John Leech: Why I'm supporting Tim Farron for Party Leader


 

In the end, the election results were far worse than the Liberal Democrats had hoped or expected.

We always knew it would be difficult where we were facing Labour, like here in Manchester. But our private polling was better than the Ashcroft polls and we hoped that those that hadn't turned out in local elections would support us nationally. We also expected Tories to vote for us tactically, and the Greens to take votes away from Labour.

Holding the seat was a big ask, but we were hoping to win Council seats, even if we were unable to win the parliamentary. In the end the swing back to Labour was as large as when I had gained the seat in 2005.

Perceived wisdom in the party and in the polls was that we would fair better against the Tories. After all, we were in coalition with them. But the Tories and the SNP symbiotic relationship benefitted both, as did the unwinding of tactical votes borrowed from Labour at the last election.

So where next for the party now? There seem to be two candidates for the leadership, Norman Lamb and Tim Farron.

Both are outstanding MPs and both would make great leaders.

Norman was an excellent care minister, consistently on top of his brief and giving a high profile for the Party's commitment to extra Mental Health support.

Tim has converted the ultra-marginal seat he won in 2005 in Westmorland and Lonsdale into a Lib Dem fortress, while at the same time he criss-crossed the country as Party President giving support and raising money for local parties across the UK.

 

I will be supporting Tim, because in my view he is the person who will reinvigorate the party workers and re-engage with the millions of voters who deserted the party last week. Having been outside of Government over the last 5 years, Tim is best placed to distance the party from some of the damaging compromises that we were forced to make in coalition.

I would also offer him one piece of advice. No talk of coalition. We need a radical liberal agenda and clear policies to set the party apart from the other parties. I think that in the election a lot of voters were asking the question "What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?" They saw the choice as being a Tory Government or a Labour Government, propped up by the SNP.

While I have no doubt that over the next 5 years people will see what a difference the Liberal Democrats made in Government when compared to the new Tory Government, we need to be clear that we will not enter a coalition with either Labour or the Tories.

You may expect me to say that, as one of only two MP's who did not vote to go into coalition in 2010. However, if we are to recover, we need to be a radical and distinctive voice, rather than act as a human shield to protect the popularity of the other parties.


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