So who has been briefing against Tim Farron, then?

Tim Farron MP. Photo credit: Some rights reserved by David SpenderThe Liberal Democrats’ spell in government has been characterised by very little hostility and disunity on a personal level. Whatever arguments there may have been behind the scenes have not spilled over into the pages of the press very often. That’s actually quite remarkable given the pressure we are under as a party. Sure, we’ve had our disagreements on policy, with more to come, but we’ve kept it civil.

Politicians have been secretly briefing the press about what goes on behind the scenes as long as there has been politics. I remember being shocked when, as a very young and naive political activist, I overheard a very senior figure doing just that. This stuff fills newspaper columns, but when it gets personal, and toxic, it becomes a massive problem.

There have been two recent examples of unpleasant, personal unattributed attacks, and both have come from the establishment side of the party. First of all, we saw the clumsy, inept and inaccurate hatchet job done on Vince which apparently sparked an enquiry in leader’s office. Now, the Independent tells us, “one figure very high up in the party” has crossed a big line with a pretty vicious personal attack on Tim Farron:

Which bit of the sanctimonious, god-bothering, treacherous little shit is there not to like?

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spent years doing that sort of stuff about each other. So did John Major’s “bastards”. That ended well, didn’t it?

This sort of stuff undermines the efforts Nick has made in terms of his relationship with the party in recent months. He’s put loads of time and effort into it, from phoning and writing to activists and members to thank them for their efforts to putting in lots of appearances around the country (and the Conference fringe) and chatting to members in a relaxed, friendly and funny way.  When people within the leadership bubble attack those who are very popular within the party, it really doesn’t help. He needs to tell them to wind their necks in, and fast.

Tim Farron has taken his role as President extremely seriously. The President is supposed to be the grassroots’ Ambassador to the Leadership and he’s performed that role extremely well. I can’t think of another politician who engages so well with their party members.  As a member of the Federal Executive, I’ve seen how effectively he works and how prepared he is to listen to people. He has also, on things like nuclear power and the economy, helped the leadership get stuff through Conference, so it’s not like they never get anything out of him. As well as that, he’s a superb and pithy media performer who’s fought Nick Clegg’s corner in many a television studio.

To have this come out on an important weekend for Nick Clegg is highly unhelpful. Nick’s on the Andrew Marr show tomorrow where I am led to believe he’s going to have something new and interesting to say. That’s where the focus needs to be, not on someone associated with him having a go at a popular figure.

They didn’t learn after the Vince debacle. Let’s hope that this is the last we see of this type of briefing. When this party pulls together, we are magnificent, as we saw in Eastleigh. That’s how we need to be  all the way through to 2015.

Another couple of quick points from the Independent piece. They mention that Tim has been denied ministerial office. As party president, it would have been completely inappropriate for him to have been a minister at the same time, so that’s a deliberate thing.

There’s also his description of party activists:

Your average activist is an environmental, social liberal. If anything, the people who have stayed with the party are hard core: and you know what hard-core liberal democrats are like.

So much better than cockroaches, don’t you think?

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

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  • Farron is not someone I agree with on everything (very much an atheist for starters) but he’s a good bloke and a bloody good campaigner. Whoever that anony-mouse is, that description of Tim was beneath them.

  • This needs nipping in the bud. It divides the party and gives our opponents a handy stick with which to beat us.

    I’m not particularly concerned about Tim’s ambitions, but I do care deeply about the party; whoever pulled this stunt has it the other way round.

  • We’d ‘pull together’ a whole lot better if there wasn’t a wholesale rush to believe everything the oh-so-honest press print!

  • Gail has a good point. Perish the thought, but it could have been a Tory source.

  • “very high in the party”?

    I would say ‘very low’. Whether or not ‘in the party’ is another matter. 🙁

  • Richard Dean 16th Nov '13 - 10:48am

    If someone is as sensitive as that about what people say about them, I suggest they get out of politics and join some kind of mutual admiration society … become a hairdresser maybe? … er …, or is that just what the Libdems are?

  • Frank Bowles 16th Nov '13 - 11:45am

    If we look at the previous line “Farron’s role in these sensitive issues has not endeared him to the Liberal Democrat high command” gives an indication of the problem. Tim is a fantastic asset to the party’s “high command” because the dyed-in-the-wool activists respect his integrity. They know that he thinks independently and follows his personal values, which are informed by both his politics and his faith. As a result when it matters he can stand up and ask the party to follow, such as in the economics debate at Conference and they will do so even if it takes them out of their comfort zone. You can’t do that in our party without demonstrating your independence when it matters to you, and whoever made this stupid remark doesn’t have a scooby how to lead Liberal Democrats. Tim does.

  • I have had misgivings about Tim Farron but IF this turns out to be true then whoever it is should make a public apology to Tim & The Party. They should also also stand aside from any public role for a while. If the anonymous person is in The Government they should be demoted sharpish.
    Our culture of mutual respect is our secret weapon.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Nov '13 - 12:53pm


    I don’t believe everything that the newspapers print, but this appears to be a direct quote from a senior party person. If it didn’t sound like opinions I had heard expressed in the party by a very few people, then I would be more sceptical.

  • Sounds like the nasty party language of a Tory. Are we sure the Independent didn’t get its Coalition Ministers mixed up?

  • Simon Shaw, I think the phrase is meant ironically.

    It’s clear the cabinet minister this comes from (that’s what ‘very high up’ means) is an atheist who feels personally slighted by Farron opposing Clegg. That’s not a long list of candidates at all.

  • @Simon Shaw – have you never heard of sarcasm ?

    The last two comments seem to be anxious to avoid what may be an inconvenient truth.

  • Peter Davies 16th Nov '13 - 3:44pm

    If that’s a direct quote, I can’t think of many senior figures who tend to use that kind of idiom. Can you?

  • “That doesn’t make sense. If you say “What part of somebody is there not to like?” it means you like them.
    Why doesn’t the Independent employ journalists who can understand English?”

    I think the person quoted was probably being sarcastic.

  • Fascinating that a number of posts can’t believe that this as come from a senior Lib Dem, so, without a shred of evidence, blame it on the Tories. Wake up guys, the politicians in your party are no different to the politicians in the other parties. The last 4 years should have shown you that if nothing else.

  • Why quote the Indy? Hardly anyone reads it. I’ve read enough pieces on here talking about the policy that LDV doesnt allow anonymous submissions, though articles are sometimes published without a name to protect the individual.

  • Peter Watson 16th Nov '13 - 11:53pm

    @ollyT “Wake up guys, the politicians in your party are no different to the politicians in the other parties.”
    I’m finally beginning to realise that when Clegg promised us a new kind of politics, he meant a new kind of politics for Lib Dems. We can now enjoy the same old [deleted] that the other two parties have had for years.

  • Martin Gentles 17th Nov '13 - 9:05am

    I’m one of the very few Lib Dems who would hate to see Tim Farron lead the party, but he’s one of our best campaigners and we should be utilising his talents, not denigrating them.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 17th Nov '13 - 10:33am

    “This is not the first piece of malicious briefing – let’s face it, it won’t be the last. However, the trend has got notably worse in recent years, and appears to be happening much higher up in the party now than previously”

    Well said Gareth!

    I can assure everyone that it would not be too difficult to trace back to the very people who are involved in maligning supposed opponents to the current Leadership.

    One only has to remember Henry II’s cry of “will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” to know that there always exists misguided followers who are dependent on their ‘Master’ for their very existence (and power) who will do what they believe is necessary to protect their own position.

  • ‘When the Day comes’ that we can banish the Orange Book brigade into LD outer darkness, Tim Farron will, I feel, be a marvellous liberal leader of the LibDems. Whether or not he’s a Christian is of no consequence to me, although I am a believer too – but I would prefer Mr Farron not to allow his Christianity to interfere with social fairness and human decency.

    Whether or not the briefing(s) against Tim Farron emanate from our party or Downing Street’s semi-domesticated Ozzie attack-dog, such comments will not damage Mr Farron’s popularity with the majority of LD rank and file. Indeed, such nastiness will be likely to enhance our party president’s reputation party members.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Nov '13 - 11:07am

    Not a fan of anonymous personal attacks.

  • PS: Sorreee… Please insert ‘with’ between ‘reputation’ and ‘party’ (last sentence).

  • As has been said many times before, it is not the fact of holding religious beliefs , it is the tendency to try to impose them on others. As a Humanist, I have no trouble signing up to social justice , freedom and liberalism but I leave others to make their own minds up about so-called ‘ issues of conscience’ and live their own lives accordingly. I would like them to do the same for me. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen.

  • Simon Banks 17th Nov '13 - 5:26pm

    Of course we can’t be sure the journalist hasn’t invented – or at least embroidered – this, but usually, unfortunately, these quotes are accurate. It is just possible that they were said but weren’t intended to go any further, just as it’s possible Manchester United will go down at the end of this season.

    I’m curious about Richard’s attitude. Would he really have no objection to someone who ought to be on the same side calling someone he, Richard, liked and respected, “sanctimonious”, “treacherous” and a “little shit”, even if the person concerned was, horrors, a hairdresser? What kind of behaviour does he consider unacceptable in politics, and does he accept it’s possible to attack someone’s views or conduct robustly without this kind of vague but vindictive abuse?

  • david thorpe 18th Nov '13 - 12:24pm

    liberal democrats have been brieifng against each other since time began-there is only a fuss about this because some people like tim-and so they are outraged-if someone who shared their world vioew briefed asgaints someone who didnt share there world view they would call it robust debate.,….

  • david thorpe 18th Nov '13 - 12:26pm

    @ simon a jourbnalist wouldnt invent that-as a journalist I know if i wanted to invetnt somwehting it would be far more interesting than that quote which is of interest only to lib dems…

    were there not briiefings aginst ming-against charkie and against clegg at different times int ehir leaderships-its par for the course politicis is a nibig boys game….thats not to say its right but happens every day and from every wing of our partty and every other party…

  • Sorry, david thorpe, you mean politics is a little boys’ game (hopefully the big boys have moved beyond this). Apart from the implicit sexism of this comment, this is not a hopeful view of politics.

  • Come on, we were told that the Downing Street affair was between people “high up” in Downing St. and was absolutely shocking and unbelievable. If that quote can properly be attributed to someone who the general public has actually heard of then they would publish it as a big story, the same as they did with Major and his b-strds.

    No, it isn’t a problem that Farron is a Christian the problem is that he wants to use the force of law to interfere in other people’s personal lives – therefore he is not a liberal. From the article “When he was running against Simon Hughes for the post of deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2010, the gay rights organisation Stonewall calculated that Farron had missed all but three of the votes that affected gay equality during his first five years as an MP, and in the ones for which he was present, he did not vote in the way Stonewall would have preferred.”

  • It seems that Helen Tedcastle may have completely misunderstood my point about Christian faith and ‘social fairness and human decency’. Those two things are of great importance to Christians; I try to practice both principles (not always successfully, I fear).

    However, Mr Farron allowed his personal objections to gay marriage to overcome ‘social fairness and human decency’ at the time of the debate. That was point I was making.

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