Election notebook #5: This really is the last time I’ll write about Tim Farron and gay sex

by Stephen Tall on April 25, 2017

I’d intended already to have said my last on the “does Tim Farron believe gay sex is a sin?” thing which Channel 4’s Cathy Newman has been banging on about, egged on by fellow hacks and lefty tweeters who enjoy watching the born-again Christian Lib Dem leader squirm.

But it wasn’t to be, as a week later it’s the only question our lazy media can be bothered to ask him (despite his very strong record defending LGBT+ rights over the years). And so Mr Farron has been forced to give the only politically acceptable answer that’s allowed: that he doesn’t think gay sex is a sin.

Which may help shut down the media witch-hunt — though there’s plenty of other material in Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Exodus for journos to quiz him on, sin-by-sin, for the next 50 days. After all, that’s what people really want to hear about; not Brexit or the economy or public services. [/irony]

Personally, I preferred his earlier argument, that we should regard his private beliefs as just that, and judge him on his public actions. It’s a pretty fundamental liberal tenet, one underpinned by a long-held argument for the separation of church and state.

I think it admirable that Mr Farron is prepared to campaign and vote for his fellow citizens to live their lives as they choose, not as he would choose. That takes more liberal guts than it does for those of us whose personal views happen to happily coincide with the majority’s secularism.

The demand of the illiberal left for Mr Farron to atone for what they presume his private views to be is driven by two imperatives.

The first is drearily partisan: embarrass the Lib Dem leader to try and bolster the depressed Labour vote.

The second is more revealing — the bullying desire that everyone must think the same thing. It’s not enough simply to support freedom of choice; you must also advocate for those choices. You must conform to their credo. The illiberal left doesn’t just want you to be persuaded. It requires you to embrace all their feels.

Well, I am a Liberal and I am against this sort of thing.

**

As a coda, I find it interesting to compare Tim Farron’s treatment with that of David Cameron when he was running for the Conservative party leadership in 2005.

He was asked repeatedly if he’d used drugs and declined to give a straight answer, referring vaguely to a “pretty typical student experience”. Media pressure grew, and eventually he and his team came up with the line, “I’m allowed to have had a private life before politics in which we make mistakes and we do things that we should not and we are all human and we err and stray.” He stuck to it, as did his party. And the media (mostly) happily accepted it.

Which I suspect simply shows there are more former drug-users in the media than there are born-again Christians.