“Wow, that was the best leader’s speech I’ve heard in just under 50 Lib Dem conferences”

So tweeted Dr Mark Pack, formerly of this parish:

Here’s some other reaction:


* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Conference.


  • Conor McGovern 23rd Sep '15 - 1:47pm

    It really was a great speech, just getting noticed is a big factor and no doubt Tim can pull that off better than most. I voted for Norman because although Tim praised our time in government at hustings, I was worried he wouldn’t point to our achievements once he was leader, as he was the candidate who made the party feel good about ourselves, potentially at the risk of failing to win over liberals in other parties and none. We built up a good deal of economic credibility there – green investment, apprenticeships, tax reform – and it’s good to see Tim keep on pointing to all that now. We’ve clearly got a great leader after everything that’s happened. Especially like his passion for social justice issues like refuge, housing – some of that should really resonate with people if we keep on fighting!

  • My first Assembly was in 1976 so I’ve heard a few Leaders speechers and I have to say that speak kept me more engaged than any I can remember. Very good indeed.

  • I’m torn really. I am a fan of Tim’s but he has disappointed me with this speech. I think he was playing too much to the bigwigs in the party by not criticising the Coalition years in a bit more detail. That would have shown that he understood why the Party was giving a hammering. Unless you understand why you lost so heavily, you cannot hope to win people back. Tim hasn’t understood that at all – notice he never once mentioned the issue of Trust. He seems to be relying on the Labour Party imploding and the Lib Dems automatically taking over their ‘homeless’ voters. There is a sense of entitlement there which is not attractive. He gives us no reason why the Lib. Dems, under him, should now be trusted again.

    All in all it was a speech playing to the gallery. If he wants to win over liberal-minded people in other parties or no party, he needs to answer the question ” why should I trust anything you say?” Which is the response he would be getting if he asked me or every liberal non-Lib Dem I know.

  • Lester Holloway 23rd Sep '15 - 4:57pm

    If the speech was so progressive how come there was not a word on the scar of hugely disproportionate unequal outcomes for people of colour in society? Why not a single word on how the party itself need to diversify? The TV camera pan shots of the audience sent out as strong a message to BME communities as Tim’s laudable words on refugees.

  • David Evans 23rd Sep '15 - 5:13pm

    While acknowledging that BME was not specifically mentioned, I also note that my particular concern was not mentioned either. Ultimately we have all to acknowledge that liberalism is a philosophy of life,not a checklist. If you get the principles right, everything else does follow. However a well meant reminder is never out of place.

  • ‘You cant please all the people (or in this case even all the Liberals ) all the time’, in Leaders speeches …. but I think Tim came darn well near it! In one part it even brought a tear to my eye………and that was watching at home not live in the Hall. A Leaders Speech hasn’t done that before …………for the right reason!

  • David Evans 23rd Sep '15 - 5:16pm

    P.S. My concern is rural poverty. Stick with it Tim.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Sep '15 - 5:29pm


    I’m torn really. I am a fan of Tim’s but he has disappointed me with this speech. I think he was playing too much to the bigwigs in the party by not criticising the Coalition years in a bit more detail.

    Yup. I agree. This was not a speech which encourages me to want to get back into being active in the party. Quite frankly, it comes across as a speech designed to appeal to moderate Tories, and that’s not what I am.

    It was not necessary to defend the Coalition as he did. Defend the Liberal Democrats’s role in it, yes. But don’t praise the whole government, as he did – because it was a Tory-dominated government pushing Tory policies with just a little LibDem influence. I don’t believe the Coalition government saved Britain or made Britain a better country at all, as Tim Farron is suggesting here. It continued with the widening of inequality, with sell-out to the global super-rich, with an economy far too based on the semi-Ponzi scheme pushing up of house prices to give the appearance of success. Just because the Liberal Democrats were able to tweak it, so for example at least the tax cuts helped people in the middle rather than people at the top (while continuing pushing up the misery of people at the bottom) does not mean it was overall a good government taking the approach to things, as Farron is suggesting.

    On housing, sorry, but just building more houses is not nearly enough to tackle the issue. If we really want to tackle it and make home ownership open to all, we need to stop the way in which owning houses is a profitable investment, so people hang on to them when they don’t need them, and investment goes that way rather than into productive business. Just saying “build more houses” is a cop-out.

    There is no deep analysis here of other ways in which out country is going wrong. I give it 2/10.

  • ‘I give it 2/10’. A hard man to please! IMO.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Sep '15 - 5:44pm

    @lester – I guess we could all think of a list of things Nick did not mention !
    What did you think of the ones he did ?

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Sep '15 - 5:44pm

    Oops – Tim not Nick !!

  • Lester Holloway 23rd Sep '15 - 5:46pm

    David Evans – “Ultimately we have all to acknowledge that liberalism is a philosophy of life,not a checklist. If you get the principles right, everything else does follow.”

    If only that were the case on racial diversity and equality, David, we wouldn’t have a huge deficit on representation or policy at present. But we have.

  • Lester Holloway 23rd Sep '15 - 5:55pm

    @Simon McGrath – off the top of my head Tim’s call to take action on refugees in Europe before the winter set in was very welcome. Using the term reception centres, as opposed to camps, is an important distinction. His passage about Liberals not being a tribe that seek to blame and scapegoat sections of society, again great! However for all the talk of being ‘outsiders’ there wasn’t enough substance that was radical. I guess with a new leader we’re at the start of a new policy-making cycle and as a federal party its the members who (theoretically) decide, so a lot of gaps to fill. Playing to the centre ground on surplus is not a philosophy I’m signed up to; I think as Liberals we need to challenge the Right orthodoxy on economics and have an honest conversation about it. Why do we need to squeeze public spending to create a surplus to bail out the banks every time there’s a crash? Many economists say the problem isn’t public spending, its an economy that fuels mass consumption on credit, and sub-prime trading. I’d add that social inequality has a price (often not on Rightwing economists’ calculus). For some, the issue isn’t Jeremy Corbyn’s “quantitative easing for the people” that’s flawed, but the fact that the markets may not trust someone as Leftwing as him to not indulge in unlimited public spending, and that market nervousness will add pressure.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Sep '15 - 5:55pm

    David Evans is right that we all have our own “particular concerns”, but the problem is not just missing it out of a speech, but when our own “particular” or “pet” concerns are repeatedly ignored. My concern of instability in the Middle East and terrorism is mainstream. Tim bangs on about the migrants crisis, but seems unwilling to address the cause of it and just says “we should let more in”. That’s all he has to say on it. François Hollande is being a proper world leader in dealing with both the cause and the effects.

    The public are broadly with me on this too. Most people don’t believe the solution is just to be pro migrant and refugee.

  • Eddie Sammon, I do believe that we should give sanctuary to those fleeing war and tyranny. However this crisis is unprecedented in the sheer volume of people who are arriving. I would willingly open my front door to someone seeking sanctuary and I would even do so for, say five people. But what if 100 people knocked on my door needing refuge? That is the problem we are facing.

    We need to find safe havens for these people because Europe cannot cope with the massive numbers of people needing refuge all at once. But for that we would need real statesmen and women and in Europe we simply don’t have anyone who will take the lead and offer bold, radical solutions. John Major and Gordon Brown could have provided such leadership – and did – in their time. Cameron, Corbyn, Farron, no chance.

  • I like Tim and wish him well in his role as leader but to those like me who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and felt cheated this was disappointing to say the least. Clegg should never be thanked for ruining the party but he was and with such gusto. Very sad.

  • That was the best leaders speech since Jo Grimmond in 1961. It was not perfect nothing in life ever is and you cannot please all of the people all of the time. But it has been well received by both the left and right wing media writers. Once the first 5 minutes were over it was passionate and seemed to come from the heart. He needs to keep it up and gradually things will come round. Interesting to see the local election results in say 2-3 weeks time. Say that period because most pleople vote by post in local elections and they will be receiving their postal votes about now so any impact the speech makes will presumably register at this time.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Sep '15 - 7:53pm

    Thanks Phyllis. I mostly agree. I need to have a break though because I’m slipping back into my bad old days into a state of near constant frustration.

  • A very clever skilful speech delivered with passion and heart.

    For those who (like me) come from a position of being very critical of the former regime I say this : it was a speech HE HAD TO MAKE at this stage in his leadership to keep everyone together. It would have been so easy to slag the old guard off (I could have written it for him) – and then seen the headlines ‘LIB DEMS SPLIT’ in tomorrow’s press. The real test will come with time as we see how he develops policy in a more radical direction.

    At this stage it’s…..’ Job Done’ ….. and done with some style, humour and passion. I await developments of what comes over the next twelve months.

  • Eddie – it is OK not to know what you think about an issue. The only time in my adult life that I have not been a member of the Liberal Party/Liberal Democrats was as a result of the first Gulf War which I believed should have been an operation controlled by the United Nations. For some years afterwards I felt I had probably been wrong, and then came 9/11 and I started to read a lot about Arab and middle eastern history. As a result of my reading I knew that the western invasion of Iraq was madness, but I didn’t know what the alternative should have been. When the ‘arab spring’ demonstrations started in Syria my heart was with them, but my head said that Assad was the only hope for stability. No matter how much, or how little, we know about a situation the truth s that we are virtually powerless to affect the outcome. You have a lot of friends on here, Eddie: step back and accept that sometimes uncertainty is more valid than having a dogmatic view.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Sep '15 - 9:13pm

    Many thanks tonyhill. 🙂

  • *Blush*

  • SIMON BANKS 23rd Sep '15 - 9:47pm

    The atmosphere was like a Revival meeting. Very appropriate given Tim’s brand of religion, but also the Liberal Democrat need to reassert our basic values, heart and commitment.

  • No, Phyllis, 100 people knocking on your door is not the size of the refugee problem. The size is around 50 people per District.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Sep '15 - 10:34am

    Stephen Robinson

    No, Phyllis, 100 people knocking on your door is not the size of the refugee problem. The size is around 50 people per District.

    As Tim Farron says, these people faced miserable lives in places torn apart by warfare, with a conflict in which both sides are led by people who seem to delight in inflicting violence. Of course when one hears what they say, one wants to say “Come here, we can offer you a better life”.

    The problem for me is that there are hundreds of millions of people across the world facing miserable lives, lives where they are oppressed by cruel leaders, lives where you cannot do or say what you want for fear of the consequences. Anyone who is gay in large parts of the world. Anyone who is critical of conventional Islam in large parts of the world. Anyone who is rude about the leader of their country in large parts of the world. There are many horrible conflicts going on, which decent people would want to flee from to live in a country which is peaceful and tolerant. And if we follow the emotional line that is given here, that Liberal Democrats have cheered Tim Farron for giving, we should invite them all here. Don’t make them risk their lives to get here, and only then offer them shelter etc.

    Well, then it would not be 100, it would be 1000 or maybe 10,000. That’s the real dilemma. There is no easy answer to it. It is wrong to pretend there is.

  • I learnt in my youth, during David Steel’s years as Liberal Party Leader, to judge our leaders by what they do and pretty much ignore what they say. Clegg, in particular, very much reinforced my view. So, whilst I have no intention of listening to Tim’s words, I have read them. All that I can say is that I completely agree with what David Raw says above. Tim said what he had to say. I understand and applaud him for doing so even if, in the unlikely event he knew I existed, he would no doubt put me in the group whom he thinks wanted him to trash the Coalition. There are plenty of us willing to trash the Coalition Tim, there’s no need for you to.

    This side of electoral reform, I never expect any UK liberal party to be as radical as I would like to see it being. However, I do hope that we can now move beyond the state of denial much of the party still appears to be in over what a disgraceful disaster the coalition was and start to re-build the party from the bottom up, with as much blue water as possible between the party and the Orange Bookers attempted take over.

  • Neil Sandison 24th Sep '15 - 11:07am

    David Raw agree with your analysis .United all sections of party regarding the challenges ahead .identified key themes and was outward looking and encouraged new recruits to join the Liberal Democrats .Armies march better to the sound of gun fire if they believe in their generals and the mission is a just cause .

  • I understand Phil Rimmer and David Raw’s reasoning. There is much to be said for it. However, in steering away from the Scylla of a party split, I fear Tim has sailed toward the Charybdis of a permanent centre-right identity for the Liberal Democrats.

    What is the evidence that the Tories are any worse now that they are on their own? They didn’t introduce a raised minimum wage until they were on their own in government. It may well be that the Tories now feel a little more inclined to implement a few mildly “leftist” policies, simply because they no longer risk the Lib Dems coming along and seeking to take the credit for them!

    What could Tim have said better to hold the party together? During the leadership campaign, he had a neat little line that he thought “history would look kindly” on Clegg. This signalled both a wish to avoid argument and a desire to strike a new and independent course. I fear that the very explicit recognition Farron has now given Clegg indicates that he is not yet truly the master within his own household. For the avoidance of doubt, this comment is not intended as a sexist reference. It’s the grandparents, the old retainers, the funds managers and the team of bright young graduate estates advisors who we should be worried about!

  • Like wise, I can see your point David Allen. The thing is, the party needs to sort out it’s internal problems over Coalition if we are to have any chance at all of convincing the electorate that we are not simply Tory Lite.

    Worse still, in my experience, we have a larger problem amongst some of our former voters. With specific reference to students loans and the bedroom tax, there are many who believe that our “dishonesty” in coalition makes us worse then the Tories, who they have always known want to shaft them. Tim needs to lead a very different party, in a very different way, in order to impact on those voters.

  • Denis Loretto 24th Sep '15 - 5:27pm

    In a recent thread I pointed to the remarkably positive reaction from a packed auditorium for Nick Clegg’s conference speech and said that it reinforced in my mind how unrepresentative much of the comment in LDV about Clegg has been throughout the coalition period. The anti-Cleggites may claim they have been reflecting what they see as general public opinion but they have clearly not been reflecting Lib Dem activist opinion. “Let’s hope Tim Farron gets better treatment from the LDV aficionados”, I avowed. Here in this thread we have clear signs of the same old same old emerging from some quarters. There will be lots of time and space to examine and sometimes criticise specific policies advocated and actions taken by Tim Farron but give the guy a chance. How anyone of liberal persuasion can fail to recognise that he surmounted the difficult challenge of his first conference speech quite superbly I really fail to understand. I have experienced even more Lib Dem leaders’ speeches than Mark Pack and I am totally with him on this.

  • Denis Loretto

    Well of course Clegg got a good reaction from the activists – they are the ones left after the Party lost 20,000 centre-left Lib Dems in 2010 not to mention the thousands of councillors and staff who lost their jobs , female activists and their friends and families et al. What’s left is the Clegg Fan Club with a few sensible exceptions who post on here.

  • Peter Watson 24th Sep '15 - 6:41pm

    @Phyllis “they are the ones left after the Party lost 20,000 centre-left Lib Dems in 2010”
    In many ways that sums up Farron’s dilemma. If he tries to regain those people he risks failing if they decide to take a punt on Corbyn while at the same time alienating the “Clegg Fan Club”, resulting in an even smaller party.
    Farron will have to walk a pretty fine line. Perhaps in his speech he wobbled slightly on the wrong side of it, but we will have to judge him by his actions over the next few months/years.

  • @Phyllis: “We need to find safe havens for these people because Europe cannot cope with the massive numbers of people needing refuge all at once.”

    Tough. Europe will just have to cope regardless. One in five people in Lebanon are refuges if that has to happen to the UK too then that will just be what has to happen. These people should all get a free pass to the UK, France, the USA and our gulf allies. We will need to be the ones that feed, clothe and house them all.

    This is what happens when you destroy other people’s countries by bombing their government troops or filling their country with weapons by arming “rebels”. Those countries become unstable messes and the refugees become the problem of those who helped cause the mess. It’s a bit like Karma really, the law of cause and effect.

    I honestly do not know what our country was thinking when we decided it was a good idea to offer air cover to the “rebels” so they could overthrow Gaddafi. Who in their right mind could have doubted that toppling a stable regime in that part of the world, or flooding countries like Syria with weapons would have bad consequences? The Assad regime looked like it was winning a few years ago until some of our allies in the gulf decided to give Islamist rebels anti-tank rockets and other heavy weapons. Karma will bite them too.

    “Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
    I do not believe it can be done.

    The universe is sacred.
    You cannot improve it.
    If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
    If you try to hold it, you will lose it.” – The Dao De Jing

  • Nick Collins 24th Sep '15 - 9:04pm

    @ Denis Loretto

    Your loyalty is touching, but, I’m sorry to say that:

    The party’s over
    It’s time to call it day
    They’ve burst your pretty balloon
    And taken the moon away

  • George Kendall 24th Sep '15 - 9:38pm

    @Peter Watson “In many ways that sums up Farron’s dilemma. … Farron will have to walk a pretty fine line. Perhaps in his speech he wobbled slightly on the wrong side of it, but we will have to judge him by his actions over the next few months/years.”

    I don’t agree. I think Tim Farron will find leading a united party will be relatively easy.

    I had the privilege, over several years before 2015, or travelling to many local parties around the country, and speaking to very many members, perhaps thousands, on the phone. I was struck at how united the party was. There were the occasional one or two who were very unhappy – they those conversations stick in the memory – but that’s because they were so unusual. As this was at a time when the party was having to make appallingly difficult choices, I was surprised, and impressed, at how loyal the party membership were.

    The party leaders who have a nightmare problem of party unity are David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn.

    Tim’s challenges are enormous, but they are different.

  • Mark Wright

    It was “the usual suspects” on here who were proved right in May 2015.

    Some of the new joiners don’t have “the detestation of Nick Clegg” that we do but the vast majority of the British public do. When will you wake up to this? When the Party is down to 7 MPs? 6MPs? 1 MP?

  • David Evans 25th Sep '15 - 9:36am

    Lester, You are right. That is why we need people like you (who knows a lot about it) to remind people like me (who doesn’t) the things we need to keep our eye on and where we need to improve. Long may you continue to do it.

  • Kevin McNamara 26th Sep '15 - 2:38pm

    Not sure why Tim has to trash the coalition in his speech. His opponents will do that for us, and attacking your own record will not win you an election. Stupid and self-defeating, and yes I have to say it, from the usual suspects.

  • A Social Liberal 26th Sep '15 - 3:07pm


    Both the destruction of Gadaffis air and armour and the removal of Saddam had the end result of saving a people from those dictators. That our governments did not think about the post war situation speaks much of the present miasma in both countries.

    Of course we could play the little Englander and just let dictators get on with their genocides, but what does that say of our humanity?

  • David Evans 27th Sep '15 - 3:41pm

    Kevin, What was stupid and self defeating was pretending over the last five years that we never did anything wrong, the voters were misguided and anyone saying otherwise was not grown up. It resulted in us losing catastrophically on every front. Pretending we can just carry on ignoring what the voters told us and are still telling us will just lead us into further decline and ultimate oblivion. Some of us want to avoid that. “The usual suspects” just want to carry on regardless in denial of their culpability.

    What we need now is a strategy to get those voters back and back soon. Tim has started on this journey and has set out a vision of what we want to achieve. Don’t try to persuade him to try to get there by following the old failed path.

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