POLITICS
21/09/2015 05:27 BST | Updated 21/09/2015 07:59 BST

Tim Farron: I've Been Speaking To Labour MPs But I'm Not A Political Home-Wrecker

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron
Matt Cardy via Getty Images
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron claimed he was not a “home-wrecker” today as he was pushed to reveal how many Labour MPs were thinking of defecting to his party.

Yesterday, Mr Farron claimed more than two disgruntled Labour MPs had contacted him to air their frustration over Jeremy Corbyn being elected their party’s leader.

This morning, Mr Farron was coy on the exact number of MPs he had spoken to, and appeared to play down any chance of defections by suggesting Labour parliamentarians would “stay and fight”.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson was scornful when asked if he feared losing MPs to the Lib Dems, and quipped: "That would be like leaving the Beatles to join a Bananarama tribute band. I don't see any Labour MPs or any serious Labour MPs who are going to defect to go to Tim Farron's party.”

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Farron was asked how many Labour MPs he had spoken to about defecting.

He replied: “We can establish that a number of people that I’ve spoken to in the last week or so, speak to me in complete confidence and speak of their immense angst at their situation in the Labour Party. They may be members of the Labour Party for many, many, many years and have seen their party change almost overnight.”

He added: “My job as Liberal Democrat leader is not to be a kind of home-wrecker for Labour MPs but it is to provide a home for Liberals and Social Democrats wherever they may currently be.”

Mr Farron was elected leader in the aftermath of the Lib Dem’s disastrous General Election performance, in which the party lost 49 of its 57 seats.

Despite having just eight MPs, Mr Farron claims he has been acting like an “agony uncle” to Labour MPs in recent days.

But when pressed on the likelihood of any defections, he said: “I don’t want to raise expectations of people coming over instantly. I expect many people in the Labour Party who oppose Jeremy Corbyn to stay in and fight.”

Responding to Mr Watson’s Bananarama quip, Mr Farron said: “It’s quite a good gag but I think he’s flattering himself if he thinks he would ever have been in The Beatles.”

He added: “There’s nothing wrong with Bananarama.”

Mr Farron also described as “fantasy” suggestions from ex-Lib Dem peer Jenny Tonge that people could switch to Labour from the Lib Dems.