Friday, April 20, 2012

What do I have in common with Neil Armstrong, Jo Nesbo, Paddy McAloon, Polly Toynbee and Tony Blair?

Not a lot, you might imagine. I've certainly never been to the Moon, or been paid a fortune to write ill-informed nonsense for a national newspaper (some might say I do that for free here..), or written a gruesome bestseller, or started an illegal war. And I certainly was never part of an alternative English rock band.

But despite all of that, I still managed to be mentioned in the above illustrious company by Lib Dem President Tim Farron. In a cracking interview in the New Statesman, he praised this humble blog. When asked who his favourite blogger was, he said:
Caron Lindsay - a fantastic blog written by a great Scottish Liberal. 
I should add that Liberal Democrat Voice also got a mention for being "a brilliant place if you want to know "what the Lib Dems think".

But all this is irrelevant really because the rest of the interview shows exactly why he's so popular in this party. His mind works in some strange ways, certainly, and you'll need to read the whole thing yourselves to find out where all the others fit in. You'll find some surprises. His dinner table would be interesting, that's all I'm saying. I wonder how that conversation would go.

Tim is really good at grabbing at the heartstrings and articulating our gut instincts as Liberal Democrats. He's asked about the saddest things he'd heard at surgeries and as I read them I was transported right back to the days I did them with Willie Rennie when he was MP for Dunfermline. That sense of injustice, the desire to keep working until you find a solution for people, he got it absolutely right.

Saddest thing: Too many to mention.  Mostly housing related issues, families in desperate poverty, stupid and cruel immigration decisions that separated loved ones. They break my heart but these are the things that keep me going – when you get someone re-housed or help someone get their personal debts under control, it makes the job worthwhile. I can take or leave the Westminster village nonsense, but the casework and the community campaigning stuff always motivates me.  When someone comes up to and says "Thanks Tim - you got me and my mum re-housed" it really cheers you up.  Making a difference is what keeps me going and why I got into politics in the first place.
 He says he doesn't want to be Prime Minister - which is probably an essential requirement for that job, but to "stand up for those people who can't be heard." Actually, I'm always banging on about how we need to sort housing out once and for all, to make sure that there is enough decent quality affordable housing for ordinary folk. I'd like to see him given the chance to do it. 

This brings me to his performance on last night's Question Time where he came across really well. He might have been sidelined a bit by David Aaronovitch and George Galloway tearing lumps out of each other, but his common sense to word ratio was pretty near to 1:1. Sayeeda Warsi, who earlier this week had accused Tim of treating the coalition like a bad episode of Come Dine with Me, gave him ample opportunity to show the differences between Lib Dem and Tory.

One such example was the idea that parents whose children habitually skipped school should have their Child Benefit docked. Tim was quick to describe that as "counter productive and morally repugnant", talking about the link between under achievement and poverty and getting in an explanation of how Nick Clegg's Pupil Premium was helping poorer kids. 

Tim is very good at getting the Liberal Democrat message across. The next thing is to get him out of the usual political media hangouts and onto programmes that ordinary people watch - let's get him on This Morning and the One Show and interviewed in Woman's Own and the like.

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