Social Liberal Forum holds hustings for Farron and Lamb

The Social Liberal Forum Conference ended yesterday with a 90 minute hustings between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both men turned up dressed in very similar clothes. As I tweeted at the time, if they had been women, we’d never have heard the end of it.

It was a lively event, not least because they did allow questions from the floor that hadn’t been submitted in advance – and they allowed supplementaries. The candidates were both put under more pressure than they had been at any other event I’d seen so far. There is nothing wrong with vanilla ice cream, but if the other hustings were that, then this one was Chilli and Dark Chocolate ice cream – rich with flavour and full of warmth. When I say warmth, I am not referring to the temperature in the room. The air-conditioning was broken, leading Nick Barlow to make one observation:

I was absolutely delighted to see Tim Farron put forward the possibility that taxes might just have to go up to pay for public services. It’s a debate that needs to be had, but I think a lot more thought needs to go in to how we make the arguments in this deeply selfish political environment. How do we persuade people that it’s necessary when we’re still suffering from Thatcher-induced focus on self rather than on community?

The most controversial questions came on the economy from Katherine Bavage and on peerages from Seth Thevoz. Katherine asked whether both regretted voting against SLF amendments on economic policy at our 2013 Conference. Tim Farron’s intervention in that debate had been a bit of a game changer. He was pretty candid that he’d been doing so as he felt it was important in that instance to be a team player. He went on to say that he wouldn’t pick fights with Conference as leader. I don’t think that a Conference defeat does the leadership any harm, especially in our current situation. In fact, it actually does them some good, because it shows them that they don’t have all the power. I don’t think he should be overly worried about avoiding fights with Conference. It’s respecting the outcome that’s important.

What was very clear was that we have two seriously good candidates for leader. They have different approaches. Tim gets you in the gut when he speaks, and he understands the importance of emotions in today’s political environment. Norman wants to build an intellectual powerhouse of liberalism that will draw people to us. He also has the experience of turning round to officials who are trying to find all sorts of reasons not to organise their services in the most people centred and practical way and making sure that they got on with it anyway.

Both candidates said that they just wouldn’t give peerages to party donors, although Tim said that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to appoint many people.

There was amusement when Tim Farron quoted Trotsky. This was in response to a question from Daisy Cooper on whether the party should be leading an insurgency.

You can watch the whole thing here. The excellent Jon ball filmed much of the day’s proceedings.

And here are some tweets from people who were there:

And if that wasn’t enough to help you make up your mind, there’s a chance to ask Norman Lamb a question tomorrow:

And Tim Farron is on Any Questions this week on Radio 4 on Friday at 8 pm.

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

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  • Liberal Neil 6th Jul '15 - 11:01am

    I interpreted Tim’s answer about conference slightly differently. I took the emphasis to be on avoiding ‘fights’ with conference, and the macho posturing we saw on occasion from both Nick and Paddy* when they were leader.

    I don’t think Tim was suggesting that he might not disagree with conference decisions sometimes, but that he thought it was counter-productive to turn them into battles, which was always Charles’ more sensible approach.

    *Worth noting that while Paddy is now trumpeting Norman and his radical approach to drugs policy, one of his first major rows with conference was over the far less radical drugs policy proposals at the 1994 conference.

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