Tim Farron became the Brexit saboteur who crushed himself, says Emma Bartley. Now can we please have at least one sensible centrist leader with a bit of charisma?
First thoughts on hearing that Tim Farron had resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats? “Thank God for that.” Second thoughts? “Literally.”
Because somehow Tim Farron is all about Christianity now. All we know about him, and probably all we’ll ever know about him, is that he’s morally opposed to bum sex. Clearly he had to go, and yesterday he did the decent thing.
Quite frankly, I can’t believe it took him a week. At the start of the snap election, the Liberal Democrats were standing in front of an open goal. The Prime Minister was asking for a mandate for a hard Brexit and they were the strongest opponents of it. The 48% who had voted to remain in the EU should have seen them as the natural protest vote. Those of us who come out in hives every time we hear the phrase “Brexit means Brexit” should have been door-knocking, envelope-stuffing and putting up Lib Dem signs in our liberal metropolitan front yards. But we didn’t, because Tim Farron doesn’t agree with bum sex.
Eleanor Marriott argued on this blog that religion and politics should be kept separate, but with gay rights something of a crossover point most people didn’t go that way. Most people missed Farron’s scrambled clarification that he didn’t think homosexuality was a sin, and believed in equality for all. Indeed, quite a lot of people missed his name, with one acquaintance of mine declaring: “The man from the Liberal Democrats is terrible, he doesn’t believe in gay rights!”
So nobody much voted Liberal Democrat, with Farron only winning his own seat by 700-odd votes (down from about 9,000 the previous time) and the former leader Nick Clegg voted out. It seemed bizarre when Farron sat tight after the result, which improved his number of MPs from a pathetic eight to a still-paltry 12 (they got 57 under Clegg in 2010).
After a week of everybody sitting around eyeing each other awkwardly, the gay Lib Dem peer Brian Paddick finally made the first move on Farron (pun intended), resigning as home affairs spokesman because of “concerns about the leader’s views on various issues that were highlighted during GE17”. Within hours, the leader was gone and very soon he’ll be forgotten.
I don’t intend to be vicious to Farron, who must have pretty much drawn straws with his seven fellow Lib Dem MPs to decide who’d become party leader in 2015. He’s tried his best to serve his party and it’s not his fault he has all the charisma of a Weetabix. But there’s a massive, yawning chasm in the centre of British politics right now and we urgently need a Macron or a Trudeau to fill it. Can anyone in the Lib Dems step up?