13/03/2016 13:05 GMT | Updated 14/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Lib Dems 'Must Go Back To Their Roots To Win Back Support'

The Liberal Democrats must stop trying to emulate the major parties and return to their roots to win back support, their leader has said.

Tim Farron told activists that the seeds of the party's downfall may have been sown long before its foray into coalition government by its desire to replicate Labour and Conservative party structures.

In a speech to the Lib Dem conference in York, he warned that Westminster was a "beguiling place" but urged the Lib Dems to focus on community politics to find their "path back to power".

The Lib Dems were third largest party in parliament in 2010 with 57 seats and went into government with the Conservatives. They were reduced to just eight seats at the general election last year.

"We put country before party and I am dead proud that we did," he said. 

"But were the seeds of our setback in May sown many years before? Because Westminster can be a beguiling place.

"When you are there, there's constant temptation to try and be like everyone else.

We've had a full shadow cabinet. We've had junior spokespeople. We've even had enough for some troublesome backbenchers. Mind you, even with eight we still have some of those.

"But, we must always ask ourselves, when we are a Westminster force, is it too tempting to get obsessed with Parliament that we forget the community politics that put us there?

"Westminster's rules are laid down by parties that have an opposite agenda to ours – with powerful vested interests to protect, not people to liberate.

"For the establishment parties it is the best Old Boys' Club in town, and they have stacked the rules to protect it.

"We arrive in the big league on our terms. But we too often attempt to remain on theirs."

He added: "We must return to our roots. No matter the office, always remaining true to our instincts. It's time to focus not on parliamentary games, but on real life. It's time we got back to community politics."