Distinctive not destructive — that's Tim Farron's view on how the Liberal Democrats can redefine themselves within government. Speaking to the New Statesman after his muted conference speech today, the Lib Dem president blamed the media's narrow perception of the coalition for a misunderstanding of their partnership with the Tories. Tantalisingly, he made reference to a potential partnership elsewhere:
'We're either seen as cats in a sack or having a love-in. No one seems able to understand that this is a just a business arrangement...a relationship that could exist with another party'
Sadly, Farron made no reference to whom exactly that might be with. He did admit that the rose-garden had caused problems for his party but felt it was necessary to overcome the 'great fear' of forming a coalition.
On the whole, Farron was unrestrained with his attacks on Labour. When asked what would be different under a Lab-Lib coalition, he shot back that the government would have spent £100bn replacing Trident and the nation would be enduring 10 per cent interest rates and massive unemployment 'thanks to Ed Balls'. Farron's left-wing credentials makes such a Labour attack more credible than those of Orange Book Lib Dems. Plus he's not on the government's payroll so has no line to follow.
Farron sensibly avoided leadership questions, after his bombastic speech at last year. He did state he was 'massively disappointed' that the Cameroon project had 'failed' and the Prime Minister had 'the most to worry about of any party leader' as he does not 'have the support of most of his MPs'.
He was also enthusiastic about Boris Johnson, stating he has 'played everything like a pro' and his personality reminds him of Ronald Regan combined with Alex Salmond. Given the topic of Boris' Telegraph column — twenty reasons to support Nick Clegg as as 'natural Tory' — Farron may be swiftly changing his opinion.