Tim Farron exposes the illiberalism of modern liberalism

Morning View
Morning View

Tim Farron has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats over his Christian faith.

The way in which he was hounded to give a view on whether he believed gay sex was a sin raises questions about what liberalism actually is.

At times its modern manifestation seems to be a specific and incoherent world view: for example, it is liberal to be understanding of Islamic views, no matter how extreme.

It is, at the same time, liberal to damn Christian traditional values, even if they are conservative but far less extreme that an Islamic stance on the same issues. This is absurd.

On our letters pages on Thursday (links below), two contributors challenge the notion that terminating a pregnancy is ‘progressive’ as liberals so often seem to assume.

Mr Farron was put under heavy pressure to issue statements that he patently did not believe, at the height of an election. He has had his finest hour in his resignation. “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 said.

How indulgent, in contrast, the Liberal Democrat gay home affairs spokesman Lord Paddick, seems, resigning due to “concerns about the leader’s views on various issues”. Lord Paddick cannot work underneath a man who agreed with him on the main issues, but diverged on matters of conscience.

This is a trend across the parties. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, said “LGBTI rights” matter more to her than party.

Ms Davidson has achieved electoral success in Scotland for which she is widely admired. Most DUP MPs and many Conservative backbenchers take a different view to her on gay marriage. Some DUP politicians and many Tories agree with her. But all of them agree on far more of the fundamental issues than they disagree, so her comment sounded shrill and unnecessary after all the goodwill towards her.

In the meantime, Mr Farron is deserving of considerable admiration.

He was genuinely liberal, while holding true to his own core values, and he also held down one of politics’ toughest jobs – a liberal party that tries to accommodate a very wide and often contradictory range of interpretations of liberalism.

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