New leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has set out that the door is open to dissatisfied Labour members.
Speaking at the party’s first conference since their battering at the General Election, Mr Farron said they are the only real alternative to the Conservatives.
At a rally held on the first day of their Autumn conference in Bournemouth he said how the changing face of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn gives the Lib Dems a chance to rebuild with new members.
“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.
“Britain is teeming with liberals, some of them are not yet in the Liberal Democrats. Some of them, are in other parties. But we are their home.
“We once again see the prospect of a decade or more of Tory rule, and it fills us with dread.
“We are liberals, we correctly talk a lot about rights, but we have a duty. Our duty is to claim the mantle of the credible progressive alternative to the Tories.”
The party is celebrating hosting its largest ever conference with 2500 people expected to attend the event at Bournemouth International Centre, with 20,000 new members joining the party in recent months.
With posters, T-shirts and a social media hashtag describing the ‘Lib Dem fightback’, much of the fringe events at this year’s conference are given over to campaigning strategies.
In one of the first sessions on the conference’s opening day councillors, MPs, peers and activists had a chance to rake over what went wrong at the General Election following their catastrophic defeat which left them with just eight seats in Westminster.
Former leader Nick Clegg is due to give a speech on Monday, but there’s a huge attempt from the party to ensure that this is ‘Tim’s conference’ where he can show off his grassroots approach.
Opening the conference earlier on Saturday Baroness Sal Brinton, the Lib Dem Party President, criticised the Conservatives for their savage welfare cuts calling them the ‘nasty party’ and she described the scale of Labour’s lurch to the left.
She said: “In the week that Jeremy Corbyn became leader, they are discovering that whilst people like the idea of an unsung hero they are not too sure about how they feel about him as leader of the opposition.
“This time last week the Labour party raced from the centre ground to the far left. We should be under no illusions about the seismic change that this will cause the Labour movement and the wider political world.”
Europe was also a top priority, with Baroness Brinton clearly marking out their consistency and clarity on remaining within the EU in the up-coming referendum.
She said: “In this upside down world, Labour with a new leader is re-examining its stance on Europe. It was good to hear Jeremy Corbyn say that they will support the case for being in Europe but that careful phrasing hides their division which are evident, as there are Tory divisions, The Greens and UKIP are even less positive. We alone of the UK wide parties are unequivocally in favour of staying in Europe. We are stronger together.”