Election 2017

Tim Farron: Local parties can decide whether to stand

Tim Farron Image copyright PA

Tim Farron says he is "relaxed" about local Lib Dem parties choosing not to stand against other candidates to avoid splitting the anti-Tory vote.

The local party in Brighton Pavilion had the "democratic right" not to oppose Green co-leader Caroline Lucas for her former seat, he says.

But the Lib Dem leader says he will not engage in any pacts, deals or coalition with other parties after the election.

He says Lib Dems would unlock £100bn by keeping Britain in the single market.

Mr Farron was quizzed about his thoughts on local party arrangements following ex-business secretary Sir Vince Cable's assertion that he would find it "difficult to vote against" a Labour candidate whose views were "very close" to his own.

Fellow Lib Dem, the Richmond Park candidate Sarah Olney also suggested the use of "paper candidates" or "not campaigning".

In Brighton Pavilion, the Lib Dems have agreed not to field a candidate in a bid to get Ms Lucas re-elected.

Mr Farron said he was "an admirer" of Ms Lucas and believed it was "up to local parties to make those decisions".

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Media captionA member of the public asked Tim Farron why he was "campaigning against" leaving the EU

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What I've been very clear about is the Liberal Democrats will engage in no pacts, no deals - there will be no coalition involving the Lib Dems with Labour or Conservatives or any other party following the election.

"The local party in Brighton made a choice as is their democratic right to choose to withdraw in order to support Caroline Lucas. I've always been a fan of Caroline Lucas and I'm relaxed about that decision."

Mr Farron side-stepped questions about his view on Sir Vince's claim that if he were voting in Ealing Central and Acton he would find it hard not to back Labour candidate Rupa Huq.

Instead he insisted that like Sir Vince he was "a pluralist, not a tribalist" and recalled sharing a battle bus during the EU referendum campaign with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, London's Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, Ms Lucas and other parties.

But Mr Farron said unlike Labour and Conservative plans "to take Britain out of the single market" which is "costing the taxpayer £100bn", the Lib Dems would fight for Britain to remain, which would mean "we have the money we need to spend on our schools and hospitals".

This cash would contribute to the party's plan to plough £7bn into schools and colleges, he said.

He refused to be drawn on whether he would step down if he did not achieve his ambition of doubling the number of Lib Dem MPs from nine to 18.

"As if I'm thinking about the ninth of June now," he said.

"My view is entirely fixed on the next four weeks - leading the Liberal Democrats, being the real opposition, the real alterative to a Conservative government that is taking the British people for granted."

Mr Farron said he predicted the 8 June general election would result in "a Conservative landslide", adding "there's no point in pretending otherwise".

But he claimed the Lib Dems had "fire in our belly and a clarity of purpose" to fill "the real vacancy in British politics and that's for there to be a decent opposition".