The unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Westmorland and Londsale has hit out at the Liberal Democrats for appointing vegetarian Tim Farron as the party’s farming spokesman.

James Airey – who lost out to Mr Farron by almost 2,000 votes in December’s General Election – branded his former rival’s appointment as an “irrelevant position from an irrelevant party”.

Mr Airey – who is leader of Cumbria County Council’s Conservative Group and a councillor at South Lakeland District Council – said: “We need somebody who believes in that industry and is committed to it.

“We need somebody that recognises that we have got the highest animal welfare standards in the world. That livestock farms are proud of the product they produce and that it is of the absolute top quality.

“So, I would say, when it comes to livestock farming, we need somebody who is a meat-eater representing the industry.”

As reported by in-Cumbria, Mr Farron was unveiled as the party’s spokesman for farming and rural affairs earlier this week.

Mr Farron – already its spokesman for local government, housing and the North of England – is also chair of an all-party parliamentary group on hill farming, a role that Mr Airey is equally critical of describing the Liberal Democrats as a “spent force” and suggesting the party had “no voice” nationally.

In response to Mr Airey’s outburst, Mr Farron sought the moral high ground stressing that MPs should be “working across political divides” to support farming rather than playing “petty party politics”.

“With Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of the month, and with the Government hell-bent on dismantling the Basic Payment Scheme, there’s never been more of an uncertain time for our hard-working local farmers,” he said.

“I was delighted when the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) approached me to get our cross-party group back up and running.

“Through our hard work, the group was previously successful in pressuring the Government to make sure the Hill Farm Allowance was replaced with another scheme. 

“It’s absolutely vital that, rather than playing petty party politics, we instead work across the political divides if we are to secure a strong future for our local farmers.”

Mr Farron defied pre-election predictions by increasing his majority from 777 in 2017’s General Election to 1,934 in December.

The result saw him become Cumbria’s only non-Conservative MP after the party retained its existing seats and picked up Barrow and Furness and Workington.