Tim Farron on Murnaghan: “There is massive space for the Liberal Democrats standing up for strong economy, fairness, human rights and civil liberties”

Tim Farron has just been on Sky News Murnaghan programme. Someone on there didn’t do their research. First all, Dermot said that Tim was handing over to “Sarah Brinton.” Yes, that’s her official name, but everyone knows her as Sal. You wouldn’t run up to Elton John and say “Hi, Reg”, now, would you?

Then he asked Tim the equivalent of wasn’t he just a rat deserting a sinking ship, stepping down now. Tim was able to say that this wasn’t his choosing, he had served the two terms he was allowed.

After that easy one, the line of questioning got more conventional. Every Liberal Democrat will be asked the “wipeout” question. Farron answered it well, although he could have got in there that in local government by-elections, the Liberal Democrats have made net gains this year as Britain Elects showed us the other day:

Tim said:

We know we have ahead of us 4.5 months of tough campaigning. This is the biggest set of elections Liberal Democrats have faced in generation but you could say that for the other parties as well.I’ve never seen such a crowded market in british politics.

Although market is crowded, there is enormous space for liberal democrats when it comes to stand up for our economy, human rights and civil liberties.

The polls, he added,  have been all over the place. They weren’t  “massively encouraging” for us because of our decision to go into coalition in the national interest. He pointed out, though, that the

Ashcroft polling vindicates our strategy to concentrate resources in our key seats where we are in very competitive positions.
He played up the Liberal Democrats’ role in securing an economic recovery but acknowledged that people don’t necessarily feel it yet. What he did say was that if Ed Balls had been in charge, people would be feeling the effects of mass unemployment. I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to lump Balls with that alone. We all remember the last time the Tories tackled a recession alone, in the 80s, and what a mess they made of that.
To be fair, though, he did add that there would have been no fairness in the recovery if we hadn’t been part of coalition. Our choice in 2010 was either to sit on our hands or let David Cameron run the show.
He reckoned that next time round we wouldn’t (and I suspect he meant all parties) be able to pick and choose the government we want to be part of.
We have a fruit machine of an electoral system. You put votes in and goodness knows what you get out.
You can’t go stamping your feet like a spoilt brat and say you don’t like the outcome.
And then he was asked the other inevitable question. What about the party leadership? Is he interested? Nicely side-stepped, I thought:
It’s in  Britain’s interest for the Liberal Democratss to survive and thrive. In next 4.5 months anyone giving head space to any sort of leadership vacancy in the future would be selfish and foolish.
I shall miss these Sunday morning interviews with Tim in the gorgeous Cumbrian countryside.

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

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  • The only problem with opening up the Byelection line, Caron, is that it invites the easy response from an interviewer, “But you aren’t fighting a set of byelections, next May, are you? You are fighting all-out elections, where the identity of the candidate is not anything like so important, and you cannot concentrate your resources except in a very limited way>” I and others winced at the thread from ALDC using the same line. For goodness sake, just don’t use it!

  • “You are fighting all-out elections, where the identity of the candidate is not anything like so important”

    Not according to Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polling, where asking voters about *their constituency* in particular makes a big difference in most cases where there is a sitting Lib Dem MP.

  • Paul In Wokingham 21st Dec '14 - 12:29pm

    RC – yes, we poll better in places where there is a hard-working core of activists whose efforts have built up a strong local government base, and who have been able to offset the Clegg effect that has resulted in the electoral wastelands that now affect vast swathes of the country. Our next parliamentary party will be representatives of isolated, random oases of Libdemmery in a desert of lost deposits and uncontested seats.

    But on what basis will they be elected? I suspect that it will be “The Tim Farron Party” in Westmorland & Lonsdale, “The Steve Webb Party” in Thornbury & Yate, and even “The Vince Cable Party” in Twickenham. Very few people appear inclined to vote “Liberal Democrat”.

    Are we a national party any more? Does it really matter what the manifesto says? Is anyone interested in what Mr. Clegg has to say?

  • Peter Watson 21st Dec '14 - 12:31pm

    Surely a key difference between normal elections and by-elections for Lib Dems is that in the latter the party successfully brings in resources from outside to concentrate on one seat at a time (witness the distances people travelled to Eastleigh). In 2015 that can only happen if Lib Dems abandon most of the 650 seats up for grabs. Why would a few by-election results be considered a better predictor of the 2015 general election than the local elections and european elections that were fought this year.

  • Caron Lindsay is right in her article where she says that most of us would not run up to Elton John and say – ” Hi, Reg. “.

    She is not right to say, “.. Liberal Democrats have made net gains this year”.

    More importantly – To say that we have made net gains in some council by-election will convince nobody.

    The media, the BBC in particular, has already written off our chances in the General Election.

    They already know that since the publication of The Orange  Book, the party has suffered the loss of a third of its members, half its councillors, two thirds of its MSPs, and all but one of its MEPs.

    They know that on big city councils such as Manchester we have been wiped out.

    In parliamentary by-elections we no longer scrape together 5% of the vote to save the deposit.

    They know we face a General Election disaster in 2015 in which we will not manage to stand a candidate in every seat.

    We know that the number of lost deposits in May 2015 will be more than an embarrassment.

    The unwise boast in 2007 that he would be doubling the number of Liberal Democrat MPs in 2015 is a cruel joke.

    The result from 28 byelections in 2014 is not going to change any of that in the next few weeks.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Dec '14 - 12:41pm

    @tim13. Actually, the identity of the candidate is very important as we know that when polls mention the candidates’s name, our vote goes up.

    The way to bring about the doom you’re always on about is to stand on the sidelines and sob “we’re all doomed” rather than actually do something to get Liberal Democrat votes in ballot boxes. The evidence shows that we can make a huge difference to our fortunes by telling our story and promoting our popular candidates.

  • Stephen Donnelly 21st Dec '14 - 1:02pm

    Tim13 : Yo say “The only problem with opening up the Byelection line, Caron, is that it invites the easy response from an interviewer, “But you aren’t fighting a set of byelections, next May, are you?”

    Actually that is exactly what we intend to do, and we are rather good at it. Sadly it does not represent a political strategy, but it is probably the only tactic open to us, at this point.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Dec '14 - 1:12pm

    I agree with Tim that there is a big gap in the market for a very good liberal party. However, the problem I see is that a lot of the voters don’t see the Lib Dems as a party standing up for “a strong economy, human rights and civil liberties”.

    Part of the party has been actively trying to get rid of the “strong economy” line from the party’s marketing altogether.

    I completely understand those who want the party to do more about inequality, especially poverty, but for me this has to come from innovation, which comes from the private sector as well as new laws.

  • Stephen Donnelly 21st Dec ’14 – 1:02pm “Actually that is exactly what we intend to do, and we are rather good at it. ”

    I thought when it came to parliamentary by-elections we have lost 11 deposits ?

  • Couple of things: you do not mention the local election results where in scores of contests we only poll 1 – 5% identifying that we are ceasing to be a national party.
    SECONDLY AND MORE IMPORTANT: I was in the Leisure Center Gym this morning when the interview was on. People were watching Sky News. Comments about the interview were expressed, “he seems okay, yeah better than Clegg etc”
    My own impression was how refreshing he sounded, fluent, unflappable and convincing. Three qualities that do not come across from Clegg. Farron, if he was the leader would be a much better communicator at the election, more personable and he has that northern accent which would not do any harm Could he stand in for Clegg at the leaders debates, he would appear to be potentially much more effective?
    Who knows we might more than 3-4% in Scotland, something you would be appreciative of I guess?

  • Paul Pettinger 21st Dec '14 - 2:18pm

    The Govt’s economic policy has failed Tim – the challenge following a credit bubble bursting is to maintain investment to drive future growth, rather than just austerity alone. Wages haven’t grown in six years and the deficit is still enormous – the Govt’s economic approach has failed and represents a misdiagnosis of the country’s problems. Clegg and co have rejected our Keynesian heritage and otherwise bet the farm on current economic policy and sadly, for all our sakes, have lost. The longer we take to swallow this bitter pill & differentiate on economc policy (as several wise old heads in the Party would have us do), the harder it is going to be to build, renew and grow.

  • The Governments economic policy has failed, I would have thought the opposite. It may not be the policy you would want but to say the policy has failed ………………………….. Deficit down, growth, wages above inflation etc etc. Unemployment well down, it goes on and on. We may all want more but things do not happen overnight, remember the famous Labour letter to the incoming coalition, there is no money left etc also Harold McMillan answering what is a governments biggest problem, “Events dear boy, events”.

  • About two weeks ago, I was present at a gathering of about 30 people, none of whom knew me or my political affiliation. My impression was that most of the attendees were middle-class, and probably weighted towards left-of-centre. Towards the very end, someone mentioned the subject of the impending General Election. What was the response? Two sneery quips about Nick Clegg. Were there similar comments about David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage? No. Not a single one. Nick Clegg’s and Nick Clegg’s name alone was spoken, and he was laughed at. I know this is purely anecdotal, but I have heard so many anecdotes of this kind that I am led to the conclusion that Nick Clegg is the laughing-stock of British politics whose reputation is incapable of repair, and he is an albatross around the neck of any movement or cause with which he is associated. My suspicion is that mention of Vince Cable’s name would have elicited a rather more respectful response (but I wasn’t in a position to test it).

    Theakes, I agree with you that Tim Farron would make a good leader. However, the right of the party will fight tooth and nail to stop that happening. If Mr Clegg resigns tomorrow morning, we will be faced with a leadership election dragging out through January and February, eating up valuable campaigning time. On the other hand, I suspect that the leadership faction would swallow hard and accept Vince Cable on an interim basis in the hope of getting their man in after the election. Either way, continuing with Mr Clegg is a one-way ticket to the pie factory.

    Yes, I know it isn’t fair, but politics isn’t fair.

  • Paul in Wokingham 21st Dec '14 - 4:40pm

    @Theakes and Sesenco – a broader and more significant example of this Clegg effect was to be seen on “I’m a Celebrity” a couple of weeks ago. The hosts suggested that Mr Clegg would be available for a stint in the jungle next November and actually held up a T – shirt with “Cleggy” written on the back. Images like that reinforce the perception of our party’s irrelevance to a very large demographic.

    In terms of Caron’s comment about going out and campaigning, I just finished delivery of the last bit of our December Focus a few days ago, as undoubtedly is typical of many people commenting here. The priority is to understand the circumstances we face and to cut our cloth accordingly. We must target ruthlessly. Admitting the difficulties we face is the first step in campaigning successfully.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Dec '14 - 4:51pm

    Sesenco says it all, really.

    Whether Clegg has played a tough hand well or not well is irrelevant. Without him as leader we shall gain more MPs with more votes in more areas than we shall with him.

    Cable is the obvious choice: a unifying choice – our best messenger and the best message that we could give to the voters we need to support us.

  • Paul Pettinger 21st Dec '14 - 5:06pm

    Try reading the coalition agreement theakes – the Govt’s key goal was deficit reduction, and by now the structural deficit was supposed to have been removed, yet the government is currently borrowing 50 billion more a year than originally planned. Why has this happened? The Eurozone’s commitment to austerity, which is underlined by Northern European arrogance (that they are doing better due to financial restraint, rather than because they export more due to their currency being cheaper than otherwise as it is shared with the PIGS economies) has certainly undermined the UK. However, by the Government’s logic the zone’s comitment to austerity should have helped them. Once a strategy has failed the rational thing is to move on, yet some in be Party are responding by clinging on to it all the more.

  • There is an absolutely huge space for standing up for a strong economy, fairness, human rights and civil liberties.

    Unfortunately the party has stood for none of these things against the Tories, but has simply gone along with them.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Dec '14 - 7:41pm

    No-one understands the difference between the deficit and the structural deficit (or indeed the cyclical deficit if anyone considers that any more) and as far as I can see the government does not know or evaluate the differences between them. Unless someone tells me otherwise…


  • Bill le Breton 21st Dec '14 - 8:29pm

    Tony, the main players in this, Laws, Alexander and Clegg do understand the different ways of defining the deficit, and when some of them and their advisers appear to confuse the various measures they do so willfully in order to strengthen a particular line they wish to take.

    For those who want to understand the differences, there is no better place from which to start than Adam Corlett’s piece here ‘Sod the Surplus’ written whilst he was still working for Centre Forum: https://centreforumblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/adam-corlett-sod-the-surplus/

    This refers to a piece he wrote a year before called How to Close the Deficit by 2014, and its Causes: https://centreforumblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/how-to-close-the-deficit-by-2014/

    He also wrote an excellent briefing on his personal blog, but I can’t seem to find it, but I have refered to it on LDV a number of times before.

    The four definitions explained in this second piece are sufficient and essential for people to understand where today each Party is aiming.

    As he writes “We can account for temporary weakness in the economy (in theory); long-term investment that can be paid for by future taxpayers; and interest on the national debt.”

    Including or not including these elements gives very different definitions of deficits/surpluses. And in terms of “long term investment expenditure” a target can include different percentages of amounts included/excluded in a target. The Liberal Democrats do not appear to have made their mind up as yet and have suggested at various times recently including 25% , 50% and 75 %. Clarity or openness on that would surely be welcome. Especially if the FPC are going to have the information and knowledge to scrutinize suggestions when these come before them from the manifesto group.

    Labour includes 100% in their target, which is why there is presently a £48 billion gap between their spending level in 2019/20 and the Tories. Where exactly does David Laws want us?

  • “If Mr Clegg resigns tomorrow morning, we will be faced with a leadership election dragging out through January and February, eating up valuable campaigning time.”

    I suggest that that time is not that valuable — in the sense that it is unlikely to be devoted to any activity that will gain the Liberal Democrats more votes.

  • David 1: a leadership election does not adversely the prospects of the party, in the middle of such an election the party won the Dunfermline by election. In any case there does not have to be an election, the party may only have one nominee. One thing is clear, as a result of such a change, the position of the party could not be any worse than it is now and there would be the opportunity of improvement and most significantly of all, a new face, a new personality, and improved communication at the election. If you are happy with 6% in the polls, 2 -4% in Scotland, well………….

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 22nd Dec '14 - 10:31am

    I think we all know that the losses the party will receive at the GE will be written off as the price to pay for supporting the country in the best way we could – with all the problems for us with a larger party in control. Despite the problems, there were achievements but our failures are being flagged more prominently – and history will decide the correct balance to applaud or not. For me, the biggest failure was not holding the membership together by listening to and remaining the “broad party” we were. So for far too many, they go their separate ways into other parties or none – with varying degrees of regret. Maybe other centre-left parties will gain for a time and later our party can re-group with the help of a liberal leader of distinction – in opposition preferably, as another coalition with Tories will split our party irrevocably and one with Labour would be almost impossible to agree.

  • @Tony Rowan-Wicks:

    ” think we all know that the losses the party will receive at the GE will be written off as the price to pay for supporting the country in the best way we could ”

    No, Tony, we don’t all know that at all. We know that is the ‘line’ being peddled by people who have never known the first thing about campaigning, the first thing about leadership or, indeed, the first thing about how to operate in a Coalition. It is the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome of denial of reality writ large.

    Thankfully, there are a few dozen Local Parties who ignore this philosophy of doom and fight for every seat they have got open to them, winning ‘against the head’.

  • Neil Sandison 22nd Dec '14 - 11:56am

    Theakes David 1 We missed our window of oppertunity for leadership challenge some months ago and those MPs have sealed their own fate with the electorate .I look forward to a post GE election campaign for a new leader in June 2015 .

  • Neil, it is never too late and circumstances can arise where it can arise in the most unexpected way. Problem is I suppose, who on earth would want to inherit a chalice so broken…..

  • matt (Bristol) 22nd Dec '14 - 2:44pm

    Theakes, I think you have it with your last comment. As with Brown and the Labour party, the battle for the leadership of our party won’t start until the possibility of having a (potentially) brighter future tarnished by being made responsible for a 2015 election disaster is out of the way and off the table.

    Nick Clegg is the incumbent leader, he has resisted attempts to take it off him, he would require to be removed by force and no-one in their right mind would volunteer to take it off him now.

    It would be easier for all concerned if we were open about the fact that Nick Clegg is now effectively the interim leader of the party, barring an unprecedented electoral miracle and a sudden and joyous reunion of thought among those fighting about the future direction of the party, but I don’t think any of the things speculated upon in this particular sentence will happen.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Dec '14 - 12:37pm

    I have said before that we should have an interim leader, one who is not interested in keeping the leadership mantle long term but who signs up in order to draw us back together and with whom we can ride out the storm of the general election.

    Pie in the sky though because NIck will not go quietly and the party is reluctant to wield the axe

  • Quite simply, those who keep calling for Clegg to go now, even after their humiliating defeat a few months ago, are damaging the Party & its chances in May. Whether that damage is deliberate or not I dont care, the effect is the same.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Dec '14 - 11:42pm

    @paul barker “those who keep calling for Clegg to go now, even after their humiliating defeat a few months ago, are damaging the Party & its chances in May”
    Indeed. They are why the party is languishing in the polls and losing seats at a local and national level, and they are to blame for the party’s leader being unpopular and an easy target for comedians and cheap jokes. Any failure of the party in 2015 and its rejection by voters can be laid entirely at the door of a few dozen miscreants on this site.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th Dec '14 - 8:53am

    Peter and Paul – sadly you credit us long-term historically mainstream pro-change Liberal Democrats with far too much influence. Odd that you think we are able to reach and, by definition, strike a chord with so many of the British electorate when our leader, backed by the party machine, is unable to do so.

    Nick Clegg’s personal position has been totally undermined by the print media in particular; his unjustified joke-status as above testifies to this. But his own attempts to reposition OUR party on the centre-right have been rejected by our voters, members voting with their feet and those who have chosen to stay and fight. In government he has broken a very clear pledge, failed to clearly point out differences between coalition policies and those of our party, been seen to far too readily accept Tory economics and personally failed to deliver Party-critical changes to the constitution.

    The result of all of this has been our calamitous collapse in the opinion polls and our real-life performance in local and European elections.

    Most frightening to me is that he has effective control of the next manifesto and our post-election negotiating team and strategy.

    You will have to accept that I write this in sadness; I sincerely wish our greatest opportunity for decades had turned out far better than it has.

  • Peter Watson 25th Dec '14 - 11:22am

    @Stephen Hesketh
    Perhaps I should have used an html “sarcasm” tag to wrap my post ;-).
    In a party that still has more than 40000 members and on a site where about 1500 are registered it should be surprising that the relatively small number of people who criticise Clegg are not drowned out by his supporters and fans of the party’s direction since 2010. Perhaps the silent majority don’t think much of him either. I certainly don’t think that Clegg is an easy punchline because of anything that you, me, or a few others have written on this site.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th Dec '14 - 11:47am

    Peter – apologies for being slow on the uptake – duh!

    May I take this opportunity to wish all fellow contributors and the LDV team an enjoyable and relaxing Christmas/mid-winter festival.

    Best wishes,

  • @Peter Watson
    You’re saving my fingers from hitting the keys! Anyone thinking LDV comments makes a jot of difference externally are off their chumps. Paul spent most of the past 4 years in complete denial of our political direction and its likely outcomes. Words like “humiliating” are best spared until after GE2015; those calling for Clegg to go after the European elections were sensible members trying to avoid the party being smashed to pieces a year later. Clegg Loyalists like Paul have demonstrated they think sailing directly into this iceberg is the only way to avoid disaster! I wonder what will happen next…

    Sometimes it feels like the new wave of Kippers here have more useful input for Lib Dems than many long-term party members.

  • Tsar Nicolas 27th Dec '14 - 11:35am

    ChrisB & Peter Watson

    I noted yesterday on another thread the five stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

    They are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

    The Lib Dems are mostly in denial now; during the next few weeks more will move into the anger and bargaining stages. May 8th will bring despair/depression and maybe in June there will be, finally, acceptance.

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