Lib Dem president accused of 'slagging off the coalition'

 

The Tory party chairwoman, Baroness Warsi, has accused her Liberal Democrat counterpart of treating the coalition like "a bad episode of Come Dine with Me" by enjoying the good things on offer and "then slagging it off afterwards".

While Nick Clegg and David Cameron engage in public displays of bonhomie around the cabinet table, Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, is charged with behaving like the political equivalent of a disgruntled diner brandishing a low score in the back of a black cab.

Mr Farron said in an interview with The Independent on Sunday last month that he needs "daily counselling to cope" with sharing power with the Tories. He claimed prospects for the poorest would have been "grim" if Mr Cameron governed unchecked by "a bunch of liberal radicals".

Officially, Mr Farron's pithy putdowns about the Conservatives are part of his party's "differentiation strategy". But to Baroness Warsi it is "bad taste and mean". The war of words from the senior figures who voice the concerns of their parties' rank and file comes as Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg try to present a more united front after weeks of public division over Britain's relationship with Europe. When MPs return from their Christmas holidays next week, splits over health reforms, the economy and the environment are expected to become more prominent.

Baroness Warsi has now hit back against Mr Farron, accusing him of being on the "fringes" of his own party. "He's not really in the coalition is he?" she told the IoS. "If he says he needs counselling that's a matter for him."

In the days after George Osborne's Autumn Statement, which brought more dire economic news, Mr Farron took aim at the Chancellor's assertion that environmental policies were holding back growth, saying it was designed to "placate 50 or 60 climate deniers on the [Tory] back benches, people who read the Daily Mail and people called Jeremy Clarkson". And he admitted he "took some convincing" to sign up to the coalition's cuts programme. "My instincts are undiluted Keynesian," he added in a nod to his party's left-leaning activists.

But Baroness Warsi suggests the Tories are doing the Lib Dems a favour, arguing that the smaller party will "benefit hugely" and gain "economic credibility" by aligning themselves with Conservatives who have a long record of governing.

"It's actually bad taste and mean to say: 'We will take credit for the good stuff and you did all the bad stuff.' What [Mr Farron] is referring to as 'bad stuff' – the spending cuts – was necessary stuff ... which effectively keeps people's mortgage interest low, keeps people in their homes and jobs, keeps families together.

"It's almost like going to somebody's house, eating their meal and then slagging it off afterwards, like a bad episode of Come Dine with Me."

She said voters would be turned off by Mr Farron's behaviour. "I think the general public find that quite distasteful when they see someone saying: 'Well, I'm playing but I'm not playing, and when I'm not playing I'll take my bat home but occasionally I'll come back in for a guest appearance'."

Senior Tories fear the long-term impact on their party's brand if they are seen to have "sub-contracted" good news policies to the Lib Dems, who repeatedly claim to have "reined in" Conservative excesses. Mr Farron claimed that since the 1970s the Tories have embraced a culture of "greed being institutionalised, lionised, glorified and treated as a virtue".

But Baroness Warsi, who was a standard-bearer for the "Cameroon" brand of "compassionate conservatism", insisted her party fundamentally changed in opposition and many of the policies developed from 2005 were now being implemented: "The belief in society, in the voluntary and charitable sector, the support towards more philanthropic giving, the Big Society, compassionate conservatism, making sure that kids don't [only] go to a good school because their parents can afford [to pay], trusting teachers, allowing them to take charge of their schools. All this was very much about saying you don't deal with the poorest in society by giving them an extra tenner in their benefits and saying: 'Well, now you are just above the poverty trap so you are all right'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Sales Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuous expansion and growth o...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of Yorkshire

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable