What do you remember about Tim Farron’s time as Lib Dem leader? Was it the position he created for his party on a hard Brexit? Or what he had to say about gay sex? He quit the leadership in June 2017, saying he had concluded that ‘remaining faithful to Christ’ was incompatible with being a political leader. It followed a general election campaign in which Farron, a committed evangelical Christian, was repeatedly asked about his views on homosexuality.
The reason the questions kept coming, as I said at the time, was that Farron refused to give a full answer to them. Did he think gay sex was a sin? ‘We are all sinners,’ he responded, which wasn’t an answer. Did he think homosexuality itself, even if not acted upon sexually, was a sin? Similarly vague noises.
Farron had decided that the truth of what he really believed wasn’t palatable to his party or the wider voting public, and so the best thing to do would be to try to obfuscate. He always coupled that obfuscation with an entirely defensible line, which was ‘the measure of a Liberal is someone who protects other people’s rights, no matter what your personal position is’.
The trouble is that journalists find obfuscation even on those personal positions totally irresistible, and would not leave the matter alone. Had Farron said: ‘I am sorry but the faith I have teaches that sex is between a man and a woman in marriage, but as a liberal I will do everything I can to ensure that everyone has the right and freedom to love and have sex with whoever they want’, he would, of course, have attracted opprobrium. But he also would have been able to move on and talk about the things he was actually campaigning on.