Tim Farron on leading the Lib Dems and the coalition’s record on social justice

Tim FarronThe Huffington Post today carries a frank interview with Tim Farron by Mehdi Hasan who asks whether he a a Lib Dem leader in waiting.

Farron tells Hasan he is a social liberal not a classical liberal and, making the distinction between free markets “with a referee”, which he supports, and “laissez faire”, which he dismisses.

On energy, Tim admits he is uneasy with the decision to approve the Hinkley Point reactor:

The most fundamental thing is that we keep the lights on and so that the investment is justifiable in that sense. Personally, I don’t think the time has come for us to go down the nuclear route again.

On the free schools row, Farron defends David Laws, dismisses Jeremy Browne’s criticisms, and speaks with pride at the Lib Dems having “massively watered down” the Conservatives’ free schools policy. But he admits the last few days could have been handled better:

It was a bit messy, wasn’t it really? I am sure we can do these things better in the future.

Farron is typically pragmatic on the way the coalition works. If more of the ‘nasty’ Tory policies are blocked, he says, then “we get more of our things blocked.”

The government is doing things that the Liberal Democrats wouldn’t do it if it was just up to us.

On immigration, he derides proposals to demand security bonds from some overseas visitors. He spells out the benefits of immigration – £7 billion a year – but accepts it needs to be managed. And on those Go Home poster vans he asks:

To be honest with you, was it a massive failure or was it a clever move to get some headlines?

Farron shrugs off rumours that Jeremy Browne might defect:

I imagine that Grant Shapps is just trying a bit of mischief, just as I often say that [Tory MP] Rory Stewart should join the Liberal Democrats. It’s not an unusual tactic.

He said he was “very ashamed” of the fact that only seven out of 57 Liberal Democrat MPs are women:

I might have selected a women into the cabinet.

Tim talks about his Christianity. The God Delusion is on the shelf above his head, a copy of the Poverty and Social Justice Bible on his desk.

I guess I get a lot of my anger at injustice from my faith.

So, asks Husan, what about the coalition’s record on social justice?

I’d give them 5 out of 10.

On the downside, he cites the bedroom tax. On the upside, fairer taxation, increased state pensions and getting the children of asylum seekers from behind locked doors.

Mehdi Hasan also asked Tim the question: “Is he a leader in waiting? Should Clegg fall under a bus, he’d be the favourite for the job, wouldn’t he? There’s a long pause. Farron leans back.”

I have no idea. Well, I will do my best to keep [Clegg away] from any buses. That’s part of my job actually. There is a sense that Nick’s standing is improving…”

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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  • Andrew Emmerson 24th Oct '13 - 9:41am

    You kinda missed the most important part out imo – the bit where Tim suggests rent regulations – i.e. rent control. i.e. the worst economic idea ever.

    He says on twitter that he’s not ruled it in or out, but the interview gives pretty much a tacit support to them. They’d be a disaster and I hope it’s a road Tim doesn’t follow.

  • Melanie Harvey 26th Oct '13 - 1:10am

    Had utilities not been privatised in the first place there would be no need to worry about the welfare bill, as a high % paid to welfare recipients would have gone back to government via the utilities in any case.

  • Andrew, I would be interested in your reasoning why rent regulations are the worst economic idea ever?

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