Farron shows that the Lib Dems are still a broad church

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The most radical of the three big political parties in Britain has since its inception been the Liberal Democrats.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn is certainly more left wing, but Mr Corbyn has only had partial control of his party since he became leader a year ago.

When the Liberal Democrats were founded in 1988, as a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, Labour was moving firmly to the political centre ground after its general election defeat of 1987.

Tony Blair moved Labour so far to the centre after further defeat in 1992 that the party has been outflanked from the left repeatedly by the Lib Dems over the last three decades, particularly on matters such as civil liberties and human rights.

It is almost astonishing to hear Tim Farron decline to say whether he believes that gay sex is sinful.

If any party has embraced the sort of harsh interpretation of ‘equality and rights’ that can, for example, lead to a business such as Ashers Baking Co being taken to court it is the Lib Dems.

Mr Farron is hardly a conservative leader of the Lib Dems. He is an outspoken advocate of most of the Liberal Democrat orthodoxies, such as passionate support for British membership of the European Union. But Mr Farron is a Christian who has views on homosexuality that he is reluctant to divulge.

There have been previous Christian Liberal Democrat politicians who expressed views that were at odds with the party rank and file, such as David Alton, a Catholic MP who campaigned against abortion.

Liberalism by its nature will always be a complex and disputed philosophy. It struggles with inherent contradictions. Many liberal-minded people, for example, think other liberals are too indulgent of the illiberalism of conservative Islam.

Given that such disputes can be settled by dogma, it is encouraging to learn that the Lid Dems remain a broad church.