The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale argued that Corbyn’s victory would open “a massive space in the centre ground of British politics” […] Since Corbyn’s election, some party figures have suggested privately the Labour party is starting to encroach on territory that Farron had marked out for the Lib Dems, necessitating a change of direction.
This disappoints me for two reasons.
First, because as I noted before, I think the idea of the political centre is at best worthless and at worst meaningless. By aiming to be in the centre between the Conservatives and Labour, Farron is expressing an aspiration without ambition. It’s the Lib Dems’ appallingly uninspiring “Look Left, Look Right, Now Cross” election campaign all over again. As Andrew Hickey’s friend Jennie put it, “You can’t put a Rizla between the other two — let us be that Rizla!” Farron seems to be saying here that Labour’s move to the left is good news because it makes the rizla-thick Labour/Conservative divide wider, giving the Lib Dems somewhere to inhabit.
And the reason this is so disappointing to me is that we know the Lib Dems can be so much better than this — they are fully capable of standing for specific important things rather than merely positioning themselves relative to the two larger parties. Have they not learned that “We’re neither Labour nor Conservative” is not only inherently bankrupt but also electorally suicidal?
The second reason it’s disappointing is the implication (hopefully not true) that Farron sees UK politics as an arena for the Liberal Democrat Party to play in, rather than somewhere to get actual work done on actual issues. Labour has lurched in the direction of values very much shared by the Lib Dems: I would like to see the latter embrace this as an opportunity to work together with another party that shares many of the same goals. (Not all of the same goals, but that’s fine: for that matter, no two members of the same party agree on all goals.) Instead, Farron seems to be saying that Labour’s shift requires the Lib Dems to change their own policies away from what they were before, so as to distinguish themselves from Corbynite Labour.
So the idea that comes across here is that he is more interested in the success of a specific political party than he is in advancing and particular policy. And that is not what I want to see from a leader. I want to see, you know, leadership. As in, having specific goals and ideas and sticking to them. (I especially want that from someone who, only two months ago, said “I think centrism is pointless. It’s uninspiring. I’m not a centrist.”)
So come on, Tim. Let’s see some collaboration towards achieving your shared goals. You’re here to make a difference in people’s lives, not to attain a position of power.