Tim Farron in outspoken and honest interview shock!

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsAn interview with Tim Farron is never a dull one, that’s for sure. I found that out when I spoke to him for the party magazine, Ad Lib, last month — prompting the headline, Lib Dem brand ‘tainted by Tories’ (£), in The Sunday Times.

Today’s he’s in the headlines for an interview in The House magazione with Paul Waugh and Sam MacRory in which he likens Lib Dem MPs to ‘cockroaches’ (hard to get rid of) and ‘nutters’ (because of how hard they work and campaign). He’s also pointed out the obvious: that however buoyed we all are by the win in Easleigh, we face an uphill task as a party:

The party is in a critical state. We may well be cockroach-ish, but we shouldn’t take that for granted. One day someone will stand on us if we are not careful. We shouldn’t assume our survival is guaranteed. Nick’s a good leader, a very, very popular leader within the party and nobody else has had to withstand the kind of pressure that he has and the scrutiny, and whoever was in that position would have to be dealing with all that and I think he’s dealt with it brilliantly.

The language is colourful: that’s Tim for you. He could give dull, measured interviews that are risk-free. But it’s not his way. And I don’t think many activists would want him to be anything other than himself. It is precisely because Tim is un-spun, a straight-talker who takes his role as ‘honest broker’ between the party’s membership and its leadership seriously, that he’s popular. Whether that schtick is one that would work as well as leader is a question he’ll need to think hard about, assuming he one day wants to be leader (and I think he does).

Anyway the interview is a terrific one, well worth reading in full: here’s the link. He talks about Eastleigh, the Rennard allegations, tactical voting, the party’s lack of women MPs — and the Tories:

What David Cameron has not understood, what William Hague got so wrong, is that saying things that the man in the pub tends to chime with doesn’t win you an election. Because those people when they’ve sobered up realise it sounds ridiculous. The other thing is UKIP prove that their vote is not just about Europe at all. It’s a general discontented, broadly right wing but not exclusively, protest vote. So Cameron is fighting the wrong issues.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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15 Comments

  • The trouble is, it is a “schtick” that at this particular juncture has been turned against us and used to beat us.

    While I think plain speaking people are immensely valuable (Tim Farron comes across as much more genuine than Danny Alexander partly for this reason), this interview at this point in time is rather “foot in mouth” and one we could have done without. The headlines it has generated are dreadful.

  • Fascinating read. Which of course is taken totally out of context to generate cheap headlines.

  • @ Cogload

    “Fascinating read. Which of course is taken totally out of context to generate cheap headlines.”

    But that’s what journalists are paid to do. We should plan accordingly and not give them the material to use against us. It is possible to be interesting and use exciting language and images without putting your foot in it.

  • Voters love this kind of thing and I don’t think they pay much attention to the spin the press put on it. Being media savvy counts for little. If it did, and being an accomplished performer counted for anything, then Mr Clegg would be competing with Mr Blair to the title of most loved politician.

  • Whilst well meaning, the cockroach comments are surely naive, because they are just waiting to be taken out of context. We don’t want to ever emphasise any negative imagery for the party, but that is what will happen with words like that.

    Being a Lib Dem activist, in whatever capacity, is difficult, because the forces are most definitely massed against us – ask around today, you’ll not find a shortage of people to tell you that. With respect therefore, everyone needs as much help as possible, and this most definitely can’t be described as help.

  • It’s actually a decent interview is the tragedy, because that message then gets lost.

  • @RC
    Completely agree.
    Tim Farron will no doubt be giving another crowd pleasing act opposite Brighton’s West Pier, an edifice that really does merit the description “critical state”; however, he should think carefully before speaking on the record to journalists from a primary source of UK political information used by the world’s media, one that can just as easily be used as a source for reportage as for the “cheap headlines” of which ‘cogload ‘complains.

    Many activists who campaigned so hard at Eastleigh may be fans of the plain-speaking president , but to outsiders the description of your troops as “nutters” and your colleagues as “cockroaches” (and smelly ones at that) couldn’t have been made at a less opportune moment. . As with the handling of the Rennard story, this party’s news management is beyond belief bad.
    So just when celebrations are in order, Stephen’s is quite possibly the only line that can be taken. But in laughing off these remarks as ” outspoken and honest”, the only certainty is that they will have given LibDem opponents a laugh.

  • David Allen 8th Mar '13 - 1:16pm

    In the news headlines, this appears alongside Nick’s comments about the need to change the culture of the party. The overall effect is to suggest that the party leadership all admit to the situation being very serious. It would not be unreasonable for an intelligent outside observer to conclude that we have far more than just the proverbial few bad apples in the barrel, and that despite Eastleigh, we are struggling to survive.

    That, of course, would be an over-the-top reaction. But if that is not what Nick and Tim want the reaction to be, then what is?

    It raises the expectation that we will now make a great effort to reform, change, and offer the voters a new, better deal. That would, indeed, be a good idea. If we don’t make radical changes, we will not move off 10%. So what is in the plan, guys?

  • @ David Allen

    We have several well paid, well resourced Tory dirty tricks departments (AKA The reporting staff of the Mail, Telegraph and the Murdoch titles) all baying for our blood.

    At this stage, it would take a very slightly blemished apple rather than a completely rotten one (of which the other two parties are chock full but it suits their purposes to ignore) for the Lib Dems to be completely pilloried right across the press and the broadcast media.

    The “plan” is to give as good as we get and start questioning the motives of this kind of reporting for the trumped up rubbish it is.

    Then we need to focus determinedly on delivering in government and communicating that on the doorstep. After my experience in Eastleigh, I am more convinced than ever that the only way to get over distorted and hysterical coverage is to get out and talk to the voters directly. For most of them, all they have heard is the nonsense spouted by the right wing press and they have never heard our side of it.

  • David Wilkinson 8th Mar '13 - 5:09pm

    Plain speaking is best kept for Town Council meetings, not speaking as the President of the party and when the comments make you look daft.

  • I cannot imagine what Tim Farron thought he was doing. “Coackroach” is a rather extreme term of abuse of the kind that the far right uses to demonise minorities (like “rats”, “termites” or “vermin”). “Nutter” is a ridicule term that is very effective in marginalising dissenting opinions and shutting down areas of debate. I don’t mind a few jokes, I don’t even object to Parliamentarians being eccentric, as long as they don’t overdo it. But you do have to think before you open your mouth.

    The print media, in their twilight years, seem to have abandoned any semblance of objectivity in their desire to control public opinion on behalf of their paymasters. Perhaps the most outrageous example of mudslinging reporting in recent years was the blatantly racist 2010 attack by the “Daily Mail” on Nick Clegg, which did said rag no favours among the huge number of people in this country with roots in continental Europe. Then we have the attempts to spin political scandals against the party when it is perfectly clear that sexual and financial misconduct is concentrated in political parties other than the Liberal Democrats (with some truly explosive stories already spitting magma).

    On the plus side, a lot fewer people believe what they read in newspapers than was once the case, and fewer people read newspapers, full stop. The fact that we have the internet means that we can talk to people directly over the heads of the media gatekeepers. We don’t even have to put it on a piece of paper and shove it through their letterboxes. We can simply put it on the web.

    I think the greatest danger of this media manipulation of scandal is that the effect will be a deeper public disillusionment with politics generally, which will only helps the Tories, whose core support is more secure.

  • Ed Shepherd 10th Mar '13 - 1:01pm

    Licensing of the media? Would that mean the newsletter I publish at my local football club would need to be licensed? What about blogs? Websites? Intranets? How much would a licence cost? What would happen to me if I published my newsletter without having a licence? The effects of regulation in other professions has been to create oligopolies and to restrict those professions in a a way that keeps the poor out. License the media and you will find that powerful groups like Murdoch’s can afford licences. They will qucikly become the only players in the media game. My local paper might not be able to afford a licence. Be careful what you wish for.

  • David Allen 11th Mar '13 - 5:32pm

    “I can’t fathom why people above seem to accept our media playing games with the words someone uses, to spin a negative story”

    Sorry, I can’t fathom why the Press should be blamed for spinning a negative story, when they simply report the words which Lib Dem politicians have used!

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