LibLink: Tim Farron – Lib Dems are fighting to keep Britain open-hearted

In The Times today(£), Tim Farron has a “Red Box” article which accompanies his speech tonight on post-Brexit hate crime and rising xenophobia. He begins:

It has been absolutely heartbreaking to see the spike in racist and xenophobic attacks after the referendum.

Britain did not become Great Britain on fear, isolation and division. Britain did not become Great Britain through short-termist politicians who put the needs of one part of society above the rest.

Yet the party leading our beautiful country — the party that should be celebrating our wonderful diversity — is acting as if it wants to change the very fabric of our society.

This year has seen the Conservative Party make move after move that makes Britain a nastier, more divided and more resentful country.

You can read the full article here (£).

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24 Comments

  • Good for the Lib Dems, the only truly non xenophobic party in Britain, and the only party willing to modernise and move with the times.

    May’s nationalist bulldoggeral is appalling – the Tories have become UKIP on stilts. As for Labour, the hard left have always hated Washington, the EU and Israel, and despised foreign ownership of companies, infrastructure and public services.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '16 - 5:28pm

    The racism is terrible. Using EU citizens as negotiating chips increases the anxiety too.

    I support more migration controls but if Tim must argue for an open Britain he should direct some more of his anger towards the EU. People want someone who stands up for Britain and there are several important people in the EU already saying it’s hard brexit or nothing.

    So as Stuart says, we need to lobby the EU more, not just Theresa May.

  • I wonder which parts of Britain Tim Farron has in mind when he keeps making these accusations of xenophobia?

    I’m fortunate to live in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country. I don’t claim there are no problems here, but by and large what I see is virtually everybody getting along virtually all of the time. I don’t recognise the xenophobic country Farron describes.

    So I actually take some offence from his comments, coming as they do from somebody who lives in a Lib Dem controlled borough where there are hardly any non-white people (1.6%), hardly any people of non-Christian faith (0.8%), literally no asylum seekers, and as yet no Syrian refugees either. South Lakeland council has been dawdling on the latter point for nearly a year now. Having said they would take a handful of families (15), they backed out after last winter’s big storm, saying the earmarked homes would be needed by local food victims for six months. Nearly 11 months later they have still made no firm offer to take any refugees. Perhaps Tim should be ringing the council leader and giving him one of his lectures on openness!

  • Correction to my earlier post. It wasn’t South Lakeland who said they would take in 15 families, it was Cumbria as a whole. Since South Lakeland has about a fifth of Cumbria’s population, we might surmise that their share would be 3 families, if it ever happens.

  • @ Stuart Your knowledge of local government is obviously limited. South Lakeland is a District Council with limited powers. The responsibility for dealing with asylum seekers is a social work matter and thus the responsibility of Cumbria County Council.

    Still, it’s a shame to let the facts get in the way of having a dig at Mr Farron isn’t it ?

  • My local towns are as multicultural as most and I just don’t see what Tim Farron sees. The local papers rarely – if ever – have news of racist and xenophobic attacks. However, I do read stories about German people setting fire to refugee centres and French Jews fleeing to London because they no longer feel safe in Paris. In Italy black footballers are regularly booed and the Hungarian authorities are open about their dislike of muslim refugees. LBGT communities have a very hard time in Poland and Gypsies are openly persecuted in Bulgaria and Romania. This country may not be perfect, but it isn’t “nasty and resentful” and Tim should be ashamed of himself for describing it as such.

  • Mark Goodrich 25th Oct '16 - 3:23am

    We can all trade anecdotes and I am sure that the vast majority of people are getting on with each other as well as ever. However, the statistics show that there was a huge spike in hate crime after the Brexit vote and it is still running higher than before. So, Tim is quite right to focus attacks on the Tory government for not doing more to tackle this (and, to some extent, stoking divisions).

  • The ‘evidence’ is of a very low level of so-called ‘hate crime’ in the UK, despite the claimed ‘spike’, but Tim will be seen by many as trying to weaponise the issue – not unlike Diane Abbott to be honest.

  • Jayne Mansfield 25th Oct '16 - 9:00am

    @ malc,
    If you are white , and clearly English born and bred as I am, you may believe that the ‘atmosphere’ has not changed for the worse over recent times thanks to dog whistling politicians, but those who are most likely to experience this change, say that there is one.

    When there are people who suddenly say that they no longer feel welcome in this country, why do you deny their experiences and their feelings?

  • Bill le Breton 25th Oct '16 - 9:11am

    Is Liberalism for the few or the many?

    There is an interesting article by Janan Ganesh (today’s FT possibly £ unless you get to it via his twitter account). Here he concludes, “If liberalism carried the past 40 years, it did so despite a Tory party whose members were old and disconcerted by social change. It did so despite Labour never warming to its “New” guise. It did so despite public attitudes on many subjects. It did so despite Margaret Thatcher’s own cultural conservatism. What told was that every other idea was worse.” (warning that people should not expect or rely on the formation of a new party/movement to bring in Liberalism – which is not the point I find so interesting).

    Would you agree that Liberalism carried the last 40 years?

    If so, to me that is a very limited form of Liberalism, including the spoils of economic liberalism and the spoils of a restricted vision of social liberalism. Here is Ganesh again, “After Britain’s reckoning with the International Monetary Fund in 1976, the nation loosened into a globalised bazaar in which any Victorian merchant would have felt at home. By then, people were freer to choose who they slept with, what they read and whether to have children … ”

    These benefits seem however, from the perspective of 2016, to have been enjoyed and being enjoyed in full only by those at the tip or close to the tip of the elephant’s trunk identified by Milanovic, but far less so by the rest of society.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Oct '16 - 9:14am

    Economic liberalism has produced the gig economy and those with full diaries have little to complain of. But the trunk in Milanovic’s graph declines steeply as the gig’s decline in frequency and duration, with the many becoming the Twenty-First Century’s hop pickers.

    True, those hop pickers can sleep with whom they like, read or view whatever they like and have children (to a lesser extent than those higher up the trunk) whenever they like, but is that all Liberalism aims for?

    Ganesh my be right that to have all this and to retain this a Liberal Party is not required.

    But surely to have a Liberalism that appreciates that we are not free until we are all free, that the level of your opportunities affects my opportunities, that your lost life chances limit my life chances, for that Liberalism to hold sway we have to have a Liberal Movement, energised by a Liberal Party.

    Which Liberalism do you want, Ganesh’s, where people just want to be able to and can just get on with their lives, and think more about the economy and their friends, or a fuller, deeper Liberalism?

  • Bill le Breton 25th Oct '16 - 9:31am

    Thinking about the above, it really is still the ‘freedom from’ and the ‘freedom to’ issue identified by Berlin. Once we were a party in the Green and Hobhouse tradition.

    That has changed.

    There is a wonderful photograph to support this LDV post: https://www.libdemvoice.org/witney-could-be-a-turning-point-for-the-lib-dems-52241.html

    Mostly young men, we should note.

    Looking at it, I wondered where they stood on positive and negative liberty – but not for long.

  • John Peters 25th Oct '16 - 9:34am

    @Joe Otten

    From the linked report.

    “The most recent weekly data shows that the level of hate crime is 16% higher than over a similar period last year, with 1,384 incidents reported in the third week of August, the last set of figures available.

    But despite the increases, police chiefs say they no longer want to collate weekly figures, arguing that the reduction in the level of increase means that is no longer justified.”

    Given that the year on year rise has been about 19% that show a slight (but I’d guess statistically irrelevant) improvement on reported hate crime over pre-referendum years.

  • http://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/increases-in-hate-crime-incidents-driven-by-better-reporting

    Looks like hate crime has been falling again and some of the earlier increase was down to improved reporting.

  • Peter Watson 25th Oct '16 - 10:56am

    @John Peters / Joe Otten
    More recently, the National Police Chiefs’ Council also report, “New figures released by the Home Office show that the 19 per cent increase in hate crime this year is driven in part by greater public confidence in how police support victims.” and “Numbers of hate crime incidents have fallen from the spike seen after the EU referendum” (http://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/increases-in-hate-crime-incidents-driven-by-better-reporting)
    The Home Office report on the statistics that this is based on (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/hate-crime-england-and-wales-2015-to-2016) states, “This report stated that following a sharp increase in July, the level of hate crime reports per week in England and Wales and Northern Ireland had been declining in August – to a level seen in earlier 2016 (although levels were higher than seen in 2015). Due to this, the NPCC have now ended their weekly collection of hate crime data.”
    Tim Farron’s comments above also acknowledge a “spike in racist and xenophobic attacks after the referendum”.
    Following the referendum, hate crime, racism, xenophobia, etc. seem to have fallen back to their depressingly relentless increasing trend. Continuing to link all of this to Brexit and playing party politics does not help address the underlying problems that have caused, even on the Lib Dems’ watch in coalition government (during which, sadly, a Lib Dem councillor contributed to the statistics).

  • Bill le Breton 25th Oct '16 - 11:16am

    Joe, yes the article does justify a piece to itself.

    Who knows, we may not be too far apart. Liberalism has the potential to ameliorate the worst effects of the gig economy and particularly its potential to dramatically increase inequality. But not I fear Ganash’s rather limited understanding of it.

    I realise my comments were less than directly about this thread but Tim’s use of the expression ‘open-hearted’ suggests that the ‘leave me alone and I will leave you alone’ version should not be ours.

  • Bill le Breton 25th Oct '16 - 11:58am

    no thanks, j

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Oct '16 - 2:20pm

    The party at the moment has a great problem and it’s not just how low we are in the polls. It is that the society based on the Liberal values Bill states so clearly in the paragraph beginning ” but surely to have a liberalism” cannot be funded by the economic liberalism practised by governments from Thatcher onwards. It is these economic policies which have divided the country rather than the EU. When people are frightened and depressed about their situation they often seek someone to blame and the EU has been a brilliant scapegoat. Of course strangers are another threat.
    I listened with horror to a man from Devon being interviewed about refugees coming to his area. He was unremittingly hostile, but then he said: we can’t look after our own so why should we look after them (refugees)? I don’t think we are looking after our own very well either.
    The first redistributive budget wasn’t introduced by Labour, it was the Liberal government of Asquith and Lloyd George in 1909 who took this brave step. Economic liberals often support their ideas by referring to the party’s support of the 19th century Free Trade movement. I think we must look back at this other, progressive strand of our political history and work out how we would fund a fairer society based on the principles so eloquently expressed by Bill.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Oct '16 - 3:07pm

    Bill, Joe et al

    The debate on the freedom issue goes back, yes to the sources mentioned, but is much wider, and worth thinking about thus.

    FDR in his great speech on the Four Freedoms , mixed the negative and positive , as “of” and ” from ” rather than as described often. Of religion , of speech , from want , from fear. This is the same usually but described differently , his negatives have the same philosophy of all modern liberalism at their core, the need to escape with the means to do so. I believe all or most modern liberals , whether to the left or even more centrist or centre right on some issues , have very much in common. It depends on country , on circumstances, on priorities based on experiences of a society , and of individuals.

    There is much too much talk of differences that divide , rather than than doing what we could do best , unifying around what unites .

    And on that , Tim is both right and wrong. Right to identify and speak so passionately against xenophobia, and for open-hearted Britain. Wrong to sound always so against the Conservatives. UKIP are there yet , and a cause of these attitudes at times too. And Labour do not help at all with their increasingly bitter party .

    Meanwhile we must sound and be reasonable. I believe it is the new radical !

  • Joe Suggests :
    “Opponents of economic liberalism want to shut down the engine, but demand rising incomes anyway from the managers of the shrinking pot.”

    I don’t think anyone [apart from maybe a few hardcore Greens?], actually *wants* to shut down the engine. Unfortunately, a growing number of people see the unfortunate possibility, that the global engine of growth, is shutting down [in aggregate!], of its own volition,…naturally? [the reasons why,.. is a whole other debate.]

    However liberalism [fine a concept as it is], can *only thrive* in an economically growing environment. More growing economic pie, means the ability to share it out more fairly. If we could overlay two historic graphs, of the rise of [liberalism], and [global GDP],.. they would likely match. Real economic growth, didn’t exist before circa 1750, and neither did liberalism. The bad news is that if economic growth *is* shutting down, …so goes liberalism.

    I guess some believe, optimistically, that the financial events of 08, were a blip, and with enough stimulus, we’ll soon be on track with ‘the engine’ running smooth again. I truly hope you are right and I am wrong, because my observations, takes us to another place I do not like the look of,… but it’s a possible reality, we must face. I, and a growing body of others, believe we are either at, or within, the last few decades of economic global growth. We’ve had 250 years worth of astonishingly good economic fortune, including the ability for fair(er) resource sharing, and liberalism, afforded by that good fortune. But,.. as that economic pie shrinks,…. the resource sharing shrinks,… the fairness shrinks,.. and liberalism shrinks. It’s not personal,.. it’s just, matter-of-fact, how humanity works.

    I’d love to be more upbeat, but maybe some of us have taken the ‘red pill’, and seen something we wish we hadn’t,.. but can’t now un-see.? In the meantime,.. If you want to know the direction of liberalism,.. observe the direction of GDP as a guide.

  • @David Raw
    “Your knowledge of local government is obviously limited.”

    Actually my knowledge of what’s going on in Cumbria is based largely on information from South Lakeland’s own website, where they state that decisions on Syrian refugees are being taken by the Cumbria Leadership Board, which consists of “the leaders of all local authorities across Cumbria”. Including South Lakeland.

    Perhaps you can improve my knowledge of local government by explaining why a place like South Lakeland is unable to take a single refugee or asylum seeker, while places like Rochdale are taking huge numbers? According to government figures, South Lakeland has nearly as many long-term unoccupied properties as Rochdale (957 compared to 1,008), so that isn’t the answer. In the whole of Cumbria there are nearly 4,500 unoccupied properties; still they have not taken a single refugee.

    The fact is that Tim Farron is no more likely to come across a Syrian refugee on the streets of South Lakeland than Gary Lineker is while walking around his Esher mansion. When people like this talk about the things “we” should be doing to help refugees, they are not really using the word “we” in an inclusive sense. I think if these people visited parts of the country where the refugees are actually living, they may find that most of the people there are more welcoming than they imagine.

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