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Siobhan Benita's conference speech!

September 17, 2019 11:01 AM
By Bansri Buddhdev
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Hello Conference!

What a brilliant time to be a Liberal Democrat!

On the 7th May next year, London voters will make a decision of national and international importance. Who will be the next Mayor of London.

They will decide who they believe embodies the very spirit of London. Who will stand up for global, liberal, pro-European, warm-hearted and dynamic values. Who will reflect and reinforce the optimism, diversity and entrepreneurialism of our capital.

I believe Londoners will choose the Liberal Democrats. Londoners will choose me.

I'm asking people to choose me as their Mayor, so I want to tell you a bit about myself.

I'm the daughter of migrants. My mum was born in India. She came to England when she was just ten years old. With my grandma and her two siblings, she undertook a 6-week boat trip in search of a better life.

So much of what she tells me about her arrival and first months in London describes the London that I know and love - a charitable city that welcomes people, understands the value of community and supports the most vulnerable.

And my mum gave so much back to the city that had welcomed her. She worked as a carer and auxiliary nurse, always doing an extra last round in the evenings to check that her elderly patients were all OK.

My dad was also a migrant to London. Only he didn't come from quite as far as India! He was born in a small village in Cornwall and came to London to work as a teacher.

My mum and dad are like hundreds, thousands of people across the capital and the country as a whole. Hard-working, law-abiding, kind, generous.

My mum and dad are like hundreds, thousands of people across the capital and the country as a whole. Hard-working, law-abiding, kind, generous.

My mum and dad are the reason that my blood boils when I hear the hostility that is directed at immigrants today.

The Conservative and Brexit parties have an awful lot to answer for.

Whether it's Farage's refugee poster, Theresa May's hostile environment, or Boris Johnson's offensive language, the past few years have emboldened the far right and given oxygen to racists and fascists and bigots and extremists.

As Liberal Democrats, we can and we must sing from the rooftops. Immigration is a good thing. Good for communities. Good for the capital. Good for the country.

London thrives because it's a European as well as a British city. London is home to 13% of the UK's population but 33% of the country's EU citizens.

A staggering one-third of London's jobs in the hospitality and construction sectors are filled by EU citizens. One in twelve in the NHS. EU citizens build our houses, nurse our sick and pay for our public services.

There is NO Brexit deal that is good for London.

There is NO Brexit deal that is good for London.

Nothing could symbolise an open London more, than retaining free movement with the EU.

As Mayor, I will keep freedom of movement in London. I will make sure we always have freedom of movement in our great city.

And later this month I will meet MEPs and officials in Brussels to discuss Freedom of movement for Londoners in Europe.

I also want to be the Mayor of London because I believe we can create a better, kinder capital.

One in which the air we breathe is not a silent killer.

An affordable and equal city that supports aspiration, is the global capital of business and innovation and the world leader in wellbeing.

Sadly, one particular issue that is guaranteed to be a central element of the mayoral campaign is knife crime. Something has gone horribly wrong.

Khan has wasted an entire mayoral term achieving almost nothing on this issue. Having been a member of Parliament's Youth Violence Commission I know that there is so, so much more that the Mayor of London can do and yesterday I set out my plan to address serious violence in the capital.

Enforcement is an important part of upholding standards and demanding safety. But enforcement is, by definition, always the result of failure.

Instead, we must focus on prevention. My Feel Safe, Be Safe Plan for Londoners will give every young person a voice, activities and the security of good schooling.

Together these measures will tackle deep-rooted problems in our city and begin to end the tragedies.

London is looking for change. We, the Liberal Democrats, offer the change our capital needs.

London is looking for change. We, the Liberal Democrats, offer the change our capital needs.

We know that London is a Remain city. We know that London is a liberal city. And since the Euro elections in May, London is also Liberal Democrat city.

In May the capital joined us in saying "Bollocks to Brexit" and returned three Liberal Democrat MEPs. We got more votes than any other party, topping the poll for London and winning outright in sixteen boroughs.

Our best result in the capital ever.

And it just keeps getter better. Our membership has soared to nearly 24,000 in London. That's three times the number at the last Mayoral election in 2012.

And if we go into a general election our London results will be spectacular.

With our fantastic new MP Chuka Umunna joining Ed Davey and Tom Brake and some outstanding PPCs in key seats like Wimbledon, Streatham and Twickenham, we are going to deepen and strengthen the Liberal Democrat support across liberal London.

We have the message. We have the momentum. And with all of you, I know that we have the winning campaign.

Imagine what winning the general election will do for our country. Imagine what winning the mayoral election will do for our capital city and for our country.

Imagine the message it will send to the World - Liberal Britain is back!

You can read Siobhan's full speech here.