Naked Politics Blogger
Think back for a second, can you remember the general election? It seems so long ago I know, but with the Labour leadership bringing the focus back to the Blue v Red battle of old, you could have almost forgotten the multi-coloured splendour that was the 2015 general election. Seemingly hijacked by gay pride, you had every political colour under the rainbow taking votes left, right and centre! The Purple UKIP won 82 seats, the Yellow SNP took 32 and the Greens 24! Alas, sadly, we’re not in an alternate universe where proportional representation is in place. None of this transpired and the Orange Lib Dems didn’t win 51 seats, instead they held onto only 8 MPs down from 57 in 2010.
For the Liberal Democrats to go from a coalition party to one with as many MPs as the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Island) is a defeat not seen since order 66 in Revenge of the Sith; the Lib Dems like the Jedi were nigh-on wiped out (but let’s be clear the Lib Dems don’t wield lightsabers and Nick Clegg is no Yoda). So how can the Lib Dems recover? Will they die out, regain power or just coast into minority party obscurity? Have no fear liberal centrists, you may have a new hope and he even looks the tiniest bit like Luke Skywalker (yes okay I’m quite excited for Star Wars Episode VII).
Tim Farron was elected as the new leader of the Lib Dems in July 2015. A Liberal Democrat since the age of 16 hailing from Preston in Lancashire, a county councillor since 1993, a popular campaigner in the party and an MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005; he achieved an 11.1% swing from the Tories in 2010, winning by a majority of 12,264 votes in a historically Conservative seat. This win was no fluke, and Westmoreland and Lonsdale was established as a new Lib Dem stronghold when he again won by a majority of 8,949 in 2015.
There may be hope for the Lib Dems yet, if Tim can replicate the success he’s achieved in his constituency with the party as a whole then those plucky yellows may have chance to hop in bed with the Sith once again. In his first big speech at the Lib Dem conference this week Tim appeared to come out strong, mixing his Northern George Formby-esque charm with the tones of a serious and electable politician. He wasn’t afraid to defend the Lib Dems time in coalition, stating that they would be open to coalition again with either party (beggars can’t be choosers I guess).
Tim has the challenge of maintaining the image he painted of himself in the leadership campaign as the rebel candidate, whilst proving to party stalwarts that he is a level-headed and credible leader. However with Jeremy Corbyn winning the title of ‘rebel anti-establishment leader’, he may have to focus solely on winning the centre. By making the housing crisis a huge part of his speech he has already gone some ways to doing this, touching on what will be a priority concern for many a voter.
He may not be turning the heads of any casual voter anytime soon, but he has certainly showed himself to be up to the job of persuading his party that all is not lost; and if the Lib Dems are to have any chance of recovery then a bit more hope in their liberal hearts may be a good place to start.
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrats, may the force be with you.