A former Liberal Democrat leader has called for his party to work with a new centrist party, if one was created.
Tim Farron made the comments over continuing rumours that a new anti-Brexit centrist party would be set up.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable has denied claims he was having private discussions with other MPs about forming a new party, in meetings which led him to miss key Brexit White Paper votes a few weeks ago.
James Whale questioned Farron on talkRADIO about the possibility of this new party forming, to which he said: “I mean it’s a good question, my sense is there is the money for it to launch, but it's whether or not the MPs - the big names in inverted commas - have got the steel to make it happen.”
Cable called reports of a meeting to set up a new center-ground party as ‘not correct’, when he was having private discussions on the evening of a key vote on Theresa May’s Brexit proposal.
Farron was quizzed by Whale about whether he would join this new party, but suggested the Lib Dems should ‘support a new party’ and 'work with them'.
“I would love for people to join the Liberal Democrats,” he said.
“I understand that for tribal reasons - and other reasons - that’s less likely to happen, but I increasingly think that the most likely outcome is a repeat of the 1980s, but hopefully with happier endings, in other words I can see an SDP mark two.
“The Liberal Democrats have more members than the Tory party, 2,000 councillors and a small but perfectly formed parliamentary party and we have the infrastructure that a new party doesn’t have, and what gave the SDP any survival whatsoever in the 80s was its relationship with the Liberals.
“And I think the Liberal Democrats shouldn’t be too sniffy with a new party setting up, we should support it, we shouldn’t join it but we should work with it and between us we could potentially provide an alternative with the two crazy incompetent extremes that we currently have to deal with.”
The SDP – Social Democrat Party – emerged in 1981 by four senior Labour members after the Labour Party had become too ‘left-wing’. They merged with The Liberal Party in 1988 to form the Social and Liberal Democrats, which would go on to become the Liberal Democrats as we know them today.
Some members did split and carry on the SDP, but after performing badly at the 1990 General Election they disbanded.
Farron ended by asking whether there’s a movement in Britain that is ‘compassionate’ but also ‘economically competent’
“I think in the end, is there a movement? Is there a force in Britain that is compassionate about welfare, fair taxes and believes in economic competence and being open-minded?
“We are all ears to others on how we can move forward with them or along with them.”