Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Why Tim Farron is the right person to rebuild the Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats have taken an electoral pounding over the last five years. When we entered coalition government in 2010 it gave us the opportunity to put Liberal Democrat policies into practice for the first time in generations.  We tempered the excesses of the Tories, as is becoming increasingly clear as the new government adopts a frightening, hard right-wing agenda. For this we have paid a heavy price. The loss of so many brilliant and hard-working councillors, MPs and MEPs means we will have to spend time rebuilding and reorganising the party from the bottom up.

It seemed we were so busy being in government that we forgot to remind ourselves and our voters just exactly what it is we stand for. We talked about what we had blocked the Tories from doing, but not enough about what drives us – those values and ethical beliefs that brought us all into politics. Our new leader will need to do that.  He will need to take the liberal values we espouse in our constitution and convey them to the electorate. He will have to energise the grassroots, inspire a new generation of activists and get people back out on the doorsteps, making the case for why we need a strong Liberal voice in British politics.

I believe that Tim Farron is the best man for that task. Tim is a stalwart campaigner and a passionate, inspiring communicator. He has all the skills, vision and drive to reach out to our existing members, all those who have recently joined and those who will join when they know how important it is to have Liberal Democrats defending the values that we hold dear.

I have a huge amount of respect for Norman Lamb. He too has built up his seat into a Lib Dem stronghold, and in government he showed himself to be a highly competent and inspiring minister. I have no doubt he too would make an excellent leader.

But given the circumstances, I believe that it must be Tim who leads our party into this challenging but exciting new phase of our history. He provided an unwavering example of hope and humour to activists as president throughout the toughest days of coalition. He has the ability to lead our recovery and rebirth. He will take the Liberal Democrats back to being a truly liberal party, with values to the fore and a national campaigning organisation and force to be reckoned with.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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  • I thought from the title of the article Catherine would be explaining why Tim Farron was the best choice for leader, but I didn’t feel like that’s what I read. There were some justifications made in the “I believe” paragraph (stalwart campaigner, passionate inspiring communicator), but the main theme I got was that Catherine found Tim inspiring, and I don’t think that’s an attribute that’ll rub off on the electorate. On the other hand, Lamb’s performance on QT last night was solid, but pretty uninspiring, so maybe this vague property does have the import Catherine places on it.

  • Steve Davenport 5th Jun '15 - 12:39pm

    I’ve not been a member of the Liberal Democrats for too long but from what I’ve seen and heard of Tim Farron in recent weeks I think this article is absolutely correct. Without any disrespect to the fine record of Norman Lamb in government, Tim seems to have just the right qualities to lead a major rebuilding operation from the ground up.

  • Generally agree. Yesterdays by election at Wisbech shows just how desperate our position is, the result of the party and its ministers sticking their head in the sand and refusing to change course especially over the past 18 months. A fall from 14% to about 5% since last month. On June 25th we are defending a seat in the County, with the Tories requiring I believe 2 more seats for a full working majority. It does not bode well at all.

  • Paul Kennedy 5th Jun '15 - 1:25pm

    Spot on Catherine. I hope Norman and indeed Nick will make a big contribution too but at this stage we need to make clear that we are “nobody’s poodle” as Charles Kennedy once said. And that means a leader who can set out a clear independent vision for our party without having to defend their own role as a member of a Cameron Government, in particular on tuition fees.

  • David Pollard 5th Jun '15 - 3:22pm

    ‘We forgot to remind ourselves and the electors what we stand for’ – correct. Not something a Councillor would forget, unless he wanted to lose his seat of course! It would be very interesting to know why the LibDems in Government did not do it.

  • Paul Butters 5th Jun '15 - 4:37pm

    Tim is the best choice for the party. Norman was a good minister but not what we need now. We need Tim.

  • Richard Coe 6th Jun '15 - 2:51am

    Let’s not beat about the bush, Richard Reeves told people like me, we should clear off and join Labour. He probably included people like Charles Kennedy and Tim Farron too. Where is he now? From what I can tell he’s cleared off to join the USA.

    Under the last leadership a largely public school educated elite talked to themselves and ignored our activists, our members and our voters. They have clearly proven themselves inept at politics, out of touch with our voters and the British people at large.

    But whilst they took our party from one disaster to another, Tim Farron took a Conservative safe seat and turned it into a Lib Dem stronghold.

    We need to burn our bridges, not with the left of the party (which I have always found to be the majority) as Richard Reeves suggested, but with the hopelessly misguided tactics and strategy adopted by the Clegg camp in coalition.

    Whatever Norman Lamb’s merits and I am sure there are many, his leadership would face constant challenge from all comers about his voting record in government and the contradictions between it and the new policy direction we will need to take to rebuild our supporter base.

    Tim has proven ability as a campaigner and he is able to drive forward the realignment of the left of British politics which had been so successful for us under Kennedy and Ashdown. Norman Lamb, I fear, like Ed Balls would as leader, forever remain a prisoner of the record government of which he was previously part.

  • Lauren Salerno 6th Jun '15 - 11:30am

    Whoever ends up leading the party must make one pledge …. Not to split the party

    As can be seen from some comments above our left our rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of a Farron led social democrat party, sorry Liberal Democrat party

    Whomever is chosen has to unite the party and not alienate and so far no one has shown a commitment to this unity over their own constituent bias

  • Following Charles Kennedy’s example would make a good start – from any sector of our party’s spectrum . I’m sure Charles would have united us and taken us along the ‘highland’ we were used to. Tribal politics must be put aside forever.

  • Sadie Smith 6th Jun '15 - 12:37pm

    We need all our Parliamentarians to help us in campaigning.
    My feeling is that Norman’s experience and contacts can be best used in maintaining a distinctive voice on health and care issues. There are people all over the country who can chip in. That focus is more useful to the Party than a broader leadership.
    Tim has experience as President of having to cover a very wide range of issues and to repeat core Liberal values. We need a campaigner leading a team of campaigners. That looks like a job for Tim.

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