Lib Dems should be ready to seize gaping centre-left hole, says Norman Lamb

Liberal Democrats mugs and other support material in the Liberal Democrats stall at the Liberal Demo

Liberal Democrats mugs and other support material in the Liberal Democrats stall at the Liberal Democrats annual conference at Bournemouth International Centre. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 20, 2015. See PA LIBDEMS stories. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The Liberal Democrats have to become an 'insurgent start-up' and seize opportunities presented by a gaping hole in the centre left, MP Norman Lamb has said.

Speaking on the eve of his party's first conference since it lost 49 MPs at the last election, the former health minister claimed it has been invigorated by a wave of new members who had joined following the devastating defeat in May and a number of recent local council by-election wins.

In the wake of left-wing Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership victory he said politics could change rapidly and was extremely dynamic.

'During the leadership election I likened it to the big household names which disappeared from the high street overnight and there are these new insurgent start ups which catch fire. It is the same in politics, we have to see ourselves in that way, as an insurgent start-up, dynamic, thinking of new ideas and what I sort of see now as I look at the politic scene is a gaping great hole on the centre left of politics.'

He said it was too early to predict what would happen to the Labour Party, and if there would be defections.

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'It all depends on what people within the Labour Party feel themselves. One Labour MP said to me this week 'I actively oppose everything my leader stands for'. When you get that attitude being expressed, who knows what might happen.'

'Of course we are in a weak position, it wold be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. We have been hugely damaged by the election. But just as things go down, they could go back up again.'

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He also fired a warning shot over the bows of Conservatives.

He said: 'I think that Tories inevitably have a period of honeymoon after the election, but I think they would be very mistaken if they were to assume there was popular consent for a right wing agenda on many things. The country needs a credible progressive alternative.

'As this parliament unfolds, I think about the challenge of the NHS. It is one of the things that people in their everyday lives care most about. They [the Conservatives] haven't got an answer for the scale of the challenges we face and the are not coming up with enough funds. The risk is catastrophic damage to the care sector where local government has taken a hit with cuts from central government. I think there will be lots of opportunities that emerge. The Tories might find life more difficult than they imaged at this stage and we need to come up with clear answers.'

•Political editor Annabelle Dickson will be at the party conferences over the coming weeks. See her daily coverage from the road. You can follow @newsannabelle on Twitter.

Can the Lib Dems make a comeback? You can vote in our poll here or leave your comments below.

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