Tim Farron disagrees with Nick on minority Government

Tim Farron MP speaks at the rallyNick Clegg has been saying a lot recently that it’s coalition or nothing – the Liberal Democrats aren’t interested in propping up a minority Government because we’d get all the blame and none of the chance to do any actual good.

I can see the logic to that point of view, certainly. However, Tim Farron, in an interview with the New Statesman has directly contradicted Nick, saying that we shouldn’t rule anything out:

When you go into negotiations with another party you have to believe, and let the other party believe, that there is a point at which you would walk away, and when the outcome could be something less than a coalition, a minority administration of some kind, that is something we all have to consider.

You certainly have to be prepared to walk away. At one stage during the second Coaliton negotiations with Labour in the Scottish Parliament in 2003 that’s exactly what we did. Their people had been briefing the press that we had “ripped up our manifesto” so we upped and left until there was an agreement that the briefing would stop. In fact, we ended getting the Single Transferable Vote for local government out of that. In terms of a minority government, though, I think I’d prefer to see us make our minds up issue by issue rather than have a formal agreement.

Now, I know that Tim is a nice guy, but I found his largesse towards Matthew Oakeshott a bit premature. I know that as liberals and we believe in rehabilitation, but I think he’d have a hell of a lot of making up to do before we let him back over the doorstep. His consistent mischief-making, and the inevitability that he would try something after the European elections really didn’t help. Anyway, Tim was trying to point out how much he liked the peer:

I really like Matthew Oakeshott, I might be one of the very few people who still does, it was just unbelievably crass, foolish
I’m just so sorry he did it. Not that it came out so much, but that he did it in the first place, it was a completely unteamplayerish thing to do, and I like Matthew Oakeshott, I hope there can be some way back for him, but you can’t do things like that.

I was out canvassing with him [Oakeshott] in Southwark just four weeks ago, he’s a very good canvasser, he loves the party, he just did something that was very damaging to the party, and I hope there can be a way back for him at some point.

I took him to task for this on Twitter and he replied:

I hope he reflects and understands how much hurt he has caused. I have always said he needs to stop the games and the factionalism and work for the party.

But enough with the criticism because what he said about our positioning, what we should aim for as a party is pretty much where I’m at:

I think the notion that liberalism is delivered through a smaller state, isn’t so. I think smaller states equal weaker citizens and more vulnerable citizens, because the notion that all we need to be freer is to have the government out of our hair is simplistic when you think there’s much, much nastier forces that get in your hair when the government isn’t here.

People don’t like paying taxes, there is an issue there, but I think if you look at the Liberal heritage. I don’t see a tension between economic and social liberalism. I am somebody who thinks that free markets are good, but what the Tories believe in is not free markets. The Tories believe in unregulated markets, which are not free. Free markets have a proper referee to keep them free, that’s normally the government or something set up by the government.

He can’t do an interview these days without someone asking him about whether he wants to be leader. It’s tough to come up with something fresh each time, but I think he did well here. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out, though.

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

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Tim Farron for leader.

  • Oakeshott was doomed from the moment Cable threw him under the bus but I don’t think it says good things about the Liberal Democrats that it has no place for one of its founding members because he tried to displace a disaster of a leader.

  • David Evans 19th Jun '14 - 3:54pm

    Casron, you point out what you call Oakshott’s “consistent mischief-making.” I call it pointing out the disasterous consequences of misguided loyalty to a failed leader. What there should be is loyalty to the party’s values like telling the truth, keeping promises and not driving through illiberal rubbish like Secret Courts.

  • Jack there are many founding members who have left. Agree with David Evans. We have to be prepared to change – it can, and has been – argued that it is those who are resisting a change of direction who are being disloyal to the party.

  • Clegg position is as usual inconsistent – until you know the results of the election you can hardly decide on whether a coalition is viable or some other arrangement is needed. Who ever is leader after Clegg resigns in the disaster of May 2015 will be leading a very small parliamentary group.

    Cleggs formula last time was we will talk first to the party with most votes and seats – what kind of idiocy is that for a party that believes in electoral reform ?

  • @g Yes, he is slowly rising in my estimation. Clegg’s dogma that it’s coalition or nothing paints us into a corner. We should keep our options open, and personally I’d like to see a minority government (if parliament is hung) following our experience of the last four years.

    @Jack Yes, why should Oakeshott be cast into eternal darkness? We should be prepared to forgive and forget. (Though I agreed with what he was trying to do anyway.)

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Jun '14 - 5:56pm

    1) We need Tim and people like him in the manifesto team.
    2) We need Tim and people like him in the ‘red line policies team’.
    3) We need Tim and people like him in the post election (we should be so lucky) team. Being in power is absolutely not sufficient for a centre-left Radical Green Libertarian party such as ours.
    4) We need Tim and parliamentarians like him to , AS AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM, have a quiet word in NC’s shell-like.

    And yes, I too would also like to see Matthew Oakeshott back in the fold sooner rather than latter. How many times, on Question Time for example, did he fight for the true position and policies of our party. This is a statement not a question!

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jun '14 - 6:56pm

    Tim is right on the minority government stuff and emphasising we need the state for a true free market, but he still needs to abandon left wing social liberalism. You can get much more progress done in society if you seek to innovate, rather than divide the country between left and right. It’s good that he is loyal though.

  • David Evans 19th Jun '14 - 7:28pm

    Tim is an excellent liberal and his social concern is key to this. Innovation is vital for a thriving society, but allowing merchant bankers to innovate beyond all dreams of avarice was where Blair and Brown lost their social concern, and look what a mess that got us into.

  • Helen Dudden 19th Jun '14 - 7:56pm

    I had an MP, and he could not do housing issues. Your Party does not support those with housing problems.

    I would only vote for a Party that has the power to help, that is why I changed Party, and also I moved to another area. Another Party.

  • As a Labour Party member, I think that all parties should keep their options open until we know the result of the general election. It is also important to make sure that petty tribalism does not result in another Conservative-led government.

  • Robert, Tim Farron would make a far better leader than Clegg, my local labour councillors also think so and they think some of the support already lost to labour would go back if there were a more social liberal agenda.

  • Farron is right to cast doubt on another coalition. If there is a sharply reduced Lib Dem vote with many lost seats, the credibility for remaining in government would not be better than Brown’s in 2010. If there is no overall control, the ideal would be for Labour or Tories to court some other parties in fact anything that would allow Clegg to find the earliest opportunity to resign. A new leader in the Autumn could then spend ample time negotiating what ever kind of agreements that might keep the administration afloat.

  • Adam Robertson 20th Jun '14 - 2:19am

    I think we are getting ahead of ourselves, as we don’t know what the outcome of the General Election will be. Personally, I think the best result for Tim Farron, will actually be either a majority Conservative or Labour Government, as he is untested in Government or in ‘confidence and supply’ arrangements. Whatever, you think of Nick Clegg, he has done an admirable job under the circumstances, despite some mistakes but this always happen in Government.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Jun '14 - 6:31am

    @Adam Robertson

    “Whatever, you think of Nick Clegg, he has done an admirable job under the circumstances, despite some mistakes but this always happen in Government.”

    The view from those seeking an early replacement is precisely the opposite. The VERY poor job which he has done as Party Leader requires him to leave, irrespective of one’s ‘views’ about him as a person which are largely irrelevant to that decision.

    Nick Clegg’s failure to recognise the potential various options for Lib Dems in Parliament post-2015, including those voiced by Tim Farron and Caron Lindsay, is simply a single example of the poor analysis and poor decision-making which have compounded the lack of strategy and the ‘trust’ issue.

  • Ian Hurdley 20th Jun '14 - 8:11am

    To suggest that we would settle for nothing less than formal coalition is to fuel the common accusation that we are only in it for the power (i.e. ministerial jobs and salaries) that we can get. Nick is wrong. Tim is right.

  • The only admirable thing I can think of is the 10k tax threshold. Apart from that his admirable job under the circumstances is … the bedroom tax, abolition of the agricultural wages board, welfare reform which hits the disabled and vulnerable in society, agreeing to drop the top rate of income tax from 50 to 45p, NHS reforms which are stretching resources to the limit by underfunding (someone I spoke to had a 9 hour wait to see a consultant yesterday ) and agreeing to the Fundholder GP arrangements which were rife under the last tory government, tuition fees at 9k when they could’ve been less at 5k, creeping privatisation of all public services, cuts in the police and fire services. Nothing is admirable about that, it’s nothing short of disgraceful and it’s all sanctioned by Clegg.

  • g 19th Jun ’14 – 3:07pm
    Tim Farron for leader.

    With Tim Farron declaring very strong religious beliefs I would be concerned about the direction he might want to take the party. Have a look at the track record of the religious Tory Eric Pickles in government.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Jun '14 - 10:51am

    @ Robert

    I find your remarks strangely prejudiced. Can you elaborate? Is Pickles bad because he has religious beliefs (apparently) or because he is a very-right wing politician who enjoys cutting budgets and stripping local government of resources?

  • Malcolm Todd 20th Jun '14 - 10:56am

    That’s the most bizarre argument ever. One might as well say “Gordon Brown was a keen football fan and he was a disastrous prime minister, so we should beware having anyone who supports a football team as leader.” I find religious belief quite bizarre myself, but your assumption that the behaviour of any religious person can be inferred from the behaviour of any other religious person sounds more like simple prejudice than rational mistrust.

  • “With Tim Farron declaring very strong religious beliefs I would be concerned about the direction he might want to take the party. Have a look at the track record of the religious Tory Eric Pickles in government.”

    He’s also a man. Have a look at the track record of the male Adolf Hitler in government.

  • Well it’s for Tim Farron to tell us where his religious beliefs fit in with wanting to lead a political party that has a particular vision for our society. Politicians who are football fans generally don’t have an agenda they seek to impose on the rest of use whereas religiously motivated politicians often do. That could be the expansion of faith schools which select children on the basis of their parents having or not having a religious faith or in Eric Pickles’ case, for instance, supporting the imposition of religious prayers on the public agenda of council meetings.

    Religious organisations get many special privilages such as exemptions from tax, animal welfare and equality legislation and I personally don’t wish to see that expanded. I look forward to a truly secular society where everyone is entitled to persue whatever religious, superstitious or cultural belief they wish so long as it is within the law of the land and it doesn’t predjudice someone else’s well being.

    If as a devoutly religious person, which he’s entitled to be, Tim Farron doesn’t agree with that I would at least like to know about it.

  • And while we all have our particular religious or non-religious views, let’s try not to prejudge each other according to those views. It is surely the politics not the religion that matters here.

    It does matter when the religion gets mixed up with the politics as people in other parts of the world, including Northern Ireland, have found out to their cost.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Jun '14 - 12:20pm

    @ Joe Otten

    While I agree that the agenda of the NSS should not be discussed on every thread going, (they keep posting on LDV for some reason), I also think it is quite important to reflect on two things a. politics and religion are rarely separate as some people like to claim eg: the NSS/BHA – see the news b. members of the LDV team should be careful not to re-tweet items from the BHA on to LDV, unless they also tweet items from religious organisations – in the interests of balance.

  • While I agree that the agenda of the NSS should not be discussed on every thread going, (they keep posting on LDV for some reason), I also think it is quite important to reflect on two things a. politics

    Well, I am not a member of the NSS or the BHS and neither am I an atheist. I have issues with organised religion and its agenda. I think my local vicar got it right when he himself said to me ‘the trouble with the Church is there’s too much religion in it’

  • I think Tim in his article has said what most of us (party members think) – we should be prepared, if needs be, to walk away from a negotiation. We should go into it saying…we want power. We should only want power if the deal is right and the polices we can deliver are liberal.

    To sum up my view – He is 100% right and Clegg is 100% wrong.

    And PS – Tim for Leader 😉

  • Ian Hurdley 21st Jun '14 - 7:57am

    Dave, it’s pretty rare for anyone to be 100% right or 100% wrong on a subject yhey are familiar with. What we should be very conscious of post-May 2015, is that we were able to exert an influence with 69 MPs, though in opposition that was greater than we were able to manage having lost 12 MPs even though we were now in government. If, as the psephologists suggest, we are likely to lose more MPs next year, our influence within any coalition would be further reduced. In such circumstances we would need to ask ourselves how we could maximise our ability to further the adoption of liberal policies or block the progress of illiberal policies. in my view, that would proably be from the opposition benches.

  • Peter Davies 22nd Jun '14 - 1:04am

    If our number of MPs is reduced then the mathematically possible combinations vary. Nick’s position would be credible if we were in a position where we could form a majority with either major party. We could chose coalition with the smaller party if the larger would not do an acceptable deal but even at the last election, that didn’t happen. After the next election, we probably won’t be able to form a majority with either let alone have a choice but if we do, the choices are likely to be more complex. How many concessions would we make to get Labour to coalesce with us rather than the SNP? What about if the Tories could deal with the DUP?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Chris Moore
    Hello Mary, you say this, "he party made a huge tactical error – when they could have had massive influence on a vote by vote basis – and betrayed millio...
  • Gwyn Williams
    As a student some 44 years ago, I delivered leaflets in a byelection in a new(ish)housing estate on the outskirts of Reading. It was uneventful until a furious ...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might we please have a pamphlet or three on the harsh harm done to so many in our policy-deprived, not-rich fellow citizens and the some 25% of our children w...
  • David Blake
    Leaflets work, but they have to contain more than just 'Labour can't win here'. We need to get people voting for us because of our policies and values, not jus...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Mary Fulton: Confidence & Supply would have had the same risks for us as a full-blown coalition. It would have looked like we were just propping up the Tor...