Good evening, and thank you for coming here tonight. For those of you who don’t already know me, I’m Mike Hibbs, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Saffron Walden constituency.
Before I talk about the issues at stake, I want to say how deeply saddened I am at the terrible attacks in Manchester and in London. We must stop these attacks, and there is a need for more police and more surveillance. But it’s also very important not to let extremists of any persuasion destabilise our democracy. The rhetoric around these terrorist attacks is increasingly intolerant. Internment without trial and draconian controls on free speech are not acceptable in a civilised society. I hope we can use this evening to deepen our tolerance of each other’s points of view.
At the start of this election campaign, a local journalist asked me why I bothered to stand as a Lib Dem candidate in one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. Well, to me it’s clear why a local Liberal voice is needed.
The national debate has been uninspiring. The two main parties have stuck to a dispiriting ding-dong over the personalities of their leaders. The Conservatives are selling Theresa May as the goddess of strong and stable to lead us to the promised land of Brexit – without ever saying what that will be. Jeremy Corbyn’s followers say he will cure all the ills of the world, at no cost to anyone. Promoting the leaders is designed to mask serious failings in their party’s policies, and in our national debate.
The real issues are that our public services are under-resourced, our public servants are under-paid, our children’s education is at risk, our infrastructure is crumbling, and the environment is being mortgaged for short-term gain.
There are four practical and achievable Liberal Democrat policies which are directly relevant to every-day life in this Constituency.
- Health and social care. The Lib Dems want a 1p increase in income tax to bring in £6 billion and properly fund the NHS. This will address the loss of local health care provision.
- Lib Dems will invest over £6 billion in education by raising the rate of Corporation Tax. The Conservatives are cutting per pupil funding by 8%. More selective grammar schools in the state funded system are a distraction and a waste of resources
- The environment. We must support the Paris Climate Agreement and keep the high standards of environmental protection worked out by the European Union. The two main parties have written off the environment.
- And most importantly, the European Union. We haven’t even started to leave, and local business are seeing a 23% increase in their costs due to the fall in the pound. Brexit will be a disaster for this area. Lib Dems are fighting to give the people of this country a final say on the Brexit deal.
I urge you all to vote for the Liberal Democrats. Let Theresa May know that she doesn’t speak for the whole country, and make both Labour and the Conservatives listen to the Lib Dem voice of reason.