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Antony Hook's first speech as new Leader of the Liberal Democrats

June 3, 2021 9:00 AM
By Kent Liberal Democrats
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Antony Hook has made his first speech to Kent County Counci in his role as Leader of Kent Liberal Democrats.

In his four-minute speech Antony:

  • Congratulated members elected to Kent County Council
  • Introduced new Liberal Democrats members Mike Sole and Richard Streatfeild
  • Called on the council to work together to achieve recovery after the pandemic
  • Highlighted the gulf between seats allocated to the Conservatives versus the much smaller share of votes they received from Kent's people
  • Set out liberal values that will guide the Liberal Democrat Group - such as belief in the open society with equal opportunity for all
  • Called for people to be "liberated from poverty, ignorance and conformity"
  • Said he is optimistic about Kent's future
  • Called on Kent to become the leading council in the UK for embracing new technology

The full text is below.

SPEECH TO KENT COUNTY COUNCIL

27 MAY 2021

Madam Chair,

I am honoured to take over the leadership of the Liberal Democrat Group from my friend Rob Bird.

Let me first congratulate all 80 members elected to Kent County Council. In particular, 32 new members. I have looked at the biographies of many of them and see skills and experience of value for this Council, not least our new Liberal Democrat members Mike Sole and Richard Streatfeild.

Mike Sole brings decades of experience as a grassroots, community campaigner in rural East Kent. Richard Streatfeild brings not only his experience in business but also the work he has done following his frontline service in Afghanistan. He has among other things, championed the cause of mental health of people who have served in armed conflict.

The last year has been unique. As of the end of April 4,742 people in Kent were recorded to have died from Covid. The pandemic has been a challenge for this council, unequalled for decades. We recognise and respect that the burden on the Council Leader's shoulders, and on many other people has been extraordinary.

A huge task ahead for us all is to help people survive any further waves of Covid and to support recovery - a recovery of physical health, of jobs and livelihoods and emotional well-being.

I have to comment on the recent election. We saw again a terrible gulf between votes cast by people and seats allocated by the system. Unlike in Scotland and Northern Ireland or the majority of western democracies, where proportional electoral systems have been adopted, the people of Kent do not get the council they vote for. Here we have a situation where a party attracts fewer than 5 votes in 10. But gets almost 8 seats in 10.

My invitation to the Leader and his Cabinet is to work with us to find Common Ground on many issues that brings together many more people in Kent than the minority who supported one party or another.

The Liberal Democrat Group will take our role of Opposition seriously. We will seek to improve the council by scrutinising what is happening and by offering alternative or additional plans and ideas. We will fight hard for the towns and villages that have sent us here and we'll fight for liberal values in all of the Council's work.

We believe in the open society, with equal opportunity for all. We want people to be liberated from poverty, ignorance or conformity. Not least the ignorance that drives pollution. We champion freedom for every individual to live their life to the full.

We want a council that strives for excellence and is relentlessly outward looking. Our activities should always be measured against other counties to see where we can do better. We should pro-actively look at local government anywhere in the world for good new ideas.

I am deeply optimistic for Kent's future. In the last 15 year everything we do has been changed by smart phones, cloud computing and social media. In the next 15 years, artificial intelligence will have an impact far in excess of these. If we get it right, the impact will be beneficial. I wish to set a challenge. For us to scope, on a cross-party basis, the opportunities that new technology presents and to become the leading council in the UK in adopting these.

Congratulations again to every colleague elected across all four group. Our best wishes to former members, many of whom we will miss and will keep in contact with.

Madam Chair, we look forward to the next 4 years.