Tim Farron backs strikes on Isis in Syria: ‘This is not Iraq’

Tim Farron, March 2011 by Liberal Democrats

In a surprise twist the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has backed airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria, claiming that the situation is not akin to the one that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Farron had previously set out five tests that would have to be met before he supported prime minister David Cameron’s plans to drop bombs in Syria, stressing the legality of such a move and whether it would be supported by other measures.

Continue Reading

Tim Farron fixates on Britain’s housing crisis as Lib Dem conference draws to close

Tim Farron at Lib Dem Conference, September 2015

Fleet Street’s political hacks have treated the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth this week as something of a joke, noting that the party has a mere eight MPs following a crushing defeat in the polls at May.

Yet as Tim Farron seeks to turn the party around positioning will be key, and a first political party broadcast from the new leader may well set the tone for the coming months and years in opposition:

Farron has long been placed on the social democratic side of the party, as opposed to the more classically liberal side occupied by previous leader Nick Clegg as his cohort known as the Orange Bookers.

As such the new leader’s bid to focus on Britain’s ongoing housing crisis is more in keeping with his flank, with the video emphasising Farron’s softly spoken approach with phrases such as “a level of housing need” in place of franker expression.

Whether the Lib Dems would build 300,000 houses even if they were in power is debatable – much of Britain is wrapped up in excessive planning laws regarding listed buildings, protected views and green belts – but the focus is interesting.

This week Farron has promised to move his party into the space he believes has been vacated by Labour under its hard left leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Unfortunately he must also work to disassociate his party from the Tories, whose toxicity ensured many lefties switched from voting Lib Dem to Labour or Greens, helping to seal mass losses in South West England and South London.

Farron’s belief that his party could be back in power by 2020 is at odds with Menzies Campbell, who puts the recovery at ten years. But at least for the party both assume the much rumoured extinction of the Lib Dems is overhyped.

Image Credit – Tim Farron at Lib Dem Conference, September 2015

Tim Farron hints at possible Labour defections to Lib Dems after Corbyn victory

Tim Farron, October 2014 by the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron revealed he has been in conversation with a number of Labour luminaries following the elevation of hard left MP Jeremy Corbyn to the head of the party.

Over last weekend Farron had apparently fielded calls from a number of leading Labourites, perhaps including frontbench MPs, in discussions that made him feel like an “agony aunt”.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, he said:

“I’ve had various unsolicited texts, some of them over the weekend, where I felt like I was being an agony aunt rather than anything else. People who have been members of the [Labour] party for as long as I’ve been a member of mine who feel that they don’t recognise their party anyone and feel deeply distressed.”

He added:

“The bottom line is…people in the Labour Party need to understand they can have conversations with me, which may or may not be conclusive, which will remain totally between me and them.”

The Lib Dem leader, who was elected in July in a closely fought contest with Norman Lamb, also said that he saw an opportunity to move into the centre now that Labour has steered to the left under Corbyn.

This is despite the party’s destructive general election that left the party with a mere eight MPs, with many progressives dismayed abandoning the party over its support for university tuition fees, and some even branding the Liberals “Yellow Tories”.

Although Farron’s comments hint at potential defections, in another interview this week he was reluctant to discuss defections or a potential Labour split reminiscent of that which created the Social Democratic Party, which saw four leading figures from Labour peel off into a more centrist unit.

Farron told BuzzFeed that it was “far too soon” to discuss such a split, adding on the subject of potential defections: “That’s not something I’m wanting to talk about particularly, that’s an internal matter for them.”

Image Credit – Tim Farron, October 2014 by the Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron holds milk, looks aggrieved, causes much confusion

Tim Farron holding milk

Every politician should have a concerned face, and whatever one thinks of Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron he certainly knows how to look suitably aggrieved.

Of course with such powers of facial expression one must use them wisely, lest some uncharitable soul leak unused pictures to the press of you holding dairy items for no explicable reason.

Thankfully the Farron was on hand shortly afterwards to explain a scandal literally nobody is calling Milkgate.

Still, the ability to look suitably aggrieved on cue could prove useful should the Libs’ poll ratings fail to improve over the next few years.

Image Credit – Tim Farron holding milk via Marie Le Conte

Lib Dems join peerage frenzy after campaigning for Lords reform

Westminster Old Palace Yard, 1911 by Charles Flower

The Liberal Democrats scooped up a raft of honours and peerages on Thursday for MPs kicked out of Parliament in the general election and donors to the party, despite previously campaigning to turn the Lords into an elected body.

Chief among the new lords is former business secretary Vince Cable, whose defenestration from his Commons seat in Twickenham at the general election by 2,000 votes was seen by many as the apex of the party’s destruction on that night.

He is joined by deputy leader and former Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce, former Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Alan Beith, former Hazel Grove MP Andrew Stunell, and former Bath MP Don Foster, all of whom stepped down before the general election, thus avoiding the rout the other members suffered.

Lynne Featherstone, who held her Commons seat in Hornsey and Wood Green for a decade until she lost by more than 10,000 votes to Labour MP Catherine West earlier this year, will also be made a peer.

Also recognised in the honours was Danny Alexander, second to chancellor George Osborne throughout the coalition government, who was turfed out by more than 10,000 vote in his Commons seat in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, but will now be a knight.

Such appointments will fuel suspicion that since its reform under Labour prime minister Tony Blair the Lords and the honours system is regularly abused to empower politicians rejected by voters, as well as invite allegations of hypocrisy upon the Liberal Democrats.

Government guidelines state the wider honours system is intended to recognised those that “made achievements in public life” or “committed themselves to serving and helping Britain”, though ostensibly it recognises those that helped whichever parties happened to be in power at the time.

In a statement Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems, said:

“Liberal Democrats are committed to root and branch reform of the House of Lords. Today’s appointments introduce a new wave of Lib Dems determined to fight for change.”

Among the benefits of being a Lord are a £150 or £300 stipend that can be claimed for attending a session in the chamber, as well as the opportunity to influence and delay legislation as it passes up from the Commons for review.

At present the Lords numbers 781, making it the second largest legislative body behind the National People’s Congress in China, a rubber stamping chamber that numbers 2,987, for a nation of more than 1.3bn people.

With these additional peers the Lords will number 826, for a nation of 64m.

Image Credit – Westminster Old Palace Yard, 1911 by Charles Flower