THERESA May’s “Brextremist” Government is more on the Right than that of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, Tim Farron has claimed, as he urged moderate Tory MPs to "dump" the Conservatives and join his party.
In an at times passionate keynote speech to conference, the Liberal Democrat leader lumped the Prime Minister in with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and France’s Front National leader, Marine le Pen, as part of an "emerging consensus" on the political Right characterised by Nationalism, authoritarianism and protectionism, committed to reversing human rights and indifferent to or in denial of climate change.
“Welcome to the new world order. This is the new normal, the new status quo. Aggressive. Nationalistic. Anti-Nato. Anti-EU. It is the post-war internationalist consensus unravelling in real time,” declared Mr Farron.
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He suggested the last four Prime Ministers – Messrs Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron – now had more in common with the Lib Dems than they had with their own parties.
“Being in favour of the market, of strong public services, of facing up to climate change, believing in free trade and working with your neighbours; that was all motherhood and apple pie not long ago. Everyone said that they were in favour of it.
“Now, all that stuff, basic common sense stuff, we are the only ones who believe it. Who’d have thought it? Being sensible is now a radical concept,” he joked.
In his Herald conference interview, the Cumbrian MP claimed the Tory Government’s world view involved “shutting the door on refugees, being appalling to people from other countries who have made their lives here, smaller government and a reduction in real terms spending on public services, protectionism and walking away from free trade”.
Asked if he was saying liberal Conservativism, the kind of compassionate Conservativism, which the former Tory Prime Minister had sought to promote was dead, Mr Farron replied: “For sure.”
He said in the new centre ground that Mrs May talked about someone like George Osborne, the former Chancellor sacked by her, was now “a kind of Leftie”.
He explained: “This is the man, who stood up during the Article 50 debate and said the Conservative Party had chosen to make concerns about immigration a bigger issue ahead of the economy.”
Noting how Margaret Thatcher was the architect of the single market, Mr Farron said Mrs May’s Government now “massively outflanks” that of the Tory Government led by the Iron Lady.
“The 1980s incarnation of Margaret Thatcher is significantly to the Left of this Tory Government.”
When it was suggested that this was hyperbole, Mr Farron replied: “It’s absolutely accurate; Osborne backs it up. Running away from the single market that Thatcher created because it is too liberal and it involves migration,” he added.