[Following the article on Lib Dem Voice, Tim Farron MP offered to write an article for this blog covering NI and Wales, here is the article – uneditied, straight from Tim’s keyboard.-Ed.]
I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice the other day about what I would do for Scotland why I hope that party members will choose me as our new President. I then thought that I need to talk about Wales and Northern Ireland too and what I can offer them and about the political challenges I see us facing together
At this time especially, we need distinctive messages and policies – we need to work relentlessly on presenting a clear independent identity. We also need to motivate our supporters. I want party members in Wales and Northern Ireland to listen to a Liberal Democrat President on the radio and feel inspired and energized to get out and spread the word and work hard for our party. I believe that you are entitled to feel proud of us, and I want to be the person who gives you that pride in our principles, our style and our achievements. I want more people to join us, especially young people. We’ll do it by spelling out clearly and consistently what the Liberal Democrats are doing to make Britain fairer, greener and freer.
Firstly starting with Northern Ireland. We are in a unique position because we officially have no party over there – we have a sister party, the Alliance Party but no formal representation. Some of their peers take our whip in Westminster, others don’t. I want to try and dip my toe in the potentially hazardous water should I be elected and try and sort this out. My plan would be to sit down with members in Northern Ireland discuss the direction of the party there. My vision is that at the end of my term of office we would have moved towards the party in Northern Ireland being fully recognized within the Federal Party structure – so long as this is what members in Northern Ireland want. I would go to Northern Ireland and ask members myself, I want to hear what they have to say and make sure their voice is heard in the Federal Party.
I know that many people are happy with the current arrangement but as President I want to hear all views and make sure the current fit is the best for members.
Now turning to Wales. The Welsh Assembly is in a unique situation. Each of the four parties represented there are in government at some level. The Lib Dems and the Tories in coalition in Westminster and Labour and Plaid Cymru are in their final year of coalition government in Cardiff.
I think the Plaid-Labour coalition has presided over a litany of missed opportunities for Wales – they have trudged through a whole parliamentary session, getting by but not doing the things and making the changes Wales really needs. To coin a phrase, ‘they appear to be in office but not in power’! It has been a singularly ineffective government.
I look at the old mining towns in Mid and South Wales which still desperately need support and regeneration after all this time. I look at the communities in North Wales where young people need help into well paid jobs. I look at the rural communities like in Brecon that are underfunded and feel like they are ignored by Labour. I think to myself there must be something better for these people – there has to be a better way.
We can provide that better way. The Liberal Democrats offer a better vision for Wales. Kirsty Williams is a fantastic leader for us in Wales, allowing us to punch well above our weight in the Welsh assembly. I know with elections next year people say they are nervous about what will happen to us. I have real confidence in our party in Wales. I know with fantastic candidates like Wyn Williams in Montgomeryshire and Bill Brereton in Wrexham we have the chance to make sure that communities up and down Wales elect local champions that will put them first. I will again commit to touring Wales if elected to knock on doors up and down Wales making sure our distinctive message is heard.
We will be fighting this election next year in Wales on all fronts, battling Plaid Cymru in places like Ceredigion, fighting Labour in places like Swansea, and taking on the Tories in places like Brecon and Radnorshire and, more importantly, in Montgomeryshire determined to re-establish ourselves as the winners there, bringing that proud bastion of liberalism back into the fold. It will be my job, if elected your party president, to inspire members and activists to go out and fight the coming elections hard. It will also be my job to energise a new generation of activists to believe that they can make a difference.
If that is the type of President you want, then please vote for me.
Tim Farron MP