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Lib Dem leadership contenders Tim Farron and Norman Lamb make their case for Cambridge

June 14, 2015 12:08 PM
In Cambridge News
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Both men in the running to become the next Lib Dem leader made their pitch to Cambridge on Saturday morning - and backed Julian Huppert for a return as city MP.

Some 200 activists were in attendance to hear the respective pitches from former party president Tim Farron and former care minister Norman Lamb.

They told the News their key priorities to help Cambridge would be tackling the city's housing crisis and climate change, as well as inspiring a new generation of liberal voters.

Former Cambridge Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert lost his seat by just 600 votes at May's general election - with both Mr Farron and Mr Lamb urging Dr Huppert to stand again.

"Everybody knows we're competitive in Cambridge, everybody knows that if you want a strong, liberal, progressive voice in Cambridge, then it needs to be the Liberal Democrat," Mr Farron said.

"I very much hope it will be Julian Huppert, but it's up to him to make his own choice for his own future if he wishes to stand here again.

"But David Howarth, who represented the city so well beforehand, proves there is a lot of talent here and we know this will be a close-run fight in local elections and in the general election in five years' time.

"I am absolutely determined that this is top of the list to bring back into the Liberal Democrat fold."

Mr Lamb added: "Julian did remarkably well here, he very nearly pulled it off and given what we went through as a party in government, and particularly because this city, with its student population, would have been in many ways concerned about a coalition between us and the Conservatives, Julian came very close to winning this seat.

"That was a remarkable result for him and I very much hope he stands again. I think he was a brilliant MP, he was a campaigning MP, but he was also challenging of the commonly held views around issues like drug policy and mental health.

"I've got great admiration for Julian and if he does go for it again I would be very confident he could prevail."

Dr Huppert has joined other leading Lib Dem figures from the eastern region - including former MEP and Cambridge city councillor Andrew Duff - in backing Norfolk MP Mr Lamb for the party's top job.

"I have been really impressed by Norman Lamb," Dr Huppert said.

"He is an amazing guy - he's done so much already and there is so much more that he can do.

"But in particular he has been prepared to take bold, radical, liberal steps. One can look at drugs policy reform, about prison reform about so many things, Norman really has led the way and continues to do so."

Mr Lamb highlighted reform to drugs policy and mental health as well as "giving everyone the chance to do well in life without interference from the state".

He added: "In a way I want us to see ourselves as a start-up with a massive potential market out there, because this is fundamentally the liberal age.

"There are so many people out there who have liberal values, who share those values. I want us to reach out to them and make them feel that we represent what they're about.

"We have to combine brilliant campaigning with winning the battle of ideas. We have to come up with liberal solutions to the big challenges of our time.

"We have to inspire a new generation of young people, who are fundamentally liberal in their attitudes towards issues, to join our cause.

"It's been very, very tough for this party, and it's remarkable if you look at the contrasting fortunes of the two parties that made up the same government.

"We can feel that's all very unjust, but we have to accept the verdict of the electorate. We can hold our heads high for the liberal things we achieved.

"We have to now rebuild. I'm confident we acted in the interests of the nation, but now our task is to rebuild that liberal voice."

Mr Farron added: "I want to inspire people to realise that liberal values have never been more necessary and never more under threat.

"People in this city care about fighting climate change, they care about tackling the appalling housing crisis, they care about fighting the abolition of the human rights act.

"They need to not just wish the Liberal Democrats well - they need to put their money where their mouths are, get involved and join the fightback."

The Liberal Democrats elect a leader by one member, one vote. The result of the ballot for the new leader will be announced on July 16.

Later the two candidates will join Romsey by-election candidate, Nichola Martin, canvassing in Cambridge.

East Midlands Hustings is scheduled for Monday 6 July at 6.30pm in Nottingham - Book Here