Tim Farron hints at Liberal Democrats rebranding

Tim Farron, the bookmakers' favourite for the Lib Dem leadership. Picture: John Devlin
Tim Farron, the bookmakers' favourite for the Lib Dem leadership. Picture: John Devlin
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LIB DEM leadership frontrunner Tim Farron wants to eradicate the Lib Dem brand from history and wind the clock back 27 years renaming the party the Liberals again.

Mr Farron’s pitch to take his party back to the party of William Gladstone and David Lloyd George and wipe out its history of the alliance with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 came as North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb confirmed that he will also make a bid for the leadership.

It is understood that Leeds North MP Greg Mulholland is also considering making a bid.

But Mr Farron, the bookmakers’ favourite for the top job, said: “There’s only one thing we can do now, and that is turn our anger into action.

“Above all else [we must] create a sense of purpose and meaning behind the Liberals throughout the United Kingdom. There is a burning desire to make sure Britain’s liberal voice doesn’t just survive but thrives too.”

On a name change, a source close to Mr Farron added: “The Liberal party has a long history and it is important to capitalise on that. We are the party of Gladstone, Lloyd George and Beveridge and we should be proud of that.”

Meanwhile, Mr Lamb - the first MP to declare his candidacy to replace Nick Clegg - admitted the Lib Dems had failed both in communicating their influence as part of the coalition, but also in being too weak in influencing some key decisions.

The North Norfolk MP and former health and social care minister, said he was a “good friend” of Mr Clegg’s - but denied that he was a “continuity candidate”, adding: “I am my own man.”

Mr Lamb said: “I still believe that we did the right thing in the national interest in going into the coalition.

“We did some important things which will have a long-term impact - but we did make mistakes and those mistakes weren’t just about communication.

“For example, to allow the Conservatives to proceed with scrapping the spare room subsidy was a critical error, but we were learning as we went along.

“I do believe we were punching above our weight as a small party - but clearly, in the public’s minds, we didn’t do enough.

“Perhaps after a few years of a Conservative majority government, people will come to appreciate the influence we were able to exert.”

Mr Lamb’s responsibilities as a government whip saw him vote in favour of tuition fee increases in 2010, while his most likely leadership challenger, Tim Farron, rebelled and voted against.

He admitted this was a “debacle” that undermined the people’s trust in the party.

Mr Lamb said some policies - such as the pupil premium which gives extra money to schools to help disadvantaged children - were brought about by Lib Dem influence and would prove a long-term success. However, this was not a policy which was widely understood outside political circles, he said.

Mr Lamb described his decision to stand as a difficult one and a “huge personal challenge”.

He added: “I thought about it long and hard - it was a big decision which will have a massive impact on my family’s life.

“I am not somebody who ever set out to be party leader - I regard myself as a conviction politician with strong beliefs and I needed to convince myself I could balance that with being party leader.

“I believe power needs to be in the hands of people and communities, that is something I think I can bring to the job.”

Mr Lamb - whose majority was cut from 11,626 to 4,043 on election night - is one of just eight Lib Dem MPs remaining.

He said the Lib Dems had been hit by a “perfect storm” on election night as the public was presented with a choice between a Conservative government or a Labour government influenced by a strong SNP presence.

“In North Norfolk, I was told there were many ballot papers with a cross next to my name which had been rubbed out then put next to the Conservative candidate,” he added.

“I think that perfectly encapsulates the dilemma voters across the country had in their minds.”