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Lib Dems would work with new pro-EU party, but not join – Farron

The Liberal Democeat argued that the SDP, Britain’s last big breakaway centrist party, was ‘very close to having made it’.

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Liberal Democrat former leader Tim Farron (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Liberal Democrat former leader Tim Farron (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Liberal Democrat former leader Tim Farron (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Liberal Democrat former leader Tim Farron has told pro-EU Tory and Labour MPs to “grow a flipping backbone” and form a new party.

Mr Farron said the Lib Dems would not join the new party but would “work with them”.

Speaking to Politico’s morning newsletter, Playbook, he argued that the SDP, Britain’s last big breakaway centrist party, was “very close to having made it”.

He said: “Let some of these people in the Labour Party and the Tory Party grow a flipping backbone and leave. And we should work with them.

“Let them form their own party, we will work with them, and we’ll try and do it together. People shouldn’t fall into the mistake of thinking the SDP was a failure. It really wasn’t.

“The day before (former Argentine president Leopoldo) Galtieri invaded the Falklands, they (SDP) were on 51% in the polls and the (Liberal/SDP) alliance got 26% of the vote in ’83 — very, very close to having made it.”

Mr Farron revealed that if a new centrist party was not formed he would also settle for “a decent electable leader” of the Labour Party.

He said: “I’m at the stage now … I’d be content for my children’s future if the Labour Party just sorted its act out, got a decent electable leader and gave the country an alternative.”

Despite talk of the Labour leadership and new parties Mr Farron said he still believed there was a place for the Lib Dems.

He said: “You see with great frustration – and I’m sure Vince (Cable) feels the same – the colossal opportunity in what I will glibly call the centre of British politics, and the desperate need for us.

“I obviously want the Liberal Democrats to recover, become the next government of the country and solve all the problems.”

Mr Farron’s successor as leader, Sir Vince Cable — is himself now reportedly under pressure and is said to be planning a speech next week that will pave the way for his own resignation before the next election.

Sir Vince’s big idea is reported to be to open up the Lib Dem rules so the next leader does not have to be an MP.

Mr Farron said the idea was an “interesting” one, but added: “To be fair, Vince is only just touting it as an option.”

Away from the Lib Dems, pro-EU Tory MPs have raised fears that they are being targeted by Ukip supporters in a plot to unseat them and elect a more hard-line Brexit-supporting prime minister.

Tory former minister Anna Soubry told the Times that party chairman Brandon Lewis needed to act.

She said: “We are on a membership drive at the same time as the likes of (Arron) Banks are urging members of Ukip and other hard Brexiteers to join our party to topple the leader and destroy Government policy.

“I’ve called on the party chairman to end the membership drive until we can be confident we are not being infiltrated by people who are not Conservatives.”

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