Opinion: Why I am backing Tim Farron

Politics is not a sterile intellectual exercise where the best policy wins and people applaud the cerebral magnificence of the victor.  It is a messy dirty business, where people’s lives are changed, hopefully for the better but far too often for the worse.

My parents divorced while I was a teenager and I spent time being brought up by a single parent.  I got lucky.  I was never cold, I never went hungry and I always had a roof over my head but I do remember making sure to keep 50p coins so that we had some for Mum’s electricity meter and I didn’t have a room of my own for a number of my teenage years.  I slept in the living room under the stairs.  As I say, I got lucky, I ended up with four parents and was the first person in my family to go to University.

People who lived near me and who I grew up and went to school with were not so lucky.  I saw people who had their potential wasted because they got to school hungry, or with a cough caused by damp in their home or who moved from school to school as their parents moved from house to house.  As a councillor in central Liverpool I saw the reality that hits people who cannot get a decent home, the damage to their families and the narrowing of their life choices.

A friend once said to me that they would like to be rich enough to vote Liberal Democrat.  He said that because the impression he got from our massively unrepresentative parliamentary party was of a party for the middle class and for the wealthy.  And he rarely saw our MPs talking about housing or about poverty.  I don’t think his perception was right, but I can see where he was coming from.

Nothing robs you of your freedom like poverty and poor housing and if Liberal Democrats want to make a real difference for the 60 million people in this country as well as to the 60,000 members of our party we need a leader who really understands the need to free people from these two evils.

Tim Farron gets it.  Tim Farron gets genuinely angry when he sees a waste of potential and a lack of opportunity.  For Tim, politics is not about scoring points in Westminster, it is about really making a difference to the lives of people for whom the playing field is not level.  Tim Farron talks about housing and poverty with an authenticity and regularity that might mean that a group of neglected liberals will believe that they have a voice.

There are many reasons to vote for Tim Farron to be Leader of our party – but for me, the ability of Tim to stand up for those who need it most is the most important.

* Richard Marbrow was a councillor for 9 years in inner city Liverpool and was the Lib Dem candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth in 2015.

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23 Comments

  • Yes. Tim’s emphasis on poverty and housing is key for me too. It is that, or an emphasis on mental health, which no-one can argue against, but which is btw, often a symptom of the stresses caused by poverty and poor housing.
    It seems to me that Norman is more of an individualist, while Tim sees the real potential of a democratically accountable enabling state.

  • Liberal Neil 26th Jun '15 - 1:29pm

    Spot on Richard.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 26th Jun '15 - 1:35pm

    Great article.

  • John Tilley 26th Jun '15 - 1:53pm

    A great personal account, Richard.

    You sum up the importance  of decent housing perfectly —
    “…the reality that hits people who cannot get a decent home, the damage to their families and the narrowing of their life choices.”

    Former Liberal Party President Des Wilson wrote the book — ‘I knew it was the place’s fault’
    Since then, with the rise of extremist free-market ideology and media demonising of the poor, things have got worse in many parts of the country.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0551007915/?tag=libdemvoice-21

    Providing decent homes for all needs to be a key Liberal Democrat campaign over the next decade.
    Tim Farron has a clear and positive record of campaigning on housing.   He deserves our vote for that reason alone.

  • Paul Butters 26th Jun '15 - 2:16pm

    Good piece!

  • David Evershed 26th Jun '15 - 2:49pm

    Life is not just about how to divide up the cake amongst the needy.

    It is also about having a cake and making it bigger not smaller.

    This requires liberal economic policies as well as liberal social policies.

  • Paul Pettinger 26th Jun '15 - 2:53pm

    Surprised you are supporting Tim. We have a long way to go, but three cheers for a renaissance of working class Liberalism.

  • John Tilley 26th Jun '15 - 3:25pm

    David Evershed 26th Jun ’15 – 2:49pm

    “…It is also about having a cake and making it bigger not smaller.
    …This requires liberal economic policies …”

    Such as making a positive change away from the free-market law of jungle whereby a few oligarchs can ruin the environment and the lives of 99% of the world’s people ?
    Such as using the power of the state to make sure that a narrow band of selfish profit seekers do not grab all the benefits of the economy whilst those who create the wealth are overlooked?
    Such as investing in people rather than using state funds to subsidise inadequate wages?

    There are Liberal economic policies which will do all these things. The trick is to make sure that you do not confuse Liberal economics with the Libertarian or Conservative policies of ” let market forces rip” .

    Nowadays even the IMF recognises the dangers to the world economy of a tiny minority making themselves ridiculously rich by exploiting the poor.

  • I wonder if I may ask Richard how a seat we only missed by 103 votes five years ago can end up with a fourth place this time ? I’m sure it can’t be Richard’s fault.

    A bit of in-depth consumer research on why all those folk switched would make interesting reading for whoever is our new leader.

  • Richard Marbrow 26th Jun '15 - 3:54pm

    @David Raw Perhaps you missed the election results across the country. Oldham East and Saddleworth was not an unusual result. Feel free to indulge in attacks on me rather than the argument though!

  • Sir Norfolk Passmore 26th Jun '15 - 3:59pm

    Nice words, but all of the things you say in your final two paragraphs, while absolutely true for Tim are surely equally true for Norman.

    Here’s a difference, though. You say “it is about really making a difference to the lives of people for whom the playing field is not level”. Norman has spent the last few years doing that as a minister in the field of mental health. It is hard to think of a group for whom the playing field is not level than those with mental health problems, and the mental health charities and even opponents agree that Norman has done a great job in making that playing field more level, both in levels of treatment received and in attitudes. Tim supports that work (and that’s great)… but Norman has actually done it.

  • Graham Goldsmid 26th Jun '15 - 4:20pm

    A good post Richard we all have to decide who we want as leader and why
    I personally have just cast my vote for Tim Fallon because I feel he is the best candidate
    who can take the Liberal Democrat message out into the real world and win .

  • Richard, frankly I don’t blame you personally one bit. I have no wish to attack you at all and feel sorry that you got hit by the juggernaught. It was an honest point about asking all those folk – and everywhere else for that matter – why they switched. Same is true in Calderdale. We need to know what made the difference whether we like the answer or not. I think I know what the answer will be – but let’s find out the truth.

    PS – I’ve just voted for the same candidate,

  • Sammy O'Neill 26th Jun '15 - 6:02pm

    ” For Tim, politics is not about scoring points in Westminster, it is about really making a difference to the lives of people for whom the playing field is not level.”

    He didn’t do those people much of a favour when he encouraged Nick Clegg to stay on as leader despite the impending disaster. Those people who could have done with more lib dem MP’s (and with it a coalition government where tory excess could be controlled) were failed completely by him there.

    “Tim Farron talks about housing and poverty with an authenticity and regularity that might mean that a group of neglected liberals will believe that they have a voice.”

    He frequently says housing is a problem, but never really outlines any ACTUAL policies for addressing it. He’s no different from any other politician who does the exact same thing. He’s got plenty of rhetoric, not much substance.

  • Richard Marbrow 26th Jun '15 - 6:22pm

    @ David Raw Sorry, I was probably a bit oversensitive there! I have been doorknocking every week since the election asking people exactly that and the main recurring theme is that “You became the same as the rest of them”. We need to be something different and radical again.

    @ Sammy O’Neill I am not sure that getting rid of Nick would have made a huge difference as the strategy etc would still have been there and largely that is what failed rather than one person. I disagree with you on Tim not taking practical action. He has worked with councillors on South Lakeland to get more social housing built so people can live somewhere. That is real practical action as opposed to the NIMBYism some LD groups practice on the subject.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Jun '15 - 7:40pm

    John Tilley 26th Jun ’15 – 3:25pm
    YES!

    David, I am yet to meet a social justice Liberal Democrat who does not also believe in sustainable, people-empowering liberal economic policies, in a mixed economy, in free and fair trade, in opposing monopoly and the concentration of power and wealth, in positively supporting SMEs, in well educated individually, socially and economically valuable citizens …

    This is not an election of social versus economic liberals. This is an election about our rebuilding between now and the 2020 General Election and potentially about the very future of our movement.

    Tim Farron has the genuine ability to electrify an audience and get over the Lib Dem message in a way that few others can. As our leader he would take our message out to liberal citizens and together with the help members around the country hopefully convert these natural liberals into (and back into) Liberal Democrat voters and supporters.

    If the past five years have taught us anything, it is just how crucial it is for us to have a skilled, passionate and distinctively Liberal communicator as our leader.

    If there were just one reason to vote for Tim Farron in this election, that would be it.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th Jun '15 - 7:41pm

    @David Evershed that is!

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Jun '15 - 8:46pm

    I used to think Lamb was more of a “statesman” than Farron, but I don’t anymore. Three terrorist attacks today and Lamb has failed to Tweet his support for our allies. However as soon as the same sex marriage ruling came in from the US he commented on it. It is like he has an obsession with it so he can make out that Tim is the anti gay marriage candidate.

    Tim commented on the attack in France and the ruling in the US. Of course, people shouldn’t make up their minds on this one issue, but it paints a wider picture of Lamb trying to turn the leadership election into a referendum on same sex marriage and he has failed to do so, which should have been obvious.

    Ming Campbell is the most credible politician in the party at the moment, in my opinion, and he has backed Lamb. But fair criticisms there are.

  • Helen Tedcastle 26th Jun '15 - 9:12pm

    Great article. I find myself agreeing with it wholeheartedly and with the comments of John Tilley and Stephen Hesketh.

    Tim is the person to lead the party back to winning ways and to communicate in a way that resonates with the electorate.

    @ David Evershed

    That kind of talk didn’t help us in May – we were smashed. It’s time to return to our radical principles and stand up for those without a voice who are disempowered and marginalised by a system governed by relentless market forces and concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Jun '15 - 9:40am

    @Richard Marbrow

    “l I am not sure that getting rid of Nick would have made a huge difference as the strategy etc would still have been there”

    Richard, if whoever replaced Nick had continued with the same (total lack of any) strategy then we would, indeed have done almost as badly as we did. But, in fact, what did fore us was not policies or strategy but something far more fundamental in politics: image and trust. The bottom line is that all those good constituency Lib Dem MPs (particularly those facing Tories) needed to back them up to a level that would scrape victory was a Party who the non-too-interested-in-politics voters (ie the ones who don’t vote Lib Dem in local elections, particularly) had neutral-to-warm feelings about as having some useful role in national affairs. I find it hard to believe that almost any new leader would not have managed to (a) eliminate part of the ‘trust’ problem and (b) pitch the Party in a more positive differentiated way within the last year of the coalition.

  • Bernard Salmon 27th Jun '15 - 3:04pm

    Spot on Richard.
    I’ve just been to the Lib Dem leadership hustings in Edinburgh and, althouh we have two good quality candidates, I felt Tim Farron was head and shoulders above Norman Lamb in terms of being able to communicate with people, inspire them and tell stories which give a sense of who we are and what we believe in. Tim told one story about how his mum had to pawn her wedding ring when he was seven to keep him and his sister fed, which shows he knows how to connect with people in a way they can relate to and which makes a political point at the same time.
    I’ve known Tim for over 20 years since we were both student activists together, but I went along to the hustings today with a desire to hear what Norman Lamb had to say, to ensure I wasn’t being blinded by old loyalties and friendship. Tim would make the better leader, but I hope his first act will be to appoint Norman as our shadow chancellor, with a wide ranging policy brief. That way we’d be making the most of the candidates’ respective talents.

  • Ron Stafforf 27th Jun '15 - 3:12pm

    Richard,

    Having heard them both speak at the hustings there is no doubt at all who inspired me. I have the greatest respect for Norman, however we need someone with the ability to connect to and inspire LDs everywhere.

    In my view that is Tom Farron. Why? because he is a brilliant orator.

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