When the Liberal Democrats voted for Tim Farron as their next leader, they didn’t know that the Labour party was going to elect Jeremy Corbyn. If they had known that, they might have been more tempted to go for Norman Lamb, the more centrist candidate in the race and the one with ministerial experience.
But Farron has adapted pretty well to the new, post-Corbyn landscape. His speech today contained plenty of pops at Labour for ‘abandoning serious politics, serious economics’ and choosing instead the ‘glory of self-indulgent opposition’. Farron, by contrast, tried to cast the Liberal Democrats as the party that is both competent and caring. He combined a defence of their record in coalition with an attack on the government for not doing enough on housing and the refugee crisis. It is quite clear that he’s pitching for those moderate, centre-left voters who will be unsettled by Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party.
The great challenge for the Liberal Democrats now is to get themselves heard; they only have 8 MPs and are the fifth most interesting party in British politics at the moment. Farron is not a bad speaker and he set out some distinctive positions in his speech today. But he is going to have to be bolder, to paint more in primary colours if he is to get the voters to pay attention to him and his party.