Farron regrets coalition divorce talk
Had an enjoyable hour at lunchtime chatting to Tim Farron at a fringe meeting. He missed out on hearing some sharp words fellow MPs had for him at their regular conference morning meeting yesterday. They were attacking him for his speech on Sunday which they thought was disloyal, off-message and self-serving.
In the fringe chat, Tim Farron said he regretted his choice of words in the speech talking about a “divorce” in “three or four years’ time” and meant nothing special by it. Some of his colleagues think he is playing a game, wooing the party faithful while pretending to be loyal. Tim Farron’s response was to say he’d “nail Nick Clegg’s feet to the ground” if he tried to leave the leadership and Mr Clegg was “almost certain” to lead the party into the next election.
Elsewhere, we heard about Tim’s christianity. Quite a few of his MP colleagues told me that his fundamentalism put him at odds with the party faithful on social issues and that he tried to conceal that. But he was pretty open about it in our chat and acknowledged that he had abstained on Nadine Dorries’ abortion amendment and was concerned about the number of abortions in the UK.
He talked about his parents’ parting when he was four, his childhood love of astronomy. He insisted he was equidistant between Labour and the Tories … but he talked of “evil” Tories’ tactics in the NO to AV campaign, whereas he regretted the “stupid” privatisation of rail, BT, energy companies in the 1980s and wanted them back in social ownership. He insisted he was an “economic liberal”, but I don’t think David Laws would have been convinced.
While Tim Farron was apologising for his crowd-pleasing bashing of the right, Chris Huhne was unveiling some of his own. His much-trailed abuse of the Conservatives’ “Tea Party tendency” got the biggest cheer, as intended, from the hall.
Maybe he was more artful than the party president or maybe it’s just that he’s not regarded as a leadership threat any more, but colleagues didn’t turn on him the same way. Nick Clegg winced when asked about Chris Huhne’s choice of political language and said: “We will all choose our own words… I’m not there to vet the individual words of senior Liberal Democrats.”