Tim Farron MP resigned as Liberal Democrat leader on 14 June 2017, and since then the party has been looking for a new leader. As a passionate Liberal Democrat, I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic with you.
When Tim Farron announced his resignation on the evening of the Grenfell disaster, I was filled with sadness, anger and confusion. I had joined the Liberal Democrats in June 2016, under his leadership. His resignation came unexpected and I was not emotionally prepared for his departure.
During the 2017 general election campaign, Tim did get quite the battering from the media about this faith. No other political leader was more heavily targeted and attacked by the press than Tim. Prime Minister Theresa May has said on numerous occasions that she considers herself a Christian, and no one from the press ever challenged that or made it an issue; instead they were all too focused on what shoes the Prime Minister was wearing, for example.
Shortly after Tim Farron resigned, Jo Swinson became the obvious candidate to stand in the forthcoming leadership election: She is young, passionate, enthusiastic and just so happens to be a woman. Jo announced that she would not be standing in the leadership election, and was then appointed deputy leader.
I wasn’t at all surprised when Vince Cable MP announced he would be standing for leadership. I was glad when Norman Lamb then said he would not be standing. Lamb abstained on the Article 50 vote in the House of Commons in March 2017, which highlights his position on the European Union. I joined the Liberal Democrats as an unequivocally pro-European party, and I firmly believe those European values should be reflected in whoever is leading the party. For that exact reason, I could not have supported Norman Lamb if he had put himself forward. Cable stated back in January 2017, that he has “serious doubts that EU free movement is tenable or even desirable”. To me, personally, that is a disqualifying remark to make if you are running to be leader of a liberal party that values the freedoms provided by the European Union. If it were going to be Norman Lamb versus Vince Cable, I’d have probably spoiled my ballot.
This is where Edward Davey MP comes into the story. On 19 June 2017, Ed published a tweet on his account, which reads: “We must be constructive during [Brexit] negotiations to minimise damage but I will work tirelessly to stop or reverse Brexit by democratic means”. That is the boldness and courage I want the future party leader to have – someone who sticks to our core principles and doesn’t pander to public opinion. Sadly, Ed won’t stand, even after previously considering it. This has made me feel unnerved and concerned about the course of the party.
I would also like to point out, that many people joined the Liberal Democrats after the result of the EU referendum in 2016, as did I. If we were to weaken our stance on Europe, I would feel betrayed and seriously misplaced. I can almost guarantee that a weakening or softening on our pro-EU stance could lead to a drastic and serious drop in our membership overnight. If we truly are the party of ‘Remain’, then let’s truly be the party of ‘Remain’ and put country before party. I understand that we are not a single-issue party, but Brexit is the single biggest political upset of modern politics and will undoubtedly dominate the next few general elections, whenever they may be.
Now, the only candidate in the leadership “election” is Vince Cable, which means he might be automatically appointed Liberal Democrat leader if none of the current Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament change their mind, and challenge Cable – without a vote from the electorate. At least for now, we might have Vince Cable as next Liberal Democrat leader – that’s a fact we must get used to, however unnerving for all the hardcore Remainers of us.