When Tim Farron won the Liberal Democrat leadership contest back in July, it was mercifully without much of the media circus that accompanied Labour’s painfully elongated equivalent. As Liberal Democrats, we lost a disastrous amount of votes in last May’s election, and it’s important to reconnect with those who abandoned us. It seemed that that’s what Farron was concentrating on – until now.
Words cannot describe how sorely disappointed I am that, in one of his most prominent pronouncements since he became leader, Farron (backed up by similar statements from Sir Vince Cable) has declared that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership are no longer a “credible” opposition to the Tories. In a cringe-inducing choice of words, Farron indicated that the Lib Dems will make an “unashamed land grab” for the support of Labour voters. Is this leftie-on-leftie pile-on really supposed to be the inspiring talk intended to bring disenchanted Lib Dems back to the fold?
There are a number of reasons that, as a person who proudly voted for the first time in a general election in May (for an excellent Lib Dem MP who unfortunately lost his seat to a Conservative candidate), I can’t bring myself to respond to Farron’s position with anything but distaste, disdain and disgust.
Perhaps, after the soul-destroying compromises of the last five years, Farron feels the need for the Lib Dems to lose the pushover image built up by our time in coalition, and start getting ruthless. If that’s the case, jumping on the bandwagon (spearheaded by Conservative marketing teams and most of the Murdoch-heavy media) to demonise Corbyn is not the way to do it.
Despite all that it cost us, many Lib Dems are still exceptionally proud of what we managed to achieve in coalition (holding back many of the damaging policies now being rolled out by a newly-unshackled Conservative majority government). By engaging in his own round of Corbyn-bashing, and suggesting that the political validity of a force as colossal as the Labour Party rests solely on a few of the personal beliefs of its leader, Farron is lowering himself to a level of gutter-politics that many of us thought we were rising above.
The idea that Labour will, by default, adopt all of Corbyn’s beliefs as their own party policy is exceptionally naïve at best and wilfully deceitful at worst. It only takes a passing glance at Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, his record of rebellion and his dislike of party whips to bring rebel MPs in line (leading to suggestions that he may abandon the Labour whip altogether, as the Green Party have), to see that he is keen for more open discussion within the Labour Party on issues of policy. His Question Time strategy solidifies that.
Several of Corbyn’s new Shadow Cabinet ministers (plus his own deputy, Tom Watson) have recently publicly stated that they disagree with him on several issues, most prominently his support for scrapping Trident. And they have been allowed to do so without censure. Corbyn is no dictator, enforcing a socialist-Marxist agenda on the party while New Labour squeals in fruitless, dying protest. Does he want to take the party in a new direction policy-wise? It certainly seems so, but that is no reason for any rational politician to deduce that their support for his beliefs is therefore a foregone conclusion.
I am reminded of a brief period leading up to May’s election, when a hung parliament seemed almost inevitable, and many Lib Dem and Labour voters alike were asking why the idea of a coalition between them was shunned, when we appear to have more in common with each other than with the Conservatives. Many responded with an inexplicable hostility. It is this pointless, damaging attitude that I see rearing its head now.
I don’t suggest that the Liberal Democrats endorse Corbyn’s every whim with open arms. But making an effort to build constructive dialogue with this new incarnation of Labour would be a much more heartening strategy. And forming an effective opposition who win votes on their own merits, rather than publicly boasting that ‘we’re gonna steal your voters’ would be a more effective approach.
I’m ashamed of how Tim Farron has made my party come across as shameless, negative and arrogant. That’s not going to win anyone’s respect – or their votes.Reuse content