The resignation of Tim Farron has left a bad taste in the mouth, don’t you think? There were a number of reasons why he was an unconvincing leader: the puppyish demeanour, the want of eloquence, style or confidence – even if you agree with him about Brexit, but they weren’t the reasons why he resigned. He was quite clear: the reason was “I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader,” he said in a televised statement. To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”
He’s right, isn’t he? Not so much about the faith bit of it – I don’t recall him, or Theresa May, getting dissed about the Resurrection of the Dead or the Incarnation. Nope, the trouble came where old fashioned orthodoxy in morals – on gay sex and abortion – conflicted with modern orthodoxy on these subjects. And the modern orthodox are nothing if not vicious in pursuing deviants. It became a bit of a game for the pundits to watch him squirm when they asked him all those embarrassing questions about whether – really and truly – he considered gay sex to be sinful. Cathy Newman of Channel 4 took pride of place here, asking him on air four times whether this was the case: it was like seeing the man’s head shoved down the toilet again and again, until he finally said what they wanted him to say. He hadn’t been going out of his way to diss gay people or anything. This was potential internal dissent that had to be identified and recanted. Even the bloody Inquisition only required outward conformity.
Same with his views on abortion; it was the Guardian, natch, that dug up a decade old interview he gave to a Salvation Army newspaper in which he said that abortion was wrong and should be discouraged – a perfectly reasonable point of view if you do, quite rationally, regard abortion as a kind of homicide. He wasn’t arguing for it to be criminalised outright. But he had to be tormented about that too, until he cracked and recanted. And to be honest, it didn’t take much to make him recant. But we should be aware of the sheer weight of opprobrium – as ever, online was worst – that made him crack. The last to get the boot in was Brian Paddick, the preposterous ex-copper, who declared he was disturbed by Tim’s views on gay people, even after he’d been made to eat them whole.
All happy now, are they? They’ve got their man; he’s resigned; they made his position intolerable. If I were them, though, I’d be feeling just a bit ashamed, as you would when your victim can’t get up any more after you’ve kicked him until you’re tired. And all in the name of liberalism.
The last word, for once, should go to Tim. As he said in his resignation statement: “I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.” He’s right.