natural gas but hydrogen made from renewables via electrolysis. Synthetic fuels are therefore properly carbon zero. They're sustainable and part of the circular economy.
However it will mean flying will cost more. Experts estimate that a flight currently costing about 100 pounds will go up to 160 pounds because producing fuel chemically is more expensive than pumping it out of the ground. And that is why the aviation industry will resist it and the Tory government will probably go with that too. Now is the time to force the aviation industry to change. Because of Covid, the aviation industry is in trouble. It is being bailed out by government but it shouldn't get something for nothing. There is a clear pathway to get to net zero.
It just needs political will and I think we Liberal Democrats can now bring our net zero target down to 2040 and I'm sure many people in this zoom or room will be very pleased to hear that. Let me touch on one other focus that I have further developed since the last year - the role of local government. A large amount of climate action can be delivered locally and should be delivered locally. As the spokesperson for climate action I'm sharing our Lib Dem climate cluster. These clusters were originally set up by Vince to coordinate what we are doing in the House of Commons and the House of Lords but I have widened the remit of my cluster and introduced councillors and these sessions are actually very very good because it demonstrates very clearly that our policy is right.
Climate action has to be driven from the bottom up. There is very clear expertise - a great deal of expertise and realism amongst colleagues in local government. This is not about dreaming; it's about getting stuff done. However there are big barriers in local government and that local government faces because so much in this country is centralised in Westminster and Whitehall. So many climate initiatives we want to deliver locally hit the wall because of national planning policy, national decisions about transport infrastructure or industry standards like waste management to name just a few. So what our climate cluster discussions tell me very clearly: we liberal democrats have to shout more than ever about the about the imbalance,
Alison: Can you wrap up Wera,
Wera: yes I will, about the imbalance between central and local government. Decision-making powers must be devolved to our local communities. Our commitment to climate action and our commitment to local government go hand-in-hand.
Keith: Thank you. Thank you, thank you very much, Wera. And we'll now move smoothly on to Ed. please.
Ed Davey MP: These are challenging times for our country and for our party and the question in this election is who is the candidate best placed to lead our party to face those challenges - the deepest recession for 300 years, a climate emergency, the rise of right-wing nationalism and racism, protectionism, whether it's Brexit or America First. To face these massive challenges our party needs a leader with both vision and experience. Take the economic and environmental challenges. For too long they've been treated as separate, failing both people and planet that's why I propose a radically different approach - a green revolution, where every single policy, from the economy to foreign affairs, from transport to housing, all start with the environment. Part one of the green revolution is my proposed green recovery plan investing 150 billion pounds over three years - by far the largest ever environment investment plan, based on a green jobs guarantee for the unemployed, with green homes, green transport, green energy, a rewilding of many natural habitats.
I have the experience to deliver this green vision. I'm a trained economist, I was Paddy Ashdown's senior economics advisor - the last time we had a leader who made the environment their personal Priority - and I fought the Tories on climate and won. My policies nearly quadrupled Britain's renewable power, bringing green jobs to communities in decline in the North and in coastal communities, like the 1,000 manufacturing jobs in Hull in a wind turbine blade factory.
My passion for the environment came from reading Seeing Green by Jonathan Porritt back in 1985. It's where I first read about universal basic income. One of my first tasks for Paddy was to develop a UBI policy for our party. We called it citizens income because a fairer society treats people as citizens, not consumers. And that's why I support a UBI now. And my vision goes beyond a greener fairer society. I want us also to be the party of caring, the party of carers - the 10 million carers across our country. This is personal to me. I was a young carer between the ages of 12 and 15. I nursed my mum when she became terminally ill. Dad died when I was four so caring for Mum fell to me and my brothers. Now my wife, Emily, and I care for our wonderful children, including my severely disabled son, John, who needs 24/7 care. To be clear, I'm not asking for sympathy. I'd never ask for sympathy for something that millions of people go through every day but I want you to know what drives me. I want you to know that I'm up for the challenges we face because I faced challenges before and there is no doubt we face huge challenges.
Many of you will have read the general election review. It is stark about our challenges. It's also honest, saying there's no simple solution it doesn't claim the solution is as simple as moving on from the coalition, We tried to move on from the coalition in 2017 by electing a leader who voted against some more controversial elements. It didn't help. That's why I'm delighted Dorothy, who chaired the review, has endorsed me to be the next leader. So the vision I've outlined begins to answer the question why vote Liberal Democrat - green jobs in a green revolution, a fairer society of the Universal Basic Income, a new deal for carers. That's why so many of the the parties best campaigners are supporting my vision ...
Alison: Can I ask you to wrap up please
That's my vision for a greener fairer and more caring society. Thank you.
Keith: thank you well done Alison and finally but not least necessarily we have Layla. Layla - over to you.
Layla Moran MP: Hello Keith, hello everybody - it's lovely to be with you. And firstly, such a difficult time for everyone. Right now, certainly a time that I know everyone's challenged in their home lives, in our mental health and I hope you're well, and I am always grateful to be part of my Lib Dem family when I do these kinds of exercises. My reason for standing as leader is because I want us to answer that question: what are we for? Not looking backwards at what we may have done right or wrong in the past but actually how can we now move forwards together as a party? After the heart-wrenching defeat of so many seats and not quite made it at the last election I went door knocking. I went to parts of the country that we hadn't elected Liberal MPs and I wanted to ask the voters simple questions about what they thought of us and what they wanted us to campaign on. And I'm delighted to be able to report that top of that list, whether it was young, old, Tory facing, Labour-facing, rural, urban, the environment was there in almost all the conversations. So it's one of the three key pillars that I am putting forward to the party that we should be campaigning on - to recapture not just the minds but also the hearts of the electorate again. And the three pillars are education, environment and the economy.
But why the environment? Why do they care so much? Well I hope we've all seen this. We have led a race to the top in terms of political space for the environment. the XR movement has certainly brought it to the fore. And my own interest in it in fact began a long, long time ago I grew up in many countries. I lived in Ethiopia, Jamaica, Jordan, Greece but one of my earliest memories of being able to engage with this issue was actually at age 11. We were living in Jamaica, one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, and I was, during my summers, working with an NGO that was trying to maintain the coral in Jamaica and I was seeing without my own eyes, year-on-year as we were working to map this. As I was working with them to try and fight this, what an effect it was it was going to have and we could start to see it. Then, as a teacher I spent 10 years teaching children about renewable energy. I'm a maths and physics teacher in my background and I could see how engaged they would be. Physics can be boring. It's not, but if you find the right thing to fire them up - the environment did exactly that and now, as an MP, I work cross-party to make sure that we keep this at the front of the agenda now. In the last parliament, I was the MP who led the first debate on the floor of the House on climate change in two and a half years. That was off the back of the Fridays for Future strikes and out those strikes 2000 young people surrounded me crying out, saying this is a climate Emergency - why aren't you adults doing anything? And so I went away and promised them that that's what I would do. I would do everything in my power.
I then worked with Caroline Lucas and Ed Miliband to invite Greta Thunberg to Parliament to address Parliament and now I am proposing bold radical progressive policy in this area. Whilst I have huge respect for what we have done - it is absolutely evidence-based and that's right - the political space we were kind of crowded out a bit at the last election, we were a little bit Goldilocks neither too radical nor the last in line, which was the Tories. So I propose that we change the framing. Actually the policy is brilliant and I think actually I would agree with Wera. We should look again at that 2045 target but actually, if we achieved it, it would be something. But if we go then further, we talk about rewilding, as Greta and others do and we talk about being carbon negative. We can capture that urgency. And so what I propose as leader of our party is to recapture the hearts and minds but particularly of the young. We have to occupy that radical space in politics again and that's what I would offer as leader. Thank you.
Keith: Thank you very much, Layla. We have quite a lot of questions. I very much doubt we're going to get through all of them. We will perhaps try and group some of them together as we go through.The first question is one of the questions that came to us in advance of the session and this question is from John Grant. By the way the order is going to be Ed, Layla And Wera for this one. This is from John Grant who is the chair of Salford Liberal Democrats.
Where do you stand on what many will expect and that is a return to a continually growing economy?
So Ed, your turn first.
Ed: I believe the way growth has been discussed in the past is wrong. As an economist I've argued that we need to have a different form of growth. We need to think about sustainable growth, green growth, and we need to think about measures of well-being. GDP growth is old-fashioned, out of date it measures things we don't want, including pollution. So we do need different measures of how society is developing and I've worked with a Dutch economist on this many years ago and I think our party must champion these new measures of progress. When I was representing Britain at the EU, at the EU council on energy and the environment, I formed a group called "green growth" and the reason I did that, I wanted to push the European Union into much bolder, more ambitious climate change targets but take governments with us take people with us to show that if you change the way you did things in industry in commerce and finance you could prosper but you could stop the pollution and you could tackle climate change. And through working at europe with many other countries I led the green growth group and we got really ambitious climate change targets as a result. So the argument on green growth is fundamental and in my green recovery plan which I published on Thursday, a lot in that is about sustainable growth.
So I'm talking about a massive insulation program particularly starting on social homes and homes where the fuel poor are so we get lower bills, we tackle fuel poverty and we get social justice, a far better form of growth. I'm talking about green transport, active walking and cycling as well as electric vehicles and I'm talking about re-wilding. And if we put value on rewilding, that sort of growth will mean we can protect our nature and improve our biodiversity. So these are different ways you could have a different form of growth. I've done it even at the European level I want to do it here in the UK I want us, the Liberal Democrats to lead that.
Keith: Thank you. Layla, you're next.
Layla: Thank you very much. Well this is very much one of my three pillars and you'll be unsurprised I'm sure to hear at various points that there are things we agree on as candidates. I hope that that's going to be true but that idea of putting well-being at the heart of the economy I completely agree with. I would like us to follow the model of New Zealand where we consult widely with the whole of society about what else matters other than growth and this really resonates with people when you are on doors and I was. I remember one conversation with a lady who had a bouncing baby on one hip and then with the other said she had her her mother on the line who was unwell and she was looking after them both. And she said "I just feel like whenever the Prime Minister or anyone else stands up and says the economy is working and aren't we happy that growth is happening, I don't feel it because I don't feel that there is adequate child care. I don't feel that there is a job that allows me to have the flexibility that I needto "
And meanwhile in COVID we have seen that there are alternative ways of living. People are once again valuing clean air, they're once again valuing that community spirit that we have with our neighbors.
We should have a suite of indicators that go around growth, not just growth alone in deciding those particularly medium and long-term investments in the economy, driven by a treasury that actually is renamed and is called a department for sustainability. The Treasury as it stands now is very often the barrier to why those medium and long term decisions are made. They work off a thing called The Green Book What a misnomer actually. The Green Book does not put green issues first. Very often they are put in as mitigation strategies but nothing more than that I would like to see us move to being a country that has green sustainability running through all government departments. And the last thing i'll say is that as we come out of COVID19, a one in 300 year economic event, we are going to have to supercharge our economy to get through this. The Smith School in oxford recently did a paper that showed that if you want to do that, the best way you can do it is to invest in green infrastructure. It's labor intensive but you also have to do that with a big education package as well training so that you can redirect people into those industries that are going to be growing, making sure that we don't end up in a situation like we did in the 80s with Thatcher where we've got communities that are left behind. There is a different way of doing it. There is a different way that we can live as a society and what I would stand for as leader is to provide and hopefully so that they feel that they know that we are a party on their side and that we will make growth not the only thing and have an economy that works for them not just for the rich. Thank you.
Keith: Thank you and Wera next.
Wera: Thank you very much now this idea about prosperity without growth is very much something that came from the Green Party and I remember Caroline Lucas was presenting a book or having a book launch with that particular title and it gives me the opportunity to actually talk about the difference between us and the Green Party, particularly when it comes to our green policies and can we be greener than the green party? It's an interesting debate on whether we can actually have prosperity or well-being without growth but what I would say we need to recognise because we are a party that actually looks at getting to net zero and I'm talking very much about getting to net zero and ultimately ending up in a sustainable world. How do we do that - and we believe - this is very very much a Liberal Democrat thing - we believe in harnessing the enterprise and energy of business and ultimately you know getting to net zero needs enterprise and enterprise needs growth so the question is really it is a difficult question and it's interesting but I think in all of this when we are in the in the party political competition of, you know, who can make the case and for getting to net zero most plausibly.
I still believe we as Liberal Democrats are there to actually be credible and believable and as much as it is important to have a vision it's also um important to be credible and be credible to the industry who we think we need. And therefore yeah as I say I think it's another one of these sort of interesting Green Party ideas whether that is ultimately something that's deliverable is a question. But I would of course say that it is very clear that our economy hasn't worked for everybody so we need to make sure that a future economy, particularly post coronavirus, needs to work for everybody. And those are the big questions of redistribution and how to get out of corona. Are we going to go into the next session of austerity and are we therefore then building more inequality into our society? But for getting to net zero, I think if we mix everything up into getting to net zero, also about changing society, we might actually lose the focus of what it is that we need to aim for and currently the biggest problem we have is a world that is heating up and we need to get to net zero.
And therefore for me the most important thing is you know following our climate change policy that we have developed in detail and see how we think sector by sector we can actually get to net zero. And I've just talked about the aviation industry so looking at the coronavirus and the green recovery which is what we can all agree on not
Alison: Just in 10 seconds please Wera
Alison: Ten seconds please]
is it is very much not just amongst each other so let's let's focus on the green recovery and building an economy on green jobs and getting to net zero.
Keith: Thank you, thank you very much. The next question - I'm going to stick with the economy because this is a question from within the hall. I should just let everybody know that there are over 100 participants now so we're we've got a good room full of people and the next question is going to be Layla Wera and Ed in that order and the question Is - this from Misha - I'll put my specs on - name right Misha Pemberthy Do any of the candidates see any virtue it's just disappeared why has that happened what's happened to the got it Okay it's down here. "Do any of the candidates see any virtue in Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics idea as a model for the UK, especially with respect to the environment?" Layla you're first on this one.
Layla: Thank you very much for this question because actually that's very much the inspiration for the economic changes that I propose and actually Kate is well known in my local area in Oxford. She's worked very closely with Oxfam. My sister works for Oxfam and I'm organizing a meeting with her actually quite soon because I think that she and also the work of Ellen McArthur - now the work of Ellen McArthur I've always been inspired by - very similar that circular economy idea. And I used to teach this stuff as part of that renewables course that I would teach in physics because of course you can't segment the environment out of science. They have to go hand in hand and it also goes with manufacturing and it also goes with a general approach to how we view the world. I love what Kate says I love that actually at its heart is a belief that the world is finite - it's not an infinite resource and therefore it should be cherished and that idea I think totally speaks to the way that I view not just the environment but actually the whole of the world. In fact it's the idea that probably is at the heart of why I'm a liberal - it's that we should cherish things much much more. The framework that she presents is beautifully simple and it starts to recognize that if you treat the environment as this finite resource, but also if you treat our infrastructure as not just things you build but also the people that you have in your society as well, then that's how you achieve a more sustainable economy. And COVID19 has been a beautiful example of why now is the time for us to do this. Key workers are now valued in a way that they used to be called low-skilled by Priti Patel. If there was ever a time that we should be adopting economic changes as suggested by people like Kate Raworth and Doughnut Economics it's now and I'm very keen for our party to move in this direction.
Keith: Thank you. Wera next.
Wera: Thank you very much. Yes I mean the the battle for ideas is obviously the important part of a leadership contest and the debate that we're having amongst our party. So new models of economies are obviously something that we, as a radical party, with wanting to achieve radical change and the society that works for everybody and makes the life of everybody a good life is something very much that we need to look at. The circular economy is something that is now in everybody's mouth and we need to be very clear what we mean by this.
So I have already related to the circular economy in connection with fossil fuels and aviation and synthetic fuels and this is very much understanding actually how the chemistry around our world works. And a lot of things about tackling the climate emergency is around an understanding of chemistry and the the natural world. Without becoming too technological I would say we need to be very clear about what we mean by the circular economy and not get hoodwinked by people talking about it but not actually understanding what it means. So the circular economy for me is very much understanding that we're ending up with net zero and it is, for example, not supporting something like energy from waste where we are just burning plastics and saying, well, we will burn something else instead. We are still burning plastics and it ends up with carbon emissions in the air so let's be very clear about what we mean with the circular economy, be very scientific and evidence-based as we as liberal democrats are.
Keith: Muted. I beg your pardon. Ed you're next up.
Ed: The reason I like Kate's work is it actually builds on thinkers like Jonathan Porritt, Victor Anderson and many of the green writers that have inspired me, because it deals with the fact that there are constraints in our natural world. And if we're going to have a really green future we need to think about poverty and peace and justice and a political system that works. So kate brings all these together as a good green writer and the constraints that I think are critical as we look at the economy are above all carbon emissions, attacking greenhouse gas emissions and I was very involved in setting the carbon budget for our country and negotiating the EU the United Nations about how we have a carbon budget for the world effectively.
And I'm a big fan of an organization called carbon tracker initiative which says we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground and not even burn the ones that we've got because otherwise we're coming up to the constraints of the carbon budget. And that sort of thinking, climate thinking, has to be absolutely inbuilt in our economic policy and our wider policies across the piece. But it's not just about constraints - it's about how you think about the whole life and Kate and others particularly think about the international aspects of this. And one of the reasons I'm so keen on the renewables that I've worked in is because renewables will help us tackle climate change but they can be a real a real engine for for peace and tackling poverty. Let me briefly explain. There's a billion people in rural Africa, rural Asia, rural India, Rural Latin America who've never had electricity from fossil fuels. The big fossil food companies don't build grids to give them electricity. But micro solar plants, micro wind plants can bring electricity, clean electricity, to this billion poorest and enable them to have education because the lights come on and they can go on to the internet they can keep their food cool so they can have local food security. They can keep their medicines cool so their health is better so I see renewables in our poorest communities in the world as an enabler to tackle poverty. But finally it's enabled to tackle wars and conflicts because of one of the massive problems with fossil fuels it puts money into the pockets of rich wealthy male dictators like Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, like the president of Venezuela, and they use that money to sow conflict and indeed war, funding terrorist groups, funding conflicts and weapons. I want to take the money from these awful dictators and I want to make sure that every country can be independent for power with the renewables that would I think help us strive for peace and that is very much thinking of what Kate's talking about.
Keith: Right, the next question is going to be Wera, Ed and Layla in that order and the next question has come to the top of the list from within the hall. It's from Joe Dodd who's London based I think. "Should the lib dems join the movement for a Green New Deal with the Greens, Labour and other organisations?" Wera, you're tackling that one first this time. Thank you.
Wera: So I very much believe in a progressive alliance. My pitch is very much about a progressive alliance and how we best work with other parties in order to defeat the Tories at the next general election. I believe that we have many climate policies where we are similar but we are also different. The Labour Party makes a lot about the Green New Deal, the New Green Deal or the Green New Deal and we also have our policies about what we actually mean by that and whether we can revive what we tried in coalition government that didn't quite work out. I'm somebody who is very practically orientated. What does it actually mean? I know I like big ideas but then I like to go into the nitty-gritty of what we can deliver, particularly at council level. What would be useful. and for our councillors to actually deliver on the ground, as I've said in my opening statement. I think a lot of what we we can achieve in the next four years, while the Tories are in government and will do very little, is to focus on what we can do as local councillors and lead from the local council area so the ideas about the Green New Deal or New Green Deal is very much around retrofitting and home insulation and making our homes much more fit for purpose into the future.
And there is a lot we can do as Liberal Democrats where we can do a lot of action and empower our local communities to actually take action. It will also be very much part of a way of reviving the economy and make sure that, for example, for retrofitting but also in the construction industry, we are making sure that we are building the houses for the future and that is something that our citizens can directly see. It's not just a big idea about net zero. Often people can't really relate to it but if they see it is something that benefits them, the way we are reducing fuel poverty for example, the way people can save on their energy bills and help to get to net zero, these are the policies absolutely where we need to work together. But we also need to put some urgency towards government to change because currently the government is not going to do that so let's work together as an opposition in order to bring about something call it the New Green Deal or the Green New Deal. It is the same ideas around a green recovery, particularly focused on our local communities and something to do now.
Keith: Thank you and Ed is next on this one.
Ed: A very big yes. My green recovery plan took a lot of its ideas from the Green New Deal being talked about in the US. Here in the UK and elsewhere where we're looking at homes insulation, we're looking at green transport solutions, we're looking at much more green energy, we're looking at green jobs, looking at rewilding. That's key to my proposals and it does very much link into these ideas. And one of the ideas isn't often mentioned in the Green New Deal, I've tried to flag up in my thinking and that's about climate justice. So as we tackle the climate change we want to make sure we're making a fairer society too. So issues like fuel poverty are critical. We've got to tackle fuel poverty and when I developed the fuel poverty strategy we had lots of ideas about how you'd work with the NHS so that people would have social prescribing and prescribe home insulation for people who had asthma and other respiratory problems which were caused by their damp homes. Unfortunately the Tories, of course, haven't gone on with it because that was hardly surprising, given how awful they are, but if we have those policies - and you know my wife is a councillor here in Kingston - she's a housing portfolio holder - she's regenerating a whole lot of social houses and she's making sure they're zero carbon because that will mean the energy bills for the poorest in in my constituency will be very very low indeed. so that climate justice is really part I'd emphasize. Finally, though, my only problem with some of the thinking on the Green New Deal from some other parties - very happy to work with them - we should find common ground with them - but they're not radical enough - not radical at all.
I want to change the way our capitalist system works, I want to have a green revolution where we go to the heart of the City to the banks, the pension funds, the stock exchanges, the insurance funds and so on and we pass a law to say you have to you have to by law take account of climate change risk. And I would change a whole set of regulations to force investors, to force capitalists, to move their monies away from the brown dirty stuff into the green stuff and that's not talked about in the Green Deal it's something I'm pushing on a new cross-party group in Parliament - people like Ed Miliband. It's called sustainable finance and that is the sort of thing that's a new idea fresh idea a radical idea and I'm very happy if they borrow it from us, but I think we need to be shouting as we have the best ideas for attacking climate change and improving our environment.
Keith: Thank you and over to Layla next.
Layla: What I loved about the green new deal when I first heard about it, which is actually through the work of AOC and again in America was the way that it had energized the left and energized the youth to want to then put into action radical change and that's exactly what we need to be part of. In our country I am non-tribal i am a cooperative person that's how i lead. I bring people in, I listen to them and then we create action together. It's why I really took this movement into my heart at the last Parliament because we owe it to future generations. I mean actually in essence, the climate crisis is also one of justice between generations. We have to leave the planet in at least a good shape as how we found it and we are at risk of not doing that. And the Green New Deal in its heart really speaks to that so what I've been championing is youth-led citizens assemblies and councils leading from the front just as already been said - I think Wera said it first.
In the Vale of the WhiteHorse, here in Oxfordshire, we took that council and also South Oxfordshire District Council because of cooperation that we have locally with the Green Party recognizing that we actually have a common aim here we want to deliver locally on these big global issues and we have to work together with other parties to do it. In the Houses of Parliament I've developed a reputation across all political parties for saying it straight, for working with others. It's one of the things that as a leader of our party I want to be actively involved in. We cannot do this alone. Radical change will not just take one government it will take several and we have to start now so I'm not tribal about who we engage with this. And the last thing i'll say is we do need to keep pushing the Tories. We are going to lose four years in this 10-year fight that we have to turn this around. The nature and climate emergency cannot wait. I also will be working with Conservative backbenchers on delivering this as well.
Keith: Thank you again and the order for answering the next one is Ed, Layla and Wera and it's a change of direction of the questions a little bit. This one is from Christina Morgan-Danvers who was the PPC for Nottingham North and Nottingham City in the last election. The question is: "I want a leader that's relatable. How do you see yourself as relatable to Liberal Democrat members and the electorate?" And there's a tag on the end of this question: "If you were on Mastermind, what non-political subject would you choose to answer questions on. Ed. If you'd like to tackle that one.
Ed: Well I've always been told by my constituents that they find me very relatable and they find me very accessible and they say I'm friendly. I do two advice surgeries every week. I have done since I got elected in 97 so that's a large number of advice surgeries where I really engage with with the people who've got problems and I actually really love helping people o that very practical level. And I bet I think I'm a bit of a people person in terms of members. I hope that that shows. I've been around the country many times over the years meeting members and it's always really interesting to hear about their stories to listen to them to hear about you know what you've been campaigning what your priorities are and, Christina, I'm particularly interested that you were the PPC in Nottingham North because when I was a kid I was brought up in Nottingham North. I'm not sure - I think Mapley Park and Sherwood are in that constituency so very happy to come and meet the members in Nottingham I'm a Notts County fan so I should just warn you I'm not a Forest fan because i know there's a lot of Forest fans in nottingham so I like to think I'm approachable and can really get on with people and get on with the voters people feel i think that I'm someone who who relates to them and I think our policies and our ideas should be related to everyone in the country.
I think sometimes we've been too narrow we've focused on issues which appeal frankly to well-educated middle class people in London the South East. That's not good enough we've got to speak to the whole country. And I think I've got that. Possibly with my Midland roots now my Mastermind question that's a real I haven't prepared for that one you'd be surprised to know but I'll tell you. What I have to bone up a little bit because it's some a long time ago but I studied medieval history many moons ago and I love medieval history and you learn an awful lot from it and my special subject within that was the Vikings There was always a question about why the Vikings had invaded England and there was about seven big theses and the one that I particularly liked was apparently every so often the Barent sea becomes more salty and the herring shoals don't like it and so the herring shoals apparently in one period according to this theory swam into the north sea and the vikings invaded England according to this theory because they were fishing for the herrings in the North Sea that used to be in the Barents. You can take it or leave it but whether or not I get asked that by John Humphreys who knows. But I fancy my chances on medieval history in the Vikings
Keith: so thank you. Layla, relatable and mastermind for you.
Layla: Well I guess, Christina, you're going to have to decide for yourself how relatable someone is. I think really you've chosen a fantastically tough question and it's kind of that you know down at the pub 'would you like a drink with this person test'. And I certainly am missing a pub during lockdown. It is one of the things that I miss the most. I am also a people person - it's why I was a teacher for so many years. Nothing gives me more joy than being around people and chatting to them and finding out about them it's one of the reasons why after that election defeat my first instinct was to go out and talk to people and just have really in-depth conversations about their lives. But it's mainly about asking them questions. It's less about talking about yourself and I think it's a "show don't tell" kind of thing but certainly you know I think being a teacher does help because it's a lot of similar skills and you know right now I'm not going to pretend to be a football fan. My father's a Man U fan because he grew up near there after being born in Chelmsford but I'm basically a football widow this weekend now that it started again. My partner is a huge Chelsea fan which drives my father crazy and so I've got plenty of time to be able to do things that I like. So what is the thing that would be my Mastermind subject? Well I have to say one of my claims to fame that never really happened was that I was asked to be on the University Challenge team at Imperial - iIthink they just wanted a woman on the panel to be perfectly honest but I used to run the quiz there and I love game shows like that. What would I pick? Maybe Star Trek. Does that make me relatable to the general public? Probably not. Does that make me relatable to LibDem members? You decide. Okay that's a decision we'll have to take later.
Keith: The last one to ask the question about being relatable and Mastermind to is Wera.
Wera: Thank you well. Always a good opportunity to blow your own trumpet. What can I say I am in politics because I want to change things but I'm also in politics because I like people. and you know I can't see how I can be in politics and sustain that so daily relationship with people who you need to listen to in my surgery. I have to cry with a lot of people and understand where they're coming from but also it takes some some blows on the chin I love door stepping. I love being challenged and because I just think politics is about people and if you don't if you don't enjoy that interchange with people at any level then it's not the job for you. So what do you think -
I've obviously had time a little bit to think about what I would do on Mastermind and in relationship with being relatable I'm a champion cleaner, guys. I'm very good at cleaning my house. I like a clean house but I'm also also good at cleaning so I could go on Mastermind talk about different products, about different cleaning products what is not very good for your health and what's not good for the environment. And I would come up with the the perfect solution and that is clean with a microfiber cloth because you don't need any chemicals so you know what cleaning I like that also I do that when I need to take my mind off I think everybody can relate to cleaning I'm a champion cleaner my thing on on Mastermind would be about cleaning.
Keith: Fascinating series of answers to an interesting question
Ed: Come clean my house Wera!
Layla: I was going to say I didn't know that Wera.
Wera: I know, the things you don't know.
Keith: Ok, so we are all politicians and so we are all relatable. Fascinating series of answers to an interesting question
Keith: So we're all relatable that's what I like to hear. Okay a little bit more serious now. This is about the... how do we... This is from Mick Scholes and this is one that's come to the top of the list from within the room. "How do I ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable in society benefit first from environmental improvements?" and Layla is first to answer this one.
Layla: Thank you. Well, protecting the most vulnerable and campaigning against inequality - I mean that's the whole reason I got into politics in the first place. I've said before I was a maths and physics teacher but it wasn't really until… I wasn't really interested in politics until my mid to late 20s I was doing a Masters at the Institute of Education in Comparative Education, looking across different systems - why they are as they are. And having grown up in some parts of the world that were, you know, terribly poor of course you know Ethiopia but even Jordan and Jamaica totally different economies to here. You know we are a G7 country and yet we have children who right now go to bed hungry. During Covid19 that has been my absolute priority is campaigning, to make sure that they are remembered by this government. It has taken an enormous campaign and absolutely driven in the end by Marcus Rashford to get free school meals delivered over the summer holidays. And that's what I've been focused on, so it's very much at the heart of my politics and to the green agenda.
And I think I said earlier, we have to recognise that that is the way that we need to drive the economic change. We have to keep protecting people throughout this period. I too have been a champion of UBI. I'm delighted that the party's moving in this direction. It's fantastic and it's a really important debate for us to have. How do we make sure that people don't get left behind? But we also have to make sure that the poorest don't suffer and that's why we do need to start with zero carbon homes, prioritising those homes that are the poorest. That will reduce energy bills. That is exactly what's going to help reduce the costs of day-to-day living. You do that plus introduce a UBI and create a more progressive taxation system that goes along with it and that's how you start to shift that dial. However, under the Tories I don't see that happening. Whilst they talk about the Red Wall seats being important to them, they just don't have that instinct and the role for the Liberal Democrat leader over the next four years is to continue to show Boris Johnson that whilst he heard from some focus group somewhere that that's what he needs to say that is not what Boris Johnson thinks we need. To expose that to the same voters that we are hopefully going to win seats off them in those 30 to 50 seats that we should be aiming for in my view at the next election, Expose Boris Johnson for what he is and get them to vote Liberal Democrat so they don't return Boris Johnson at the next election.
Keith: Thank you and if I'm keeping score correctly it's Wera next.
Wera: Well I can only say "Hear hear" to the last. our aim has to be to defeat the Tories at the next general election because the Tories are not getting it. They don't get poverty, they don't get climate change. So we really need to make sure our aim is to defeat the Tories and this awful right-wing government at the next general election so hear hear to that. Those who were at the at the autumn conference and didn't hear me speak on the climate emergencies. My first my first point was that if we left climate change just develop itself and we cannot stop temperatures rising and from over 1.5 degrees we are creating the most enormous global inequalities. And because we believe in tackling poverty and tackling inequalities the fight against against climate change is at the heart of what we believe because we will create massive problems particularly for the southern hemisphere. We get huge migrations, possibly war. Do we really want to live in a society like that and do we really want to leave the poorest in the world exposed to that? So tackling the climate emergency goes hand in hand with tackling poverty. And then we start and get international agreements but let's go and get our house in order first.
So what can we do nationally and also make sure that we bring people behind us. We don't want people actually like the gilets jaunes people then when we're introducing something that's good for the environment, where the people, particularly the poorest people are saying "Hang on - what about us?" so this is why as part of our policy we have actually introduced a fair transition making sure and predicting which industries we are going to lose - the fossil fuel industries - and starting to skill up people and get the new jobs in place before we lose the old jobs, recognising that one of the biggest hits will be to make sure that we get out of fuel poverty. so make sure that people understand the climate emergency is not just a great big idea that is there ideologically and possibly helps people in other parts of the world but helps us here also to tackle poverty. And and that's a big battle that we need to fight. I believe climate assemblies or citizens assemblies will be very helpful in order to also spell out the clear choices that we have in this country and that there it is we need to go. We need to tackle the climate emergency but clearly we need to bring people with us and we still have a long way to go.
Keith: Okay, thank you very much, and Ed next.
Ed: On this one, my overall vision for the Party is a greener, fairer, more caring vision, that we take people with us, and I'm particularly keen on the fairer side when we talk about the green agenda because there's got to be something called climate justice. The poor need to see that this will really help them, with less money spent on fuel bills, with better jobs. And let me give you examples from how my green recovery plan will do this. I've talked about insulating homes, to tackle fuel poverty. But the green jobs will be crucial for those people who are unemployed and who will be really struggling. Another element is trying to invest in our regions. I managed to get huge amounts of money invested in places like Hull in Grimsby and Lowestoft, declining communities but we managed to get huge amounts of money invested in the green energy plans that I made and that brought more prosperity. We need to do a lot more of that and that levels up in the regions and makes sure all the regions of our country, the nations of our country, are sharing prosperity. There are some tough choices, particularly as we see fossil fuel industry going down, whether it's oil and gas in the North Sea or the refineries, because they will have to to close and we've got to make sure that the people, the workers and the communities that once depended on them, are looked after.
Now remember what happened when the coal pits in North Nottinghamshire closed. Mrs Thatcher didn't look after those coal villagers and it was an absolute disgrace and I campaigned as a young person still at school against the unfairnesses of what Mrs Thatcher did to those coal villagers, because she didn't take care of the communities. When you make those changes you have to look after people. It's just not fair if you just leave them to rot as Thatcher did, but there's an international dimension to climate justice as well. It's not just poor people in our country. We've got progressive taxation. It could be even more progressive - things like land value taxation that could help in this country. But what about the poorest in our world? I talked about how renewable energy could help those people who don't have any electricity now. We could get that to them. That would really help but I want to do more and one of the most disgraceful decisions this government has taken was to close down the Department for International Development and put it in the Foreign Office. That's a disgrace. I used to work with Dfid with what was called our international climate budget to make sure that as we tackled climate change internationally we were giving funds to those poorest countries so they could develop in a climate justice way, in a climate-friendly way and closing down Dfid is another this disgusting right-wing Tory government which we must oppose and get out of power. Final final example that if you work internationally how you can make a real difference on climate justice. And it's important if we can help those communities who currently depend on exploiting the rainforest to move their economy and jobs away. That would help us keep those trees up and keep a much healthier world planet.
Keith: Okay. Thank you and we have... Alison has been nudging me occasionally but we are trying to keep a balanced gender balance between the questioners. And the next one comes from Laura - Laura Sykes Sorry it's the longest question they respect of the various green sorry let me say the next order is Wera, Ed and Layla. "Of the various green initiatives possible, may I invite candidates to tell us which they would prioritise and which they regard as the easiest to implement and which the most difficult." So talking about difficult choices it's Wera, Ed and Layla. Wera.
Wera: It's a difficult question and of course we we believe that we need to do everything and yes it is important to prioritise but we have very much recognised and and and discovered and I'm fully on board with that we need to do everything at the same time and that's of course the difficulty. Because the climate emergency is so urgent and we cannot just sort of go about it in Leisurely way - "let's do this first and then go about that one later" so we need to do all these things at the same time and tackle and get to net zero in all the different sectors that we have identified at the same time. But if you ask me, you know what's probably the most urgent thing and get together now uh it's probably something like a citizen's assemblies in order to get people behind us, to make sure that that they actually understand the urgency and why we are doing these things. The easiest thing um that we can we can do it's very clear is to bring and the renewables energy sector down and we can do that we are already well on our way and that's in fact the only sector where the Tories are clapping themselves on the shoulder and says look what we have achieved. Actually, first of all, it was achieved because what we did in in government and also it got stalled and halted but that is at least a sector that's well on the way to deliver our net zero targets and then and we we move on or do at the same time the things that we have talked about - home heating our biggest one of our biggest carbon emitters another big sector is surface transport - a big carbon emitter and we have made no progress since the 1990s. It's a big one to tackle because people will still want to drive their cars. A big opportunity, a big challenge now as we're getting out of the coronavirus crisis. And that becomes a lot more expensive for people. So a big challenge around surface transport. You know it's difficult to pick just one that is important because we need to tackle all at the same time in order to achieve our very ambitious targets of what I'm now saying in 2040. So a difficult question I think we can't just pick one we need to do them all at the same time.
Keith: And Ed next please
Ed: I agree with Wera. We can't just pick one if you look at what the Climate Change Committee says it says we've got to do everything at the same time because this is so urgent and so there are things that will help us move quicker. I think insulating homes is a really good way because it will help people accept the green agenda because they'll see their bills going down so that's popular and I think it's a good policy to take but we need to roll out green power quicker. I showed how it could be done. We need to do even more of it with tidal energy building on the fact that we're now the world leader in offshore wind and the reason why power green power is so important is if people have electric vehicles and electric heating that heating and that transport is only green if the power stations are green so getting green power stations out there solar and wind and tidal is vital so you can decarbonize heat and transport. So power I would continue the rollout that I was very much involved in but there's a third one which is often not understood.
In parts of heating there's a debate amongst the experts about whether we go for electric heating or non-carbon gas heating - things like hydrogen and no one's really resolved that and we need to so we need to invest in hydrogen projects - pilots to see whether those can be made to work because that would really change the economics of how quickly we could decarbonize heating. You asked about the difficult one. The difficult one has always been planes. Now there's been some changes. there's no way the third runway heathrow is going to be built. That's fantastic news. I've campaigned, the Party's campaigned against it. I've voted against it … That runway would be a disaster and now because of video conferencing Zoom, Microsoft Teams and so on I think we can really cut the demand for flight. So that may not be as difficult as we thought in the way that Wera was quite rightly saying. Maybe we can be a lot more ambitious and I think we need to also persuade people to stay, not take so many flights. In my own family we're looking at, you know, lots of staycations now, particularly on cycling. My lovely little boy, although he can't walk, he can swim and he's got a tricycle. I bought this new Italian tricycle, DiBlasi, which folds up, a bit like a Brompton, and we're hoping to go on cycling holidays. And don't tell my wife - it's her birthday shortly I'm buying her an e-bike so I can encourage her that we go on cycling holidays as a family. So lots of things that looked difficult in the past, particularly around flying, I think there are solutions but it might mean some changes in how we behave.
Keith: Okay thank you. Layla.
Layla: Thank you. Well first of all, Ed, I hope Emily likes her e-bike. I bought one when I moved to my current home in Oxford, you know, second highest cycling city in the UK. Nowhere near good enough but I live at the top of a hill and I'm not very fit so I bought one and it's wonderful. So I hope she enjoys it. Yeah it's a best kept secret right but I should say I couldn't afford it without the cycle to work scheme and we do need to do more of that kind of thing. There is now this amazing opportunity people have for the first time in a long time really engaged with active travel with walking with cycling. I completely agree that that's the direction we need to go in but again this underlines the systemic problems in central government delivering these things because the County Council facing massive deficits as a result of COVID19 just simply doesn't have the resources that it needs to be able to supercharge these projects to get people out of their cars. We've seen people in fact jumping quickly back into their cars because they're concerned about public transport and so these are the things that need to be done immediately. The other one,of course, is redirecting people into jobs that will help the environment, particularly if they are in industries like aviation that are struggling right now, like the leisure industry as well.
Oxford is one of the big tourist destinations of the UK. We're really worried about this and an area that I think is under-spoken- about is in rewilding and tree planting, as ways of making sure that we increase our ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Now the government have been absolutely lacklustre on this. They had a tree planting strategy that was recently publicised. It really was met with a bit of a sigh of "huh" because we need 50,000 hectares a year from now on in order to make any real dent in it and the government's plan is for 30,000 and that's only from 2025. That's nowhere near good enough. So these are the things that should be easy and we should be prioritising now. But we also have some really difficult things to do as well and the most intractable and I agree aviation is one but also agriculture is the other when we have international food chains and I don't really think that we should be getting to the point where we're growing all our own - although I was delighted to discover that the peas for the first time that i'd planted this summer - today I was able to shell and eat. That was delightful but we can't assume that that is going to work for everyone and that we're going to be able to grow our own.
We have to work internationally to tackle our international food industry so that we can also encourage people to make positive choices about what they're eating, reduce the amount of meat that they're eating and there is a liberal argument for us to be having a debate in the party to what extent do we incentivise or indeed de-incentivise individuals to make the right choices to reduce the amount of meat that they're having. Countries like Switzerland have massively increased their taxes on red meat. Should we be doing the same? I feel it's been a long time since our party had that discussion. As leader I see my job as helping to open the debate, as I've done with the book, Build back better that was released yesterday. From across the Party a range of voices and some of these points -
Alison: Ten seconds please Layla. -
Layla: were addressed in it how are we going to have these big changes in a way that brings people along with us.
Keith Thank you very much. The order for the next question is Ed, Layla and Wera I live in rural Nottinghamshire so this question has just caught my eye particularly from Mark Gitsum. "Rural communities are blighted by bad public transport services. The village in Yorkshire I grew up in had service changes every year between having a limited service and none, plus prohibitively expensive when it does run. It makes it impossible for people living in these communities to commute to work other than by car. How would you fix this in a green way?"
Keith: So that's Ed first, Layla and Wera. Ed.
Ed: Well what we really need to do is to regulate the bus industry again when the Tories deregulated it, it led to higher fares and less journeys and we saw routes being taken away. In London we still have a regulated bus industry through TFL and we've seen passenger numbers increase and, relatively speaking, the costs of a journey lower than elsewhere in the country so if we're going to tackle public transport issues on buses which can be a really important part and particularly if we can get them to be hydrogen buses then that could be a really really big step forward. And I think if we had regulated buses in more rural areas we could ensure that subsidies were much better focused and the bus services were the ones that were needed for people to go to work, to go to school, to go to college and so on and so forth. But there are other ways that you can do it. I'm particularly taken up by my mother-in-law who lives in Dorset and she's been a campaigner on something they call the trailway. And the trailway is taking an old railway line and making sure that it could be used again, buying it from the farmers, building bridges that have previously been destroyed and those trailways take direct routes between different settlements as the old railways used to. and there are no cars on them and so people are walking and cycling a lot more because it's a lot safer in rural areas and that is a really interesting idea I'd like to see us taking all those railways that got destroyed in the past and actually passing legislation to require those landowners to give it back to the state so we can work together with local authorities and others to reopen those old railway lines that are grown over or being used by farmers. Compensate them - fine - but use them to create new cycle routes between rural areas. I think that'd be exciting but it would have to also be with a re-regulation of rural buses.
Keith: Sorry I hadn't got my mouse hovered over the unmuting. Layla next please. Thank you.
Layla: So actually whilst Oxford West and Abingdon I think a lot of people think is an urban town center seat, actually it extends far into countryside and I've got villages that face this exact problem. Locally I have been campaigning to keep these transport services open for those villages because otherwise they end up being completely cut off I've got one that has lost the last bus and as a result actually there is an issue of massive inequality. It is the young, the elderly and the disabled that are the ones that are most adversely affected by the lack of bus services and fundamentally what this speaks to is something that the Tories don't like hearing which is that there are sometimes some cases where the free market approach, that market fundamentalist approach just simply doesn't work. There are some things that should be considered a public good, that are actively supported by the state when they fail and buses to rural areas is one of those. And it has been that case for a very long time we just simply can't make it work in a way that works for those communities. And what it means is that you end up having massive inequalities. It's not just north-south - I mean when I've studied inequalities in education, for example, there is also inequality between urban and rural for this exact reason - far less choice and so the basics of the market break down. what we need is for government to invest in local government, to be able to decide with communities how best to tackle that inequity and at the same time it would also deliver that green shift that we need and that behavioral shift that we need away from cars and for people to be using buses and other public transport much more.
Keith: And Wera
Wera: Yes I think Layla has made it quite clear that certain things the market can't deal with and focusing everything on the marketisation of our society doesn't work. And coupled with austerity many of our public services have all but disappeared. I was a councillor for 10 years up in the North West. I was representing a semi-rural ward and I remember well that there were bus routes that the private bus companies wouldn't run anymore because they weren't profitable. And indeed, actually, each bus company has to demonstrate - they even have to demonstrate - that a route is profitable before they're allowed to run it. So non-profitable routes were going to be axed but we had a pot of money in Greater Manchester where non-profitable roots could be subsidized and all of that has gone in the last 10 years so there's a very clear case that austerity didn't work. It didn't work in order to protect our most vulnerable and there has to be a recognition that you need a strong public sector that picks up again and these things and like a rural bus services and protecting the most vulnerable and that has can only be done by not going back to any form of austerity but also understanding what has been done and what has been cut in the last 10 years so let's let's not go back to a cut in further public services. A ruthless attack on public services is at the root cause of this problem and austerity is as well. And the best thing we can do is reinstate public services and make sure that a lot of resources and money is devolved to our our areas and local areas so local councils and local communities and local activists can actually make the decision of what is the best solution for their local area. One size doesn't fit all so let's go back to good public services well-resourced public services and make sure that local communities can make the decisions about sustainable transport in their area.
Keith: Thank you, Wera. The next Order will be Layla, Wera and Ed. We're getting to the stage now where I think probably one more question and then we'll have to go into summaries for everybody. I'm just so sorry that there are lots and lots and lots of questions that we're not going to reach and they all deserve an answer. It's so frustrating not to be able to ask them all but if I shut up we can ask one more. This question is from Councillor Helen Tamblyn. The question is this: "To show that you want to move away from a London-centric approach, are you going to come door knocking in the non-target seats and see what it's like? I feel this isn't factored enough into the development and flexibility of our messaging and it ends up and when are you coming to the East Midlands it was the question it's nothing to do with me I happen to live in Nottinghamshire [Collective Laughter] So the order for this question is Layla, Wera and Ed. So Layla you're tackling your question first please.
Layla: Yeah, well thank you Helen and first of all that was definitely my instinct - after the election was to do exactly that and so I went to Leeds, I went to Sheffield, I went to Devon and Cornwall, I went to Romsey, I went also to Pontyprydd - most definitely not a target seat - and spoke to activists and local businesses there, but in particular to speak to the voters and to speak to voters who don't normally vote Lib Dem - slow conversations to understand where they're coming from.
I know that we as a party can find our voice in these communities again. I know that by listening to them that is how we're going to do it and my pledge to you - and I've said this several times already - is that the first year of my leadership at least is a year that I'm going to be traveling up and down the country, including to the Midlands, to do more door knocking in areas where we need to learn how to win again, so that we can get a sense for not just what people are thinking but also how people are feeling. The next year is going to be really tough for people - they are going to potentially be facing mass redundancies. We know that there is a backlog of operations and checkups that is going to mean even more strain on the health service. People's mental health is really suffering right now and we could be facing a second wave because of the utter incompetence of this government. And it really makes me angry. We need to be seen as a party on people's side and that's why we have to be active in going and asking for their opinions uh that's also the way that we're going to build towards success in those very important May 2021 local elections. They are going to be critical for us to build momentum and that will be my priority over the next year so I look forward to coming to see you. And had lockdown not happened maybe I would have already been there.
Keith: Thank you very much. Wera next.
Wera: I'm sure we are going to have a great big competition amongst our ourselves our three leadership candidates about who can knock on more doors but I think it's in our DNA anyway. None of us would be where we are whether we are councillors or whether we are Members of Parliament if we hadn't knocked on a lot of doors and if that wasn't something that we took very seriously and we're particularly committed to. I was a councillor for 10 years I believe passionately in local government. I believe that and I've said that in my opening pitch actually that we are the most centralised country but we are also as a Party we have the tendency of being London-centric and we really need to get out of our London bubble in order to make sure that we represent all the regions and I'm going to be a champion for that - a champion for local government - a champion for the regions to understand that one size doesn't fit all. And yes getting going door knocking with you but listening particularly to everybody on the ground, including our local activists and councillors.
How we are going to win elections? Because we shouldn't just as a party focus so heavily on national elections but make sure that council election and any regional elections that we have get the same focus and attention. We won't win nationally if we haven't built thoroughly the the the ground for winning the elections and that is why council seats, council election knocking on doors and doing that with you but as a party move away out of our London-centric bubble and go out into the regions and as a party also do decentralise ourselves so there's a very important pitch here from my side and I'm glad that this question was asked because I think it is at the centre of how we get back and how we revive as a party. It's to decentralise, to go out into the regions, knock on doors with you, take local elections seriously and I'm right back there I know what it is to be a local councillor. It's fun. I loved being a local councillor so I see you then.
Keith: Thank you, Wera. And Ed to wind this session up, this question up.
Ed: I agree with a lot of What Wera said one of the reasons I'm a Liberal Democrat is I believe we need to push power down to local government and to the regions I believe that power is better exercised at the local level by local people, local communities, and we need to do that in how we rebuild our party. 2021 is going to be the biggest set of local authority elections as well as elections in Wales, Scotland and indeed London that we have seen between general elections in many a generation. It's a key moment and so we've got to have lots of target seats in lots of council areas that aren't to do with Parliamentary seats because we've got to come back up in local government across the whole country. Now of course i'll come to the East Midlands. It's my home patch. I've done a lot of campaigning over the years in places like Derby and Leicester, of course Nottingham, my home town, so you can count me in for that. But we need to go across every region, let's be clear. But we need to do something more. Our party needs to live this decentralised agenda. Too many meetings have been held in London. We need to think about how we organize as a party and I want us to use this technology. Why should anyone have to come to London to take part in a committee of the party. Not only is that not good for the environment. It costs some money but surely it should be able to participate using video conferences. Now that happens now. It's happening already but it should be absolutely compulsory that any meeting someone could attend through Zoom. We've seen how important that is and I think that would help give power back to local parties and local members across the whole of the United Kingdom and bring actually the party together more. It's one of the reasons i asked the Federal Policy Committee to look at new ways of debating policy in the party and it will be coming to you shortly. You've been rolling out this in pilots at the moment it's a new platform called Citizens Lab a bit like, you know, citizens assemblies. This would be like members assemblies through a technology called Citizens Lab and it would enable a lot more debate, so ideas could percolate up from the whole party and it wouldn't just be those working groups that meet in London. So yes, let's win in local government and let's do - let's live our beliefs that local democracy is important in and of itself everywhere, but let's also do that in our party so we are properly decentralised party too.
Keith: Thank you very much indeed. It's been a fascinating series of questions and answers. I'm just sorry it's gone really quickly I'm just sorry we haven't had time to ask all the questions that were on the documents that have been flashing in front of my eyes for the last hour and a half. It's closing statements now from each of the candidates my understanding is that we said three minutes that's going to take us just a little bit over the allotted time so we're going to be a little bit late going into the next discussion session. The order then for the closing comments is going to be we're sticking with the same rota so it's going to be Wera, Ed and Layla so Wera, if you'd like to start your closing statements first Please.
Wera: Well thank you very much for having us today we were particularly focusing on the green agenda and and how to get to net zero. As a spokesperson that is where my heart beats but as a leadership candidate, that is of course one of the big big areas that I would put forward as a leader and be very very tough about how to get to net zero. My pitch is about a new direction. I believe we need to get away from the Coalition Government and we need to finally get away and and break ourselves forward to new shores where we can make sure that the Coalition and what the the legacy of the coalition was is no longer with us and that is about recognising where the coalition got us to - the most right-wing government in recent history, to Brexit, to more and increased inequalities and poverty. That was not what we wanted to go into coalition for in 2010 and wasn't our intention. But looking back that is ultimately where we are and I think we need to recognise that and all take responsibility for that. I defended the coalition government but I think we need to get away from it. A new direction for me is building back from the grassroots and I have laid out how important that is also for me to enhance what we do for the climate emergency. Do that through a decentralized agenda as a party and it has has laid that out as well we need to decentralise as a party and understand that if we want to rebuild and from the grassroots then we need to actually and practice what we preach in our party as well. I have launched a big thought piece this weekend and I haven't published it in the London newspaper, I've published it in the Manchester Evening News because I think that as well it is a way of indicating where I think we need to go. We need to decentralise. We need to empower our local communities. We can do much more in order to get to net zero if actually we have got a decentralised structure but also the will politically to go back to the grassroots. I think we need a new direction. I think we have got a great party that can deliver loads for the future. We are in a good place. Let's go for it. Let's win locally first and then make sure that we beat the Tories in 2024 at the next general election.
Keith: Thank you Wera. Ed is next up.
Ed: Thank you for all your questions today. I've really enjoyed debating. Thank you to Keith and Allison for chairing i hope I've shown you today that that I have the vision, experience and judgment to lead the Liberal Democrats to tackle the challenges we face both in the country and inside our own party. I want to work with you all to build a society where we invest in green jobs, save our planet, give everyone a Universal Basic Income and give carers a new deal. The election review presented us with a huge number of challenges as a party and it said there isn't an easy answer to any of them. But I know that by working together we can build a message and a party machine that can speak to the whole country again just like we did when I worked for Paddy. I've been touched by how many of our great campaigners and winners in the party are backing my campaign Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, our former Yorkshire MEP and opposition leader on Sheffield Councillor Dorothy Thornhill, the former Mayor of Watford and the chair of the election review, Siobhan Bonita, outstanding candidate for London Mayor, Christine Jardine the brilliant MP for Edinburgh West, Mark Williams a former MEP in Wales and a top campaigner in the Welsh party, Councillor Sarah Bedford, the leader of the Three Rivers District Council, Mike Storey from our party's education team in the Lords and a former leader of Liverpool Council, Roderick Lynch, chair of the Liberal Democrat campaign for racial equality, Caroline Voaden, Catherine Bearder, former leaders of our MEP group and the former leader of our party Ming Campbell. We have so much to be positive about in this party, not least the fantastic campaigners we have right across the party including everyone on this Zoom call. And together we can campaign our socks off, beat Boris Johnson's right wing Brexit Tory MPs, elect more Liberal Democrat councillors and Liberal Democrat MPs and deliver a progressive political agenda with the environment in a green economy at its heart. Yes, the challenges with jobs, the climate, Brexit and COVID, the challenges have never been more serious. I'm ready for that challenge. I've met challenges in my political life and in my personal life before and with party members like you at the beating heart of the Liberal Democrats I'd be honored to lead you to campaign for and win that greener fairer and more caring society.
Keith: Thank you, thank you Ed and Layla
Also thank you to Keith and Allison and to everyone who has been watching. I hope you'll all agree i am very proud of all of us. I think what we have here is a race to the top in terms of who can be the most green and who can be fantastic leaders of this party and I think I personally am just really proud of the debate of ideas that we are about to have. It's about time that we did this as a party because the reason why I am standing is partly out of deep frustration. You know when you support a sports team it's great when there's a high and a low and you feel that you know it's very exciting but the problem is with politics is when we have these lows. What it means is that we aren't delivering for people across the country. Without Lib Dems elected both in local government and in Parliament then what we leave this country to are two top-down parties who tussle for space in a first-past-the-post electoral system that is utterly broken. It makes people feel left behind and we have a country that absolutely needs to move on and do it in a way that is non-tribal and that is not divided. Moving on together as a country is what we have to show people that we can lead and, yes, it's going to be tough out there - it absolutely is - but one of the best ways to build resilience in our communities is to give them hope, is to give them energy and is as a party to start bringing new people to us again. Since 2015 more than 50 percent of our membership is new we need to send a signal to those parts of the electorate in parts of the country where perhaps we haven't been as strong that we are also renewed as a party and so moving on together. It applies as much to the party as it does to the country. We need to find a way to tap into their hearts and not just their minds, to employ our emotional intelligence and not just our ability to make extraordinary policy. And I'm so proud of all of us championing green agendas in this leadership debate it also happened at the last one it's absolutely the space that we need to occupy. But we need to do it in a way that attracts young people to this party again. My favorite saying at the moment, and has been for a long time, is that voting Lib Dem is a gateway drug to voting Lib Dem. If you can get people doing it young, and if you can get people doing it at a local level, then that is how we build for the future. So let's be positive. Let's not look backwards. Let's look forwards. Let's give this country the hope that it deserves and let's build towards the medium and long-term success for our party - because if we do that, then that's how we build a brighter country as well.
Keith: Thank you very much indeed. We're only three minutes out of time as well. That wasn't bad timing, so thank you, Alison, very much for keeping us to time, thank you for three superb candidates - I don't know how we're going to choose between you you've all been very green, you've all been very articulate and I think we'll be lucky to have any one of you. The Conservative Party's leadership campaign was dross compared to the sort of debate we're having here. There is a chance for us for the participants to go to the meeting room and mingle and I think you three are dashing off to other meetings. I'm sure you are, so thank you to everybody. Thank you Alison and thank you Caron for making sure we got through on air on time and thank you to the audience who are now going to be placed into a different room
Collective clapping and all saying Thank you
Keith: Ok guys, Thank you ever so much, see you all soon.
Alison: Meeting is in the web chat
Keith: Ok, thanks all of you.
Speakers: Wera Hobhouse MP, Ed Davey MP, and Layla Moran MP
Chair: Keith Melton
Moderator Alison Rouse
Zoom Event Manager: Caron - Jane Lyon of pcmcreativeevents.co.uk
Video editor: George Miles
Subtitles and transcript subeditors: John Medway and Oliver Jones-Lyons
** (Volunteers please from GLD please to edit transcripts of more of the videos from our 2020 Conference)
Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
Published and promoted by Green Liberal Democrats, 1 Vincent Square, London, SW1P 2PN
The views expressed in all articles and news items of this site should only be assumed to be those of the individual authors themselves and are not necessarily those of the Liberal Democrats, the Green Liberal Democrats, or the service provider.
Website designed and developed by Prater Raines Ltd, with modifications by Green Liberal Democrats