The ‘Lib Dem fightback’ starts with Europe

At the opening of the Liberal Democrats spring conference, Tim Farron attacked his Remain allies for failing to make the best case


The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference has kicked off with a rally on the EU referendum, and leader Tim Farron’s speech made it clear that not only will the Lib Dems be waging a positive campaign to Remain, they will target any of their de facto allies who fail to do the same.

Do you remember AV? Do you remember, at the time, there was a newly elected left wing Labour leader who wouldn’t put his back into the campaign? Sound familiar?

The Lib Dem case is built on trade, crime, workers’ rights and greater compassion towards refugees. Farron also spoke extensively about the legacy of European conflict, arguing that ‘the scars of the last hundred years’ reveal the ‘painful cost of a disunited Europe.’

The campaign is branded as highly patriotic —Catherine Bearder MEP draped herself in a Union flag, calling on the conference to reclaim it from UKIP — and this was Farron’s point of attack on the SNP.

[Sturgeon] called for a positive case to be made for Britain to stay in Europe…. And then focussed her entire attention on threatening the rest of the UK with a leave campaign of her own.

He brushed off the Tories and Greens as ‘split down the middle’ — admittedly more applicable to the former than the latter — before returning to the Lib Dems as ‘the only party, passionate about a reforming Britain, in a reforming Europe.’

Farron did make a direct appeal to Jeremy Corbyn to work together, albeit laced with a threat.

“Shall we cross party lines, put our party interests aside for the good of our country? Because if you won’t, I’ll make a direct appeal to those Labour party members now.”

The energy and intensity of a party conference rally is difficult to recreate on the doorsteps, in parliament or on Question Time, but Farron has thrown down a gauntlet for his Remain colleagues, and set the tone for a Europe-led Lib Dem fightback.

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