The Liberal Democrats face the “fight of their life” to recover popular support, the party’s former president Tim Farron has admitted, as he put his name forward to become leader.
Writing for The Independent, Mr Farron suggested that the party faces a situation similar to that in the 1950s when The Liberals only had five MPs and faced “near oblivion”.
He admitted rebuilding the party would be an “an enormous challenge” but claimed that he was the right leader to restore the party from “the bottom up”.
The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP joins former health minister Norman Lamb as a contender to replace Nick Clegg. The result is due to be announced on 16 July.
Mr Farron said he still believed there was an important role in British politics for a party able to communicate liberal values with “vigour and enthusiasm”.
“I believe our party needs a leader able to rebuild from the bottom up, ready to learn the lessons from this election but remembering that what people want is for politicians to talk to and listen to them and to be true to their word,” he wrote.
“This will be an enormous challenge, but Liberals have done it before, recovering from near oblivion in the 1950s and 60s to challenge the Tory-Labour stranglehold on power, building on our local roots, fighting alongside local campaigners to make life better in a myriad of little ways for individuals and their communities.
“As an activist and councillor and MP I’ve been part of that endeavour all my political life.”
Mr Farron recalled the fate of the Dutch liberals D66, saying they were able to recover after seven years to top the polls after facing a similar set of circumstances to the Lib Dems.
“We know there is no God-given right for us to survive as a party or come back, but there is plenty of precedent for us to work from to make sure we have that comeback,” he said.
“And we’re going to do it by building infrastructure and campaigning, having a kind of bloody-minded self-belief that we are going to recover and inspiring people to join us and step up to the mark.
“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, and I am determined that, fuelled by a sense of desire for justice, a belief in the rightness of our cause, I can inspire us to come back to the centre of British politics.”
Mr Farron said he has no plans to change the Lib Dems’ name back to the Liberal Party. Many of the Lib Dems’ former cabinet ministers and potential leadership candidates, including Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, were among the electoral casualties on polling day.Reuse content