Here lies the political career of Tim Farron
PUBLISHED: 16:12 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:12 16 June 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Because he couldn’t lie.
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Some will claim that Tim Farron’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats was doomed from the start.
They will protest that you can’t be a Christian and the leader of liberalism in the United Kingdom.
They will say that his alleged views on same-sex relationships and abortion put him beyond the pale.
But I, a gay man, an LGBT-rights Campaigner and a liberally-minded Christian, supported his campaign to become leader of the Liberal Democrats (and the party’s president before that) and am devastated to see him resign his position.
Now, to be clear, I was as frustrated as anyone, during the election campaign, that Farron seemed (at the start, at least) seemingly incapable of answering the question of whether gay sex was “a sin”.
The answer is of course it isn’t, no more than any of us believe being divorced is “a sin”, which of course very few of us do. I was born gay and I’m proud to be a gay man and I believe in myself and my fellow LGBT brothers, sisters, and non-binary individuals being fully equal under the law. But, here’s the thing, Tim Farron also believed in our equality under the law.
His record of votes on furthering LGBT rights was overwhelmingly positive, including voting (on a number of occasions) for the Same Sex Marriage Bill when it was taken through parliament by the Liberal Democrats during the Coalition years. As a side note, when Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives claim to be “the party of equal marriage” just remember how many Tory MPs voted against it and remind yourselves that, without Lib Dems in government at the time, it almost certainly would not have been brought for a vote before the House of Commons.
Then Government Minister and now Lib Dem peer, Lynne Featherstone, took that Bill through Parliament and I consider the Same Sex Marriage legislation to be, far and away, the best thing the Lib Dems did in government.
Getting back to Farron, he knew that – whatever his private views may or may not be, and I don’t profess to know what’s in his heart – a good liberal does not base public policy judgements or determinations on private prejudices. And he never did.
He knew that, if liberalism is about anything at all, it is about letting the individual flourish and about ensuring (as the pre-amble to the party constitution states) that no one is “enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.
But, it would appear, some in my party believe you do have to conform to a certain set of views, both in public and in private, and I’m led to believe that considerable pressure was put on Farron to resign by party bigwigs at Westminster. I deeply, deeply regret that, if true.
Farron cares so much, especially about those less fortunate than himself.
He fought for the child refugees of Syria and other war-torn places – a pathetically small number of whom were allowed to come and stay in Britain by the nasty and insular Tory-government of then Prime Minister David Cameron.
He fought for better mental health services, for investment in the NHS and our schools. And, above all, he fought for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union.
That vote, last June, to leave the EU (following the lie after lie of the Leave campaigns) broke his heart.
But, unlike Labour, he didn’t meekly forget or fold away his passionate belief in our Europeanism and internationalism. No, he doubled down.
He became the de facto leader of the 48%.
He was our voice in parliament.
He stood tall. And he pledged, if a part of any government following the recent election, to give us – the people – the final say on whatever “deal” our weakened Prime Minister and her cronies would be able to secure, following the negotiations with the emboldened leaders of the 27 other EU countries.
I couldn’t be prouder of the stance he took.
It was a brave one, which was criticised by many who believed that we now must all “get behind Brexit”. No, we don’t actually.
I voted to remain on June 23 last year and I still believe we should remain in the EU today. And so does Tim Farron.
I very much hope he’ll continue to push this case, but I’d have preferred him to do so as my party’s leader.
His leadership was brought down, in large part, I would argue, by a political media class today which isn’t about finding out facts and enlightening the public but, rather, about getting the best ‘gotcha’ moment and – when a politician’s perceived ‘weakness’ is found – gnawing away at the wound until they (politically speaking) bleed to death.
The constant harassment of Farron during the election campaign, by certain parts of the media, about his private views on certain social issues, became, in my view at least, a kind of bullying.
I hope that some will reflect on the way they conducted various interviews, but somehow I doubt it.
In a very difficult set of circumstances, especially following our near-death after the 2015 poll, Farron took our membership to more than 100,000 (its highest ever in our modern history) and saw a 50% rise in our number of MPs.
It would have been my wish that he could have continued to lead our party. That won’t now happen. But, Farron was, is, and will continue to be a good man, a fine liberal and an outstanding public servant. Our party and our country have reason to be immensely grateful for his leadership.
Mathew Hulbert is an LGBT rights activist and a former Lib Dem Councillor in Leicestershire
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