Saturday, 25 May 2013

Letter from the Leader: Coming together

This was a week that put things in perspective. I know I speak for all Liberal Democrats when I say that our thoughts are with the family and friends of Drummer Lee Rigby - the British soldier attacked and killed in Woolwich on Wednesday. And I've made it clear, on the party's behalf, that we are immensely grateful to our police, security services and armed forces, who do an extraordinarily important job.

That last few days have reminded me, and probably many of you, of a simple but important truth: when your values are under attack, you have to hold on to them even more firmly than before.

Yesterday, at the request of some friends in the Muslim community, I convened a meeting, in London, of representatives from different faiths, community organisations and secular groups. Before the speeches I held a private discussion with a smaller group, and I wish I could have broadcast it across the nation. Just days after a brutal act of terror, men and women from across the faiths and political parties, gathered around the table, each calling for the same thing: unity. It would have made you immensely proud.

And there have been other victories for our values this week. Getting the Equal Marriage Bill through the House of Commons was no mean feat and it's something all Liberal Democrats should feel good about. Britain is now one step closer to being a country where all forms of love - gay or straight - are celebrated equally, and that wouldn't have happened without our party.

The Coalition was also able to confirm that hundreds of Afghan interpreters who served bravely alongside British forces will have the chance to settle in the UK. Paddy's been heavily involved with this campaign for a while. At one point, it was suggested that Afghan interpreters might not be granted this right, but clearly that was something I - we - couldn't accept. Don't forget, it was under pressure from the Liberal Democrats that the previous Labour government extended the right to reside here to Iraqi interpreters. When someone has risked their life to help our servicemen and women, it seems so obvious to me that we owe them a debt.

So it's been a difficult week, but it's also been a week which has reminded us who we are. This is an open, diverse and generous nation, where, in our toughest moments, we come together. That's something no act of hate or violence will change.

Yours,

Nick Clegg