Updated: Friday, 24th November 2017 @ 8:08am

'This is not North Korea': Tim Farron says Manchester Lib Dems must provide 'serious' alternative to Labour Party

'This is not North Korea': Tim Farron says Manchester Lib Dems must provide 'serious' alternative to Labour Party

| By Chris Ogden

Tim Farron has said that ‘it stinks’ that Manchester is ruled by the Labour Party, and likened the ‘one-party state’ to North Korea.

Speaking at experienced ex-MP John Leech’s campaign launch in Didsbury on Easter Monday, the Liberal Democrat leader championed his party as an alternative to Labour, and stated his wish that the city could be the source of a fightback for his party – decimated in the 2015 Election.

Leech was one of the many casualties of the flop, which also led to the resignation of former leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

But Farron explained to MM that it is vital for his party to regain their strength in the area, starting in the local elections on May 5.

“This is not North Korea and we don’t really want Manchester to be spoken of in the same breath as North Korea,” he said.

“You need a decent opposition, someone who’s going to hold the council to account, get a better deal for people locally and across the city.

“Manchester is a fantastic city. As a lad growing up in Lancashire, I’ve always considered Manchester to be my city. I think it’s really sad that the leading light in North West culture is a one-party state.

“That’s not very progressive.

“In my lifetime, [Manchester culture] has been counter-cultural.

“Voting a Liberal Democrat councillor in might not seem like the edgiest and most alternative thing that you’ve done in your entire life. However, looking at the council, it stinks a bit to have 100% of one party running a council.”

Former Withington MP Leech’s decision to stand in Didsbury West has caused a stir with his Labour opposition.

But the experienced politician told MM that the reception to his campaign on the doorstep had been positive so far, and assured locals that he would stand up for them on the council.

“[Labour] have just spent millions wasted millions on pounds messing with the road system on Wilmslow Road creating a ridiculous cycle scheme that nobody asked for, nobody supports and even cyclists say is dangerous,” Leech said.

“That’s the sort of thing that happens when you haven’t got anyone scrutinising the decisions being made by the council.

“They’re worried because… they know that I am not prepared to just simply let the Council get away with whatever they want to do.

“I will scrutinise the decisions that they’re making and they see me as a threat to their local councillors. They should see me as a threat because I have a good chance of winning.”

The pair continued with fighting talk, as Farron dismissed George Osborne’s flagship Northern Powerhouse calling it all ‘fur coat and no knickers’ and accused Conservative devolution as ‘dictatorship’.

And the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP insisted the fact that the party who many left-wingers praised in the last election – the SNP – do not operate south of the border makes his party’s recovery even more essential.

“I think there’s a need for a liberal voice,” he said.

“I have nothing against Jeremy Corbyn – I think he’s a nice fella – but what the Labour Party has chosen to do these last few months is basically to abdicate responsibility as an opposition.

“Corbyn and his team, if they see a wrong thing, they’ll go and protest against it.

“They won’t engage with it. They won’t try and win an election so you might be able to change it. It’s out come the placards!

“You’ll chat around the table about making the world a better place and you achieve nothing.

“I believe in rolling up my sleeves. You have to talk to the enemy and you have to try and persuade the enemy to do something a bit less bad. That’s what we spent five years doing [in the coalition Government, 2010-15].

“To be fair, a lot of the Manchester Labour councillors have gone with the Tory Government and just made the best of a bad job, but that doesn’t mean you don’t recognise that it’s a bad job and you want to change it.”

Farron’s task in rebuilding the Lib Dems could hardly have been larger, but the Preston-born 45-year-old has attracted quiet admiration during his first year on the job.

And he reiterated Manchester’s importance in his plans for the party, evoking the city’s liberal roots to declare the Lib Dems as the only ‘serious’ alternative to Labour.

“It’s important for this non-conformist city of Manchester where liberalism was born in so many ways and where the Liberals have formed the only opposition to Labour for a couple of generations now,” he said.

“Now, we form the only opposition to Labour as the only serious opportunity there is for there to be any non-Labour councillors in Manchester.

“That’s why I’m here.”

Image courtesy of the Liberal Democrat Voice, with thanks