Tim Farron is already ‘connecting with people’ in a way Nick Clegg failed to do at the last election, a Yorkshire MP has claimed, as the former Lib Dem leader prepares to speak at the Autumn conference.
The new leader of the party, Mr Farron, has been praised by Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland for establishing a grassroots revival among the party, which has 20,000 new members since their crushing defeat at the General Election.
As Nick Clegg prepares to address members tomorrow, Mr Mulholland - who is one of the party’s remaining eight MPs - said it would be a ‘strange’ experience for him.
“It’s widely agreed in the party we failed to communicate what we really stood for. At the last election people didn’t identify with us, but we are already doing that with our new leader. He’s now able to connect with people.
“Nick Clegg was the leader who took us back into Government after such a long time and he will always be remembered for doing so, and for being the Lib Dem deputy Prime Minister, but this is Tim’s time and he is absolutely the right leader for the moment, to lead the grassroots revival of the party.
“I’m sure personally it will be strange for him this time but he still has a huge role to play for the party and he will carry on playing a role supporting Tim, but working with the other challenges in the Houses of Parliament.
“Of course we have fewer MPs and notably, we are not in Government this time so it will certainly be rather refreshing to go back to the days without all the security,”
Much has been made during the conference held in Bournemouth so far of the rising number of new members, returning to the party after the end of the Coalition government.
While there are only eight MPs, councillors, the more than 100 peers in the House of Lords, Welsh members and those sitting on the London Assembly are describing themselves as being part of the ‘Lib Dem fightback’.
In a rally to the party on Saturday Mr Farron said the party was now the only credible opposition to the Conservatives after Labour’s lurch to the left under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
“If Labour aren’t interested in standing up to the Tories and providing a credible opposition, that is their funeral. The Liberal Democrats will fill that space,” he said, before suggesting people in different parties with Liberal values would find their natural home within the Libderal Democrats.
Greg Mulholland, who has held his seat for the party since 2005, the party had learnt from the mistake it made over tutition fees in Coalition and were ready to presesnt themselves as a progressive party after post-election soul searching.
“The party has been very honest and I’ve been involved in discussions on all levels of the party about what mistakes were made. It’s clear that the party would not again make the same mistakes in coalition and would deal with coalition in a different way. Things like tuition fees, and I’m honest about that.
“We have an excellent new leader and I can’t wait to use the conference to really introduce Tim to the British public, but also to play out our role as the progressive and alternative to the Conservatives in British politics.”