There, he’s said it. You can leave him alone now

So, we’re teetering on the edge of a massive Tory hard Brexit cliff. The UK is in danger of breaking up because of the Tory preoccupation with finding the bumpiest, riskiest way out of the European Union. Donald Trump has his finger on the nuclear button and North Korea is deliberately winding him up.

Yet our media gets all obsessed about whether a man with a good track record on LGBT rights thinks gay sex is a sin. Today, Tim put the matter finally beyond doubt in an interview with the BBC.  

He said:

“I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” he said.

“I take the view though that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters.”

Mr Farron said that with a general election campaign under way, it was important to be talking about “big issues” like health and social care and Brexit.

“I am quite careful about how I talk about my faith. I do not bang on about it, I do not make a secret out of it,” he said.

“On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

He also said the Lib Dems had “undoubtedly the best record” on gay rights out of all political parties.

Personally, I’d rather politicians kept their traps shut about what was sinful and what is not. So, clearly, does Tim, yet this whole thing was clearly not going to go away until he made a definitive statement. I feel more than a little bit livid that someone with a fantastic record on LGBT equality has been pushed like this. Nobody has asked Theresa May the same question, nor any of the other Christian MPs with much worse voting records.

Writing sensible stuff about Lib Dems in right wing publications once is quite incredible, twice in two days seems almost reckless, but  journalist Stephen Daisley has done exactly that. There was yesterday’s Scottish Daily Mail article saying that the Lib Dems must be taken seriously and now he’s written about what he calls the cruel hounding of Tim Farron for the Spectator.

Journalists feel no misgivings about doing just that to Tim Farron because they suspect him of holding a view they deem bigoted and because although he is a Lib Dem he is not a member of a favoured minority. Their transgression is not political correctness but hypocrisy and the impotent obsessions of identity politics. If we are to bring a theological critique to the campaign trail, a man who seldom talks publicly about his faith seems an odd target when the Prime Minister speaks so openly about hers. How does Tory policy on refugees square with Isaiah 1:17? Or their welfare reforms with Proverbs 22:16 and 22:22?

Except that would look priggish and doesn’t have social media ‘shareability’. Forgive them, Tim Farron, they know exactly what they do.

This was some of the reaction on Twitter:

You do have to feel sorry for the Labour trolls who kept this particular flame burning so brightly for the best part of a week. Now they are going to have to start justifying their own party’s policies, if they can work out what they are.

Anyway, on this and so many issues, #ImwithTim, which is a hashtag I think we will have cause to use a lot over the next few weeks. It’s been horrible to see him treated in this way and it’s highly likely that we’re going to have to get used to it. He’s going to get it even worse from the right, given that he’s one of those that the Daily Fail would call a saboteur.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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39 Comments

  • Very unpleasant interviewer looking for angle after angle and not listening to the answers..

    Well done, Tim, to sort the nonsense. Time to move on.

  • Philip Rolle 25th Apr '17 - 10:04pm

    The sin, it would appear, is hard Brexit. Like being gay, there is no choice on that – because the EU insists on freedom of movement.

    I suppose that a Lib Dem second EU referendum would give us the chance to repent!

  • I hope that this issue can be put to bed once and for all, no matter who you get into bed with 😉

    As a gay man, it irritates me when fellow LGBT folk accuse others with unfounded accusations and insults, which is not only an embarrassment, but does nothing to further the cause.
    As a person who see’s himself on the left and who identifies mostly with Labour but also elements of Liberal Democrat, it infuriates me when like minded people are incapable of challenging a persons political persuasions or constructing intellectual debate and and instead resort to gutter politics of character assassination.

    Lets hope that people move on and we can start to discuss the real things that matter in this election

  • As a Christian I find it somewhat disturbing that people seem out to get Tim. He is clearly balancing his faith with his own views on issues like aborition and homosexuality. MPs need room to breath on such issues and should be taken at face value. It’s also more important to consider what party policy is…..

  • I don’t think this is a matter of LGBT people having an agenda, I think it is a matter of the nastier element of the left, in fear of seeing Labour replaced as the main party of opposition, fighting dirty. As it happens, if Tim did think gay sex was a sin then his record in voting on LGBT rights would be all the more creditable as a liberal.

    But he is right to make his position unequivocal and it would be wiser to have done so sooner. He is still relatively inexperienced as a leader and will make mistakes. The key is to deal with them, as he has done, and learn from the experience.

    I’ve always defended Tim as the best person for the specific job in hand, without necessarily thinking that he is ideal. But the more I see of him the more I like him; I think he could turn into a fine politician.

  • I think Tim has handled this all rather well. Hopefully he will have endeared himself to those who don’t like to see people bullied for their religious identity.

  • It was a good interview. She looked liked she was being overly harsh and his response was solid and sound.

    If The Spectator article is right and the furore spread by social media then I’d take it all with a pinch of salt. There’s a reasonable chance it was PutinBots running a little strategic character assassination. Our media and others are lapping it up. One presumes because everything runs on such reduced staff nowadays, they don’t really have chance to do the critical thinking and check these things out properly. Too much space to fill.

    Tim’s just too nice for the current situation. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Apr '17 - 11:02pm

    Excellent from Caron and exactly what we need from Tim.

    This happens because we are in such openly hostile times with regard to religion and such one size fits all attitudes to everything .If you take a view on anything that is private or moral that is complicated or for want of a better word , different , you are frowned on.

    Like on abortion. Liberal moral defence of the rights of a foetus are not as allowed as those arguments for a womans right to choose. But conscience counts.

    I feel it on here sometimes on other issues.

    I favour life imprisonment and hard labour for all of the most premeditated and violent murder. I also favour the release of most non violent offenders and community sentences.

    They wouldn’t hound me in the media but some would on Twitter !

    Tim has an admirable track record. He probably isn’t comfortable with any sex outside of relationships , because of his faith, but cannot say it as he would sound old fashioned.

    He was mocked by Badiel etc for saying the word “jolly ” as , a jolly good try, the other day because they wanted to present him as daft and out of keeping with today.

    He is his own man .

    I respect him.

  • The Last Leg, although not the most serious of shows, had one comment on Tim’s voting record and several jokes or other about sin. What is May’s voting record like on LGBT+ rights by the way?

  • Peter Watson 25th Apr '17 - 11:34pm

    @David Becket “can we have the view of the Vicar’s Daughter”
    Why is the job of Theresa May’s father relevant? Tim Farron’s and Theresa May’s religious beliefs are their own choice.
    And before we get “holier than thou” about this, let’s not forget that it was Tim Farron’s own fellow Lib Dems that chose to make an issue of this during the leadership campaign.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Apr '17 - 11:55pm

    To me, Christian values and Liberal Democrat values are very much in sync, since both emphasise the rights of individuals to flourish, and that we should help them to do so.

  • I like the comment about it not being fair. Kind of tempted to say (a la Peep Show) ‘Welcome to big school’.

    Political campaigns aren’t fair. May be they should be but they aren’t and if you can’t work out how to deal with that reality when running one then there is a problem.

  • David Evershed 26th Apr '17 - 1:10am

    Surely the big news is Tim’s new haircut shown in the picture?

  • William Townsend 26th Apr '17 - 4:30am

    What a storm in a tea cup. Tim I hope will learn from this that often an immediate unequivocal truthful statement often kills a pathetic story like this. And btw there is no such thing as sin, the sin’s of the bible where written by men to control peoples and especially to keep women in their place. The old testament is very misogynistic. Every person has a right to have a faith or indeed to have none and that should be sacrosanct.

    As an atheist i also believe the Church and State should be separated and politics should be secular.

  • Please can someone ask May if moving from one country to another is a sin?

  • Tim has done the right thing. Only wish he’d got to this point sooner. It did concern many LGBT people in the party and rightly so. Just because prejudice is couched in faith does not mean it’s acceptable. He’s never been an homophobe in any way and the media representation of him as such was wrong. He is mainly guilty of poor communication which is crazy because tim is probably one of the most direct talking no nonsense politicians we have. Hopefully we can move on now and he can may be turn this to his advantage by putting the uk’s threatened human rights at the top of the agenda. Now is not the time to bury LGBT issues but use them in the wider context of the threat from Brexit

  • Cynical Labour identity-politics/dog-whistle stuff to try and put Labour remainers off voting LibDem. Only shows how little they have to say on anything of any import…

  • Another unlikely defender of Tim is “The Conservative Woman” blog too. I think those kicking up a fuss to attack Tim not thinking this one through. Several on Twitter trying to justify their attacks on the basis that Zak Goldsmith targetted Sadiq Khan over his religion, not a clever idea to justify Zak’s campaign for him.

    The hypocrisy is very clear here and I’m not sure Labour have considered how it looks to voters.

  • David Blake 26th Apr '17 - 9:06am

    This does seem to be dragging on. If it’s raised, simply point to his voting record and say that one of the main people behind gay marriage was a Liberal Democrat, Lynne Featherstone.

  • The lesson is kill a news story at the earliest, do not let it fester. Trouble is when you are a leading politician nothing is private.

  • Keith Sharp 26th Apr '17 - 9:20am

    It’s a relief that Tim has clarified his position; let’s hope it will sweep the issue away and that it happened early enough in the campaign to not hurt our chances. I was at the Vauxhall launch rally and a collective media agenda was evident — the first two questions were about gay sex. Tim answered the first question courteously and everyone was quiet. When the question was repeated there was a reaction from the audience and Tim said he had already answered the question. The reports on C4 made no mention of the first question; and showed only his response to the second question — ‘I’ve already answered that…’ — as if it was his only response. The reporter commented on audience heckling of the questioner — again failing to report that the first question was listened to in respectful silence. We know that the broad range of media would love to have us crushed (remember the onslaught on Nick after the first leaders’ debate in 2010?); while swallowing unquestioningly the Tory cracked record of ‘strong and stable’ and ‘coalition of chaos’ — this morning’s R4 Today programme with J Hunt was a particularly egregious example.

  • William Townsend

    “Tim I hope will learn from this that often an immediate unequivocal truthful statement often kills a pathetic story like this”

    The issue was two fold, firstly I assume that Tim (as he appears to hold traditional liberal secular views) believes that politics should be entirely separate form religion, he doesn’t bang on about it. Cathy Newman in the initial interview was obviously preped to follow up with detail questions on biblical references. To have just said “no” would have led to an interview with him being asked to explain specific references in the bible, something which firstly is easy to quote mine. On top of this most religious people these days understand that at best on any issue they are making educated guesses about the specific meaning of passages in religious texts, that level of honesty could easily be shown to make it look like he was confused about his own religion.

    It wasn’t the best answer, my preference would have been:
    “I have a record voted in favour of LGBT rights,
    Is being Gay morally wrong: No
    Is it a Sin: irrelevant, we don’t live in a theocracy”

    But I wouldn’t have had that on the tip of my tong when it was asked so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either. It was an unreasonable question for Channel 4 to ask given that the topic wasn’t theology and to expect Politicians to answer theological questions when that is very rarely what they are skilled in. If you want to ask that question it should have been in a slot with appropriate time and other theological experts to discuss.

    But this is politics and it is not reasonable or fair.

  • Keith Sharp

    “The reports on C4 made no mention of the first question; and showed only his response to the second question”

    An interesting point, has the party uploaded a full video of the press conference to YouTube? To a certain extent the only response to this is people shoing the selective editing and calling news organisation out to the point where it becomes embarrassing to them.

  • Whatever Tim’s views on sin, we’re a liberal party and do not legislate against sin  – unlike the Tories who’ve rigged the tax system to discriminate against couples “living in sin”

  • Richard Fagence 26th Apr '17 - 9:46am

    I have already made a formal complaint through the BBC website Complaints area about this incident and, on a wider issue, about the BBC’s outrageous treatment of the Liberal Democrats in general. LD-free areas, such as the Andrew Marr Show and, to a lesser extent, the Daily and Sunday Politics, need to be highlighted. UKIP is everywhere on the BBC, both on radio and television. Join me in making a formal complaint every single time we are ignored or misrepresented or our leader is attacked on a personal matter. It isn’t difficult to do and the BBC are obliged to record it and bring it to the attention of programme producers in a daily activity report. A barrage of complaints may get through to them that 100,000 plus members and countless millions of supporters are no longer prepared to tolerate their bias. Start next time we are not included in a political discussion or comment.

  • The intro to this story contains this : Tom Hunter-Watts @TomHunterWatts
    @caronmlindsay @AylesburyLibDem @timfarron Labor at its nastiest. No better than how Zac Goldsmith treated Sadiq Khan.
    8:24 PM – 25 Apr 2017

    Apart from the miss-spelling of Labour, this is completely wrong and untrue.

    The whole wretched business was an internal self inflicted wound started by two members of Norman Lamb’s campaign staff (subsequently dismissed by Norman). They ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves…………. and LDV should not give credence to disingenuous stuff like the Hunter-Watts comment.

    Although I often see evidence to the contrary, truth ought to matter in politics.

    End of.

  • John Bicknell

    “it has worked, as it has meant that Tim Farron has had to spend the last week defending himself against accusations of homophobia, rather than getting a positive message across”

    I’m not sure the impact has been particularly bad (depending on how the rest of the campaign goes), the onslaught being so early on and over something like this will reduce the impact of future hit pieces.

    This is one of those issues that matters a lot to people heavily involved in politics and the media, but most people don’t register it the same. It was an unreasonable attack and if you are not deeply partisan in either direction it looks that way, what is the take away. Tim votes for gay rights but is not great at explain a religious view on homosexuality. It looks like a personal “gotcha” attempt, which to the disinterested just makes the media and those pushing it seem petty.

    I know people don’t like hearing it but, actually there a decent number of people who are put off by the personal attacks on IDS’ motivations when peoepl in the LibDems make them. Most peoepl are happy to discuss (and I’ed estimate most agree) that he was a disastrous Cabinet member and many people suffered as a result. But when anyone goes beyond that and claims he “hates” the poor, or wanted suffering (which people sadly do), then it puts people off and diminishes the legitimate message of the very negative impact IDS had. I think this will be a similar situation, most people know at least a few people who have some kind of religion and know that they either don’t care what their religious view are or if they were to want to know that they would need to have a proper discussion about it.

    If Tim can get a good message from now on (and learn to deal with the manipulation quickly) then when people start paying attention in a few weeks’ time they will be less open to attacks.

  • To Richard F’s point, I have now complained to the C4 News website and asked them to publish the complaint. Fat lot of good it will do us I’m afraid. We individuals must have a go, but can we talk to the party media machine? Get the whole party up for this? We have taken this biassed reporting too politely. We need a ‘project fear’ equivalent rebuttal system.

  • Nicholas Cunningham 26th Apr '17 - 10:38am

    It’s no wonder many who could contribute so much in our political system keep well out of politics. Character assassination has long been a tool used in politics by those who fear their opponents. It’s cheap and nasty and you need the hide of an elephant to put up with it.

  • Remind me. When did journalists last ask Theresa May this question? 🙁

  • Matt (Bristol) 26th Apr '17 - 11:09am

    Although I have no doubt that both Tory and Labour activists are exploiting this story, I agree substantially with David Raw. The genie came out of the bottle due to in-house in-fighting.

  • On the other hand remember the old adage, “the only bad publicity is no publicity”.
    We sure got some.

  • Keith

    I agree with complaining to C4, then to OFCOM but publicly exposing misleading reporting to embarrass them will be faster and more effective.

  • The media’s hounding of Tim on this issue is an outrage. Tantamount to bullying.

    Are the British public worrying about his personal views on gay sex to the point where it will influence their voting intention? Doubt it. Gay marriage made absolutely no difference to the outcome of the 2015 GE for the Lib Dems. The architect of the Gay Marriage Bill, Lynne Featherstone, was routed. There is no ‘gay vote.’ Gay people vote broadly along the same lines as the rest of the population.

  • Matt (Bristol) 26th Apr '17 - 12:51pm

    And now David Ward, again. How do we keep on the front-foot in a negative election in which the Tories are going to say the minimum and let journalists knock down their opponents for them?

  • Andrew McCaig 26th Apr '17 - 2:01pm

    yes, we could have done without the Ward issue… I think Nick Clegg dealt with this better than Tim just has, to be honest.. Tim’s comments are “expulsion from the Party” type comments.

    However this is an issue on which rational debate has never been possible…

  • Whilst I have some sympathy with your view Caron, I’m afraid that he really should have closed this down earlier. The media were regurgitating the story from an earlier election so it can’t have been a shock. If he had closed it down initially there would have been no “hounding”.

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