Farron makes pitch to centre left voters – support Lib Dems for good local councillors and effective opposition to Tories

Farron in Edinburgh Western 28 April

At about 8:45, Tim Farron made a flying visit to Alex Cole-Hamilton’s campaign HQ in Edinburgh Western. He did notice that the SNP office next door was  already in darkness.

The visit had an additional bonus for us as the campaigns staff from Scottish HQ pitched up yesterday afternoon and pronounced the place not tidy enough to receive the leader and proceeded to tidy it up for us. No doubt we won’t be able to find anything this morning.

Tim was highly impressed with what he’d seen, which is definitely a compliment given the amount of campaigning that goes on on his patch.

He also told us of his visit to Cardiff Central and candidate Eluned Parrott where he visited a refugee centre and played football with some of the refugees.  We know how strongly he feels that we should be doing more to help refugees from conflict and particularly those children already in Europe. He told us how he’d just been speaking to one of the “Windermere Boys”, a group of young men who were welcomed to the Lake District after being rescued from the death camps at the end of World War 2. They had gone on to build successful lives for themselves, serving the community in many ways, too. Helping people in these desperate circumstances is, Tim said, the least we can do.

This morning, he is visiting a nursery in Cowdenbeath with Willie Rennie, with the challenge from us that he has to at least match Willie Rennie being interviewed on a slide at our manifesto launch.

First, though, he was up early to be on both Radio 5 live and the Today programme to talk about the Lib Dem local election campaign. He made a very clear pitch to centre left voters, asking them to lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats. For that, they’ll get a brilliant local councillor to represent them locally and the appalling Tory government would be held to account He emphasised how the Liberal Democrats had shown more gains in votes and seats in local council by-elections since last May than anyone else. 

John Humphrys accused him of hypocrisy and asked how we could justify using the unelected Lords to stop Government legislation when we had railed against the institution for being undemocratic in the past. Tim said clearly that there had been a very clear plan to reform the House of Lords developed by the Liberal Democrats which had been defeated by an “unholy alliance” of Labour and Tories. He had no problem with using the House of Lords to defend the interests of the public by stopping awful measures like cuts to disability benefits and what he called the forced privatisation of schools.

Tim did well to show that the Liberal Democrats were still very much alive and had a strong offer to voters in elections at every level. Humphrys challenged him on the 11 areas where there were no Liberal Democrat candidates and he simply replied that where we were strong, we were doing well, but the job of rebuilding the party everywhere was going to take longer. He reminded us that when Paddy Ashdown led the party out of an even worse situation, it took several years to do so.

Now he just has to get himself through the snow – seriously – to that nursery in Fife.

UPDATE: 10:15 am.

Tim has continued this theme in an article for the Times Red Box, taking on Labour for its concentration on anything other than opposing the Tories:

The sight of Ken Livingstone – a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee and former Mayor of London – touring television studios spouting more and more ill-informed, divisive rhetoric was truly unbelievable and grew in offensiveness with every interview.

Meanwhile, another day passes and the Conservatives are left unchallenged by the party claiming to be the main opposition.

It has been almost a year since the election, and Labour are failing to hold the Conservatives to account. Something has got to change

He gets why they might be reluctant to support the Lib Dems, but sets out our record in the last year:

I understand why many centre-left voters felt unable to support the Liberal Democrats during the years of the Coalition government. Regardless of what we were delivering, they simply felt that they could not vote for a party who were in government with the Conservatives.

This year, we are not in Coalition but are still fighting to deliver a fairer, more liberal society. Since the end of the Coalition the Liberal Democrats have increased our membership by over 20,000 and won more council by-elections than any other party.

We are fighting to protect our local communities and the services they rely on against the attacks this unrestrained Conservative government are subjecting them to – forcing local schools to become academies, the shambles of the junior doctors’ contracts and cuts to police funding.

We are also standing up for the most vulnerable. We are calling on the government to offer haven to 3,000 refugee children and to give refuge to the Afghan interpreters who bravely stood by our soldiers. We’re also opposed to the Tories attack on Universal Credit and disability benefits.

Labour are now divided and divisive. They have turned inward, arguing amongst one another.

Meanwhile they are failing to hold the government to account. The Tories have a slim majority and yet are able to act like they have a majority of hundreds.

This is because Labour are letting them off the hook. They are meant to be an opposition but their own civil war consumes all their energy and attention.

Labour’s failures are costing us dear, he argues. He makes a direct pitch for votes:

That is why this Thursday I am asking for progressive voters who look at the Labour Party and question whether they really want to vote for such a divided and ineffective party to instead vote Liberal Democrat.

We need strong, united, local opposition to the Conservative government and it is the Liberal Democrats who are the best placed to do that.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Apr '16 - 2:00pm

    Just what we need , well done Tim !

    The emphasis needs to be on centre and centre left , for all the criticism on the coalition, those against us on it have the Labour party and the Greens , those in the centre now only have us !

    Our party did not get it wrong in coalition because it was centre oriented, but because it aligned with certain more right wing tendencies , policies it did not fit well in any way with .These were few , very few in fact , and we are all aware that it is not a centre party that does those things , so found out the nature of Conservatism today , as ever.

    We are a party of the radical centre and mainstream centre left . That is not dull wishy washy,”centrism”, as many prefer to stereotype .It is Liberalism and , yes, social democracy.

    What the government are getting wrong , many have the embrace of the left to feel happy within .Those of us as critical of the farther reaches of the left , as of the right ,are in their only home in the Liberal Democrats .

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '16 - 3:05pm

    We should appeal to the left by adopting their best policies. But the Conservatives should be praised for willing to tackle terrorism and fund the military rather than run it down and blame attacks on the west.

    Small business owners have also felt comfortable with the Conservatives for years and that is the left’s failure.

    Here’s some examples where we can outflank Labour:

    1. A very generous maximum wage.
    2. Research on how a wealth cap might work.
    3. Possible wage ratio between lowest and highest earners in a company. Perhaps 100 : 1.

    These are not anti wealth, they are just anti unlimited wealth and I think progress can be made here without going down the usual route of business bashing as a whole.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Apr '16 - 8:08pm

    With elections imminent BBC TV Question Time had a panel of five, one Tory MP, one Labour MP and one SNP MP, plus two others. Cabinet Minister Greg Clark was able to sit back and watch the unelected two slug it out and only came in to speak when protected by the chairman. Pity no-one asked about housing and the Green Belt.

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