UK Politics

Liberal Democrat leadership: Tim Farron confirms his bid

Tim Farron Image copyright Getty Images

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron has confirmed he will stand in the party's leadership election, saying he believes it "must be saved".

Mr Farron, a former party president, was one of the eight Lib Dems who held on to their seats in the election.

Nick Clegg quit as leader after losing almost 50 MPs in last Thursday's vote. His successor will be elected in July.

Former Health Minister Norman Lamb has already said he will also run for the leadership.

'Liberal force'

Mr Farron confirmed his move on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, saying: "I believe that this party not only can be saved but must be saved."

He told the programme he wanted the Lib Dems to be a "liberal" and "tolerant" force in British politics.

Referencing Conservative pledges to cut the welfare budget, scrap the Human Rights Act and introduce what he dubbed a "snoopers' charter", Mr Farron said "there has never been more need for a liberal voice".

Of his own party's fortunes, he added: "We know that we have fallen an awful long way short of where we want to be, but absolutely Britain needs a liberal voice now more than it ever has.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tim Farron already has the backing of the party's Scottish and Welsh leaders

"And I am determined that, fuelled by a sense of desire for justice, belief in the rightness of our cause, I can inspire us to come back to the centre of British politics."

Mr Farron already has the backing of Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie and his Welsh counterpart, Kirsty Williams.

In a joint statement earlier this week, they said Mr Farron was the right person to "inspire" and lead the party.

'Critical moment'

Mr Farron, the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP who stood down as party president in 2014, said the decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 "was always going to be hugely damaging to the party".

But he maintained it was "absolutely the right thing to do for the national interest".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Norman Lamb said trust in the party had been "undermined"

Mr Farron says on his newly-launched campaign website: "This is a critical moment for our party.

"The general election was won by the politics of fear. We suffered a heavy defeat. Now we face the fight of our life: to prove we are relevant to people across the country, to show them what we believe and why we matter.

"We have to be clear about the values that set us apart."

'Absolutely radical'

Mr Farron also said that he had no plans to change the party's name.

He told Today: "I think rebranding ourselves, repositioning ourselves is very important. We've got to be absolutely radical about that but 18 months of a constitutional wrangle as we Tipp-Ex out a couple of words and add in another one in the constitution strikes me as a bit of a waste of time."

Launching his own campaign on Tuesday, Mr Lamb said he had "never shrunk away from a challenge" and that he wanted to work to restore trust in the party "undermined" in recent years.

He added: "It's critically important that we reconnect and... have an effective advocate for what modern liberalism is all about."

Several senior party figures, including former Liberal leader Lord Steel, have warned it could take decades for the party to recover from its worst election result in its history.

Nominations for leader will open on 13 May and close on 3 June. Ballot papers will be sent out on 24 June and must be returned by 15 July. The winner will be declared on 16 July.

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