Tim Farron reprises Tony Blair’s hits for keynote conference speech
‘I kind of see Tony Blair the way I see The Stone Roses - I preferred the early work.’
Tim Farron heaped praise on Tony Blair today as he called on disaffected Labour voters to ditch their party and join the Lib Dems.
He said that while he opposed the Iraq War, he "admired" the former Prime Minister for the introduction of the minimum wage, working tax credits, record NHS spending and building new schools.
But the Lib Dem leader's praise of Blair came just a day after Lib Dem activists were filmed telling the former Prime Minister to "f*** off and die".
In his keynote speech at the end of the Lib Dem conference in Brighton, Farron ruled out ever working with "Marxist" Jeremy Corbyn, who he said had given up on holding the Conservative government to account or winning the next election.
And he said that unless "progressives" join forces, the Tories will be in power for the next 25 years and have free rein to devise what Brexit Britain looks like.
Farron said: "I kind of see Tony Blair the way I see The Stone Roses - I preferred the early work.
"Tony Blair’s government gave us the National Minimum Wage. It gave us working tax credits. It gave us NHS investment and a massive school building programme.
"I disagree with him a lot, but I will not criticise him for those things. I admire him for those things. I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win. Otherwise, you’re letting your opponent get stuff done instead.
"The Corbyn crowd like to talk in terms of loyalty and betrayal. Well, there is no surer way to betray the people you represent than to let your opponents win. I believe in working across party lines. I’m prepared to work with people of all parties and none if it will make people’s lives better.
"But I couldn’t work with Jeremy Corbyn, because Jeremy Corbyn would never work with me."
In a direct appeal to moderate Labour voters to switch sides, Farron said: "The Government needs an opposition, and that means progressives should be prepared to put our differences aside in order to hold them to account."
He admitted that expecting Labour supporters to join the Lib Dems was "a big ask" but added: "As we stand on the edge of those two horrific realities: Brexit and a Tory stranglehold on Britain, the biggest risk is that you do not join us. So be absolutely certain of this reality.
"The only movement with the desire and the potential to stop the calamity of Brexit and the tragedy of a generation of Conservative majority rule, is this movement, is the Liberal Democrats.
"So, you can despair if you want and accept the inevitability of a Tory government for the next quarter of a century. Or you can recognise that the Liberal Democrats can prevent that inevitability.
"That means you. It means us. Together. Together, we must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. Together, the Liberal Democrats must be the real voice of opposition. Together, we must win."