LibLink: Tim Farron: For Lib Dems everything has changed

So far, Tim Farron has got through his pre-conference interviews without creating the sort of media storm that has surrounded previous efforts. Remember “cockroaches” and “2/10”, neither of which actually was as bad as it initially sounded to some people.

Tim has written for the Guardian outlining the opportunities he sees for us as a party in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. He talks about Labour MPs (and a Tory) being distraught at the direction their respective parties were taking. He’s not breaking any confidences here. Plenty of Labour supporters are having serious fears for their party’s future.

But he’s careful not to make the mistake of defining the Liberal Democrats in terms of anyone else. He sets out what a government with liberal values should aim to do.

The rather uninspiring headline chosen by the Guardian hides some clear ideas and principles:

As government loses the power to manage and regulate traditional activities it can respond in a number of ways: it can become isolationist and seek to withdraw from the modern world, going it alone; it can turn in on itself and its citizens, spying on their emails and interfering in their private lives; or it can embrace the change and empower its citizens to be the very best they can be. It can see its role as an enabler, working alone and with others, pooling power with others where necessary through supranational institutions such as the European Union or simply increasing the opportunities for individuals at home.

This vision of government – as an enabler, a creator of opportunity, a guarantor of freedoms, a voice for the powerless – is a liberal vision. It is what has prompted my call for Britain to opt into the EU scheme providing homes for the refugees currently stranded across our continent. It is what drives our party’s wholehearted commitment to the EU in the referendum.

But it is also what places housing at the very top of my agenda, as a secure home is the entry ticket to a job, a community, and individual and collective economic prosperity.

This is the liberal vision that I believe is shared by millions in Britain, not only within the Liberal Democrats, but across all parties and none. A vision which, as other party leaders set out their stall for our country’s future – whether through words or deed – will more clearly be seen as the centre ground of British politics. And perhaps a vision which we alone can offer.

You can read the whole article here.

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

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14 Comments

  • Shaun Cunningham 18th Sep '15 - 8:12am

    “But it is also what places housing at the very top of my agenda”

    Not a problem, however communities who are expected to take all this new housing developments should not only be on the same agenda but sitting alongside Tim’s top issue. For far too long politicians have failed to work with local communities on new housing developments. Here in Fareham we have “Welborne”, 6000 new home development, the public consutlation was an utter disgrace, embarrassment to the word consultation. Local politicians need to work with communities not merely say to them ” YOU ARE HAVING IT “.

    So Tim add the words “We will work with communities to bring about new housing developments. .

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '15 - 9:49am

    David Wallace

    If you can’t work out why this is so then nobody’s going to be able to explain it I’m afraid, the reasons why this is so should be obvious,

    If you think it is obvious, it suggests you have no idea about political pluralism, and are not therefore liberally minded.

    What is obvious from reading Liberal Democrat Voice is that there are a variety of opinions about what it means to be “liberally minded”. I myself put belief in political pluralism and opposition to “one true way” politics at the core of it. A strong case (which I very much disagree with) has been put here by the so-called “Orange Bookers” that being liberally minded means wanting low taxes and provision of essential services done by private industry. What you may think is the core of liberalism (from what you have written in the past), other would dismiss as fringe issues, putting the line that it’s things like having decent housing and income which most affect their freedom to live their lived as they wish.

  • Dave Orbison 18th Sep '15 - 3:14pm

    I have read the selected quote a few times. Given Caron’s criticism of the Guardian’s headline, I assume she selected the best part of Farron’s piece. But I have to say what a load of waffle it was. Yes, to those of us who are political geeks we could extract from it a couple of things -a commitment to EU and the sense that housing matters (though no hint of policy) is an important issue.
    It seems that he was attempting to define what ‘liberals’ stand for. If so, I have seen this stated much more eloquently on LDV many times before. A Leader needs to be able to communicate, to reach out and appeal to the electorate. I cannot imagine little than a look of bewilderment if this was put before the person in the street. Disappointing. Worse still the headline. If Farron genuinely believes the LibDem’s fortunes will best be transformed by wooing former Blairites – then good luck – oblivion follows.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “What is obvious from reading Liberal Democrat Voice is that there are a variety of opinions about what it means to be “liberally minded”. ”

    Forgive me, but were you trying to be ironic there Matthew?

    That’s the very problem laid bare. The Liberal Democrats have no real principles at all, anyone can be a Lib Dem. Believing in everything is the same as believing in nothing. A “variety of opinions about what it means to be “liberally minded”. ” as you put it, really means that nobody knows for sure what this party stand for, least of all the party members themselves.

    They have different campaigns in different areas, they define themselves as anti-tories or anti-labour with their ‘two horse race, vote lib dem to keep out the tories/labour (depending upon where they are)’ leaflets. They can’t define themselves as what they are because they don’t even know who they are. Not really. Hence all that is left is to be anti-someone else. And a term in national government means they’ve been found out.

    What I find so incredible is the way that the members seem to be OK with this. OK with contradictory campaigns running in different areas, no core beliefs other than vague and hence pretty meaningless concepts, and no coherent ideology of any kind other than being anti which ever party holds the seat in any given place. It’s like the members actually think this is OK, or even a good thing, when it means having no solid voter base and no real hope of getting anywhere until this is resolved.

    I just look at this and think it is utterly mad… Perhaps I’m not a Liberal?

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    Just a couple of other examples I about what I mean Matthew:

    1. Does being liberal involve allowing people to make really big decisions for themselves such as deciding that it is time to die if they are terminally sick and suffering badly? Well, when given the chance to vote on the issue 25% of the parliamentary party (including the leader) did not take any position at all. The remaining 75% were split 50/50 down the middle. At least the other parties actually took a position one way or the other, they were against it which is what I’d expect conservatively minded (Tory) and social democratically minded (Labour) politicians to mostly be.

    2. Should people be allowed to grow their own cannabis? Well, judging by the activists vote in 2001 you would think the Lib Dems would be OK with that, until a very prominent Lib Dem MP introduces a ten minute bill to ban that sale of seeds and urges the government to close the ‘loophole’.

    I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point. What surprises me is that people in the party are OK with this.

  • David Allen 18th Sep '15 - 7:02pm

    I agree with the Guardian. Their headline (which was a direct quote from Tim) correctly identifies his most important point. Tim also managed both to welcome the new political spirit behind Corbyn and to indicate, by reference to Trump and Syriza, that it is far from providing the perfect answer to everyone’s problems. Top marks.

    I also agree with Matthew. There is an embarassingly divergent range of opinions within our party, and if anyone thinks the right kind of liberalism is “obvious”, then that can only result from myopia. Some have said that our party should split into two. The better option is to allow our new leader time to define a clear vision of what the party is about, which individuals may or may not decide they can identify with. That should also resolve DavidW’s points.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Sep '15 - 9:02pm

    DavidW

    I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point. What surprises me is that people in the party are OK with this.

    Yes, I get the point. You are no liberal, and your comments here show it. Good bye.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    ” You are no liberal, and your comments here show it.”

    Right, so a “liberal” is somebody with no ideology or definable beliefs at all then?

  • @David Allen

    “There is an embarassingly divergent range of opinions within our party, and if anyone thinks the right kind of liberalism is “obvious”, then that can only result from myopia.”

    If it’s not, then it probably does not exist. If there is no way that it can be agreed upon, then there is really nothing to agree upon. And no purpose for the party.

  • Continuing my earlier comment:

    Paddy Ashdown did that. The party took serious issue with part of his vision, the joint project with Blair, so it wasn’t all one way traffic. Nevertheless, leader and party worked together in reasonable harmony to define to the voters what we stood for.

    Charles Kennedy similarly developed an identity for the party which evolved during his leadership, with a leader who both talked and listened. Nobody could have known when they elected Charles to the leadership that he would oppose the war in Iraq, but nobody is likely to have been terribly surprised. Again, individual people could and did join or leave the party when they saw that Kennedy’s take on liberalism did or did not chime with what they believed in.

    Nick Clegg – comment unavailable

    With Tim Farron, I think we are returning to responsible, honest leadership. Tim has in the past set out his personal political philosophy very clearly. Now he has to move forward with a certain degree of caution in defining stances for the party as a whole. As with previous leaders, we should expect these to be fairly similar but not identical to the views previously expressed by the leader. Tim does need to build up a clear party identity, but five years of bad history cannot be expunged overnight.

    We do need to see movement. We don’t need to let off all the fireworks right away. Bonfire Night is May 2020.

  • Joel Arendt 19th Sep '15 - 8:32am

    The problems within the Labour Party are not opportunities for the Liberal Democrats. The most right-wing New Labour MPs cannot be bright prospects for the LibDems. These people belong in the Conservative Party.

    Tim Farron is a decent person. He should lead an examination of the Tory economic, foreign and social policies that underpin the obliteration of the LibDems in the last election. The LibDem leadership had a few skirmishes with the Tories in coalition but fundamentally legitimised the worst aspects of that government.

    Corbyn is not the enemy. The LibDems is out of government. It should focus on the Tories and their political platform. In The Tories stole the LibDem family silver with a smile. It is not Jeremy Corbyn. Scotland the LibDems should focus on the political programme of the SNP.

    To get out of the mess of Clegg and Alexander Corbyn is not the enemy. It is the Tories. Conservative New Labour politicians are not the solution to the lack of LibDem MPs. These people will only reinforce the rightwing tendencies within the LibDem party.

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