19/03/2017 15:37 GMT | Updated 19/03/2017 15:45 GMT

Tim Farron Tells Moderate Tories: Get Some Self-Respect And Defect To The Lib Dems

He accused Theresa May of being similar to Le Pen, Putin and Trump

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Moderate Tory MPs should get some “self-respect” and defect to the Lib Dems or face the same fate as Zac Goldsmith, Tim Farron warned today.

In a keynote speech at his party’s Spring conference, Farron threw down the gauntlet to “centrist” Tories who did not share Theresa May’s vision of a hard Brexit.

He called on those MPs to stop marching through the voting lobbies in support of policies they disagreed with, and either “defect or resign”.

Speaking in York this afternoon, Farron addressed those Tories who were attracted to the party by David Cameron’s “Compassionate Conservatism” and said: “We shared power with their party for five years, so I think I can say this to them bluntly: You aren’t in that party any more - it has gone. 

“You are now the supporters of a Government that is as anti-business as Jeremy Corbyn.

“You are now the cheerleaders of a government that is as anti-refugees as Nigel Farage.

“You are now backing an agenda that is the opposite of what you signed up for.

“You are trooping through the lobbies voting for this stuff and you know it’s wrong, so for pity’s sake, have some self-respect. Defect or resign.

“If you don’t then when the next election comes we will do to you what we did to Zac Goldsmith.”

The Lib Dems won the Richmond Park by-election in December, in which former Tory MP Goldsmith resigned and stood as an independent in protest at the Government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow.

The Tories decided not to contest the by-election, making Goldsmith the de-facto Conservative candidate.

The Lib Dems overturned a majority of 23,015 to win the seat by 1,872 votes, and have seen their opinion poll ratings steadily increase since the EU referendum.

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images
Donald Trump and Theresa May were snapped holding hands after a joint press conference in Washington in January

Farron also used his speech to accuse the Prime Minister of being an “aggressive, nationalist” leader in the mould of Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump – and said her Government was now more in thrall to the ideology of Nigel Farage than Margaret Thatcher.

Commenting on May’s meeting with President Trump just a week after he was inaugurated, Farron said: “It sent a very clear message. Britain is leaving behind our neighbours in Europe and all they stand for and hitching ourselves to Donald Trump and all he stands for.

“Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen, Theresa May. This is the new normal, the new status quo.

“Aggressive. Nationalistic. Anti-NATO. Anti-EU.

“Churchill’s vision for a world that achieves peace through trade, common values and shared endeavour evaporating before our eyes.”

Farron also attacked Labour, echoing his comments to the Huff Post UK earlier this week that Jeremy Corbyn “is the most ineffective, poor quality opposition leader probably in the history of British politics.”