Labour and Tory moderates need to defect to the Liberal Democrats in order to defeat a lurch to the extremes in British politics, party leader Tim Farron has warned.
Branding the Tories arrogant and Labour irrelevant, Mr Farron used the opening day of the Lib Dem conference in Brighton to urge those disillusioned with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to jump ship.
There are people who are liberals in the Labour Party and people in the Conservative Party who will be feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the direction of their party.Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
He said: “Across the range of British politics we now see populists of the far left and the far right getting hold of their parties.
“There are people who are liberals in the Labour Party and people in the Conservative Party who will be feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the direction of their party.
“My simple offer to those liberals in other parties is: ‘do you know what - maybe it’s time to join a liberal party?’”
The Lib Dem leader insisted voters needed a second chance to decide on Britain’s place in Europe.
“We will fight to make sure the British people have their say before the UK has to accept a deal that nobody gave consent to,” he said.
The comments came as the Lib Dems floated the idea of imposing a special NHS tax.
Former health minister Norman Lamb is announcing plans for a panel of medical experts to consider the case for a special wage levy to fund the NHS and report back to the Lib Dems on their findings in six months’ time.
Mr Lamb will say: “Let’s look at the case for a dedicated health and care tax, shown on your pay packet. Let’s look at whether we could use National Insurance as a basis for such a tax.
“We need to consider how we could make it more progressive. We need to think about fairness between generations.
“We must be honest with the British people. If we conclude that we all need to pay perhaps an extra penny in the pound, then we must be prepared to say it.”
Mr Farron was also launching a blistering attack on the new face of Ukip as a peddler of “hateful” ideas and a stooge of Nigel Farage.
Mr Farron is set to dismiss incoming Ukip leader Diane James as being nothing more than a puppet of Mr Farage.
He will tell delegates that Mr Farage remains the real focus of power in Ukip.
Mr Farron will say: “So, yes, Ukip have a new leader. It’s the fourth new leader they’ve had in the last few years - and the last three new leaders were all the same bloke.
“So it’s nice that they’ve got a new leader who is actually new. Well, I say ‘new’, ‘new’ in a ‘Britain went to the dogs when we lost the empire’ sort of way.
“But Ukip’s policies are no laughing matter. And neither is Diane James. She/he leads a party whose policies are based on a vision for Britain that is closed, hateful and divided.”
The opening day of the conference also considers liberalising vice laws and downgrading Britain’s nuclear strike force.