While Labour’s leadership election has hogged the limelight, the Liberal Democrats are also choosing a new leader too. There are just two candidates: Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, and Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk. Party members are voting now, with the result on July 16. The winner faces a formidable task: on May 7, the Lib-Dems crashed from 57 MPs to just eight.
Mr Farron, the favourite, is seen as the more Left-wing. In truth, little separates the two men ideologically. The key is their view of the coalition years. Mr Lamb was a health minister prior to May 7 and has defended the Lib-Dems’ record in office. Mr Farron has been more critical, with a view closer to that of the grassroots: that the party needs to re-establish its identity – implicitly, to the left of Nick Clegg. Mr Clegg acted in good faith and should be judged kindly by history but the compromises of coalition alienated the party’s supporters. If the Lib-Dems are to carve out a new role, they need a hard re-assessment of the coalition — and Mr Farron is best placed to deliver that.