In what has to date been a lacklustre contest to be the next Liberal Democrat leader, in which a number of hard questions may yet need to be asked and answered, I am nonetheless voting for Tim Farron to take the party forwards once again and give the Liberal Democrats a fresh start.

My reasoning goes all the way back to late January 2006, when a newly-elected Tim came to Reading to give a speech. The context turned out to be a turbulent month which started with the ugly deposition of Charles Kennedy as leader and ended with the Mark Oaten scandal. A generally keen, mostly inexperienced, in several cases newly-recruited set of activists came to a cafe. I can’t recall if I had asked Tim to talk about liberal values and why they were relevant – but that is precisely what he did. Speaking without notes for almost an hour, he gave an inspirational, insightful tour de force of Liberal thought focusing on his heroes T. H. Green and Hobhouse in particular. He answered questions for as long as they came before retreating to Wagamama’s for a bite to eat.

Since then I have (unusually for me) tended to stray into Conference speeches when Tim is speaking. He ‘speaks human’ and while happy to engage on policy detail nonetheless trusts the party enough to avoid micromanaging. But most importantly for the pressing need to campaign the party out of the mess it is in, Tim will lead from the front and connect with people. He achieved the highest voter turnout in his Lake District seat in 2010; no mean achievement. That successful campaigners are backing Tim, from my good friends Greg Mulholland to Neil Fawcett, is no surprise.

As Greg Mulholland also pointed out rapidly after the election, our next leader has to be someone who didn’t break their pledge on tuition fees pledge – otherwise the Liberal Democrats will fight the 2020 election fighting the 2015 campaign on a toxic and misguided decision from 2010.

As I have previously written, the party needs to reassert its Liberal values and identity. Tim has already started the process with a summary of his values. He has also led from the front, challenging the Government on live issues such asOsborne’s misguided RBS sell-off and, better still, has taken up the necessary crusade against Britain’s morally repugnant arms trade.

Rightly, Tim has also been championing the party’s urgent need to be more diverse in our elected representatives. The contest for our London Mayoral candidate between Caroline Pidgeon and Duwayne Brooks does us much credit; it is clear that action will have to be taken to get away from the cadre of white, mostly middle-class men we now have in the House of Commons (no offence to any of them).

I don’t personally hold the damaging actions of a minority of Norman’s supporters against Norman personally. But it is evident that a group of them care more about damaging other candidates’ reputations than the future of the party. The allegations of last weekend are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the party, and I hope people on all sides will refrain from damaging their “other candidate” in a way that will make a hard rebuild even harder.

I am delighted at the positivity of Tim’s campaign. He has been travelling the UK to listen to people and understand how we as members all feel. As I have written before, the party needs a fresh start and to start to look forward once the leadership result is announced. It needs someone to speak truth to power in a way non-politicians understand. While I have a lot of time for Norman and in other circumstances would be better disposed to voting for him – and his skills complement Tim’s in many ways – in the position we are in it just has to be Tim.

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