The June general election is a “colossal opportunity” for the country to change direction, according to Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
He was speaking to journalists at a press conference in a London synagogue last Wednesday, (3) where he also admitted the party which has only nine MPs, has for too long not reflected Britain’s diverse communities.
Farron added that there was also a problem with the lack of gender balance in the party. In 2015, the Lib Dems ended up with eight MPs, down from 57 in 2010.
Sarah Olney who was elected into her Richmond Park and North Kingston seat last year following a by-election, is the only woman to represent the party.
“We too often have not reflected Britain’s diverse communities but also the lack of gender balance. We are liberals and we have been slow in being interventionists,” Farron told the audience of reporters.
The party is fielding a number of ethnic minority candidates in constituencies which either voted against Brexit or were sharply divided on the issue.
These include Marisha Ray, who was born in London to Bengali parents, and Goan-origin Rabi Martins.
“Most of the Indian-origin electorate voted anti-Brexit and few in the community who may have voted Leave did so because of the lies they were told by the Leave campaign.
“They made their decision based on information which turned out to be completely untrue,” said Ray, who is contesting a Conservative stronghold of Chipping Barnet in north London.
She came fifth in the 2015 election after UKIP and the Green Party; however, Ray is confident of making a dent because the constituency was largely anti-Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
It is currently represented by staunch pro-Brexit Conservative MP Theresa Villiers.
“We have seen a sharp rise in hate crimes in the wake of the referendum and it is important we mobilise the Indian community for the upcoming election,” Ray added.
Farron said in the run up to the referendum last summer, the Conservatives and Labour had either “peddled, pandered to or fallen under the spell” of the notion that immigration in this country is a curse.
“The Lib Dems are unique and alone in proudly saying immigration it is a blessing not a curse.”
The 46-year-old added that the two major parties had taken certain sections of the population for granted.
“We need a government that listens to every community in this country. The Conservatives are not the only party taking part of Britain for granted. Labour takes for granted our inner cities on the one hand, and our BME communities on the other.
“I don’t believe that Theresa May has called this election for anything other than the good of the Conservative party, nevertheless, it is a colossal opportunity for the country to change direction and for the Liberal Democrats.”
He explained that the party stood against the politics of nationalism and division, and believed Britain could be “open tolerant and united, inclusive and decent.”
“We are not prepared as Britain teeters on the edge of a Brexit cliff edge to give up on that vision,” Farron added.
The 1.2 million-strong Indian diaspora has traditionally been seen as pro-Labour but swung towards David Cameron-led Conservative party in the last general election.
His pro-Europe party which campaigned strongly against Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) in the June 2016 referendum says it has accepted the will of the British public.
However getting as many Lib Dem MPs into the next parliament would ensure the future British prime minister does not push through a “hard Brexit”– which would involve an exit from the European single market.
The party is believed to be targeting over 20 anti-Brexit constituencies in the June 8 elections to ensure a voice in parliament against the ruling party.