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Gay sex row: Tim Farron ‘will be dealt with’ as Lib Dem activists call for him to be fired

January 11, 2018
Tim Farron

(Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

PinkNews Exclusive
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is to face consequences after he admitted lying over his views on gay sex, PinkNews has learned.

Lib Dem politicians and activists rounded on their former leader last night, calling on Mr Farron to be fired from his frontbencher post.

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio, 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, told the station he “regrets” making the comments: “I foolishly and wrongly attempted to push it away by giving an answer that frankly was not right.”

Tim Farron (Getty)

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

Sources within the party told PinkNews that the issue was being taken extremely seriously, as the party’s MPs and activists rush to publicly condemn Mr Farron.

A Liberal Democrat source told PinkNews: “This sort of thing will be dealt with, one way or another.”

The source added that the Lib Dems were “absolutely committed” to LGBT rights and equality, and lamented that Mr Farron’s comments had again detracted from the party’s stance.

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

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.

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.”

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

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 and North of England, after the spat.

More than 100 party activists have signed an open letter calling on Mr Farron to “realise that the anger and dismay at his comments has nothing to do with his faith, and everything to do with his comments about whether ‘gay sex’ is a ‘sin’.”

Prominent activist Luke Graham wrote: “Singling ‘gay sex’ out as ‘sinful’ while saying nothing about other sexualities is discriminatory”.

(@LD_LukeGraham)

He added: “Many in the party are horrified by his comments and we have made our feeling quite clear to Party Leadership.”

The activist subsequently said he wanted to withdraw the letter as the party is dealing with the issue.

Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker, a former PinkNews Awards winner, labelled Mr Farron’s statements “wretched” as she accused him of an arrogant bid to be party leader.

Deputy Leader Jo Swinson said she too disagreed with Mr Farron and insisted liberal Democrats support LGBT rights.

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio yesterday, Mr Farron admitted that his statements to the BBC on gay sex 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.”

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

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.”

PinkNews spoke to multiple senior sources within the Liberal Democrats after the BBC interview, during the General Election, who alleged 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 confessed: “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.

Tim Farron
Tim Farron

“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.”

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

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

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.

“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.

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

More: LGBT, Liberal Democrats, Politics, tim farron

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