Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has talked up their chances of winning a general election – and she would appoint a minister for happiness upon becoming prime minister.
In her first conference speech as party leader, the East Dunbartonshire MP talked openly of the prospect of the first-ever Lib Dem majority government.
Her party has enjoyed success in this year’s local and European elections, and has been boosted by an influx of new members and defections from Labour and Conservative MPs.
Former leader Sir Vince Cable has admitted it would be “quite a stretch” for the party to go from their current 18 seats to a majority – while one of the MPs who defected to the Lib Dems, Chuka Umunna, has spoken of his hope of winning 40 seats at a general election, or up to 100 following a big swing in support.
Yet Ms Swinson told party members in the closing speech of their Bournemouth conference: “It is for the taking.
“We can win. We must win. And to do so, we must build the biggest liberal movement this country has ever seen.
“We cannot be satisfied with a place on the fringes of British politics, narrow and pure, small and irrelevant.”
Declaring there is “no limit to my ambition for our party”, Ms Swinson also told party members: “I am standing here as your candidate for prime minister.”
The Bournemouth gathering has seen Lib Dem members approve a new Brexit policy, with the party now promising to cancel Brexit outright – without a second EU referendum – if they win a majority at the next election.
“We are crystal clear: a Liberal Democrat majority government will revoke Article 50 on day one,” Ms Swinson said.
The Lib Dem leader attacked Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over their approach to the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU, while she also warned: “Brexit will put lives as risk.”
“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, doctors are worried about the impact that delays at borders will have on the supply of time-sensitive radiopharmaceuticals,” she added.
“That’s cancer patients waiting longer for scans and treatments as a direct consequence of government policy.”
Ms Swinson compared the government’s planning for a no-deal Brexit to “planning to burn your own house down”.
She said: “You might have insurance, but you’re still going to lose all your stuff.”
The Lib Dem leader mocked how Mr Johnson – who has promised to negotiate a new Brexit deal by 31 October – “failed to negotiate where to have a press conference” in Luxembourg on Monday.
Ms Swinson’s voice broke with emotion during passages of her speech when she paid tribute to late Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown, her late father, and the 15-year-old victim of a stabbing in her constituency.
Her major policy announcement was a promise to introduce a “wellbeing budget” to set out public spending priorities – along the lines of that pursued by New Zealand and seemingly similar to an idea recently touted by Labour.
Ms Swinson asked: “Why is our success as a country reduced to a GDP figure?
“We have been conditioned to believe that as long as GDP keeps growing, everything is fine.
“But this ignores the reality behind the numbers.
“That the social contract is broken – that working hard and playing by the rules is no longer enough to guarantee a better life.”
Lib Dem aides said the party would also appoint a minister for happiness and establish a wellbeing watchdog, similar to the current independent Office for Budget Responsibility, to oversee the policy.
Concluding her speech with another upbeat declaration, Ms Swinson said: “Only a Liberal Democrat government can deliver the fair, inclusive and open future that we deserve.”
She added: “We can defeat nationalism and populism. We can change our politics, stop Brexit and win a brighter future.”