UK Politics

Lib Dems 'must return to roots', says Tim Farron

Tim Farron Image copyright Getty Images

The Liberal Democrats must "return to our roots" if the party is to win back voters' support, leader Tim Farron has told the party's spring conference.

He said the Lib Dems had too often tried to emulate the Conservatives and Labour, warning that Westminster was a "beguiling place".

Mr Farron urged activists to focus on community politics to find their "path back to power", in a speech in York.

The party was reduced from 57 to eight MPs at the 2015 general election.

Its election defeat triggered the resignation of then-leader Nick Clegg, and the party lost its status as the third largest party in Parliament - a mantle now held by the SNP.

'Path to power'

Speaking on the final day of the Lib Dem spring conference, Mr Farron told members he was "dead proud" that the Lib Dems "put country before party" by entering into government with the Conservatives in 2010.

"But were the seeds of our setback in May sown many years before? Because Westminster can be a beguiling place," he said.

"When you are there, there's constant temptation to try and be like everyone else," he said.

"We arrive in the big league on our terms. But we too often attempt to remain on theirs," he warned, and appealed to his party: "We must return to our roots.

"No matter the office, always remaining true to our instincts.

"It's time to focus not on parliamentary games, but on real life. It's time we got back to community politics."

Image caption Vince Cable - who lost his seat at the 2015 election - will lead a review of business tax for the party

Mr Farron also used his speech to call for tax reform ahead of Wednesday's Budget, accusing the government of "fawning" over big business at the expense of small businesses.

"Google and Facebook can negotiate with the tax office for months, yet small businesses can't even get through on the phone," he said.

And he suggested: "Instead of government fawning over the multinationals how about putting small business at the centre of our business economy."

Mr Farron announced that he had appointed former Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable would lead an expert panel looking at ways to "radically reform" business taxation.

On Sunday's Andrew Marr Show, Chancellor George Osborne defended the controversial £130m tax deal Google reached with HMRC, branded as "derisory" by critics.

He said the government was raising money from Google and Facebook unlike before adding: "I think that is a success."

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