Lib Dem president: ‘Survival is what we do’

By Ian Dunt

The Liberal Democrats can survive rock-bottom poll ratings and media attacks because of the resilience of the party, its president has said.

In an acutely honest and sometimes startling speech, Tim Farron said the Lib Dems were "like cockroaches after a nuclear war" and had "nerves of steel".

Outlining the status of the party after over a year in power, Mr Farron insisted that behind-the-scenes negotiations were more important than public spats with Conservatives.

"On those very, very rare occasions when Michael Gove says or does something stupid or wrong, Sarah Teather doesn't come out and slag him off. Instead she fixes it," he said

"Free schools for example. When the Tories showed hesitancy about committing to true and fair banking reforms, Vince Cable laid on the pressure and forced that commitment. And when George Osborne flew the kite of cutting income tax for the wealthy, Danny Alexander cut the string, and stopped him."

Mr Farron also assured Lib Dem members that the alliance with the Conservatives would not last past the end of the parliament.

"We're staying together for the sake of the kids, or the special advisers as we call them," he said.

"So look, I don't want to upset you and it's not going to happen for three or four years, but I'm afraid divorce is inevitable."

The speech's lack of diplomacy is a result of Farron's role as party president, where he is expected to voice the party membership's frustrations and assure the rank-and-file the leadership is still connected with the base.

"I want to say this to you now, if you lost your seat, I stand with you," he said

"I am angry on your behalf; I take the responsibility and I absolutely will not insult you by claiming that this was collateral damage, or an understandable mid-term blip. Frankly, as your president, I owe you an apology."

Mr Farron also summarised the deficiencies of both other major parties, saying the Conservatives are "owned and directed by the impossibly rich" while Labour was at the mercy of "the forces of conservatism".

He added: "No one will sell our story if we don't, no one will believe our message if we don't, no one will fight our battles if we don't

"We've spent years trying to qualify for the premier league of politics, now we are here – let's waste no time looking into the stands for reactions, let's look at each other, look to each other, focus on the goal, tackle our opponents and stuff them."