It looks like the starting pistol of the Lib Dem leadership race has been fired.
Tim Farron, a likely contender for the leadership, has assessed his party’s drastic election defeats, and called for it to stick to its values – which he calls “British values”.
He writes in the Indy:
The campaign north of the border by the SNP and south of the border by the Conservatives and Ukip played on ‘fear of the other’: they put up ‘Aunt Sallys’ to be blamed for every ill in our society: the English, the Scottish, immigrants and Europeans.
I reject that analysis completely. Britain does not need to be further divided – instead we need to unite behind the values we share in common: true British values of decency, respect, tolerance.
And these are not only British values, these are liberal values.
He also highlights a need to reach out to the party’s grassroots – usually its main weapon come election time – and rebuild the party “bottom-up, not top-down”.
Although he stops short of putting himself forward for the leadership, Farron is highly likely to run. His main competitor looks to be Norman Lamb, a former health minister who impressed in government and as an Orange Booker represents the right flank of the party – as opposed to Farron’s leftier stance.
A formidable opponent, but Farron is the frontrunner. Although he doesn’t give much away in his article, his focus on the party’s grassroots is key. He is well-known on what is labelled his “rubber tofu circuit” (he’s a vegetarian), and has shaken hands with more members – and spoken at more Lib Dem MPs’ constituency dinners – than probably any other figure in the party. He is very popular among the members, friendly on the doorstep, and has been principled in parliament.
Also, one former senior Lib Dem aide impresses on me the fact that he voted against raising tuition fees. Surely a great point of advantage for anyone pitching to take the Lib Dems forward.