U.K. Liberal Democrats Court Unhappy Labour and Tory Supporters

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron urged members of the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives to join him as their leaders move from the “liberal” center of British politics.

Conservatives alarmed at cuts in help for the poor and Labour supporters worried about the party’s economic direction under new leader Jeremy Corbyn should switch to the Liberal Democrats, Farron said, even though his party was left with only eight lawmakers in the 650-member House of Commons after a May election. His party had 57 lawmakers before the vote.

“It’s time that Britain had an economically credible and socially just opposition, and that’s the Liberal Democrats,” Farron said in an interview with Sky News. “I’m not a home wrecker for the Labour Party, but I am a home provider for liberals.”

Farron, who accused Corbyn of “fantasy economics,” is seeking to rebuild his party after it hemorrhaged support as a result of governing in coalition with Cameron’s Conservatives from 2010 until this year. Vince Cable, who was business secretary in that government, said there should be a coming-together of people in the center ground and suggested the creation of a new party.

“What I hope emerges from this is the creation of a common sense center-left formation made of sensible Labour, the Lib Dems and indeed some Tories who don’t like the direction of their party,” Cable wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “Ultimately this movement might well have to become a fully fledged political party. The party conference season will focus attention on one central issue –- how to bridge the vast gulf between Cameron and Corbyn.”

Missing Bounce

Corbyn’s socialist anti-austerity agenda and the media coverage around his election on Sept. 12 have failed to deliver a bounce in the polls for his party, according to a ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror.

The poll, of 2,015 adults on Sept. 16 and 17, showed Cameron’s Conservatives with the support of 42 percent of voters, up 2 percentage points from a month earlier, and Labour with 30 percent, up one point from August. Farron’s party was supported by seven percent, with the U.K. Independence Party drawing 13 percent.

Farron is not the only leader eager to establish his party in the political middle ground. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said earlier this month that he wants the Conservatives to do the same.

“I don’t think the Conservative Party’s response to the Labour party lurching to the left should be a lurching to the right,” he said in an interview with New Statesman magazine published Sept. 9. “I think it’s a huge opportunity and responsibility for us to hold the center of British politics.”

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