16 July. — The British Liberal Democrats elected Tim Farron, former president of the party’s executive committee, as their new leader. He replaced Nick Clegg, who left after a disastrous general election. Farron received 56.5% of the votes, and the second candidate, former minister Norman Lamb won 43.5%.
In the 2015 general election, the Liberal Democrats lost 48 seats and 15% of the popular vote. Only eight of their representatives entered parliament. Such a crushing defeat immediately triggered a change in attitudes towards the party, which for the previous five years of coalition government work had been seen as a stable third political force in the UK.
Thus, it is unsurprising that there was minimal attention paid to the party’s elections for a leader. British newspapers mentioned them only when truly significant events occurred, like when two former party leaders, Paddy Ashdown and Menzies Campbell, declared their support for Norman Lamb. Overall, Lamb, who had less of a chance at winning from the very beginning, was seen as a kind of successor to the current party line. His career in parliament and government was distinguished by an indisputable dedication that guaranteed him the sympathy of some heavyweights.
However, it was precisely this which did not suit those who opposed him. In their opinion, it was necessary to denounce the actions of the previous leadership, who agreed to a coalition with conservatives for the sake of power and took several decisions despite promises to the contrary (for example, with regards to tuition fees). In this sense, Tim Farron was a nearly perfect fit.
He is a staunch left-liberal politician who sympathizes with the left wing of the Labour Party and denies the benefits of a centrist position. “When we went into a coalition, it was a good thing for the country, but a bad thing for the party,” he said. Alongside verbal criticism, Farron also opposed the unified party line in parliament on a number of occasions, which provoked unflattering characterizations.
In foreign policy, he was critical of the Conservative Party’s eurosceptiсism and its “Europhobia”, condemned the former prime minister for the war in Iraq, and called on the UK to actively participate in the Minsk Agreements. “It is a dangerous and tragic myth that a ‘holy war of the Russian people’ will deliver identity, security and wellbeing for its people.” he said about events in eastern Ukraine, considering them the result of Russia’s military and information activities. He believes that the answer to them must be a unified, decisive position held by Europe. The situation with human rights in Russia, including that of sexual minorities, was also an object of his criticism.
Through the present moment, the success of Tim Farron has been based on the condemnation of his party and political opponents. However, in order to revive the ideas of liberalism, of which he repeatedly spoke, and achieve electoral success, he will have to formulate some kind of positive vision for all participants. So far, the new leader has named two areas of focus: affordable housing and merits of immigration.