In Full: Tim Farron’s speech to the IPPR: Lib Dems will find a “more humane, effective, successful way of doing economics”

We like publishing speeches in full on LDV, partly for the historical record – things can be taken down from the party website if they become inconvenient after the passage of time, but they stay here – and partly because it’s useful to see the whole speech rather than some out of context quotes.

Here is Tim Farron’s speech to the IPPR in Manchester this morning. It doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of Brexit, or the party’s response to it, the subject of a fair bit of discussion in recent days. He does however set out the Lib Dem stall, recognising that the main battle in politics at the moment is between liberalism and intolerance and nationalism.

He’s also very clear about making an offer that unites those who voted Remain and Leave so that those who have lost out due to globalisation and the banking collapse can feel that the system is working for them too.

Here is the speech in full:

Like so many people, I felt shocked and emotional about the result of the vote on 23 June.

I know many people who wept at the news.

I can understand that.

Not because I love the specific institutions of the European Union, but because I feel European.

I also feel British. And English.

And northern.  And I don’t feel any conflict between those identities, in fact they reinforce each other.

But the result seemed to throw this balance into doubt.

And yes, I also felt angry.

I still feel angry now, but perhaps for a different reason.

Because never in recent history have we, in the political classes, let down the people of this country so disastrously.

And I make no distinction here between those who voted to Remain and those who voted to Leave.

They were battered with dodgy statistics. From both sides.

They were lied to.

On both sides too – though it is the NHS and the £350 million that particularly sticks in the throat.

And worse than that.

They were misled by lackadaisical politicians, playing games, who had campaigned for years to leave the EU – but hadn’t bothered to come up with a plan about what to do if it happened.

We, the political classes, have left a country bitterly divided as a result.

Between parents and children, families, neighbours.

Between the nations of our own union, who have worked and fought together for centuries.

Between us and our continental neighbours.

And now the biggest danger of them all.

That because of those divisions, we are in danger of letting malevolent forces hijack the result.

Plenty of my mates voted leave and I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of those who did vote leave are utterly appalled that Farage, Le Pen and their ilk now seek to claim the result as a victory for their hateful brand of intolerance, racism and insularity.  Britain is better than that.

But I’m not so blinded by those emotions that I don’t see the new divisions that are opening up between us.

New political boundaries which chop the old certainties of Tory and Labour into little pieces.

Because there’s a new battle emerging.

Between the forces of tolerant liberalism and intolerant, closed-minded nationalism.

And, of course, you know that, as leader of the Liberal Democrats, which side I’m on.

But I also know what side most people in this country are on too.

In the 48 per cent and also in the 52 per cent.

So let’s be clear about this.

I am absolutely committed to the cause of an open-minded, open-hearted United Kingdom.

United in every sense of the word.

Because, as Jo Cox said, we have more in common with each other in this country than what divides us.

And, yes, I campaigned my heart out to stay a member of the European Union. And would do again given the chance.

But a nation divided against itself can’t stand.

Nor can it hammer out a way forward from the current impasse.

And our combined history cries out for some more inspiring political leadership.

Which can say that, in or out, we remain an open-minded, outward-looking nation.

Which can say, in or out, we will be European and British and from our own towns, villages and cities.

And be proud of all of them.

Which can say to those from other countries who have committed their lives alongside us in the UK: we will stand by you, no matter what.

Let me just say that again.

We will stand by you.

As we stood by each other across Europe in the Second World War.

We will stand by you, who have chosen British communities to live in.

Not only that but we need you.

If the tens of thousands of people who make it possible to run our schools and health service were to worry about our commitment to them…

So much so that it threatens their commitment to us…

It would seriously undermine services that are used by some of the most vulnerable people in this country.

The Conservative and Labour parties may have so forgotten themselves that they’ve missed this urgent consideration.

But we haven’t.

So I make this absolute promise.

To use what power we can muster, to make sure that those who have committed their lives and families to this country will be protected.

That no kneejerk populism will be allowed to threaten them or uproot them.

And I ask now all the many candidates for high positions in Westminster to join me in this undertaking.

I don’t just say this as the leader of a political party.

I don’t just commit my own party to this.

I speak as a Member of Parliament in one of the most open-hearted nations on earth.

I speak as a proud citizen of this country.

We will not stand by to let Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen dictate our policy, our direction, or our morality.

So, yes, I campaigned to remain.  I’ll carry on campaigning to remain.

But we have gone beyond June’s referendum now.

There are more fundamental, more urgent issues that we must face today.

Existential issues about our nation.

About what they’re saying about us in the rest of the planet.

The newspapers.

The investors.

About protecting neighbours and friends born in other countries from hate.

So, yes, I recognise and understand the motivations of many of those who voted the other way to me.

I’m a white, working class, middle aged, northern male.  By voting remain, I pretty much confounded the predicted behaviour my demographic might suggest!  And for once it put me at odds with lots of the people I grew up with.

Who are as proud as I am about the same things I’m proud of in our country.

I understand their fears for their own communities.

I completely get why being talked down to by Cameron and Osborne, threatened with a ‘punishment budget’ might push even the most internationalist person to vote leave!

And nobody ever said the European Union was perfect. Least of all me.

Its aspiration of peace and co-operation in Europe is vitally important.

It still is.

But I’m aware that the reality of the EU can often be inflexible.

I understand that people’s liberal commitment to local communities, which I absolutely share, sometimes led them to vote differently to me.

I understand those who voted for Brexit and their frustration about the way that the big banks were allowed to torpedo the economy.

And torpedo so many people’s lives.

Without sanction. Without even a loss of bonuses.

While those who have tried to make a more tangible contribution their whole lives, have been sidelined, bullied and left behind.

I understand that, possibly better than any other leader.  Because whilst South Lakeland voted remain, it was the only place in Lancashire or Cumbria that did.  And I grew up in and I belong to the very part of British society that most heavily voted leave.

And yes I understand their fears that their communities have been changed. Maybe even overwhelmed.

Not so much to satisfy Brussels, but specifically to reduce the wages of the big food manufacturers.

Or the cleaning contractors.

Or the care homes.

Because what June’s vote did reveal, above everything else, is how angry people have become.

And though we might argue about the reasons for it, their anger is justified.

We have banking institutions that have let them down, suffocating their businesses.

We have an economic policy that favours the rich over everyone else, middle class, working class alike.

We have a housing crisis that’s consuming our children.

We have a Treasury so cut off from reality that they urged people not to vote for Brexit – because it might mean property prices would rise more slowly.

As if people weren’t struggling now to get a foot on the housing ladder.

To help their children scrape enough together to rent a place of their own.

We have people treated like cattle with zero-hour contracts.

We have those who worked as pillars of their community all their lives…

Running small businesses.

Managing farms…

Making a difference…

Only to see themselves gazumped by salaries ten or a hundred times as much by cash-hungry bankers in their twenties.  The devastation of our communities n the Lakes overwhelmed by excessive second home ownership is a case in point.

In short, we have an underlying, aching discomfort which goes to the heart of the reasons for the immediate crisis.

More than a discomfort.

It is a great and abiding fear, gnawing away at the heart of our society.

And we have a political class, which I don’t particularly like having to accept I’m a member of, which has abandoned people disastrously to their fate.

I believe that, in the national interest, we remainers and brexiters can most of us understand the motivations of voters on the other side to us.

We’re able to see beyond the stereotypes.

And to say together.

This open-minded nation will survive.

It will survive because these Liberal values are shared by so many of us.

The right to say ‘this is who I am’. ‘This is who we are’.

And the enterprising commitment to challenge the big bureaucracies and the big businesses from below.

That’s why we will defend people wherever they came from originally.

Those who were born and bred here who are locked out of success by boneheaded cuts in adult education.

But also the Polish families who have work three jobs just to pay the rent, but who still help to run the school fete.

And the refugees who provide lynchpins to hospital after hospital from one side of the country to the other.

Right across the nation, and woven together, from Cornwall to Caithness.

Again, I say this not just as a party leader.

I don’t just say this to commit my party to it.

I say it as a proud citizen of this country.

With a shared history that’s always been outward-looking.

Connected through trade to other corners of the world in a way that no nation ever was before.

We provided the international language of the world.

We led the world in industrial development, moral development and scientific development.

And we stood up against tyranny even when it didn’t threaten us directly.

When all over Europe, those suffering under occupation, risked their lives to huddle around their wirelesses to listen to broadcasts from London.

There never was a moment in our history when we pulled up the drawbridge.

There never will be.

It just isn’t true that Britain voted to do that.

So that’s also my commitment as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

To listen to that fear and take it seriously.

And then to hammer out and enact a more humane, more successful, more effective way of doing economics.

More challenging, more enterprising and more ambitious.

Which shares the rewards of success so that the state doesn’t have to step in so much.

To take on the real vested interests that hold us back as a nation.

The zero hour contractors.

The speculators.

The monopolists.

Those who would hijack people’s anger for their own racist agenda.

So that we can shape a fairer nation.

But also keep those outward-looking British values of tolerance and mutual respect that we all believe in.

Because there are going to be difficult, maybe dark, times ahead.

We’ve been made a laughing stock abroad.

We’ve had to watch the shaming pictures of Nigel Farage sneering on our behalf in the European Parliament.

We have to find a solution when both the biggest national parties have preferred to unravel than to take a lead.

But I’m a Liberal.

I believe in people.

And I especially believe in our people.

In their sense and their humanity, whether they voted to stay or to go.

People have been let down for decades by short-termist politicians who put the needs of one part of society above the rest.

Now, in the wake of the Brexit vote those divisions are more exposed than ever before.

With our country facing huge challenges…

– from inequality and injustice to an NHS in crisis and an economy in jeopardy –

…we are left with a reckless, divisive and uncaring Conservative Government and Labour fighting among themselves with no plan for the economy or the country.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats are needed more than ever.

We are the real voice of opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government and the only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.

Britain is the most sophisticated and welcoming and innovative nation in the world and, in or out, we will stay that.

And we Liberal Democrats will do whatever we can, in Parliament and outside.

To reshape the way the nation works, to bring it back together.

To stay civilised.

To stay united.

Because, wherever we were born, we love our country.

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

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  • Great speech – sounds like Tim at his best. I just hope people beyond the Lib Dem faithful hear it…….

  • Tremendous stuff. Has it received any media coverage. Wonderful extracts in it for short term communication on broadcasts and publicity events.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Aug '16 - 4:34pm

    Yes it’s a fine speech. I have an idea that might sound silly or amateurish, but why not try to arrange a random press conference with nice food and drink for the journalists were they get to ask Tim Farron, Sal Brinton and someone from Ethnic Minority Lib Dems anything they like? It could be like call Clegg but for journalists and showing more than one person from the party. A commitment to diversity too.

    They can ask sarcastic questions if they like, it might be fun! Nice and interactive. Have a back up plan in case the journalists start running off to an important event, like let party members get involved too.

  • Stevan Rose 31st Aug '16 - 7:08pm

    Great speech. Maybe we can start moving forward in a positive spirit now.

  • Rousing speech.
    But once you get past the ‘ I feel your pain’ thing, and then really start to feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, with his rousing ‘Billy Graham-esk’, crescendo,… please try to come back to earth,… and ask yourself,… where is the actual ‘meat’ on this ultra thin Farron sandwich.?
    If he really does *get it*, (and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), where is the actual plan in his speech, …. you know,..the detail,.. the ideas, the policy proposals to change this erstwhile elitist establishment EU fantasy, (which he graciously acknowledges he has been part of !), into a genuine ‘share of the economic pie’ for all of our British citizens.
    When he says, (absent of any specifics ?) :
    “To listen to that fear and take it seriously. And then to hammer out and enact a more humane, more successful, more effective way of doing economics.”
    Is Tim expecting us to lift our arms towards the heavens and just gormlessly,… Believe.?? Do liberals have anything beyond Farron’s evangelism,.. and have,..maybe a few more costed out detailed policies, to fix these longstanding societal disadvantages in Britain.?

  • John Peters 31st Aug '16 - 7:52pm


    I’m guessing the above didn’t read the speech.

    No, not all Leave voters are racist.

    Goodbye Lib Dems.

  • The claim that voting leave was about ‘insularity’ so misses the point.

  • Whatever the merits of the sentiments,

    Whoever wrote this confection,

    Comes from the Tony Blair no verbs in a sentence school of speech writing.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Aug '16 - 8:37pm

    I read the speech. Not sure about “Britain is the most … innovative nation in the world.”
    Silicon Valley exists because California was less conformist than New York State.
    Good ideas depend on freedom of speech (and freedom to write) which are under conformist pressures at the moment. I agree with the statement in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution.

  • Katharine Pindar 31st Aug '16 - 9:37pm

    Come on, fellow Liberal Democrats, Tim has given us an update on our principles and values in this excellent speech, it’s up to us now to provide the detailed proposals and policies that he rightly indicates our liberal Britain needs.

  • Sanctimonious claptrap. Unfortunately from what I’ve seen he is neither tolerant nor open-minded because if you disagree with him you are lumped in the ‘evil’ or ‘stupid’ box which is far from ‘liberal’. Has he moved on? Well some of the tired, facile stereotypes he used doesn’t indicate so. I don’t see yet that he grasps even our existing economics never mind some unknown humane type that he just made up. I’ll wait and see what this messianic zeal actually translates to in actual policy but I suspect more of the same concentration on trivial side issues & political correctness with little about the economy, little listening to wiser heads in the party and further disrespect for both party and national democracy. I hope I’m wrong.

  • Tiresome hyperbole.

    17 million people will fall into the scurrilous categories put forward by Farron; condemned for a democratic conscience that differs from his.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Sep '16 - 1:06am

    That is more like it , Tim ! I cannot believe anyone would criticise this excellent , constructive , deeply felt speech . I do not care if it is so lacking in policy or detail, it has its heart in the right place , or the centre left one , and its head , looking straight ahead!

    We need more of it , and realistic , unifying policy can and shall come . We must be patriotic , some of us of part immigrant origin are very much so , Liberals should be , we are a terrific , Liberal country ! There is no hate in the words of Tim , but passionate disdain and staunch opposition to the nastiness that some would otherwise be complacent about, that has peculiarly been unleashed.

    Well done , Tim, now let us have more understanding than ever of each others point of view, and be the change and continuity this nation truly needs!

  • Simon Freeman 1st Sep '16 - 7:13am

    It’s a good speech from a speaker whose heart is clearly in the right place who I would want to vote for. LibDems do need to put some flesh on the bones and develop a clear set of policies they are identified with that fit these guiding principles. How to move from 8-10% in polls to 15/20/25% is difficult? I read the Guardian/Observer every day and there’s barely a word in there. I read the ” i ” 2/3 times a week and there have been little mentions for LibDems in there. Most of the rest of the press is very Tory. How do you grab people who aren’t politics junkies and don’t spend their time looking at political websites? What is needed is a mini-manifesto-a glossy newspaper delivered to homes,and maybe a “pedge card” with 5 or 6 very brief themes. Liberal Democrats need to be clearly identified with a set of basic ideas. Unfortunately most people don’t spend their time poring over the detailed lines of manifestos. Then its how to get more coverage on TV with just 8 MP’s? The party needs more recognisable and diverse spokespeople.

  • We need Clegg back. Britain needs global liberal corporate values right now more than ever.

  • Nigel Jones 1st Sep '16 - 10:09am

    As Caron says, one of the most important messages in this speech is concern for those who are loosing out in the present system. There are also hints of wanting to change the establishment, which maybe should have been stated more clearly and simply. We need to work on how both of these issues are to be addressed. I welcome this speech, though I am not sure it contains the short weighty lines of principle which would attract media attention.
    Tim and the party are still (understandably and correctly) at the stage of trying to express our basic principles after the confusion of coalition, but there is a long way to go in deciding what this means for policies of government, local as well as national. I also get the impression that we have prominent individuals in our party, but we are not yet acting as a team and that includes our 8 MPs and our Federal committees.

  • Ryan McAlister 1st Sep '16 - 10:36am


    But Tim has made lots of wonderful speeches in his year as leader.

    It would be nice if we actually translated these grand principles into some actual, you know, policy at some point.

  • What others said.

    Fine words butter no parsnips.

    Where’s the Beef?

    To mix related metaphors.

  • ALASTAIR Forsyrth 1st Sep '16 - 11:35am

    Let us not have a split in the pro-closer-to- Europe vote, The EU needs reform but reform has to come from inside. We are in it for the long haul. Our central aim must be a Britain within Europe (but not necessarily the EU) in which the partners, them and us, work well together.

  • Sue Sutherland 1st Sep '16 - 1:55pm

    This is a tremendous speech. Of course we need policies to back it up but this wasn’t the occasion for them. In the past we haven’t had leaders who can galvanise people and you can’t do that with endless detail. I heard Tim speaking up for the EU on TV during the campaign and he was the only one who gave us the vision of what the EU can be, so what a pity he didn’t get more opportunities to put the positive case for IN because if he had I don’t think we would be in the mess the country is in now.
    There is an economics policy working group already in place to hopefully provide the means to pay for the fairer society that we Lib Dems want.

  • Ryan McAlister 1st Sep '16 - 2:04pm

    Excellent. I am glad there is a working group preparing a report for the consideration of the Federal Policy Committe so that they in turn can draft a motion for discussion at conference.

    Sir Humphrey Appleby would have been Lib Dem, it is safe to say.

  • Richard Boyd OBE DL 1st Sep '16 - 3:59pm

    Good speech. Now get it out into the public domain

  • Simon Barnes 1st Sep '16 - 4:03pm

    I am not a supporter of the Lib Dems, quite the opposite in fact – I am much closer to UKIP on some issues and much closer to Corbyn on others.

    That said I agree with the posters here who say that Farron’s message is not getting across and that he is ignored (or mocked) by the media. I am convinced that because Farron’s views are out of step with the establishment (the Blair / Clegg / Cameron axis), like Farage or Corbyn he is either ignored, ridiculed or his views / statements taken out of context.

    I am staunchly in favour of Brexit, but we heard little from Farron in the campaign to Remain, (as we equally didn’t hear much for the left wing case to leave). Not because Farron wasn’t doing his job, putting his views across, but because he was ignored by the media and crowded out by liars such as Osborne and corporate figures instead.

    I’ve always liked Tim despite my disagreements, and it is a shame the media perception of him seems to be “an irrelevence”, when he is a good passionate debater – and arguably the most “normal” and working class major party leader.

  • A passionate call for, umm, meaningless platitudes.

    He needs to move on and engage the real world but so far I have seen no evidence that he has any clue how to do that.

  • Dave Orbison 1st Sep '16 - 5:34pm

    Well in many ways can’t argue with the aspiration. Certainly agree that short termism of all our parties and industry has a lot to answer for.

    But the devil is in the detail. I wait to see what specifics the LibDems (and Labour for that matter role out). Beyond that May, Corbyn or most other political leaders would claim to support much of Tim Farron said. As always it’s not what you say but what you do that counts.

    This of course leads to another problematic issue. The LibDems are suffering from a low profile and a decimated ‘power base’. Will they ever be taken seriously again?

  • David Allen 1st Sep '16 - 7:55pm

    Two and a half cheers. Tim grasps one crucial point – that to be a passionate and effective supporter of Europe, you must be a reformer, you must be really listening to those who voted to leave, you must seek to reunite Britain. That’s a big point of principle and it’s enough for one big speech.

    Yes, the downside is that beyond that principle, it gets a little platitudinous. It is not hard to work out why. The “M” word is hardly metioned, beyond an oblique reference to “I understand their fears that their communities have been changed. Maybe even overwhelmed. … to reduce the wages of the big food manufacturers. Or the cleaning contractors. Or the care homes.”

    Some of us, sadly, still argue that there is something noble or principled about having a high net influx of migrants into Britain from somewhere else. With migrants, it seems it is more “blessed” to receive than to give! Until enough of us recognise that we can uphold our principles of anti-racism and respect for minorities without necessarily demanding large net inflows and population growth, Tim will be forced to stick with the platitudes.

  • John Roffey 4th Sep '16 - 7:00am

    petermartin2001 3rd Sep ’16 – 12:10pm

    I am not actually a liberal Peter – I am essentially a Buddhist [I won’t bore you with a more precise definition] – so I try to consider matters from a Buddhist stand point.

    Buddhism and Liberalism do have much in common – although, as you would imagine, having more than a 2000 year head start, Buddhism is a much deeper philosophy.

    They both use the same colours yellow or orange [although my involvement was through Zen Buddhism which generally uses black]. Buddhism is known as the ‘middle way’ – which seems to be the general approach of liberals. I suppose the one feature of Buddhism that seems to be most absent from liberalism, as it appears to present itself on LDV – is ‘acceptance’ – ‘acceptance practice’ is an important feature of the religion probably best summed up by Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘Serenity Prayer’:

    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

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