Tim Farron conference speech: The Lib Dems can be the new Blairites

Tony Blair praised for ‘getting stuff done’ as leader makes pitch for centre ground of politics

Tom Peck
Tuesday 20 September 2016 16:54
Mr Farron said he could emulate the success of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Mr Farron said he could emulate the success of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said his party can be the new Blairites, as he used his conference speech to position his party as the occupiers of the newly vacant centre ground.

“Tony Blair’s government gave us the National Minimum Wage,” he told the party’s annual conference in Brighton.

“It gave us working tax credits. It gave us NHS investment and a massive school building programme. I disagree with him a lot, but I will not criticise him for those things. I admire him for those things. I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win.”

Mr Farron criticised the Labour Party for, “throwing around the word Blairite as if it’s the world’s most offensive insult.”

He said he “believed in working across party lines”, but he “couldn’t work with Jeremy Corbyn, because Jeremy Corbyn would never work with me”.

“I wanted to work with him during the referendum campaign, but he wouldn’t share a platform,” he said.

“Labour is having its leadership contest in a few days’ time, so of course Jeremy Corbyn may not be leader for much longer. In which case, it could be Owen Smith.

“Now, I don’t know Owen Smith that well. But, unlike Corbyn, he is certainly on our side of the European debate. So, if Owen Smith wins, I want to make clear that I am open to working together.”

Mr Farron said Labour could not take seats from the Conservatives at the next election, leaving the Liberal Democrats as the only party who could prevent another Conservative majority.

He said he could emulate Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose party leapt from third place in to win power.

“Trudeau’s Liberals leapt over an inadequate official opposition to defeat a right-wing Conservative government,” he said.

“There are dozens of Tory seats in our reach. Which means that the only thing standing between the Conservatives and a majority at the next election is the revival of the Liberal Democrats.”

Mr Farron said the referendum result had been ‘like a bereavement’ and repeated his policy that a second referendum should be held on the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, once it has been negotiated.

He blamed George Osborne’s threat of a ‘punishment budget’ for causing many wavering voters to vote out.

He also said his party would be prepared to raise taxes to fund the NHS.

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