Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron quits over Christian faith
Scottish Lib Dem Jo Swinson among those tipped to succeed Farron as leader
Tim Farron dramatically quit as Liberal Democrat leader last night saying he found it "impossible" to be the boss of the party whilst holding his Christian views.
In a shock announcement less than a week after the general election, he said he was "torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader".
The Lib Dems had a disappointing election, only managing to increase their number of MPs from nine to 12.
During the campaign, Farron faced repeated questions about views on homosexuality and abortion.
At a speech at the Liberal Democrat headquarters in London tonight, he said British people were “kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society”.
He said some of his answers on the campaign trail “could have been wiser”, an apparent reference to his initial refusal to make clear whether he believed gay sex was a sin.
An interview from 2007 in which he said he believed abortion was wrong also caused further controversy - although Mr Farron said he had since changed his mind.
“The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader,” he said tonight.
“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.”
He added: “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.
“I'm a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.
“There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it - it's not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.
“Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”
Farron's announcement came just hours after Lib Dem peer Brian Paddick quit the party’s front bench in protest at his leader's views on homosexuality and abortion.
Farron will stay on until parliamentary recess begins next month, at which point a leadership election will be triggered.
Returning MPs Vince Cable and Jo Swinson have been tipped as most likely to face off for the top job.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:“Tim Farron has been a dynamic, energetic and inspirational leader who took the party from the dark days following the 2015 election to its highest membership ever. He increased our parliamentary representation at this election with a diverse group of talented people.
“I will always be grateful for his friendship and leadership and I believe he still has a big role to play in British politics.”
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