The two candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, wound up their gruelling country-wide campaign meeting party members in Sutton on Saturday (11 July). Every Lib Dem party member has a vote, and the poll for the new leader to replace Nick Clegg will close next Wednesday.
Both candidates attended the Sutton Lib Dem annual garden party, and gave five minute presentations before answering a variety of questions on subjects ranging from the need for electoral reform and the challenges facing local government, to the proposed EU referendum and the Labour Party’s own leadership election.
Norman Lamb told more than 120 members at the event that ‘we live in a liberal age’. So many people in this country are liberal, but in spite of that they don’t actually connect the Liberal Democrats with this. “Our challenge is to change that, and to connect with them,” especially young people who in particular were liberal minded, internationalists, and open to new ideas.
Tim Farron said the Lib Dems had suffered ‘noble defeat’ in the May elections. But the party now had a massive challenge to rebuild itself and it must do so by looking outward and grabbing a space again in the ‘national vision’. “At the moment no one knows who we are. But our challenge is to change that and to reach into people’s very souls,” Tim Farron said.
Both candidates paid high tribute to Paul Burstow, the former Lib Dem member for Sutton and Cheam, who they described as an ‘enormous loss to parliament and his constituency.
Guest of honour at the garden party was Baroness Susan Kramer, the Lib Dem spokesperson on Treasury matters in the House of Lords. On the government’s budget presented to parliament this week she said it was obvious that the principle of ‘we’re all in this together’ had been largely abandoned. “As a result of the budget the biggest burden is falling on the really vulnerable groups, especially young people.”
She said: “Even the Financial Times recognised that if you have property and you’re prosperous Osborne is looking after you.”
Baroness Kramer added that there had been no time when the country needed liberalism more than it did now.