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British Party Leader Steps Down After Struggling to Reconcile Politics And Piety

Gage Cohen
By Gage Cohen | June 19, 2017 | 3:45 AM EDT

Tim Farron (Photo: Liberal Democrats)

After his party picked up four seats during Britain’s general election on June 8, Tim Farron announced that he would step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap election in the hopes of securing a strong mandate ahead of negotiations for the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union.

However, all did not go as planned. Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing Labour party picked up 30 seats, while May’s Conservatives lost a total of 13. The result was a hung parliament-- one in which no party has a majority of the House of Commons’ 650 seats.

To form a government in the U.K., a part must hold a simple majority of seats in parliament of form a coalition with one or more other parties together comprising a majority.

The Liberal Democrats make up the country’s fourth largest party after the Conservatives, Labour, and the Scottish National Party (SNP). Unlike in the United States, third-, fourth-, and even fifth-placed parties can have a large impact on politics.

The snap election resulted in a government where a small party will certainly have a tremendous impact – but the Lib-Dems, which took 12 seats, are not that party.

Instead, it is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, which is much closer ideologically to May’s Conservatives than any of the other seat-holding parties, that will play the role of kingmaker.

So although the Lib Dems picked up four seats, they have been left with little to no political influence.

Farron, the party’s leader for the last two years, has been in the House of Commons for 12 years, representing the constituency of Westmorland and Lonsdale in the northwest of England.

Farron , a self-proclaimed Christian, has led a left-leaning party that often appears to have opposing views from his on homosexuality, abortion, and other social issues. Ever since he became the Lib Dem leader, Farron has been questioned about how he reconciles his party’s beliefs with his own.

In April, Farron came under fire about his views on whether or not homosexuality was a sin, after refusing to give a straight answer to that question on several occasions.

Farron has gone back and forth on several key issues publically. Before the election, a 2007 interview surfaced in which Farron condemned abortion as wrong. However, his party maintained that “Tim’s view is that he is pro-choice and abortion should be safe and legal, that is what he believes.”

In a special edition of BBC’s Question Time in the run-up to the election, Farron was about his faith by a member of the audience.

He described himself as “a political leader not a religious one,” and said a key element of his faith was that “you treat others as you'd like to be treated yourself. You do not judge other people or you yourself will be judged.”

On Wednesday, however, Farron seemed to change from this previous position when he announced his resignation as party leader.

He said in an issued statement: “From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I’ve tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.”

“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.”

“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.”

Some say that Farron’s motives for resigning were, in fact, religious, while others point to the relatively small political influence of his party as his likely motivation.

What does appear to be certain is that left-wing parties in the U.K. are moving further and further away from  traditional and religious worldviews.