In Defence of Tim Farron | Daniel Clark



This has been a strange election for the Liberal Democrats. From coalition government in 2010 to a party of little importance in 2017, there are a multitude of explanations as to how and why they slipped from the electorate’s radar. The fact remains, however, that nothing short of a miracle will see Tim Farron appointed to Leader of the Opposition come June 9th.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when Mr Farron today became embroiled in yet another controversy over whether he happens to think that homosexuality is sinful. My surprise was not on account of the fact that Farron (rightly) did not give a full and detailed response but that Brian, the caller in question, had felt the need to question him on this at all. This is of course not the first time that somebody has shamelessly dogged him with questions that have answers which are quite literally between him and his God.

Writing for Spiked, the ever coherent Brendan O’Neill wrote when this issue first emerged that “what’s appalling is the idea that it’s acceptable to haul a man over the coals, to slam and humiliate him publicly, over his private convictions. Whatever Farron thinks of homosexuality, it appears to have had no impact whatsoever on his public life or political decisions.” Indeed, as MP, Tim Farron supported same-sex marriage, voting for its eventual introduction. Not ones to be deterred by little things such as facts, certain people – of the Left and Right – continue to anxiously wring their hands over whether they can possibly allow him to have a personal opinion that seemingly never influences his political career.

 Being an evangelical Christian, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has been dogged by questions of a theological nature since the start of the election campaign. Not content with the controversy surrounding his hypothetical views on homosexuality, Sophy Ridge bizarrely asked Tim Farron his view on (wait for it) abortion. This is despite the fact that abortion is not remotely an electoral issue this campaign season, and also despite the fact that Mr Farron explicitly stated “I believe in choice – women should have access to abortion that is legal and is safe.” Not content, Ridge still wanted to know what Farron personally – as a Christian – thought about the whole issue.

The discussion around abortion has become so politicised in recent years that anybody stepping outside of the accepted line has found themselves under heavy fire. Following the publication of her simply titled article ‘On abortion’ (The Salon, April 7 2016), Camille Paglia was attacked by certain members of the feminist population for stating that “while I am firmly pro-choice and support unrestricted access to abortion, I have been disturbed and repelled for decades by the way reproductive rights have become an ideological tool ruthlessly exploited.” She went one step further by asserting her belief that “I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground.” In error, Paglia’s critics confounded her comment on the morality of abortion as being at odds with her libertarian belief that women should have access to such a procedure. Tim Farron’s illiberal critics have done the same.

For those who are labouring under some doubt, allow me to make clear what living in a liberal society does and does not entail. It does not entail blindly accepting everything that people say about homosexuality. It also does not entail blindly accepting that abortion is an inherently good thing that should be praised. What it does entail is allowing other people to have their own personal opinion, and using that difference to spark debate and discussion. Silencing the debate – for example, by acting like hysterical children if somebody might (this being the operative word) believe homosexuality is sinful – does not change people’s minds. It simply only permits a certain group of people, those with the ‘right’ opinion, to be open about their thoughts, and pushes everybody else underground for being equally as sincere.

With an incessancy often found only in the most ardent of Christian obsessives, Tim Farron’s critics accuse him of being a vile homophobe who hates women, unbefitting of the title of ‘liberal’. The simple fact is this: it is not Tim Farron being illiberal for maybe-or-maybe-not having an opinion on certain issues. It is in fact his critics who would rather he conform, instead of being granted the liberty to freedom of conscience, who are the intolerant ones.

This attitude must not be allowed to go unchecked.


Daniel Clark is a writer for Student Voices
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