Vince: I strongly disagree with Tim Farron – and other Lib Dem reaction

Vince Cable has responded to Tim Farron’s interview today with a strongly worded tweet:

Party President Sal Brinton agreed:

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie endorsed this view as well:

Other senior Liberal Democrats stepped up with similar, straightforward arguments:

Our Deputy Leader:


Former Lib Dem Lords Leader Jim Wallace had this to say:

Christine Jardine reaffirmed her commitment to campaigning for LGBT+ rights:

Liz Barker also endorsed Vince’s tweets and particularly mentioned LGBT Christians:

And Brian Paddick revealed more about his resignation from Tim Farron’s shadow cabinet earlier this year.

Jennie Rigg, chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems, wrote about her reaction on her personal blog.

This is someone I consider(ed?) a friend saying this shit. It’s someone I actually care about. And it wears you down, you know? It hurts. It hurts that I put effort into defending someone who clearly just does not get what the problem is, and keeps on bringing it up and making it worse. And says he plans to continue doing so.

Honestly, folks, I’ve just had enough.


Our editor was concerned that Tim’s decision to express this view might harm people who were having a hard time dealing with their sexuality or gender identity.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jan '18 - 9:42pm

    Tim needs to stop discussing this issue in public. It’s telling gay people that they are sinners and saying we are all sinners isn’t enough because it targets them specifically.

  • “….no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.” Who are the non-conformists here, Gays or Born-Again Christians? Who the ignorant? I’m not gay but for what it’s worth I know more Gays than B-A Christians in the Lib Dems. Maybe I should get out more. Tim had my vote for leader and has my admiration for what he did after the 2015 election but he, the party and I suspect his constituents need him to put all this behind him and move on.

  • Philip Rolle 11th Jan '18 - 12:03am

    Vince Cable’s statement does misrepresent Tim though. Saying something is sinful doesn’t of itself trample on rights; it’s just free speech. It would be sufficient simply to say that Tim is entitled to his view, do an eye roll and leave it at that. This was done to death months back and it’s rather tedious returning to the matter now. The NHS and social care is not functioning nearly well enough and all politicians can talk of is Brexit, plastic packaging charges and sin. Aaarrrggghhh…

  • Thank goodness the party has rallied, but what isnto be DONE? We trusted Tim to lead us, the UK’s only liberal party, and this keeps coming up. It would be funny if it wasnt as hurtful as it is unnecessary. It would be funny if some people didn’t feel undervalued, or that theLibDems dont like gays.

    Actually, it’s not funny. Please, make him shut up.

  • There is a small church near my home which I sometimes visit. They are very Bible based and fundamentalist. Nevertheless what they say is interesting. In one service the verses on Sodom and Gomorra were referred to. I was stuck how they have become misrepresented. While Sodom and Gomorrah have been used historically and today as metaphors for vice and homosexuality, a close reading of the text suggest that this association may be incorrect. It is more to do with mistreating strangers (foreigners).
    I note a work on this question- Jordan, Mark (1999). The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press. Maybe Tim should put it on his reading list, it would help him deal with the questions on this issue.

  • LGBT rights are human rights. The two go together hand in hand.

  • Very encouraging to hear Tim’s views being condemned from all corners of the party, but how much more does he have to say before formal action is taken?

    If there was an MP from any party saying that they thought gay sex was a sin / immoral / wrong etc. as their own view independent of religion, we would (I hope) be calling on them to step down or be sacked.

    Why should the fact that Tim’s homophobia is rooted in religion mean that he gets special treatment? It shouldn’t.

  • Peter Rothery 11th Jan '18 - 7:30am

    The latest utterances of Tim Farron on this issue leave me profoundly disappointed. Naively I took him at his word when he said he didn’t think gay sex is a sin.

    Of course Tim is a liberal. I accept that he opposes discrimination in law against homosexual people. He is not homophobic – not frightened or hateful of gay and lesbian people.

    That said you cannot believe that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships if you believe that the physical expression of same sex love is a sin. That necessarily implies there is something wrong, requiring forgiveness in homosexual relationships.

    That position is hurtful and damaging particularly to the sense of esteem of young gay and lesbian people. Let us not forget that the suicide rates amongst people who experience same sex attraction is higher than amongst the population at large.

    For me, this is the final straw. I am reflecting carefully on whether I can in good conscience overlook his position on equality, and continue to support him as my MP.

  • Not A Christian 11th Jan '18 - 8:54am

    I’ve listened to the interview in full, and I didn’t hear Tim saying that “gay sex is a sin” or admitting that he had “lied”, so I wish our leaders hadn’t lined up to “disagree” or condemn him. All I think he is saying is that for evangelical Christians, to whom he was speaking, the question of whether gay sex is a “sin” is more complicated than a yes/no answer and that he regrets allowing himself to be pressurised into giving one.

    Throughout the interview Tim comes across as caring, reflective, thoughtful and non-judgemental. He points out that for non-Christians, the question of what is a “sin” is effectively meaningless, or just means something bad such as a crime, so there is a risk of being misinterpreted.

    So I wish he had simply answered the original question by saying that as a politician he wasn’t going to get involved in theological questions about the meaning of “sin”. He should simply have said that as far as he was concerned he was absolutely fine about people being gay, and having consensual gay sex, and indeed had voted to remove homophobic legislation.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Jan '18 - 9:00am

    I believe it was Voltaire who said “I disagree with every word you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it”.
    Too often contributors to LDV seem to forget this basic tenet of Liberalism.
    However, Tim Farron appears to forget the corollary to this maxim. That just because you have the right to say it, doesn’t mean you should.
    I would suggest two things.
    1. That by constantly going on about this we extend its shelf life and prolong its appearance in the press and media.
    2. That Tim be asked to stop parading his conscience in public on this issue. (Over to you Leader)

  • Tim was correct in his statement that he could have explained the theological position but that people were not interested in that, but just tripping him up.

    As a Christian I would like to say it’s all fine from a theological point of view, it would make life so much easier.

    Well actually I do, but that does not move me a away from saying it is a sin.

    As Tim was trying to raise there is this view that sin is a judgement not a recognition of our actions in light of our teachings. All Jesus says is “follow me” and he will work with what you have.

    I married a divorcee, that is a sin, from a theological point of view. I accepted that and prayed on it and we have had a happy marriage and many children. Coming to faith or holding that view does not mean I have to divorce her.

  • I respect Tim, and he is of course entitled to his views. But any LGBT person reading this must know that he is a tiny minority in our party. We Liberals were standing up for gay rights when it was very unfashionable to do so, and when all the other parties were either hostile or silent.
    Tim if you are reading this I hope you will reflect on whether it is necessary for you to keep talking publicly about this. You are an elected MP, not a spokesperson for the church. A gay constituent needing help may not feel able to contact you now. I believe that will upset you, but I’m afraid it is true.

  • John Marriott 11th Jan '18 - 9:34am

    As someone who voted for Norman Lamb as Leader way back when I might wish to consider the demise of Tim Farron with a small amount of “I told you so”. What is sad, however, is that an undoubtedly talented politician has allowed himself to be sidetracked on an issue that, for many people, is a non issue. I do sincerely hope that he can find a modus vivendi to enable him to continue to be effective in the political arena. Sadly, like the puppet of David Steel in David Owen’s pocket from ‘Spitting Image’ or the tuition fees that did for Nick Clegg, Mr Farron’s future may continue to be dogged by questions about his form of Christian thinking.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Jan '18 - 10:08am

    I agree with John Marriott – and I also voted for Norman Lamb

  • Step back from the issue for a moment. Leading Lib Dems get together to all tweet at the same time, “I disagree with (my colleague).” Pretty horrible. Not sure they’ve ever done that before to any other colleague on any other issue.

  • There are many aspects of sex and sexuality that religions consider a sin and those that practise them sinners.

    Divorce, living together and sex before marriage, having children outside marriage. adultery, and in Catholicism I believe (certainly until recently) using birth control.

    It does not mean that those people should be discriminated against or not have full rights. I appreciate that LGBT people feel that calling them sinners strikes at them because it strikes at their identity. And it is a tough juxtaposition between those who are devout Christians of a particular faith or those of other religions and them

    But it should be possible for a tolerant society to allow both to co-exist – persecuting one minority for their beliefs and practices whether Christians, LGBT community or indeed adulterers is surely not a good idea. Indeed Tim voted for equal marriage because he realised this.

    A bar on evangelical Christians being leaders of a political party or or of the country is as wrong as a bar on LGBT people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, divorcees etc. etc.

  • Paul Walter. It doesn’t actually matter who said it, but the sentiment is what I was getting at.

  • Paul: thank you, I was going to say that about Evelyn BH

    Christians are not a minority in this country as of the last census, and they still have representation as of right in our legislature: I do not think they are persecuted in anything like the same way that LGBT+ people are, especially the B and the T.

  • Disagree with him but don’t condemn him. I don’t share his views but he’s not a homophobe.

  • paul barker 11th Jan '18 - 2:14pm

    Of course what Vince & everyone else said about Tim is probably innacurate but that misses the point, it was neccesary as an exercise in damage limitation. The best thing for everyone now is to stick to the line & otherwise say as little as possible.
    I wish Tim hadnt given this interview but I believe that was the result of naivety rather than callousness. We should all do our best to forgive each other & get back to talking about Brexit.

  • @Jennie

    At around 4 million in terms of those actually worshipping it does constitute a minority. Christmas pudding and eating chocolate eggs does not count

  • Liberal Neil 11th Jan '18 - 3:05pm

    I think it is helpful for Vince to have set out his position on behalf of the party.

    However I also agree with @Not A Christian that when one listens to the actual interview it is very different to they way it is generally being reported.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Jan '18 - 3:24pm


    At around 4 million in terms of those actually worshipping it does constitute a minority. Christmas pudding and eating chocolate eggs does not count”

    Quite. Could we please just count the ones who – demonstrably – behave in a way of which Jesus Christ might have approved – and exclude the ones behaving in other ways…

  • @Nonconformistradical

    I suspect that will be none then, including myself. And that is rather the point

  • Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mr Farron (and after his election experience he would have been better advised to have left the subject well alone), I’m afraid the rapid collective ‘ganging up’ of Liberal Democrat M.P.’s, Lords and grandees voicing disapproval of Mr. Farron does not give the impression of a united party aware of the wider issues of concern to the electorate such as the state of the NHS, failing rail transport, inequality and poverty.

    To all concerned, as Attlee once wrote to Harold Laski, “a period of silence would be welcome”.

  • Indeed David – there are issues that really affect people, and yet some only seem to get particularly animated when it comes to virtue signalling about things that may or may not have been said on radio shows or Twitter.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Jan '18 - 5:52pm

    I am pleased that I, a Christian, agree most from all the comments above with those of
    Not a Christian (8.54 am). You sound like a true Liberal, as is Tim Farron.

  • Riccardo Sallustio 11th Jan '18 - 5:53pm

    I agree that “a period of silence would be welcome”.

    While I don’t believe that he said anything in the interview which could be construed as homophobic, he should acknowledge, as @Tom said, that he is not a spokesperson of the church but a LibDem MP.

    I don’t see the point of going again public about personal beliefs which do not affect your actions as MP or as leader of the party. Continuing to mix the two roles shows poor judgment on his part.

  • (David Raw comment) I see it entirely the other way – the clear and united line did a good job of distancing the Lib Dems from those who would equate ‘sin’ with ‘reason to do harm to people’ (whether legally, socially, emotionally, physically or spiritually).

    It became rapidly clear where the rest of the party are, so as soon as possible we can get off the subject in hand and on to the many other issues before us.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Jan '18 - 6:56pm

    And I thought that as Liberals we firmly believed in the separation of church/religion and state/politics. This whole thing is a trap set by our enemies. Why on earth does Tim keep jumping into it?

  • lynne feathrstone 11th Jan '18 - 6:57pm

    I reserve my anger for the religions that produce tortured souls who feel that to express their love will mean eternal damnation. The tortured individuals have my love and sympathy. How can any religion claim to be about love, charity and kindness when their ancient tenets pour poison. Shame on them.

  • Patrick C Smith 11th Jan '18 - 7:17pm

    At a real crisis of conscience of a nation in the throes of NHS A and E long post Christas ambulance and corridor waits, that are imperiling lives and the requirement of Lib Dem `die-hards’ to close ranks on new public opinion dial movement on need of `Second EU Brexit Referendum’, we get Tim Farron MP again on volte- face on `sin’ and `politics’.

    This `sin’ question should not be on the radar again, as colossal national issues are clearly etched into whether or not this Government can limp along and respond with some positive policy on public disquiet to the startling news that only 85% of NHS A and E patients have been seen by a medic, within 4 hours of admission.

    I believe that the christian teaching is that people are free to pursue their own individual sexuality, within the rule of law and there is no evidence that Jesus condemned same sex relations.

    In 2018, as only less than 15% attend a regular christian church service and annual attendance is declining, it is important for a new all embracing approach to welcome and represent all members possible,especially young community minded congregants into the fold.

    I hope that people will continue to be led by the liberal mission of a broader C of E and affiliates.

  • OnceALibDem 11th Jan '18 - 9:08pm

    A couple of things that seem to be forgotten:

    1) The issue is not really Tims views on gay sex. It’s that he lied to the electorate about them.

    2) He is now setting himself up as a professional Christian martyr – with this persistand and untrue idea that you can’t be a practising Christian and a left of centre poltician (Charles Kennedy and Tony Blair anyone?) Eg “Farron said part of the problem was that he had no Christians to help advise him in the Liberal Democrats.” Well he was leader so he could pick his own leadership team and if that was true the fault is his. Really he is heading to become the David Alton of the 21st Century.

  • roger roberts 11th Jan '18 - 9:58pm

    This is where different churches expect their members to act according to their teaching – Tim F is doing just that and if that is what he really believes he has our understanding and respect. My congregations as a minister as well a “politician” are weary of hearing my emphasis that above all else “God is Love” and that the commandments that encompass all others are to love God and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.We don’t know all the answers and we don’t always get it right but that must always be the direction in which we are going. (it also might be why I’m a Liberal!)

  • Graham Evans 11th Jan '18 - 10:42pm

    @ OnceALibDem: You really have got to the heart of the issues surrounding Tim Farron. It is perfectly reasonable for a politician to change his mind in response to changing circumstances or further analysis. This is why the accusation of lying thrown at LDs by Labour regarding tuition fees is pure propaganda, rather than an accurate representation of the situation. Very occasionally, as for instance in war, it may even be morally acceptable to paint a misleading impression of the situation. However, Farron’s lying falls into neither of these categories. Your comparison with David Alton, which seems to me entirely accurate, should also be a warning to any leader of the Party that just because someone appears to have been a good constituency MP and successful campaigner does not mean that they are an appropriate person to act as a public spokesperson for the Party, much less be nominated for a seat in the House of Lords.

  • I don’t no what people here expect from religions. They’re by definition on the socially conservative side and are driven by the belief a higher power. Truly religious people do not get to pick and mix. The point isn’t that Tim thinks things are a sin. God does. It’s the same for all the major monotheist religions. It’s one of the main reasons celebrating multiculturalism as a purely positive force is so problematic. Religions are not quaint cultural artefacts or exotic dishes. They are not pick and mix. They are at their core belief systems based on moral certainties passed down for millennia and derived from the infallible word of a supreme being who can embrace you or condemn you forever. . For us atheists this stuff is mostly easy. You live, you die, you mumble stuff and so on. For religious people the eternal soul is at stake.

  • @ Graham Evans

    The issue of Tim’s views on gay sex were taking a large part of the Lib Dem’s coverage during the election when we got nothing in most of the press and very little on TV – other than Brexit – this and legalisation of cannabis was virtually all that the public heard about us – it was understandable in the heat and fury of an election campaign that Tim tried to shut down the issue.

    It seems that he thinks that his behaviour was now morally wrong, indeed a sin which is courageous of him but who as a politician has not trimmed their views often on moral issues to win the bigger battle? From canvassers and Focus writers to councillors and MPs.

    Particular as the issue is nuanced – Tim has a view, as I understand it, of Christianity and how one should react to it that if it teaches a doctrine then that has to tried to be adhered to – some Christians take perhaps a more flexible approach. But Tim’s view is that if the Bible/Christian teaching says that X is a sin then it is a sin. You can’t pick and mix – one might like stealing not to be a sin but one can’t suddenly decide it is not.

    On tuition fees – Nick Clegg campaigned to abolish them totally and the reduction of fees was in our 2010 manifesto and only a few months later he voted not just to keep them but to triple them.

    While complex this was arguably far more hypocritical, involved far more lying and did us far more harm than Tim’s views. I seem to remember Tim voted against increasing tuition fees.

    In contrast actually judge Tim by his actions which was to vote for equal marriage.

    Equally in general Muslims that follow mainstream Islam teaching think that homosexuality is a sin but this question never seems to be asked of them. As I say mainstream Catholic and Anglican teaching is also that a wide range of sexual practices such as sex outside of marriage, divorce etc. are sins.

    I had relatives whose first baby was born before they were married and their Church would not marry them in church as presumably they saw it as a sin but would allow them a blessing.

    I do appreciate that it hits at LGBT people but equally we should allow people to say that I think X is a sin but also I don’t believe that X (divorce, sex outside marriage, homosexuality) should be the cause of discrimination or lack of full rights.

  • OnceALibDem 12th Jan '18 - 1:03am

    “They’re by definition on the socially conservative side and are driven by the belief a higher power. ”

    Including that well known bastion of social conservatism that is the Society of Friends (Quakers)

    “Truly religious people do not get to pick and mix.” Well that’s not the view of Desmond Tutu – and I tend to the view that Archbishops know a bit about what truly religious people can do.

  • What puzzles me slightly is why we focus quite so religiously on one man, one religion, one issue. Of course Tim has spoken on gay relationships, but If we looked at Islam and Orthodox Judaism we would find similar tenets. What about drug-taking? Christians might think this is ‘sinful’ so that contradicts LD policy on cannabis. What about the sometime segregation of men and women in places of worship? That goes against equality. I think our response to the intersection between faith and being a Lib Dem is inconsistent.

    Vince may have been right to say what he did as it reflects Lib Dem policy, but we need to be far more sophisticated in our response to religious belief – if we believe people have the right to pursue their faith that is, in line with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  • Helen Dudden 12th Jan '18 - 8:03am

    I also read one comment, I married a divorcee. It’s a point of view, a divorcee is no longer married. I’m a widow, no longer married. If a religious point of view or not.
    These are personal views, Tim did let slip a personal view, and it was perhaps not wise.
    Of course, no one should be persecuted.
    I’m also a vegetarian, another personal choice, we are allowed to have personal choices.
    I did find Tim to be a witty and entertaining speaker at conference.

  • Large White Bear 12th Jan '18 - 9:03am

    It’s a slight digression, but as a gay man happily married to my partner, I really resent being called ‘LGBT’. It’s a label imposed by the political class and a small group of activists, lumping together ‘groups’ that have little or nothing in common with each other.

  • OnceALibDem 12th Jan '18 - 9:06am

    “I do appreciate that it hits at LGBT people but equally we should allow people to say that I think X is a sin but also I don’t believe that X (divorce, sex outside marriage, homosexuality) should be the cause of discrimination or lack of full rights.”

    This again misses the point though. It’s not whether someone should have the freedom to believe that (they should). It’s whether that is compatible with being a Liberal Democrat and more particularly the leader of the party because there are certain things that being a member of a political party require you to believe.

  • I was just suggesting that religious people believe in higher powers and the word of God. They have concepts like sin derived the judgement of this supreme being. They also have immortal souls to protect. Quakers are quite socially conservative by the way.
    But, personally, I’m atheist so do not really understand the argument over this unless one actually believes in deeply religious concepts like sin or heaven and hell. I suspect the anger boils down to people getting upset because Tim believes a deity of some sort stands in ultimate moral judgement of other people’s sex lives. It seems a bit mean and harsh, but religion is not all love and charming rituals. As I said multiculturalism can be problematic, because the cultures involved can be conflicted about or even hostile to each other. That’s what I think we’re getting here.

  • I think the last paragraph of @Michael puts it well.

    The Sally Army think most things are a sin, but are out there picking people off the street.
    Most churches are against excessive drinking but their street pastors are picking up the pieces and keeping people safe.

    Pretty much every church is running a food bank, how many associations are?

    It is estimated that churches put about £5 billion of time, resources, venues, support into the social economy. The stronger the faith the more people do is a general rule.

    I mentor offenders on release from prison as I know they have “sinned” but I know they are more important than that to God. It is the recognition that they will try to manipulate, deceive, lie etc that protects me.

  • John Barrett 12th Jan '18 - 11:31am

    We need all future leaders of the party to make a promise, that if selected as leader, they will promise to shut up when they are no longer leader and let the new leader speak for the party. If past leaders would join in too, that would be very helpful to Vince..

    Past experience has show that when selecting leadership candidates, we should have introduced something like this many years ago.

    I hope, when Vince decides to stand down, that he will have the good sense to let his successor do the job, without yet another former leader making life difficult for whoever takes on a very difficult job.

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Jan '18 - 1:34pm

    If you are unable to be supportive and sympathetic of any legal sentiment or activity of all your constituents, you should not be a politician.

  • Dave Orbison 12th Jan '18 - 1:41pm

    What strikes me about so many of the contributions here is the focus on ‘poor Tim’. This is examined from a number of angles which minimise the impact of his comments. Variously; he should be free to say what he likes, he’s been hounded, it’s all a trap by political opponents (Tony Greaves) and we are all sinners anyway. Even an attack on the use of LGBT shorthand.

    What has happened to this party? What about the affects of such negative comments on gay people/LGBT, if you prefer? They are the victims of homophobia which is fuelled by prejudice or ‘belief’ if you want to gift wrap it.

    As someone said, imagine if Tim Farron went round telling the media that interracial marriage is a sin? Is that compatible with the values of this party?

  • Well said, John. One could quote from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7 : 16 “By their fruits shall ye know them”. I know what Tim has done for homeless people in Kendal, and he has my utmost respect as a man and as a Liberal.

    There were things supported in Coalition, such as Universal Credit, that it would be very easy to put a very negative label on – but sensitive discretion forbids.

  • David Allen 13th Jan '18 - 1:32pm

    The problem here isn’t Christianity or homophobia. It’s political incompetence.

    Many politicians have some sort of serious conflict between their personal and political lives. Think of socialists who denounce public schooling and then use it themselves. Think of Tories who preach fair taxation and then use offshore schemes. All these people – like Tim – have a big problem entering politics, which they should think about before they start.

    One conclusion might be (for example): “Oh gosh! I can’t cope as a socialist, given my track record of public schooling / tax fiddling / or whatever! I had better go away and grow tomatoes instead of planning a political career!”

    The alternative approach might be: “Gosh, tough one! I had better think of my best possible rejoinder, and see if that will serve. Let’s see. I didn’t know the Cayman Islands was a tax haven, but when I found out I disinvested and donated my dividends to Oxfam. Yeah, phew, that should be OK, carry on with politics!”

    For Tim, a spin doctor might have suggested various similarly “viable” options. There’s “Medieval Christians believed in hellfire, drowning witches, and persecuting gays, but I’m a modern Christian and I don’t.” There’s “my faith is a private matter, my politics is equality”. The critical question is, why didn’t Tim Farron adopt any of these options?

    The answer must be that he didn’t think any of them was acceptable. They would all have amounted to a denial of his God, to putting worldly political considerations ahead of sacred Christian belief. Tim was not prepared to do that. So he decided to wing it and hope the question was never put. When it was put, he equivocated, and then (as we now know) lied. The voters were rightly unimpressed.

    Sadly therefore, despite all Tim’s strengths, he could not viably reconcile his beliefs with a political career. He should never have tried. It was political incompetence – ours as well as his – not to recognise the problem before it killed us.

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