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30 March 2017

Tim Farron: Brexit and Conservative rule are not inevitable

The Liberal Democrat leader says his party can stop "two massive calamities". 

By Tim Farron

Parties working together is a good thing, I’m open about that.  But I genuinely think the most effective thing I can do, in order to make sure that there is a progressive alternative to Conservatives, is to build the Liberal Democrats. Doing that, that’s what’s cost the Tory Party the Richmond by-election, that’s what’s cost them dozens of council seats in the last year-and-a-half. That is actually at the moment, the only plausible route to there not being a Conservative majority.  I’ll back that up by saying let’s look at the alternatives.

The SNP cannot gain more than one seat off the Tories, so it can’t be them. The Labour Party, the very fact that we’re having this conversation is proof of the fact that nobody, but nobody, thinks the Labour Party is in any position to make net gains from the Tories at all.  So  we are living with a Tory government for as long as we can see into the future, unless the Liberal Democrats, through our route, are able to bash the Tories to below a majority.  That is the only plausible route at the moment, for Tories losing their majority.

So I am doing progressive politics the biggest favour I can by strengthening my party, making it more attractive to people who are currently maybe remain voting, pro-market, moderate Conservatives, not for the protectionist wing.  Because I think that Theresa May’s got her own version of Momentum in taking over her party, just as ideological as the ones who run the Labour Party, by the way.  Indeed, of course, moderate people in the Labour Party as well, who feel that there must be an alternative to the Conservative government, particularly this Conservative government.

I often say that we face two massive calamities in this country. One is that we drop out of the European Union and the single market, with the enormous costs that will be for public services, quality of life, particularly for those on lower incomes, that’s calamity number one. Calamity number two is a Tory government until I’m elderly, so a quarter of a century or something like that.

Now I always say that and then I follow it up by saying I’m not prepared to accept either of those inevitabilities. I believe that we are in the strongest position to be able to prevent both of them. So it’s important you stare those threats in the face, acknowledge them as huge threats and then you’re not a fatalist. You decide, right, I’m not having this, let’s do something about it.

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As told to George Eaton

This article appears in the 29 Mar 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition