LibLink: Tim Farron: The best argument for the Liberal Democrats? A Tory Queen’s Speech

Over at the Huffington Post, leadership hopeful Tim Farron has been writing about the Queen’s Speech and why it shows that a strong liberal voice is needed.

On Europe, the referendum on our membership of the EU is an issue already threatening to turn into a parody. Cameron has just barred two groups from voting – 16 and 17-year olds, who engaged fantastically with the Scottish referendum; and most EU citizens resident in the UK, who can already vote in local government elections. Probably two of the groups most likely to vote to stay in the EU! There is also the fact that Britain will take over the rotating EU presidency in July 2017. That Britain could be in charge of the EU while simultaneously campaigning to leave it is a just a bizarre scenario. Will we see the referendum brought forward? Regardless, this is going to plunge many businesses into huge uncertainty and put many of their investment plans on hold.

Closer to home, we see the Snooper’s Charter back on the agenda. This is going to make internet service providers collect and store vast amounts of data – such as what websites you’ve been on, who you’ve been emailing, when, from where – and make this data available to government on request. Big Brother is well and truly here. Tories often complain that the Liberal Democrats blocked them from implementing the Snooper’s Charter – and I’m dead proud that we did. The one question we must all ask Theresa May, and Tory MPs who will support her Snooper’s Charter, is: how do you protect our freedoms by destroying them?

We also see more ‘tough talk’ from David Cameron on immigration. Wages of some illegal migrants will fall under the scope of the Proceeds of Crime Act and will be confiscated. This could hit the genuinely vulnerable and exploited migrant worker who earns £23.60 after doing a 60-hour shift. If this makes no sense to you, it doesn’t make sense to me either. This is, yet again, the politics of gimmickry and division.

He ends with an invitation:

The next five years will show the Tories at their worst, without the leash of the Liberal Democrats to hold them back. Risking our membership of the EU, snooping on our online browsing histories, demonising the poor and vulnerable – Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech was just the beginning. If it angers you just like it angers me, if you want to do something about it, then you can. Join the only liberal voice in British politics, join the Liberal Democrats. An incredible 14,000 people have already done so since polling day – the fightback has begun.

You can read the whole article here. 

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  • Eddie Sammon 28th May '15 - 11:44pm

    Good article by Farron. He needed to tone down the tory bashing a little bit and has used more diplomatic language. He still says it angers him, which is good, but we can do without the name calling of previous interventions.

  • Agree,it reads like a student rant.

  • The question posed by Farron was answered quite decisively at the last election.

    …and this guy wants to be party leader?

  • @Kevin and @Peter he’s symptomatic of a strain in the party who are obsessed with “evil Tories”. They would all do well to read this

  • @ TCO – Thank you for drawing my attention to this thought provoking article. I do recognise some truth in it.

  • Rather than saying ‘evil tories boo hiss’, this article reads to me as a criticism of a government plan that is slapdash, ill thought out and unlikely to achieve its stated aims with the policy we’ve been told about.

    Eddie Sammon is right, and Mr Farron will need to take care that a tubthumping fightback narrative doesn’t degenerate into swearing at the Tories on national television. But the caricature being drawn by TCO and Peter is not a familiar one.

  • I have frequently seen reference to the “evil, wicked Tories” on this site. It is not a good direction on a number of levels. I debated its lack of merit with one of those who thought the Tories were “wicked” but found no argument to change the person’s mind.

    Following the poor election performance and the success of the former coalition partners, there is a real danger that frustration could lead to more Tory bashing and expressions of hatred. I would not wish to see such emotion being exploited by a potential party leader.

  • But at the same time, have we not proven that we can work beyond tribal partisan politics to work with other parties? And in other news on LDV, there’s the council level coalition with the Conservatives in York, demonstrating that even though we are disappointed that the blue team got the credit while we carried the can, we’re still able to behave sensibly when the call arrives.

    Speaking for myself alone, I find the Tories incredibly frustrating, in that for all the good intentions and ideal world theorising they bring to the debate, they so often fundamentally misapply their own ideas. So I want a leader who can make robust criticism of Tory policies that stops short of hysteria. I want a leader who can do likewise to Labour without pushing its existing supporters away from us. And most of all given my present geography, I’d like the next leader to make the attitude to the SNP a little more constructive. Declaring an opponent to be evil is unhelpful, yes. The Scottish situation should teach us that much. But also unhelpful is being shy about our differences and why we see things differently from them.

  • @T-J I agree with much of these wise words.. I also think the coalition had five years of reasonably successful government. Unfortunately, it has, to a degree, split this party, causing many on the left to despise the party almost as much as the Tories and punishing the LDs at the election. This sort of negativity is very destructive.

    The Labour party has demonstrated that the aggressive lurch to the left being demanded by union leaders is the kiss of death. Moderate, centre ground voters are completely turned off by this. They are also turned off by the name calling as discussed by the commenters above.

    A constructive leader is needed, one who can command respect from all factions and who can build bridges across the political spectrum. I agree that political differences can be acknowledged and discussed with respect and without rancour. That is the positive way ahead. Voters approve of it too.

  • I guess it depends on what you regard as evil and wicked. Reducing the maximum benefit income to our poorest families by £60 per week and reducing income tax for the affluent which s what the Tories are promising might just be OK with many of you.(Eddie,Kevin,Peter?) I see this as evil & wicked and I neither it appears does Tim thank goodness.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th May '15 - 6:53pm

    Thanks T-J. I think Farron could be a good leader, but I like some interventions more than others. :p

  • I don’t want to get into a welfare debate, but I would like to use the one raised by brianD as an example. I guess that the Tories want to limit the maximum benefit income. They are concerned that some people who work long and hard and struggle to pay their taxes because of low income are actually supporting people on benefits who may receive double the income . For example, we know that some people exploit the system such as young girls who become single mothers with births every year in order to maximise their benefits.

    OK, I’ve created an example for argument sake. Also, reducing income tax for the affluent is a separate matter. I see this as a difficult social problem with rights on both sides and injustice that needs some safeguards. It is not easy.

    Branding it as evil and wicked is not helpful. This needs good debate because the Tories have a point and abuse of the system can create injustice. I think this narrow view of difficult issues is where Lib Dems lose support.

    I’m not sorry to be a disliked intervention if it raises important issues that need facing.

  • @Peter your example s above are thought provoking. Too many like brianD above reach for the “evil” comfort blanket without ever trying to appreciate the opposite point of view, as you have so clearly demonstrated.

    The welfare system was designed to create a safety net, but significant social changes, some of which have been driven by welfare, have taken it far away from these original intention s. By all means criticise conservative policy but make sure you also address the legitimate concerns of those who see people “taking the p” too

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 29th May '15 - 9:09pm

    @Peter: “They are concerned that some people who work long and hard and struggle to pay their taxes because of low income are actually supporting people on benefits who may receive double the income . For example, we know that some people exploit the system such as young girls who become single mothers with births every year in order to maximise their benefits.”

    Even though your example is simplistic to make a point. Of which I acknowledge. It must also be recognized that it’s more complex than what you say above.

    For, I noticed your argument only pointed to young girls. But to be inclusive, (as women are blamed for enough things in life as it is!!!)

    I would say that these girls have been given no future (all is boring to them) outside of turning to motherhood (which would suit the Labour party because they have voters and workers of the future). And the boys who get them pregnant are given no economic future either (waste of time as the work don’t pay enough, which the Labour party like because they can blame the Tories for it.)

    And where is the Liberal Democrats in this? Why hasn’t been any Liberal policies been created to rise these expectations, that help them recognize opportunities, and give them the empowerment to believe in themselves?

    All in all, these young adults have been given no hope for the future, what future there is no one has said, they believe they have been written off by society..


  • @ Mavarine Du-Marie, I could have used a drug addicted male, unemployed, with children to support, there are endless scenarios. The main point is that there are working people with families to support who are just on the tax paying side of getting their own benefits. Those who contribute nothing but receive benefits should not be able to enjoy an unlimited income paid for by the hard pressed taxpayer. It is a question of balance which needs to be resolved by sensitive and comprehensive debate. It is not easy and requires agreement from both sides.

    Dismissing the debate as the work of evil and wicked Tories is irresponsible, anti-social, negative bigotry in my view.

  • @Peter and in addition some of those threshold taxpayers will have in addition “done the right thing “; in other words behaved in a responsible fashion, such as not taking on extra financial commitments or having a baby. That is a recipe for resentment due to lack of fairness

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 29th May '15 - 10:34pm

    @Peter: “Those who contribute nothing but receive benefits should not be able to enjoy an unlimited income paid for by the hard pressed taxpayer.”

    We come to those debating arguments of: those who look over their shoulder to see who has and against who has what. Making grievous judgments. And the deserving and un-deserving classifications that hold moralistic judgments. Can this be good for anyone?

    Enjoyment of life should be the right of everyone. The right to enjoy the growth of your children. The right to enjoy the small things in life. The right to enjoy pursuits that harm no others. And when it is worked for, time permitting, it would all be the sweeter because they were at liberty to fulfill more of their potential in other voluntary ways free from draconian punishment for living a life, if they were given those opportunities.


  • The right to enjoy endless money provided by others would be a wonderful thing. Everyone should be entitled to that. Sadly, someone has to pay. Some say the rich should be forced to pay for everything, the rest are just entitled to receive. I don’t agree with that, but the rich should pay a proportionate share.

    In reality, all those above the tax threshold have to pay, and that includes people on lower income than some of those receiving high benefits. That cannot be right either. The right to receive unlimited benefits cannot be fair. There should be a cap. This requires adult discussion. Calling people in the debate wicked and evil is just unacceptable.

  • “some people exploit the system such as young girls who become single mothers with births every year in order to maximise their benefits”

    I feel as though I’m stuck in a time warp – this sounds no different to Peter Lilley speaking at the Tory Conference in the early 1990s!

  • Peter “. I debated its lack of merit with one of those who thought the Tories were “wicked” but found no argument to change the person’s mind”

    That would be me 😉

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 29th May '15 - 11:08pm

    @Peter: “The right to enjoy endless money provided by others would be a wonderful thing.”

    I thought that was what marriage “to death do us part” was all about? My mistake. Divorce and pension is so tricky for the middle-classes isn’t it.


  • Peter ah our comments crossed so now I feel I have to defend myself, without wishing to go over the debate yet again. The point I was making when you failed to change my mind was in reference to the very punitive measures taken by the Tories against disabled and other vulnerable people – so punitive that people have been driven to commit suicide. My point was that when evidence is presented to those in power that these horrendous outcomes are the direct consequence of their actions and they carry on doing the same thing in full knowledge of the horrendous cost on individuals – then we must be able to describe it in strong terms and ‘wicked’ seems to be the only appropriate word for the wilful and deliberate infliction of misery – misery so bad that it leads to loss of life.

    I don’t use the word ‘evil’ because of its religious overtones.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie – I presume you are talking about the right to have children. Of course, everyone should have the opportunity to experience this joy, but everyone has responsibilities too. They should be prepared to raise the child to adulthood. They should be prepared to provide for the child in terms of basic food and shelter.

    People have made this difficult judgement for hundreds of years. It is not an easy decision. Some have sacrificed having children, others have sacrificed a comfortable life. Only our modern welfare system has rewarded irresponsible parents with unlimited benefits and housing in return for extreme exploitation of the system.

    Now, I am not attacking every mother, but pointing out that utopia for some results in unfair costs for others and it is the responsibility of political parties to have a policy for resolving issues like this. Calling the other lot wicked and evil is not going to resolve anything.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 30th May '15 - 12:16am

    @Peter: I presume you mean something constructive in the proposal (with perhaps a hint of utopia).


  • @Mavarine it’s about fairness. The system rewards those who behave irresponsibly as well as providing a safety net for those who suffer misfortune. It is basic human hardwiring to feel resentment towards those who take advantage of others generosity. If the more egregious examples of welfare system perversity become too numerous and politicians fail to address these legitimate concerns, societal support for the system will erode.

    On another thread a commentator quoted an attitude survey which shows a marked drop in support for the universal approach between the older and younger generations. This is unsurprising when you consider the societal changes that have taken place in the last 40 years when you consider that the benefits system has enabled these changes.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 30th May '15 - 9:49am

    I actually agreed with yourself and Peter with that the “sense of entitlement” should be tackled. That’s why I never made comments to it.

    What I was pointing out was that it seems to be always a gender/social status/class issue. With the examples given to demonize a group such as the single/mothers/working class (bad) versus married/parents/middle-class (good) in it’s delivery on this forum. Rather than other factors even being considered, such as that all this might be politically motivated to stoke resentment and to keep the status quo.

    The emphasis could have solely been on being about the fiscal management of the welfare system, that does not reward/punish from grievous/moralistic overtones, which is what really how the debate is based upon currently, rather than safety/preparation to a fairer lifestyle.

    I was trying to broaden out the perspective. Perhaps I failed but it was worth a try at least….



  • Michael Parsons 30th May '15 - 2:20pm

    All a bit overblown, this discussion, don’t you think? The “policy proposals” were much in line with the stuff we have had for years. Tinker with NHS, immigration etc and a human rights ‘reform’ that can’t be implemented because the H R Act does not apply (ie was not adopted) equally throughout the UK in the first place. The usual swelling of bullfrogs and king-of-the-castle-ism.

  • Mavarine Du-Marie 30th May '15 - 6:25pm

    For going beyond tribal partisan politics, thought this might be an interesting read:

    “Moral theologians make a key distinction between ‘goodness’ (with its opposite, ‘badness’ or sinfulness’) and ‘rightness’ (with its opposite ‘wrongness’). Morality in the full and true sense of the word is about the goodness and badness of persons rather than about the rightness and wrongness of actions.

    Only persons can be ‘moral’ in the proper sense of the word. The application of the term to describe human actions as such is derivative. ‘Goodness’ and ‘badness’ are terms descriptive of the moral state of a person. That moral stat is determined by two factors. One, is what the Bible would calll the person’s ‘heart’ ─ in other words, a person’s basic stance in the face of life. Some modern writers refer to this as a person’s ‘fundamental option’. The other factor is the way a person lives his or her life as an individual, in relation to other individuals, and as a social being who is also part of the wider cosmos. This is the level on which a person works out the story of his or her life and in so doing becomes the person he or she is progressively choosing to be.

    Clearly, these two dimensions of a person’s life are not two separate compartments. They are intrinsically interlinked and interactive. My heart registers the basic direction in which I live my life, whiles, conversely, individual choices and decision are the very life-blood of my heart and at times may even provide the occasion for a change of heart, as in key moments of conversion or personal corruption.

    Put very simply, personal goodness lies in setting one’s heart on whatever one believes will best promote the well-being and fulfillment of oneself, other people and the rest of God’s creation. Personal badness involves setting one’s heart on a lesser or more partial good. In some way or other, this will take the form of making my own well-being and fulfillment the overriding consideration in my life and taking on board the well-being of others and the rest of creation only to the extent that I see this as serving my own well-being. This is not only a serious heart condition; it is also a form of blindness, since it fails to recognize that my own well-being as a human person is intrinsically bound up with being a person-for-others, an interpersonal being. In a sense, all sin comes down to a kind of ‘reality evasion’.

    We cannot understand their meaning precisely as human actions if we do not take account of the meaning we ourselves infuse into the actions we perform. In this sense actions are like language. Language is the medium which enables us to express what we mean. Applying this analogy to the rightness or wrongness of actions, it becomes clear that while kinds of actions (categorized abstractly according to certain general descriptions) may be recognized as having an intrinsic meaning just as words and sentences do, the meaning of action in the concrete cannot be truly ascertained without looking at the meaning of this action as understood and intended by the person performing it.”

    [Extract taken from ‘The Challenge of Being Human: New Directions in Moral Theology’ by Kevin T. Kelly]

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