It’s us or Ukip, says Lib Dem contender Tim Farron

 

The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, has challenged British voters to choose between his party and Ukip at May’s polarising European elections – because they are the parties with the strongest views on Britain’s EU membership.

In an interview with The IoS in the run-up to next week’s Lib Dem spring conference, Mr Farron said that backing Labour or the Conservatives would be a “wasted vote”, as the parties are internally divided over the UK’s relationship with Europe.

Mr Farron said: “If you vote Ukip you will be making it very clear what you want, that you’re against being in the EU. If you vote Liberal Democrat, you’re making it very clear that you’re in favour of staying in the EU. If you vote Labour or Tory, no one will know what you meant.

“Do what you like in the local elections – I’m not necessarily asking you to make a party change for ever. In this election, though, there are only two votes that will register, only two votes that anyone will notice.”

Mr Farron defined Lib Dem success in the election as holding on to most of the party’s 12 current MEPs, which he claimed would show that the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, has “not got the public mood”. A recent YouGov poll suggested that the Lib Dems could lose all of those seats in May, while Ukip is increasingly hopeful of securing Britain’s exit from the EU in a possible membership referendum by 2017.

Mr Farron also admitted that the Lib Dems had “let down” Lord Chris Rennard, the Lib Dem peer at the centre of a sex scandal that has threatened to tear apart the party, and that there must be no further “gunboat diplomacy” over the row. A source close to Lord Rennard said last night that this was the first significant softening of the tough stance that the party leadership has shown towards a man who, for decades, was the top Lib Dem electoral strategist, but that the olive branch should have been proffered “long ago”.

Both the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, and Mr Farron demanded in January that Lord Rennard apologise over allegations of misconduct towards female party activists that surfaced in 2013. The QC behind the party’s investigation into the scandal, Alistair Webster, recommended that Lord Rennard apologise to the women even though his report showed that it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had done anything wrong.

Lord Rennard’s fellow Lib Dem peers are frustrated that mediation to settle the bloodbath in private has made slow progress and is unlikely to reach a resolution until after the May elections.

“The party going back in time, over a decade or more, has really not handled this well,” said Mr Farron. “I think we’ve let down not just the women involved, but Chris Rennard as well by allowing this to fester.”

Mr Farron has been tipped as a possible successor to Mr Clegg and the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Cumbria is believed to have already begun preparing a leadership bid. He is well-liked by the party’s left-wing grassroots who are unhappy about governing with the Conservatives.

However, he denied that he is “plotting for any particular position”, adding that “nobody joins the Liberal Democrats as a career move – they would be pretty foolish if they did”.

Repeating previous assertions that he would not rule out any jobs that come up in the future, Mr Farron added that all potential leadership contenders would have to put their ambitions to one side as the Lib Dems face the “fight of our lives” over the final 15 months of coalition government. His probable rivals include the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

Mr Farron steps down as party president at the end of this year. Having not served in the coalition, he has the advantage of being untainted by the more unpopular concessions the Lib Dems had to make to share power.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links