Tim Farron and I have only exchanged messages and tweets, but somehow I have the sense of him being a kindred spirit. He is the sort of political figure I like and, believe me, there are very few of his type around—certainly ones that have gone on to become a leader of a political party. Tim is radical, compassionate, caring, straight talking, never afraid to speak his mind and is a reformer. Those are rare qualities in today’s politicians—there’s nothing safety first about him!
At the turn of the year my interest in politics was switched on again fully as the general election loomed. The obvious inevitability of the impending disaster, as took place on 7th May, troubled me greatly having been present from the outset of the great venture between the SDP and the Liberals in 1981. Many, apparently, were moved to tears by Nick Clegg’s resignation speech. I am sorry to say that only served to compound my anger and will be the subject of a future blog.
I have known at close hand every leader and many senior politicians in the Labour Party, Liberals, SDP and Liberal Democrats from the early 1960s to 1992, and I can honestly say that it is rare to have come across someone like Tim Farron. His passion, care for others who are less fortunate and campaigning zeal are inspiring—and his principles, values and beliefs are motivational. Indeed, a true liberal and a proud Liberal Democrat.
To me, Tim combines the three values that define the Liberal Democrats—a classic and social liberal as well as a social democrat. As I have intimated in earlier blogs, that is the tradition I am happy to espouse—having been brought up in a Lab/Lib environment and argued for the principles of social democracy even when a Labour MP.
So the fightback and renewal has started, although it actually begun as 17,000 people joined (or maybe re-joined) the party. It was further nurtured by the very open, generous and fulsome leadership contest. Here I have to mention Norman Lamb, whom I have never come across, but through various channels kept in touch with his campaign. He is clearly a person of conviction, humanity and compassion too.
There is obvious excitement in the party, which is truly remarkable bearing in mind what has happened in the last five years and where we ended up on 7th May. That excitement, to a good part, can be attributed to the character of Tim Farron because we all know that the ‘shackles’ have now been broken—not just the ones that tied us down in the coalition period, but also the constraints present for some years about shouting loudly and clearly what the Liberal Democrats stand for. Everyone knows that Tim will be the true voice of our principles and values.
There is much hard work facing us all under Tim’s leadership and we must rebuild the party’s base and organisation at community, constituency, regional and UK levels. Things can change quite quickly in politics, and although it will be a hard long road back—it will happen, because for decades the British people have naturally been on the side of liberal and social democratic values. They have been yearning for things to change and desperate for their voices to be heard. They know that there is an urgent need for a better and fairer democracy with more equality.
Harold Wilson, someone I knew very well, once said as Prime Minister—‘a week is a long time in politics’. That is undoubtedly true because the twists and turns of politics are often sudden and unexpected. On the surface, all looks bleak but the discerning observer can envisage more twists and turns ahead than the conventional wisdom assumes. The Tory honeymoon period will soon come to an end when the reality of the budget begins to kick-in by mid to late autumn 2015.
There is a road back and we are on it right now. The signposts are clear for how best to arrive at our destination...