Lib Dem Conference: Is Tim Farron ready for his close-up?
The new party leader prepares to take the stage
Since their ejection from power this May, the Liberal Democrats have struggled to win much attention. The majority Conservative Government’s new policy priorities; the battle for the Labour leadership; the arrival of the SNP at Westminster - all have been far more interesting to the media than a party reduced to a rump of just eight MPs.
Yet this week, the Lib Dems have enjoyed their first major opportunity to cut through in a while with their annual conference in Bournemouth. And by and large they have used it well. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made a passionate defence of his party’s record in coalition on Monday, and former care minister Norman Lamb secured positive headlines yesterday with a well-timed speech on health service funding.
The one question mark has been over the new man at the top, Tim Farron. Mr Clegg’s successor has issued confused messages on future coalitions, and invited ridicule when he posited himself as an “agony aunt” for Labour MPs disaffected with Jeremy Corbyn. Today he has the chance to put that right in his leader’s speech, which he will probably use to showcase populist policies on issues like housing. This is already crowded terrain, but Farron probably feels he has little choice but to curry quick favour with voters who decisively rejected his party as a force for stability and moderation just four months ago.
Photograph: Liberal Youth