Tim Farron has been the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third biggest political party in the UK, for the last two years. He recently ran in the election on the pro-EU Remain ticket. During the run-up to the election, Farron was robustly questioned about his views on gay sex and whether it is a sin, something that he had admitted earlier in his career. He ducked the question on Channel 4 concerning this, as well as being confronted on it in the House of Commons. He finally stated to the BBC: “I don’t believe gay sex is a sin. I take the view though that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters”.
Farron is an evangelical Christian. An odd choice of person to run a liberal party.
He also has had typical evangelical views on abortion, saying it was “wrong” in 2007. Under duress, it seems, he has recently changed his views to fit in line with the ideals of the liberal party that he has headed, though in a slightly diplomatic way, to say the least.
Farron’s resignation comes hot on the heels of Lord Paddick’s resignation as home affairs spokesman for the Lib Dems. Brian Paddick, an ex-police chief, is himself gay. He tweeted:
“I’ve resigned as shadow home secretary over concerns about the leader’s views on various issues that were highlighted during GE17.”
It looks like this brought the theological issues, that Farron was embroiled in, to a head. As the BBC reports:
In a statement, he said he was “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader”.
He said he should have dealt “more wisely” with questions relating to his faith during the election campaign, including his views on gay sex….
In a hastily-arranged statement, and surrounded by his close colleagues, Mr Farron said he had been “proud” to lead the party for two years.
But he said he could no longer reconcile his strong Christian faith with his responsibilities as leader of a liberal party.
“The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader,” he said.
“A better, wiser person may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to remain faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.
“To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017 and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching has felt impossible for me.”
He said he was passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believed differently to him, but said he had been the “subject of suspicion” because of his own beliefs.
While questions about his faith were legitimate, he said they “distracted” from the party’s election campaign.
I must admit, considering his evangelical background, I have warmed to Farron over the election. He has been a strong speaker and performed well on a personal front. However, in difficult political times, he struggled to make serious gains for the party. As an occasional Lib Dem voter, I get frustrated when we polarise between left and right and the centre ground gets squeezed as people seem to think they need to make a choice of one of the extremes, although I move quite far to the left in this election.
Lib Dems also suffer terribly, as they did again in this election, from the First Past the Post system, arguing as they do and should for some version of voting based on proportional representation.
Farron has surprised me in his honesty, laying out that theological tussle for all to see, other than dressing it up in other excuses.