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Jo Swinson favourite to be new Lib Dem leader as Tim Farron quits

14 June 2017

7:09 PM

14 June 2017

7:09 PM

After a fairly disastrous general election campaign, Tim Farron has quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats. You can see why: he wanted to pose as the champion of Remain yet for for the first few weeks he seemed unable to move the conversation beyond his views on gay sex and marijuana. His attempt to rekindle the Brexit wars was a complete flop.

The LibDems are an unlikely alliance of evangelical Christians and social liberals, and Farron’s appointment embodied a clash that the media delighted in exposing. He said, today, that has decided that the two are impossible to reconcile: “I have found myself torn, living as a faithful Christian and leading a political party in the current environment.” He didn’t elaborate, but I assume he’s admitting that as an evangelical Christian he does hold some unfashionable views on sexuality – hence his struggling with the secular inquisition he faced when the campaign started.

“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party.” This suggests he felt he was somehow unfaithful to Christ, and that that cock crowed after he (eventually) told the BBC that gay sex was not a sin.

But let’s not forget that his other policies were also pretty disastrous: a treble tax rise, increasing all rates of income tax to “save” the NHS. Except all of this cash wouldn’t save the NHS, it would up it budget by about 2pc. As the LibDems found last time they promised a tax rise, voters tend not to like it. In this election, only Jeremy Corbyn promised not to increase your taxes (unless you’re on over £80,000).

So who’s next for the unfortunate Lib Dems? The clear bookies favourite to be the sixth leader of this party is Jo Swinson, the recently-returned MP for Dumbarton. Sir Vince Cable, my local MP, is a rather distant second, at 3/1. As Colin Mackay points out, either would be a generational change. Then Ed Davey at 11/1. But does it matter? The Lib Dems are facing an existential crisis: as the last general election demonstrated, it’s not clear who they are or what they’re for.

As a party born in 1988, they are predated by Kylie Minogue’s musical career – and it’s long been my contention that Kylie will outlast them. And given that she recently signed a new recording deal my money is, still, on Kylie.


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