Personal views and public policy

The leader of the UK Liberal Democratic Party Tim Farron has become the latest casualty of the election and resigned, saying that it appears that you cannot be its party leader and a Christian anymore.

Tim Farron has announced his resignation as Liberal Democrat leader after he was repeatedly pressed during the general election over his personal beliefs on issues including homosexuality.

Farron issued a statement on Wednesday night saying he felt “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with leading his party. It is understood several senior figures in the party had visited Farron in recent days to attempt to persuade him to step down, though he was initially reluctant.

Throughout the election campaign, Farron was questioned over his attitude to homosexuality and abortion, though he insisted he did not believe gay sex was a sin and has said he was pro-choice.

This raises the perennial issue of how much we should weigh people’s personal opinions when evaluating their public positions. It is hard to know what the ‘true’ beliefs of public figures are and trying to unearth them can be a waste of time and effort. Focusing on their public positions and actions seems more fruitful

It is not clear to me why he felt that he had to resign his leadership post if he had said that he agreed with the party’s positions of being pro-choice and not viewing homosexuality as a sin. If that was the case, then there should be no conflict. There is a conflict only if he felt that his personal views were in conflict with the party platform.

Farron seemed to feel that being repeatedly questioned about his faith was the problem. Maybe it is the case that in the UK, unlike in the US, saying that one is a committed believing Christian is a liability whatever one’s policy stances, because of suspicions that one has a secret religious agenda.


  1. Bruce says

    Or, maybe, Farron just happens to be using all this as a convenient excuse to leave leadership after bringing a result of 12 seats in 2017. Everyone forgets the long term history, just as they forget 2015. The LDs did terribly compared with 2010. Any who use that as a standard will be gad to see him go, and he knows it. No other reason needed.

  2. Dunc says

    Saying that he agreed with the parties position is not enough -- he didn’t vote with it. Abstention isn’t good enough if you claim to be a liberal.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dunc @2: Read this.

    With one exception, Tim Farron voted fully in favour of same sex marriage. The one time he abstained? That was because he was trying to get an amendment passed on the Spousal Veto, a really nasty little clause which shafts trans people.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Maybe it is the case that in the UK, unlike in the US, saying that one is a committed believing Christian is a liability

    That is, I’m happy to say, definitely the case in England, Wales and Scotland. FIfteen years or so ago, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s director of strategy and communications, famously intervened in an interview with the Prime Minister as he (Blair) was being asked about his religious faith. Campbell’s firm statement -- “We don’t do God” -- became a meme. Google it for more information. The most successful progressive administration of the last 50 years in this country got that way, in part, by treating discussion of religion as toxic.

    As with most things in UK politics, Ireland is an exception. Northern Irish politics is all about religion, specifically the nasty, violent, terrorism-supporting, virulently non-progressive Sinn Fein on the Catholic side, and the nasty, violent, terrorism-supporting, virulently non-progressive Democratic Unionists on the other. (There were other parties, such as the violence-rejecting Catholics of the SDLP, but they lost all their seats in the 2017 election -- thanks Theresa, good job). Unless you’re filming Game of Thrones, don’t go to Northern Ireland.

  5. KG says

    virulently non-progressive Sinn Fein -- sonofrojblake

    You mean like supporting same-sex marriage, redistributive taxation, migrant rights, “a state bank, a state insurance company, state fuel company, state IT company (telephone/broadband etc), state health system, state transport and state schools & universities”? See here, and here. Their attitude to abortion is indeed anti-progressive, although less so than that of the DUP, and their former status as the political wing of the terrorist PIRA uncontested, but judged by most of their current policies, they are left social democrats.

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