U.K. Liberal Democrat President Bemoans Party’s ‘Critical State’

The president of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, said his party, the junior partner in David Cameron’s coalition government, is in a “critical state” and may struggle to survive at the next election in 2015.

Even though they held on to a parliamentary district targeted by their Conservative coalition partners in a special election last week, the Liberal Democrats trail in national opinion polls as activists gather for a spring rally this weekend. The party is not indestructible, Farron said.

“We may well be cockroach-ish, but we shouldn’t take that for granted,” Farron was cited as saying in an interview in “The House” magazine, distributed to lawmakers in London today. “One day someone will stand on us if we are not careful. We shouldn’t assume our survival is guaranteed.”

Even though national elections are not scheduled until 2015, the Liberal Democrats, led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and Prime Minister Cameron’s Tories will contest local-government and European Parliament elections this year and next as separate parties. They are now beginning to make clear to voters the differences between them.

Farron criticized Cameron as a “weak leader” and was quoted as saying that the Liberal Democrats have “got at least three candidates for chancellor of the exchequer who could do a better job” than the current Tory holding that position, George Osborne. Farron’s party gathers in Brighton, southern England, today for its spring conference.

Morrissey Probe

Newton Investment Management Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Helena Morrissey was named to head an inquiry into the Liberal Democrats’ culture and attitudes toward women after allegations were made about former CEO Chris Rennard, the party said today in an e-mailed statement. Rennard denies claims that he sexually harassed female party workers and Clegg has said that the party did not try to suppress the allegations.

An analysis of the Liberal Democrats’ prospects by Michael Ashcroft, a upper-house Conservative lawmaker who commissions opinion polling, found only 29 percent of those who voted for the party in 2010 said they would do so again tomorrow. Still, Ashcroft’s report also found causes for hope for the Liberal Democrats: just under a quarter of those who now say they’d vote for the party next time didn’t do so last time. Ashcroft’s pollsters interviewed 20,022 adults online between Jan. 22 and Jan. 31.

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