I wasn’t frightfully impressed by Tim Farron during the election campaign. But he had the most difficult job of all the party leaders. His party landed him with the second referendum demand and he had to go along with it. A few fanatical remainers voted for the Lib Dems, but hardly anyone else did. Mr Farron’s party had failed to grasp the fact that almost everyone accepted the referendum result. He never had any serious prospect of doing well in the election while his party kept droning on about the need to reverse the referendum.
Of course, as is the way in politics, he had to resign as leader of his party. But there is something horribly disagreeable about the reason for his resignation. He went, not because his party did very badly in the election, but because his religious beliefs were considered to be inconsistent with liberal democracy. The former policeman, Lord Paddick, said he could not serve a leader who didn’t love abortion and might not be terribly keen on same sex marriage.
Obviously, I do understand that most Liberal Democrats are desperately keen on abortion (most of them think all women ought to have several abortions every year). And it goes without saying that they hate the idea of heterosexual marriage (dreadfully old-fashioned). But neither of those issues is what one might call “live”. Abortion on demand, though not technically legal, is now considered to be a human right (look at Lady Hale’s dissenting judgment in today’s Supreme Court decision). Same sex marriage is here to stay. Mr Farron knows all that. And he has never suggested that he wants to change it. But he is an evangelical Christian and, like all evangelical Christians, he is not keen on abortion and doesn’t like the idea of marriage between people of the same sex.
Tediously, journalists pestered Mr Farron, throughout the election campaign, about his wholly irrelevant views on abortion, homosexuality and same sex marriage. He found it difficult to go along with Liberal Democrat orthodoxy (extreme disapproval of his church’s views). He kept trying to avoid the irrelevant questions. Finally, he told us how much he loved same sex marriage (I don’t think he could bring himself to say he wanted all women to have abortions several times a year). He gave in.
But Lord Paddick decided that his leader’s religious opinions rendered him wholly unsuitable to be leader of a modern political party. The noble lord resigned as a Liberal Democrat spokesman in the House of Lords. It was, he thought, appalling that such a progressive party should be led by a Christian. Within about an hour Mr Farron also resigned. He knew that his Christianity was inconsistent with liberal democracy.
Actually, there are lots of Christians who are happy about same sex marriage (though I have yet to meet one who loves abortion in the way Liberal Democrats do). But that really isn’t the point. The point is that Mr Farron’s opinions on homosexuality, same sex marriage and abortion were enormously irrelevant. None of those issues was going to arise in the next parliament.
What does all this tell us about Liberal Democrats? To start with, we know that Lord Paddick is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. He decided to stab his leader in his back because he disliked his leader’s religious views. But Lord Paddick is not alone. A great many Liberal Democrats hate Christianity. True, they don’t really understand Christianity (they are frightfully modern). If pressed, they wouldn’t positively disapprove of Christ’s commandment that we should love one another, but they are convinced that there is an awful lot of anti-liberal-democrat baggage that goes with Christianity. Just think about abortion. Almost all Christians are opposed to it, and yet Liberal Democrats are meant to think abortion should be compulsory.
It is entirely possible to be a member of the Labour Party or of the Conservative Party while being a Christian. But note well that the Liberal Democrats will not welcome you.