A lesson for Tim Farron from Justin Trudeau?

Liberals around the world are cheered by the Canadian Liberals’ emphatic victory this week. There are many serious lessons we can learn from Justin Trudeau’s party, both in terms of grassroots organisation and messaging. Not for the Liberals any talk of “we’re not them and we’re not them so vote for us”. For months there was a clear message of #realchange. The Canadian Liberals are a bit like Liberal royalty. They can be pretty establishment, but they managed to show that they wanted to reform politics and Canadian society in a way that resonated with people.

This video from May this year shows how Trudeau was happy to step out of the normal space allotted to politicians. He took his kids to Comic Con in Ottawa, wearing a Superman t-shirt and talking about his lifelong enjoyment of the Superman series. It was fun, authentic and natural.




I guess it kind of helped that he didn’t look terribly unlike the movie version.

There are lots of liberal types who go along to these conventions, so it makes political sense too.

Liberal Youth have long had a thing about Tim Farron’s resemblance to John Simm’s Master. While Harold Saxon clearly isn’t any sort of liberal role model, it would be good to see Tim at an event like this.

To be fair, this getting out of the political space isn’t a lesson that Farron needs to learn. This country is going to hear a lot about Prefab Sprout while he’s leader. During his Conference Q & A this year, he chose to get all gushing about Wendy Smith from the band when asked about who he’d most like to meet. If Prefab Sprout start to have a bit of a national revival, we’ll know that we are getting somewhere.

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10 Comments

  • Andy Canning 23rd Oct '15 - 3:05pm

    Four clear lessons for us in Britain:

    1. be upbeat in all circumstances with a positive vision for Liberal change

    2. never ever ever talk about coalitions. Campaign for a Liberal Government

    3. be controversial and stick to you guns no matter what the opposition throw at you – for example legalising marijuana, arguing for an open tolerant society and being in favour of immigration

    4. support investment in infrastructure and don’t get hung up about deficits!

    The Canadian Liberals went from third place with 11% of the seats to winning a majority by believing in the impossible. Can’t we do the same?

  • Andrew Martin 23rd Oct '15 - 3:09pm

    You’re missing the point. Tim’s main problem is not his likeability but his credibility. Focus on making him look like a leader and brief him properly so he doesn’t repeat the £12 NMW embarrassment.

  • Paul Pettinger 23rd Oct '15 - 5:55pm

    There is an arguable case for a £12 an hour minimum wage. Not a scratch on Nick Clegg thinking the full state pension pays £30 a week: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7620041.stm

  • Adam Robertson 23rd Oct '15 - 9:39pm

    I have to completely agree with Andrew Martin, on this. Tim Farron’s £12 Minimum Wage announcement on Question Time, was a total clanger. I say this because I was an offered an interview, in relation to an internship with/associated with the Lib Dems. When it is just offering a minimum wage per hour, it makes Tim Farron, look like a total hypocrite to some people. My Dad said he will refuse to vote Lib Dem, if Tim Farron, is going to be a total hypocrite. I can’t really disagree with my Dad on that.

  • “2. never ever ever talk about coalitions. Campaign for a Liberal Government”

    In the Canadian context, I would tend to disagree. If the Liberals slip a few percentage points, then they are going to have to share power with the NDP. Given that the Liberals and the NDP are very similar and believe in much the same things, I see no reason why there should not be a semi-permanent understanding between these parties that could keep the right out of power indefinitely.

    The Liberal victory is more fragile than it looks. The party only got 38% of the vote. The foundation of last week’s victory was the clean sweep of the Atlantic Provinces, where Liberals achieved huge majorities. Elsewhere in Canada, Liberal support was much less solid and is vulnerable to small swings. Do remember that the Atlantic Provinces used to be solidly Tory. This should remind us that in Canada even big majorities can crash, as they did here in Britain last May. Only Alberta and rural Ontario have a consistent record of delivering overwhelming support for one political party, and that party is not the Liberals.

    Comparing Tim Farron with Justin Trudeau is dangerous and way off the mark. Tim Farron’s father was never Prime Minister, and he had the exact opposite of a privileged childhood where members of the elite sat on the family couch. I would also counsel against the view that a British Liberal Democrat Leader could get away with flaunting tattoos and participating in celebrity boxing matches.

    I wholly concur with the things people have said about having clear policies and sticking to them. Rural Nova Scotia failed to recoil at the prospect of legalising marijuana, so maybe we underestimate the West Country.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 4:43am

    Andrew Martin and especially Adam Robertson make some tough criticism of Tim. I’ve just about come to terms with using the House of Lords to block things, but if the Tories were doing it Tim would be getting outraged and it doesn’t come across as attractive.

    It’s unpredictable too. Tim said on Twitter that ” I think we need to use every tool we have to deliver liberal outcomes”. So if Charles becomes King and he is a liberal will Tim become a big supporter of the Monarch? It’s not liberal democracy, just a kind of liberalism.

  • Former Lib Dem Voter 24th Oct '15 - 10:19am

    “To be fair, this getting out of the political space isn’t a lesson that Farron needs to learn.”

    I guess introducing yourself to the voters through an appalling live TV interview where you voice rather illiberal and crazy views on gay marriage and then ranting about £12 minimum wages whilst the rest of the world has a more sane/sensible conversation is certainly one way of “getting out of the political space”. After all who doesn’t want to vote for middle class idealism that displays a total disconnect with both how the real world works and basic economics?

    Will the Lib Dems hold their deposit in the upcoming by election? Not a chance. So much for the Farron-inspired revival we were all promised….

  • Neil Sandison 24th Oct '15 - 12:20pm

    Interesting that Justin Trudeau makes the point that Canadians need to pull together .This is in sharp contrast to the conservatives in both Canada and in Great Britain who rule by dividing our people into the deserving and undeserving .There is a message there that may resonate better than “we are all in this together” which no one ever believed. Liberal Democrats pulling together for Great Britain works for me !

  • But Trudeau came across as a muscular true liberal from the outset, and the sensible policy on marijuana was emblematic of that – it’s not only prople who use that drug who want change, anyone who has lived in the inner cities knows that legalisation is the only way to control use meaningfully. I suspect people in the west country know it too.

  • SIMON BANKS 25th Oct '15 - 4:36pm

    Tim Farron’s origins and style, Former Liberal Democrat, are not middle class. Maybe if they were he’d find his way around some issues more smoothly. Would that help?

    As for lessons from Canada, I rather suspect we’ve learnt already not to rely on not being Tories or Labour; and the political culture of Canada is different from ours. In the UK, I suspect, the Tories would have done a bit better stressing their man’s experience and the challenger’s inexperience, and maybe getting people scared about a Trudeau minority government dependent on the NDP.

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