Tim had already decided to go before the election – remember where you heard it first

When Tim Farron came up and cooked my breakfast 3 days before the election, I had a feeling it would be the last time I saw him as leader. I’m not sure where that feeling came from, but it turned out to be right – unless I randomly bump into him in the next six days.

A few days after his resignation, when I’d almost calmed down, I wrote:

In trying to piece together the events of this week, I hear, though, that Tim had returned to Westminster in a positive mood. Friendly sources close to him tell me that he had pretty much decided that he wouldn’t fight another election and would have stepped down in an orderly fashion in the not too distant future.

Note the words  “in an orderly fashion.” If he had been given the space and time to do what he planned in his own way, surely the party would be a lot more at ease with itself.

And today, Tim confirmed that he had made up his mind to step down as leader during the election campaign. From the BBC:

Asked about his decision to quit, he said he had not wanted to “become the story”.

“I made the decision about two weeks into the election campaign,” he said.

“I thought there isn’t a way forward out of this without me either compromising or just causing damage to the party in the long run.”

He said he had told himself to “put that into a drawer, don’t talk to anybody else about it, get on and do as good a job as you can during the election”.

As it is, many members remain annoyed and upset at the way in which pressure was exerted by various Liberal Democrat peers in various forms in those last two days leading up to his abrupt resignation statement. I hope that those who took part in that will reflect on the damage that they have done to the reputation of the Lords group and to party morale as a whole. If that ensures that in the future they will behave in a more collegiate and constructive manner, then some good will have come out of all of this.

I suspect it would be dangerous to hold my breath waiting for that at this point, though.

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

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  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '17 - 10:00pm

    Jo Grimond was leader twice. David Steel won the leadership election.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Jul '17 - 10:04pm

    But Tim did compromise, didn’t he, stating as you reported, Caron, that no, gay sex is not a sin, so where was the harm to the party if he had stuck it out? I think of course that he should have done, but it would surely have helped if senior people had voiced their support for him, and said publicly that he was entitled to freedom of thought, and that the freedom of expression we also believe in includes the right not to speak. David Aaronovitch in The Times summed it up rather well, for me: if asked the question, Do you think gay sex is a sin? there are really only three sensible answers – Yes, No, or Mind your own business, which last Tim might have used. The questioners showed their prejudice, not Tim, and for any Lib Dem to call him illiberal was a disgraceful slander.
    It’s a great pity for the party, to lose such a good leader over imagined wrongdoing. The pity also for me as a fellow Christian is that Christ had nothing to say about homosexuality anyway, and expressed what we would call liberal sentiments himself.

  • As someone not involved in the dark machinations of the party what exactly is the evidence that pressure was exerted by various members of the lord’s?

  • Graham Evans 14th Jul '17 - 10:57pm

    There has been much talk about the dangers of a coronation for Vince Cable, and how a contested leadership election tests the candidates. While this may be true, in retrospect the whole Tim Farron saga just illustrates that during the last leadership election people were simply too polite and too afraid of being perceived as being intolerant of Tim Farron’s interpretation of Christian teaching on homosexuality. Had he been challenged on his views at that time, in the same robust way he was during the general election campaign, perhaps he, and the Party, would have realised that he was not the right person to lead a socially liberal party.

  • What’s the evidence ? We even had a confession followed by a denial on Twitter by someone well versed in obtaining confessions…… and well versed in failing to win elections.

    What Tim didn’t say was what led him to decide to pack it in a few weeks earlier than has been previously thought.

    All very murky and hardly open, transparent or democratically accountable.

  • Robert Blevin 14th Jul '17 - 11:52pm

    Oh FFS Caron, why keep scratching the scab? I heard this story on the radio earlier, and thought ‘thank goodness, that’s Tim trying to knock all this unnecessary plot bs on the head’. Tim has gone out of his way to make clear he’d made his mind up weeks before he resigned. So what possible point is served by continuing to try and sow discord? British politics is in a state. The Tories and Labour can barely conceal their contempt for their own side. We’re staring down the barrel of Brexit. And our party has limped meekly back up to 12 MPs, but does have the advantage of unity and a whole bunch of new and energised members. We’re about to announce a new leader. Surely it’s time to move on from all this plot hunting and internecine stuff?

  • Well said Robert. Tim seems a nice man but not a credible political leader and looked way out of his depth during key parts of the GE campaign. I wish him well but he needed to go.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jul '17 - 2:10am

    The article from Caron, stating what she , and she believes , others felt or feel, is hardly something that should get scathing criticism of her in this articles response. It is clear some agree on here, with her.

    I think, in ways some are in denial about, from well meaning affection for an in all ways terrific person, Tim needs to be seen as a complicated choice for this party , as leader.

    I was steeped in the Catholic version of his religion, was a student of theology and philosophy , before history and politics, supporter of ordination of women, a participant as amateur youthful enthusiast , then young professional performer and director in the London theatre scene, it never crossed my mind that liberals would be conflicted so many years later on the issue that he clearly is.

    Tim has given answers that confuse even those with backgrounds and foregrounds that should make it impossible. Liberals know how to dance on the end of a pin, but if Sir Vince is a ballroom dancer at it, Tim with his love of a rather dreadful, sorry, just a matter of taste, eighties music, must be a breakdancer at it !

    I shall miss him a lot, but want him active as his own man , yet !

  • Well I for one still want to know exactly what happened on that day. Of course I agree that we need to focus on the wider political picture, but as a member of this party I still want to know how it could be that at lunchtime Tim was talking brightly about how we should play the summer, and then at 5pm he was making that very awkward resignation statement that had clearly been hastily written and which left more questions than answers. I too wish we weren’t having this conversation, but something clearly happened that afternoon and we poor bloody infantry deserve to know what it was, and who was involved.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Jul '17 - 7:09am

    Lorenzo and Caron,

    How about just taking Tim at his word? I am sure many people went to see Tim after the election, and some may have suggested he should step down. But Tim says unequivocally and very publicly that he had made the decision long before. Brian Paddick flatly denied the role attributed to him on these pages. Yet instead we are asked yet again to believe the evidence of unamed third parties spreading rumours.

    I am 100% in agreement with Robert here

  • Simon McGrath 15th Jul '17 - 8:10am

    “many members remain annoyed and upset at the way in which pressure was exerted by various Liberal Democrat peers in various forms in those last two days leading up to his abrupt resignation statement.”
    As far as we know the pressure consisted of one peer resigning and two tweeting critical articles about Tim’s GE performance. If that really caused him to quit then he probably shouldnt have been staying on anyway

  • Joe Winstanley 15th Jul '17 - 8:24am

    What Robert, Andrew and Simon said..

    Time to move on.

  • If you listened to the interview on the radio Tim said basically: that he is a Liberal , loves being a good constituency MP , loves his party, did his best at a difficult time to help the party survive, but is not up to the job of being Leader.

    Just about sums it up and good for him for being so self aware and honest

    Now lets move on

  • Robert (Somerset) 15th Jul '17 - 9:20am

    I agree with Robert Blevin as well.

    Tim Farron was the wrong choice for leader and that was very apparent to me during his leadership campaign. That said it’s now time to move on and get behind Vince Cable at a time of great uncertainty for the country but maybe great political opportunity for our party.

    If we don’t do that we will end up with a similar bunch of commentators who can’t stop ‘picking over’ Nick Clegg doing the same with Tim Farron.

  • The timing of the resignation made it obvious that pressure was applied. IMO, it would have been better to wait a few weeks, and after we’d elected the deputy leader, before announcing his resignation, and regardless of who was behind the decision to bring that date forward, it was a damaging one and pretending otherwise isn’t helping anyone.

    Then again, it has happened and we need to find a way to all work together again. IMO, sweeping the fact it was damaging under the carpet isn’t viable, and needs to be added to the list of lessons learnt from the election. A particular problem was the apparent expectation that Jo Swinson would just step up and take over the leadership to make us all feel better about ourselves with no thought for what she wanted.

    The good news is that everyone in the parliamentary party seems to be supportive of Vince as leader, and Jo as deputy leader, and the two of them will be good representatives of the party giving our newer MPs breathing space to find their feet.

  • Echo what Fiona says. And Robert (S), your line about commentators ‘picking over’ things is right: shame you don’t adhere to it in your own post.
    Saying what was ‘apparent’ to you serves no purpose at all beyond antagonising those who disagree and will always do so.

  • Disagree that Tim Farron was the wrong choice for leader, after 2015, we needed someone who was at arm’s length from the coalition to re-energise the party. Don’t think that the relatively disappointing election result can all be laid at Tim’s door and it would have been better for him to be allowed to resign in his own time.

    As for the immediate future, I am not hopeful, with Vince Cable’s reluctance to accept some of the errors made in coalition and the impact and consequences of the tuition-fees volte face. Given the lack of an leadership election, the party ought to be considering ways to widen the options for leader to outside the parliamentary party.

  • John Mitchell 15th Jul '17 - 1:03pm

    There were two emails on the day Tim Farron resigned. The first was about the party’s future and how Tim planned to take the Lib Dems forward. The second was his resignation. This seems illogical to me or that something changed and very quickly.

    The leadership contest has been pathetic. I do like Vince Cable but at the very least a contest should have been fought. The fundamental failure to do so has done nothing but weaken the party. When the press says no one seems to want to lead your party it only cements our status as an irrelevance at this time.

  • Dave Orbison 15th Jul '17 - 1:06pm

    Given Tim Farron’s statement that he had decided to step down weeks before he actually announced should put to bed the wild speculation and accusations that he was the victim of some sort of coup. Interestingly, the only names that seem to be blamed for this coup and who were the subject of much vitriol where two prominent gay LibDems, Brian Paddick and David Laws. In Brian Paddick’s case this was based on the timing of a statement he released which we now know was very much post the date of Tim Farron’s decision.

    Brian Paddick attempted to explain the timing of his statement on LDV. He stated clearly that he was not part of any such coup. However, this was simply dismissed by many of LDV who continued to heap vitriol on both Brain Paddick and David Laws.

    It looks as if those accusers are looking rather foolish given Tim Farron’s latest statement. I would have though that perhaps those concerned may even consider an apology was due. So I must say Caron, that I find it extraordinary that you end this article in such a way..

    Given all of the fuss and wild speculation that followed Tim Farron’s resignation I am really surprised he has waited so long to tell us this. he could have made stated this explicitly in his resignation letter or immediately the rumour mill sprung in to action with the allegations of a coup. Surely this would have nipped it all in the bud?

    Although Tim Farron claims he did not want his resignation to ‘be the story’ he seems to have succeeded in doing just that. How curious?

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Jul '17 - 2:34pm

    I think what we take from Tim’s leadership must be that our membership increased monumentally and that we also increased our number of MPs. What we must do now is encourage all those new members to get involved in the struggle for the future of our country and help those MPs to make their rather wonderful voices heard.

  • David Pocock 15th Jul '17 - 5:26pm

    I stand by points on the day really. I mean it is old news now and I guess we get on with it but don’t tell me this all went to plan and there were no daggers. Clearly it was a shock when it happened, clearly the email thing was not planned and clearly Tim spoke truthfully in his resignation speech.

    Also don’t tell me that the Christian thing will not come back. At some point there will be votes on something, euthanasia for example, and there will be pressure for Christian liberals to toe the progressive line, especially if they are in leadership positions.

  • Andrew McCaig 15th Jul '17 - 6:14pm

    John Mitchell,
    I think you may be making the mistake of thinking that emails from the Party Leader exhorting us all to do more are actually written and sent by the Leader from his own PC!
    I am sure Tim ok’d that email but probably was not in control of when it was sent…

  • Alex B: widen the leadership field, yes I agree.

  • Dave Orbison 15th Jul '17 - 7:05pm

    David Pocock- there are Chryin other parties too. Who cares, they seemed to have got on with dealing with legislation without being beholden to any given faith or alternatively if some have without becoming a martyr about it.

    As for those that claim the LibDems are a radical party, maybe once, but what radical ideas would voters ascribe to the LibDems nowadays? Decriminalisation of cannabis and that’s about it.

  • Dave Orbison 15th Jul '17 - 7:06pm

    Ah auto correct … I meant to say there are Christians in others parties too.

  • Bernard Aris 16th Jul '17 - 1:18pm

    The Liberator magazine appears to have a reconstruction of what went on with Tims leadership during the campaign, and a couple of interesting articles beside that (as usual). At least that’s what they’re saying in their LDV posting above Carons.

    So let all LDV readers buy the Liberator copy (doubling their sales in the process) and let’s move on..

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Jul '17 - 11:43am

    The whole Tim Farron saga in recent weeks shows that the party has deeply illiberal elements within it.

    Tim is/was a fantastic,campaigning leader forced out by people who claim to be liberal as long as their worldview is precisely the one you share.

    Isn’t the point of being a liberal that you may disagree with the viewpoint or worldview of another but defend their right to hold that view, and seek not to force your own viewpoint upon others? It used to be.

    In every respect, Tim Farron is a Liberal to his fingertips. And he happens to be a Christian. As was Gladstone and some other former leaders of the Party.

    So are we to take it that some in the Party will train their ideological lenses and tick box sheets on the next unsuspecting leader who comes along?

    Watch out Vince, the illiberal-‘liberal’ Thought Police are waiting in the wings and will be taking notes on your every comment on social ethics, identity politics and every other cause the pc brigade has jumped on in recent years.

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Jul '17 - 10:06pm

    Helen, you are so right. I am grieving this week that it is the last few days of Tim’s excellent leadership, but I also grieve as you do for having been forced to perceive a deeply illiberal element in our party. At least, now that we know of it, we can combat it in future. A future which will I hope see Tim still having an active, effective and major role in our national democracy.

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