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Lib Dem conference: Tim Farron discovers his coalicious side

23 September 2012

Distinctive not destructive — that’s Tim Farron’s view on how the Liberal Democrats can redefine themselves within government. Speaking to the New Statesman after his muted conference speech today, the Lib Dem president blamed the media’s narrow perception of the coalition for a misunderstanding of their partnership with the Tories. Tantalisingly, he made reference to a potential partnership elsewhere:

‘We’re either seen as cats in a sack or having a love-in. No one seems able to understand that this is a just a business arrangement…a relationship that could exist with another party’

Sadly, Farron made no reference to whom exactly that might be with. He did admit that the rose-garden had caused problems for his party but felt it was necessary to overcome the ‘great fear’ of forming a coalition.


On the whole, Farron was unrestrained with his attacks on Labour. When asked what would be different under a Lab-Lib coalition, he shot back that the government would have spent £100bn replacing Trident and the nation would be enduring 10 per cent interest rates and massive unemployment ‘thanks to Ed Balls’. Farron’s left-wing credentials makes such a Labour attack more credible than those of Orange Book Lib Dems. Plus he’s not on the government’s payroll so has no line to follow.

Farron sensibly avoided leadership questions, after his bombastic speech at last year. He did state he was ‘massively disappointed’ that the Cameroon project had ‘failed’ and the Prime Minister had ‘the most to worry about of any party leader’ as he does not ‘have the support of most of his MPs’.

He was also enthusiastic about Boris Johnson, stating he has ‘played everything like a pro’ and his personality reminds him of Ronald Regan combined with Alex Salmond. Given the topic of Boris’ Telegraph column — twenty reasons to support Nick Clegg as as ‘natural Tory’ — Farron may be swiftly changing his opinion.

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  • Maidmarrion

    Is there a Lib Dem conference on?
    Is the Spectator the only publication to notice?
    How many articles??
    BTW a privately pretty much unpublicised rally for Scottish Independence took place under the shadow of Edinburgh castle on Saturday .Despite it being a holiday weekend about 8,000 marchers attended with saltires ,lion rampants and banners waving .Under a saltire blue sky we listened to many excellent speeches and some wonderful songs .
    The amazing mix of ages was most gratifying to this attendee as she fully expected to be among the oldest but no!Those attending came from wide spectrum of political belief and non belief but all believe in a Scotland which can do better when in charge of its own affairs.
    An excellent and good humoured day was had by all – even during the arrest of a would be disrupter and his pals.
    Amazingly Russia Today carries a report and photographs of an event to stir the heart of a nation!
    Now where was your “Scottish correspondent”? Busy tilting at windmills and the First Minister no doubt.

  • Daniel Maris

    Farron is certainly the bottom of a deep barrel.

    Still… cometh the hour…

    I really do think we are heading for some serious crises. When you hit a crisis, the price of bullsh*t goes falls through the floor and the price of cojones soars.

    But I’d far rather have far-sighted politicians who steer us away from the rocks in good time. Sadly, HMG keep heading for the rocks.

    • Daniel Maris

      As a coda: take a look-listen to this. This is the plain speaking that the age requires:

      Probably the best polemic on this subject you will hear for many a month and maybe a year.

  • David Lindsay

    Earlier this year, Vince Cable, the frontrunner
    at this week’s Conference to anoint a new Lib Dem Leader, called
    for significant repatriation of power from the EU. His more lately proposed
    industrial policy is wholly incompatible with the Eurofederalist project.

    Many of the old SDP have come to be far more
    critical of the EU as the last decades of progressed. Like Cable, they have
    realised that the apostles and prophets of post-War Keynesian Labourism –
    Ernest Bevin, Herbert Morrison, Hugh Gaitskell, Douglas Jay, Anthony Crosland,
    Peter Shore, Bryan Gould – were not “right about everything apart from
    Europe”. They were also right about Europe, and their entire vision is
    incomprehensible apart from that insight.

    From the Right, defined in terms of economics,
    the rival candidate appears to be Ed Davey. Like David Heath, Norman Lamb,
    Alistair Carmichael and David Laws, Davey is of that rising generation of Lib
    Dems who are no fans of the EU, either. The Party President, Tim Farron, an
    economically left-wing and socially quite conservative and an adult convert to
    Christianity, is of similar mind, while, among the veterans, the Deputy Leader,
    Simon Hughes, abstained over Maastricht and remains no less lukewarm, while Sir
    Nick Harvey went so far as to vote against Maastricht, and no one need imagine
    that, on this or on anything else, his knighthood has bought him off since his
    confinement to the backbenches.

    Hitherto, mild to strong Eurosceptics have kept
    quiet within the Liberal Democrats. They have probably assumed that they were a
    tiny minority. But I bet that they are not. In fact, I bet that they are not
    really a minority at all. Vicious campaigners though they very often are, Lib
    Dems believe profoundly in the election, sensibly or otherwise, of everyone who
    exercises any sort of power. In absolute openness and freedom of information,
    prudent or otherwise.

    They believe in the highest possible degree of
    decentralisation and localism, appropriate or otherwise. In the heritage of
    uncompromising opposition to political extremism everywhere from Moscow to
    Pretoria abroad, and from the Communist Party to the Monday Club at home, which
    must logically also mean from the coalitions in the Council of Ministers to
    floor of the European Parliament.

    In (unlike me) the tradition of
    anti-protectionism against everyone from nineteenth-century agricultural Tories
    to 1970s industrial trade unionists. In the rural Radicalism that has always
    stood against the pouring of lucre into the pockets of the landlords. And in
    the interests of the arc of Lib Dem fishing seats from Cornwall to the
    Highlands and Islands via North Norfolk, Berwick, and North East Fife.

    And now, they are on course for something not
    seen in a major party since Labour in 1980, namely a Leadership Election
    featuring only Eurosceptical candidates. Ed Miliband, somewhere between Healey
    and Shore or Silkin in 1980 terms, you need to up your game on this, as you
    have been dropping distinct hints towards doing. Surrounded by Ed Balls, Jon Cruddas
    and Maurice Glasman, that ought not to be difficult.

  • Archimedes

    It makes me grin to see Tim Farron say “he was ‘massively disappointed’ that the Cameroon project had ‘failed’” – incidentally, why has the left taken to using “massive” or “massively” to describe everything these days? I first noticed Roweena Davis doing it a year or so ago, but now it seems to be the favourite catch-word of every left-winger when they find themselves in a situation where they’re poorly positioned for stringing together a sentence that actually makes sense…and so “massive” it is.

    • Archimedes

      I suppose it just makes them, like, feel more at home with the illiterate and, like, on the same level.

      • Noa

        Answering your own question..isn’t that a bit like drinking your own bathwater?:-))

        • Archimedes

          So what you’re saying is that Nicomachean Ethics was basically Aristotle bottling up his own dirt-ridden bathwater and drinking it over a period of several months? Interesting analogy…

          • Noa

            Ummm- thinking out of the bath, it could have been bottled before use….

  • Daniel Maris

    These conference articles are really annoying when there are important developments going on affecting the life of our country – mass immigration, economic recession, a European constitutiuonal crisis, gathering war clouds in the Middle East…

    • 2trueblue

      Well said. But rather like the current day politicians there is very little quality around.

    • 2trueblue

      Well said. But then like our present day politicians, there is very little quality around.

    • Noa

      Far easier to fiddle whilst Athens, if not Rome yet, burns…

  • james102

    The latest YouGov poll puts them on 8% with Ukip, no need
    for anyone to go into coalition with them as they will hardly exist after the

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