Lib Dem conference - Tim comes home to rousing applause

Friday 25 September 2015

The party conference season is now in full swing, and it promises to be an interesting few weeks with party members and the media having been eagerly awaiting speeches from both a controversial new Labour leader and the new leader for the failed Liberal Democrat party.

The Conservatives address their party this week, but as usual the Liberal Democrats were first off the block. The party had a lot to prove following several challenging years playing second fiddle to the Conservatives during the coalition and having dwindled down to just eight MPs after an abysmal result in May’s general election.

It was new Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron’s first major conference speech since taking over the mantle from Nick Clegg in July this year.

Housing was high on the agenda and seemed to be a subject genuinely close to his heart.

He recalled the time when he was 14 and first saw the film 'Cathy Come Home'.

“The film was 18 years old when I watched it first, but it still felt raw. 

It’s a film about a young woman whose life gets gradually and brutally torn apart for lack of stable housing.

Eviction follows eviction until the council eventually take away her kids. All because they couldn’t find a decent home at a rent they could afford.

Now that was 50 years ago but not nearly enough has changed.

Cathy come home lit a spark in me – it made me angry, it energised me, it made me want to get up and get involved. And so I did, and I haven’t stopped.”

Rhetoric must stop

Mr Farron said he was fed up with empty rhetoric on housing and that action is needed now. He went on to outline his proposals for a better Britain.

He promised to lead the opposition to the forced sell-off of housing association properties. Blocking the Conservative’s plan to give more local housing association tenants the Right to Buy, saying that whilst a small minority would benefit from the option, a far bigger majority would lose out in the long run.

Mr Farron said “Communities up and down this country have spent 25 years building housing association homes, picking up the pieces of Mrs Thatcher’s destruction of council housing, and we will not allow David Cameron to destroy that work too…”

Other proposals included:

  • A target of building 300,000 homes a year - a massive challenge, but we must be prepared to meet it. And this means bold choices.
  • Giving councils the freedom and power to borrow so they can start building again.
  • Creating 10 new garden cities with the infrastructure they need to thrive.
  • Creating a housing investment bank to bring in much more cash and give the industry the support and security it needs.

He also strongly criticised David Cameron’s response to the refugee crisis and called upon the Government to provide the necessary financial support that our local authorities will need to help settle refugees, so as not to set community against community. He got a standing ovation during this part of his speech.

Most agreed that Tim Farron gave an impassioned speech and some supporters even tweeted that he managed to bring a tear to their eye. The wider media seemed to agree that he delivered a good speech and was a confident orator, although some commentators thought that with so little to lose, not enough new ground was covered and that he perhaps didn’t distance himself enough from the former failed leader of the party Nick Clegg.

You can view Tim’s speech in full here

(Image by Alex Folkes/Fishnik.com)