Tim Farron has given a characteristically frank, even ingenuous, interview to the Evening Standard.
As a veteran (I almost wrote survivor) of the Alliance years, I was particularly interested in these comments:
Labour friends keep inviting Farron to see Limehouse, the new Donmar Warehouse play about the formation of the SDP. Perhaps remembering that struggle, no Labour MPs have asked to defect yet.
“Much as I love them, they’re all generals without armies, and I’m interested in armies. At this time when anything can happen, why couldn’t the best thing happen? That’s the Lib-Dems taking their place.”Politics today can feel very like the early 1980s, so I am relieved that Tim is not planning to turn the Liberal Democrats into a tribute act.
This confirms my judgement that, despite that boyish exterior, he has got every big decision as leader right.
He is also shrewd on the fall and rise of his predecessor:
The 2015 unofficial message — “it would have been worse without us” — was a tough sell, he concedes, but “absolutely works now”. He says Nick Clegg even gets cheered at universities. “Brexit has been a reset button in British politics.”Other, more personal, insights from the interview come when he talks about religion:
Are people in public life afraid to talk about religion? “Yes. In America you’ve got to invent a faith to be taken seriously; in the UK you have to pretend not to have one. You shouldn’t be ashamed.”and here:
And when I ask about his greatest mistake (expecting him to name abstaining on a gay marriage vote), he instead says: “I wish I had reached out more to Charles Kennedy when he stepped down. It was an unimaginably hard time for him. I regret that more than anything.”But, above all, I am pleased that he found time to name-check one of my early football heroes:
His conversation is littered with football similes. Labour under Corbyn is “like when you replace a good centre-half with a non-leaguer — suddenly there’s no proper defence”. In the coalition, the Lib-Dems were “Chopper Harris — clearing every ball off the touchline”.