“This May we offer a fresh and strong voice to an often complacent council”
Read John Leech's full rally speech below.
Thank you to Tim Farron for coming down today.
Can I start by saying thank you to Graziano and all of the staff here at Didsbury Lounge - what a fantastic venue!
And I want to say a huge thank you to everyone for coming down to support us tonight.
It really is heart-warming to see so many people backing my venture back to the council.
And of course, that's where it all began, back in 1998 when I was first elected to council.
As a fresh faced 27 year old with no idea that in 2001 I would be asked if I would stand as the Parliamentary candidate for Manchester Withington.
I spoke to my partner, Catherine, and explained that it was okay, nothing would change, we had no chance of winning…
Of course, that’s not quite what happened…
And someone had the job of having to break the news to my partner that actually what had happened was that I had been elected with the biggest swing in the country…
It was an absolute honour to represent the residents of Manchester Withington for the 10 years I was an MP.
And as I promised, I'm not going anywhere.
I've been asked to stand elsewhere, in safer seats, as if you'd want to live anywhere but Manchester anyway!
But that thought has never crossed my mind.
Because I believe that at the heart of Manchester is a real community.
One that looks out for each other, one that doesn't care where you've come from or what your background is.
One where everyone has an equal opportunity to get on in life.
That, for me, is what lies at the heart of the Liberal Democrats.
And this city needs that voice.
Whether that be from me and Dominic Hardwick in Didsbury;
Norman Lewis & Ludo Tolhurst in Chorlton;
April Preston & Simon Wheale in Old Moat & Withington;
Maria Turner in Burnage;
or any other of our hardworking candidates across Manchester.
Thank you to Rebecca for sharing her story tonight.
I remember that so well.
The initial support Rebecca received really was awful, and it makes me smile when I get her updates or when I pop round for a cup of tea and see how well Mike is doing.
When I see Mike climbing on the sofa, standing on his tip toes looking out the window, those are the moments when you see the real difference you have made to real people's lives, just around the corner from you.
It is those moments that make me so proud to have been an MP.
It is those moments that keep me fighting.
And it is remembering those moments that will see the Manchester Liberal Democrats back on the council.
Because it's not about playing political games in Westminster.
It’s not about making the front page of newspapers...
It's about people.
Right here in Manchester.
Real people who need our help.
Since 2010, we as a party, nationally and locally, have seen a rough set of results.
Fear has won where liberalism, hope and hard work has been trampled on by politics wreaked by division, complacency and the attitude of 'that'll do'.
Well it doesn't.
It's not good enough for me.
And it's not good enough for Manchester.
So this year, this is the year that we get a fresh start.
We rebuild. We knock on the doors. We deliver the leaflets.
We do what we do best.
We build that Manchester.
The one where we can start making a real difference to people who need it.
Where hope will see us triumph, because that's what we offer.
Hope that a council might represent everybody in the city, not just half of those that voted it in.
Hope that councillors represent the area on the doors and in the town hall - all year round, not just when there’s an election on its way.
Hope that all parties can work together to build a strong council.
I don't think people expect politicians and campaigners to solve all their problems.
But I think they sense, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that everyone in Manchester has a decent shot at life because they know Manchester can do better.
And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice.
Manchester council is wasting money, they're evicting the homeless, closing schools, leaving our roads un-repaired.
They're blaming everyone else for the problems that they create.
On the 5th May we can tell them things can be different.
There is another option.
Building opportunities, investing in quality public services.
Providing security, safety and confidence - for the old, the sick and the vulnerable.
A cleaner, greener environment.
Control for people over their own lives and their own communities.
This is not just a promise of what we will do.
It’s the record of what we’ve done before - and a pledge of what we will continue doing.
But people won’t hear our message unless we tell it to them.
I know how hard you’re all working.
And I am so grateful for all of the hours you put in.
But I need to ask you to work even harder.
We need to deliver more leaflets, canvass more people, make more calls, put up more posters.
And when Labour take them down, we don’t retaliate.
We just put them back up, bigger and louder than before.
We show them that we are not going anywhere.
We show them we are here to stay.
We have to get together.
Remind our opponents that we have a unity.
A sense of purpose they could never compete with.
Because when the Manchester Liberal Democrats get together and organise…
No one campaigns like we do.
Labour know it.
That's why they are shipping in volunteers every weekend.
Because they know that the residents of Manchester appreciate our hard work.
They appreciate what we do.
And they're in danger.
The one party state in Manchester is in danger.
And they are going to throw everything at us.
They haven’t forgotten 2005, or 2010.
But guess what?
Nor have we.
And when you feel that you’ve given all you can, I need you to think back to that great victory.
When hope beat fear.
When we won because we deserved it.
Because we worked hard.
When we won because we filled the pot holes, we cleaned up the area, we supported and listened to local residents, we campaigned on what mattered to them.
We got things done and we made a difference.
I need you to remember how good it felt to prove our critics wrong;
remember how good it felt to win;
remember how good it feels to see people like Rebecca, whose son can now enjoy the best life possible.
That was us.
We did that.
We made that difference.
And guess what?
It’s time to do it again.
It’s time to make that difference again.
Let's get out there and win.
So join me.
Join our team.
Deliver our leaflets.
Knock on the doors.
Make the phone calls.
Put up a poster.
Come to our events.
Tell your neighbours.
Fight - for that Manchester.
Because that is how we will start winning again.
House by house, door by door, collecting issues, listening to people and making a difference.
We've done it before and we will do it again.
That is how we will start making a real difference in Manchester again.
Because nothing keeps the Liberal Democrats fighting more than an unjust system.
And as long as residents in Manchester aren't getting the best deal I'll be here fighting and challenging that every step of the way.
So join me.
Join me in my fight.
Join this campaign and join it now.
Help me as I continue to fight for Manchester as I have done for 20 years.
Help me to deliver a council where you can expect more.
Thank you so much for coming tonight.
Thank you so much for your support.