Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron was the special guest at a dinner near Burnham-On-Sea on Thursday evening (July 21st) when he spoke out about his party’s election chances, the birth of a new cross-party group, and a plan for a second referendum on the EU.
Mr Farron said he is “absolutely chuffed” that Burnham’s former MP Tessa Munt has has been re-selected as the party’s parliamentary candidate.
“We don’t yet know what Theresa May will do but we have to assume there is a possibility of a snap election as early as October or in the next 12 months. Tessa has an outstanding reputation and we would be very hopeful she would win.”
“The evidence from the town council elections in this constituency and across the region over the past year is that there is a real growth in Liberal Democrat support with increasing membership numbers and a real sense that many of those who voted for other parties in May 2015 would vote for us today.”
Mr Farron went on to discuss the Lib Dems position after last month’s Brexit, when they said they would be campaigning to move the UK back into Europe – an option that the leader is keeping open.
“You have to respect the outcome of the referendum. The current government is taking us down the road of leaving the EU but when you lose an election you don’t give up – that’s weak and it’s not something we would do.”
“We believe the British people should have a say on whatever deals come back from Brussels, otherwise people will have something foisted on them which is wrong. We think at that stage the people should have the chance to say whether they accept the deal or want to remain in the EU.”
He also discussed work underway by Paddy Ashdown to form a new cross-party group which some pundits say could lead to the creation of a new ‘multi-colour’ political party similiar to the SDP of the 1970s.
Mr Farron said: “Paddy spoke to me about this a month or two ago and he does it with my blessing. I think that what we need to do is find ways to carry on talking to each other. What prompted it was that we all shared a platform with all parties during the referendum campaign. You discovered that while you don’t agree on everything, Britain is an awful lot better in Europe.”
“It would be a real sadness if we didn’t continue ways of talking. What do we mean by progressive – well, it’s a broad title, but people are very tribalistic in this country and the election system almost forces people to do so. Paddy’s organisation – which is a ‘cross-party’ and ‘no-party’ one – gives people in safety to talk to each other without being called traitors by the party they currently belong to and, who knows what it might lead to.”
“This kind of thing happened in the late 1970s and it led to the formation of the SDP Liberal Alliance and the Liberal Democrats – that doesn’t necessarily mean this has to find the same route, but it’s a way of people being able to talk to people who they wouldn’t normally. It might be that we gather around common subjects such as Europe, the environment, intelligent economics, electoral reform – things that unite us and who knows what that might lead to. I am very keen to give Paddy a long leash to see where this leads.”