Farron Calls on U.K. Liberal Democrats to Push for Power in 2020

U.K. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron will seek to rally his party in a speech to close its annual conference on Wednesday as it bids to rebuild after a near-wipeout in May’s general election.

The party should be proud of its five years as junior partner in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government, even though it cost 49 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons, Farron will say, according to extracts released by his office.

“We paid a heavy price for our time in government, but we did right by the country,” Farron will tell delegates in Bournemouth, southern England. “Liberal Democrats made a difference, made Britain more successful and learned that power is tough but worth it.”

Farron will be making his first keynote conference speech since he was elected as leader in July. He will call on members to show the “Liberal Democrat Spirit” as they fight local and assembly elections in Scotland, England and Wales next year. The party is aiming to return to a coalition role after the next general election in 2020.

“I am proud of what we did in government and I am determined that we will return,” he will say. “There is nothing grubby or unprincipled about wanting to win.”

The party will seek to block legislation proposed by Cameron to force nonprofit housing associations to sell homes to their tenants, Farron will say.

While Cameron has a majority in the House of Commons, the Liberal Democrats may be able to hold up the legislation temporarily by voting against it with Labour and neutral members of the House of Lords.

The Conservatives included the plan, which echoes Margaret Thatcher’s sale of local-government housing in the 1980s, in their manifesto for the May election, so parliamentary convention means the Lords can’t veto it.

Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat minister until May, compared the proposal to force charities to sell their properties to the seizure of white-owned farms by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

“The state has no right to sell off these homes because they’re not the state’s,” he told a meeting at the conference.

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