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Lib Dems at loggerheads as Sir Vince Cable lays into Tim Farron over gay sex row

Nick Duffy January 10, 2018
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TWICKENHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 07: Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron (R) and former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable (L) campaign in Twickenham on June 7, 2017 in Twickenham, England. Mr Cable is campaigning to retake his former seat after it was won by Conservative Tania Mathias in the 2015 general election. Britain goes to the polls tomorrow June 8 in a general election. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Sir Vince Cable has rebuked his own party’s former leader Tim Farron, after Mr Farron admitted misleading the public about his views on gay sex.

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio today, Mr Farron admitted that he had misled the public while serving as party leader by claiming he did not believe gay sex to be sinful.

The ex-leader, an evangelical Christian, said he “regrets” making the comments, saying: “I foolishly and wrongly attempted to push it away by giving an answer that frankly was not right.”

Mr Farron added that he felt he had to “compromise my faith and say things that were not true” to lead the party, before claiming that his critics were intolerant of Christians.

The current leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, has now distanced himself from Mr Farron – even as the ex-leader continues to serve on his frontbench.

Vince Cable and Tim Farron in happier days (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Sir Vince tweeted: “I strongly disagree with @timfarron’s personal views expressed today. @libdems have a long & proud record of fighting for #LGBT+ rights: campaigning to repeal section 28, equalising age of consent and legislating for equal marriage.

“I will continue to champion rights and dignity.”

Critics questioned why Sir Vince was still willing to allow Mr Farron to serve on his frontbench, as Spokesperson on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs & North of England, after the spat.

PinkNews asked Sir Vince why he had appointed Mr Farron to his frontbench back in November.

Sir Vince said that he hoped for Farron to play a “substantial” role in the party’s future, telling PinkNews: “He’s obviously learnt from that unfortunate episode.

“As I say, he apologised, stepped down as leader, but he’s a very good liberal and genuinely a liberal. His voting record is exemplary on gay rights issues.

Vince Cable and Tim Farron in happier days (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

“He led the fight on refugees, is very strongly committed to the European project, [which] is the big issue of the day. He’s now committing himself to defending both his majority in parliament and on foreign affairs and on issues around the north of England.”

Sir Vince Cable told PinkNews at the time: “It was very unfortunate, the difficulties Tim had with squaring his Evangelical Christianity with the long-term commitment of the party to LGBT equality.

“It became an election issue among lots of supporters and lots of gay people.

“I don’t think it was handled very well… it did us quite a lot of political damage and we all know that. I am keen to get us back on track.”

Sir Vince added: “We do need [to be tolerant]. We are a party committed to equality and that includes gay rights, but the simple truth is we have millions of people in the country who are committed Christians, Jews, Muslims who have a different view.

“We need to stand our ground in defence of secular values, but understand that people are coming at this from a different point of view in religious terms. I don’t think the two are inconsistent.”

Mr Farron, who served as leader of the Liberal Democrats until 2017, was toppled by a row over gay sex – as the evangelical Christian was repeatedly probed about his beliefs.

For weeks during the General Election campaign, Mr Farron evaded questions in interviews about whether he believed gay sex is sinful.

At the height of the row, he attempted to salvage his reputation in a BBC interview, telling the broadcaster that he did not believe gay sex to be a sin.

He had told the BBC: “I don’t believe gay sex is a sin… if people have got the wrong opinion of what I think of those issues, it’s right to correct it.”

Mr Farron quit as Lib Dem leader a few weeks later, after facing an internal party coup.

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio today, Mr Farron admitted that his statements to the BBC were not true.

Asked if he felt under pressure to change his message in the BBC interview, he said: “Yeah. The bottom line is, of course I did.

“There are things I said, including that, that I regret. There was a sense in which I felt, I’ve got to get this off my table.

“There was a General Election and all they wanted to do was talk about my Christian beliefs. I foolishly and wrongly attempted to push it away by giving an answer that frankly was not right.”

He added: “I found myself in a situation, partly because of events beyond my control and partly because of things that were my fault, where I either had to be compromising my faith and say things that were not true – or be true to my faith, and be in a situation where I sucked all of the attention away from our main message.”

Liberal Democrat MP and former leader Tim Farron (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

After the BBC interview, PinkNews spoke to multiple senior sources within the Liberal Democrats, who alleged that Mr Farron had deliberately lied about his beliefs.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats strongly denied this at the time.

Speaking to Premier Christian Radio, Mr Farron continued: “It’s tricky really. In the end, if you’re a Christian you’ve got a very clear idea of what you think a sin is. It is us falling short of the glory of God. That is something that all of us share.

“To be asked that question is to persecute one group of human beings, because sin is something we are all guilty of.

“If you’re not a Christian, what does sin mean? It’s to be accused of something, it’s condemnatory. We’re talking different languages.

“Maybe I could have explained that, and the Biblical teaching on sex and sexuality. But let’s be brutally honest, with the exception of programmes like this you don’t get more than 20 seconds to get your message across.”

Mr Farron’s press officials rejected multiple interview requests from PinkNews during the furore.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

PinkNews had offered the then-leader several different formats, including a long-form sit down interview, a 30 minute live-streamed video interview, and the chance to write an op-ed explaining his beliefs in his own words.

In a speech last year, Mr Farron said the row showed an “intolerance” of religion.

He said: “If you actively hold a faith that is more than an expression of cultural identity… you are deemed to be far worse than eccentric.

“You are dangerous. You are offensive.”

He added: “Liberalism has eaten itself because it has eaten the very world-view that gave birth to it, that made it possible, that makes it possible.

“In discarding Christianity, we kick away the foundations of liberalism and democracy and so we cannot then be surprised when what we call liberalism stops being liberal.”

He continued to brand the term ‘British values’ a “myth”.

He said: “We don’t really have shared values. There is no unifying set of British values. It’s a myth.

“People talk about shared values today. But when they do, what they mean is ‘These are my values – and I’m going to act as though they are also yours, and will demonstrate contempt for you if you depart from them’.”

Related topics: Gay, LGBT, row, Sex, sin, Sir Vince Cable, tim farron, vince cable

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