If Tim Farron is elected leader on 16th July, it’ll be a huge thing for me to deal with. A rite of passage, even. For the first time, a leader of the Liberal Democrats will be younger than me. I still think I’m a young person, so that would take some serious getting used to.
I would just have to cope with it. Willie Rennie, our Scottish leader is younger than me and the universe hasn’t imploded, but at least I can say that we’re the same age for 10 months and 4 days of every year.
In all seriousness, though, I hope that I do have to come to terms with it. In news which will surprise absolutely nobody, I can say that I am enthusiastically voting for Tim. For the avoidance of doubt, Liberal Democrat Voice has been and will remain scrupulously neutral, which is why this post is on this blog.
So why Tim? Well not just because Mike Beckett, our candidate for Scarborough last month, made me this:
There was once a plot hatched in a conference bar late at night for me to run for President so we could have Caron vs Farron but this is undoubtedly a more constructive use of the rhyme. We have a hell of a mountain to climb at the moment. It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take a leader who’s zingy, persistent, gutsy, noisy and awkward who can articulate a liberalism that’s relevant, practical, optimistic and joyful. Tim Farron fits that bill as close to perfectly as it gets.
He has the vision, the charisma and the energy to take us forward to a time when we can be involved in running councils, cities, states and the whole UK again.
There is absolutely nothing comfortable about backing him. He will be worse than Paddy at getting us working. He will expect a lot from us. He wants 100,000 members by 2020. The Scottish share of that is about 6000 members more than we have now. It’s a lofty goal, but with Tim at the helm, I would feel more confident about achieving it.
Here are my ten reasons for backing him:
I trust hm
In the five years I have known him, I have found him to be someone whose word I can trust. If he says he’ll do something, he does it.
The right values
Here’s a flavour of his values. You can read the rest here.
My liberalism is about turning my anger at injustice into action. Some parties want to win power so that they can hold office, I want us to win so that we can make a difference. I have an optimistic confidence in the capacity of everyone to make the most of their lives, to fulfil their talents and to realise their dreams. It is the belief that government has a duty to make this possible – to create the conditions in which people and their communities can flourish.
A fantastic speaker
We need a leader who can really move you when he speaks, who can grab you in the gut.That’s Tim. We must always be credible and factual, but that’s not enough these days. A leader has to establish a real rapport with his audience, a proper emotional connection and Tim is the guy to do that. Just watch any of his speeches.
One of the best examples is him talking here about asylum and immigration. This is exactly how we should be packing a punch to UKIP and the Daily Mail.
Now, there are a fair few videos coming up in this post. I invite you to watch them all, not necessarily all at once but they are worth it.
I’ve never seen a politician engage quite as genuinely as Tim has done over the past four years. His presence on social media helped the party through some really tough times and he did take on board what was said to him. He didn’t always change course but there were times when he did. I remember Jennie Rigg and I telling him why we hated that awful phrase “hard working families” He said he’s stop using it and I have never heard it slip from his lips since.
Even when he disagrees with you, he’ll always take the time to hear you out. The only row I ever had with him was over a vote on the same sex marriage bill. We both said our piece. I certainly was not tactful. Some people would have gone in the huff and never spoken to me again but there was never any hard feelings.
And while we are on that subject, let me just say that an awful lot of people that I love depend on a world where LGBT people have proper equality. I need my leader to be able to speak up for the young transgender person so that they can feel confident that someone is on her side and understands what she needs to be able to live a happy and fulfilling life, who gets that you you are unlikely to meet your potential if you are being bullied for being gay, and how important it is that you have a good support network.
Here Tim explains his position on LGBT rights – that he is fully signed up to equality.
Similarly, I am about as pro-choice as they come, it’s important to me that my leader would protect a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Both candidates are in favour of the law as it stands.
He’s an ace campaigner
We need a leader who is going to lead by example and get out there and knock on doors. Tim’s very much in that Willie Rennie/Jo Swinson mould. From a Total Politics interview with him during the election:
One thing that Farron can never be accused of is idleness. Not only is he committed to furiously pounding the pavements, but his constituency office has done more than 70,000 pieces of casework. The average MP has managed somewhere around a tenth of that figure.
“I do put remarkable hours in,” he says. “I’m rarely happier than when I’m out on the trail, because it’s exciting… In terms of casework load, which is a real indicator of how hard you work,
My colleague when I worked in Willie Rennie’s office had started her career working for Tim, so she roped me in to doing some phone canvassing for the local elections on Tim’s patch. The response was incredible. Everyone knew Tim and liked him and I heard numerous unprompted accounts of what he had done for people.
An all round approach to diversity
He gets that our party’s record on diversity is pretty rubbish. While he’s in favour of 50-50 gender balance in terms of candidates with 10% being BAME, he also says he will make sure he surrounds himself with a diverse group of people on a day to day basis. That means that when he’s thinking about how to react to a particular problem, he’ll hear about a particular impact on certain groups of people. That is the sign of a leader who gets what’s been wrong with the party in recent years and has a plan to change it.
See his talk about diversity here:
He’s brave enough to do controversial things
I’ll be honest, when Tim first stood for President, I wasn’t sure about him. I was more inclined to vote for Susan Kramer, but I felt that we needed someone with Tim’s plain-speaking pithiness. He came up to our Dunfermline conference in November 2010 and two things about him impressed me. First of all, I gave him a really hard time, grilling him on various issues. Then, the Scottish Conference Committee had told the candidates that they could each make a speech at a point of their choosing during the day. They could take part in a debate or they could have a separate slot to talk about why they should be President. So Farron only went and waded into the hottest, most controversial debate of the day and took what we thought was going to be the minority position and won people over. It was pretty audacious and showed guts. That’s the sort of spirit he’s going to need for the battles ahead. We need someone who will take risks.
He’s also had four years of being Party President at a challenging time. Although he had his criticisms of the coalition, he never undermined Nick. He handled some very difficult situations with sensitivity and empathy.
And, under his presidency, our membership started to grow again – an incredible achievement for a party of government. That was one of the clear goals that the Federal Executive set at the beginning of 2013 and we got there. As the Convener of Scotland’s Finance and Membership Committee, our share of Tim’s 100,000 members by 2020 target scares me a bit, but we need to have a much more strategic approach to recruitment.
I have long said that the party who sorts housing out will do our society the best possible service. We need to build lots more houses. Tim gets what poor housing does to people in terms of life expectancy and life chances. He understands that a kid might have a great school, but if they are sharing a cramped, damp room with 3 siblings, it will harm their life chances.
Here he talks about why it’s essential that we get more houses built.
PAWAWI and Big Block of Cheese Day
The gobbledegook above is my representation of Tim’s plans to rebuild the party. PAWAWI is an unfamiliar acronym, but a very familiar concept. Every Lib Dem in every part of the country can do this. Pick A Ward And Win It. Throw the kitchen sink at it.
He also wants to run a Festival of Ideas, which I think is a bit like the West Wing’s Big Block of Cheese Day. He wants us to come up with big and original ideas to the problems we face as a society.
He understands the need to look outside the party and learn from other organisations. He understands that the way we campaign has to change.
He’s better at explaining it than I am:
The importance of local government
There’s been a tendency among the party elite in recent years to value parliamentary representation above all else. Council elections are merely seen as a stepping stone to higher things. Tim gets that councils do stuff that is critical to our daily lives from housing to social care to schools. They are a worthy end in themselves and he values our councillors and what they do. He will be as happy when he hears of the Liberal Democrats taking control of a council as he will if we win a parliamentary by-election.
We are at the lowest ebb I have seen us at in 32 years. The last five years have given us extremes of emotions – pride in what we achieved, but enormous heartbreak too. We have a massive job ahead of us. We have the chance of a great motivator with bags of energy who can talk practical liberalism in a way that will draw people to us. We should take that opportunity with enthusiasm and choose Tim as our leader.