I believe passionately in Liberalism, liberal democracy and our party.
After recent days, more than ever
This month we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the great Liberal landslide of 1906. Two of the lynchpins of that great radical Liberal Government had Mancunian connections; Churchill was elected as a Manchester MP in 1906 and Lloyd George was born in Chorlton-upon-Medlock - although whether either one of their private predilections would have withstood the 2006 sort of news coverage that it's been my lot to face over the last 48 hours, I shudder to think.
I do not believe that that 1906 result was the last ever Liberal landslide. I believe that the Liberal Democrats have huge potential for winning big too.
We have regularly confounded the doubters and achieved, under Charles Kennedy, our best election results in generations. It is now time to aim for an even greater success in 2010.
This is a time for us to be confident, ambitious and outward looking.
We should not simply be thinking about holding on to what we have gained.
We should be looking to take new territory - as we are on the verge of doing so successfully here in the north west in general and Manchester in particular, and have done in so many parts of Britain in both national and local government.
Our liberalism is found at the grassroots in most of the communities in Britain, and has its strength in these communities even more than in the assemblies and parliaments of the United Kingdom.
This very venue - the City of Manchester Stadium - symbolizes so much of what our party should be about. If I may be permitted to indulge in some sporting metaphors for a moment ...
It is the Commonwealth Games stadium where I, with tens of thousands of others, saw dreams become reality - but only after years of preparation and effort.
Just as in the world of athletics, so in the world of politics, you get nowhere without commitment and ambition. Over the last twenty five years I have shown by example my commitment by campaigning the length and breadth of Britain, alongside fellow Liberals and Liberal Democrats.
As leader, I aim for nothing less than to inspire our party members and the wider public with a new vision of what a liberal Britain would be like.
No-one ever won a gold medal by standing still.
Everyone knows that under my leadership there would be no question of entering a coalition for the sake of a ministerial position.
Everyone knows that the first pre-condition of any partnership would be a properly representative parliament.
Because, for me, politics is first and foremost about values.
The other parties may change their values every time they change their leader.
We must remain true to ours.
The liberty of our people is what drives us on. As a human rights lawyer, I have led campaigning for thirty years against authoritarian governments, whether promoting ID cards at home or the oppression of apartheid abroad. I have always been proud to stand up for the rights of minorities and minority groups. As leader I will ensure that we NEVER sell out our principles for a cheap headline.
Think about the profound issues that will shape the next 20 years - the rights of freedom of expression, the balance between individual liberty and the demands of the national security state, the benefit of information technology versus the creep of government intrusion into personal data.
It is clear that never in my lifetime has Britain needed a liberal Liberal Party so much. When our values are at stake we need to ensure that our voice is heard - often that is the only way the powerless and weak get the protection they need.
But true freedom means a just and fair society. A country where the poorest pay more of their income in tax than the rich can never be seen as fair. We were absolutely right at the last election to propose a higher rate of tax for those most able to pay, to fund our priority programmes and to cut the tax burden for those on low incomes. I remain absolutely committed to this principle.
At the last election we campaigned to abolish taxes on learning and caring - tuition fees and personal care charges - and were open and honest about funding that commitment. That is exactly the sort of principled, practical and popular policy we should keep and promote.
But fairness is about more than taxation.
It is not fair that so many of our children leave primary school lacking basic skills in reading and writing.
It is not fair that hospitals are cutting beds and closing wards because they are in financial crisis.
It is not fair that so many of our citizens - women in particular - retire on hopelessly inadequate pensions simply because the caring work that they did through their lives is not properly valued by society.
My commitment is to a society that is both free and fair - it is not a case of either/or.
I want to see quality public services available everywhere, not just for those who can shop around for the best.
I want to see our schools, hospitals and police services genuinely accountable to local people for their priorities and their activities, not dictated to from Whitehall or by shareholders.
I want to see real investment in science, technology, infrastructure and research to help generate the wealth which will help to pay for these essential services.
And real wealth must mean sustainable wealth. I was campaigning on the environment before David Cameron knew how to spell the word. Successive governments have failed us on green issues, both at home and abroad. Huge amounts of energy are wasted every year in British homes and businesses. Yet the government seems to think the answer is to build new nuclear power stations I totally reject this approach.
Sustainability must be at the heart of our message.
A Liberal Democrat message which centres on the need to improve our quality of life, and not just the quantity of our output, will strike a chord with growing numbers of
We can only grow safely and securely if we go about our business differently and better.
The Labour government is divided and running out of steam.
The Tory honeymoon will end when the contradictions between what the leader says, what his colleagues really think and what the Tories actually do become apparent.
Increasingly, the electorate will be looking for a party which knows what it believes and communicates its message far and wide - from village to town, from city hall to Whitehall.
A party which is ambitious for our country.
Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats will be such a party.