During the Liberal Democrat leadership contest Tim Farron has published a manifesto setting out his political credo. Titled My Values – My Liberalism, it set out what liberalism means to him and his priorities for the party’s ideological development.
The document set out a strong and positive case for liberalism, the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron as leader.
It also served a more defensive purpose, because one of the criticisms made of Tim Farron previously is that some said he was a bit of a policy lightweight. Tim Farron has been working to banish such views, as with his William Beveridge Memorial Lecture. I wrote of that at the time:
With fewer jokes, ranging widely over major political issues and (unusually for Tim Farron with such speeches) a fully-written text prepared, it attempted to answer those who quietly whisper doubts about whether Tim Farron is up to the job of being the next party leader: ‘he’s a great speaker but is there any policy substance behind the football jokes?’.
Tim Farron had also in advance of the 2015 general election discreetly put together an impressive team of policy advisors, with people such as Duncan Brack, Neil Stockley and David Howarth advising him. Duncan and Neil have both been Director of Policy for the party and David Howarth was much of the brains behind the response to the Orange Book, Reinventing the State (for which he wrote an excellent piece, which you can read here).
It’s notable that Tim Farron was both been determined to put together such a good team and to listen to them. That’s an interesting departure from Charles Kennedy, for whom there are otherwise parallels with Tim Farron. Both are highly gifted orators, with a great gut sense of what the party is about and yet also have been criticised for being policy lightweights.
Kennedy’s attempt to remedy that with the book The Future of Politics was not very successful. A genial collection of agreeable political thoughts, it didn’t really show the hard political thinking or personally-driven vision for the country that would have addressed those criticisms.
Farron’s Credo document does much better than that, setting out a clear sense of his values and his vision for liberalism, based on five core values:
- Fairness… “[but] fairness alone is not enough: A deeply unequal society … is weaker not just for those at the bottom of the pile but for everyone.”
- Quality of life
It’s surprising that in his initial definition of liberalism, with its strong emphasis on civil liberties (hooray), Tim Farron doesn’t mention protecting people from vested interests outside politics such as big business:
Liberalism is about championing the individual against the powerful, that means standing firm for our Human Rights Act, against internet surveillance and illiberal extremism orders. But it’s also about protecting individuals from those giant evils that rob people of their freedom: poverty, poor housing, inequality.
Were his leadership rival Norman Lamb to have made such an omission, people might suspect that was a sign of his ideological leanings. But for Tim Farron to omit such other vested interests from his list is more likely an infelicity of drafting given the views he’s expressed on other occasions.
To turn that liberalism into results, Farron sets out four objectives:
- An active liberal government
- A national campaign on housing
- Fighting for internationalism and Britain’s place in the EU
- Political reform
Here is the document in full, expanding on those points and for more on what the Lib Dems believe see my poster:Tim-Farron-Credo-document-Lib-Dem-leadership-contest-2015