With Labour’s leadership contest dominating the news, it is easy to forget the Liberal Democrats are also in the middle of a leadership contest. Tim Farron is the front runner and is widely expected to win the contest against Norman Lamb. However this has not meant Farron has faced an easy ride. Over the last week his Christian faith has been highlighted and many have asked the question whether a man of Farron’s beliefs can lead the Liberal Democrats pointing to his views on euthanasia, abortion and gay marriage.
The initial debate has focused on whether it is fair that his faith is being brought into the spotlight. When anyone puts themselves forward for public office, they will face heavy scrutiny. This is rightly part of the territory that comes given the role they are going to do and therefore there should be no complaints when these questions are asked. It is also an important part of Farron’s character and guides elements of his politics.
The more pertinent issue may be why we deem that politics and faith cannot mix. Alastair Campbell famously summed up the feelings of many when acting as Tony Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy when he said ‘We don’t do God’. Although having a faith may not be held against a politician, it is expected that this will be kept in the background and will not be brought to the fore.
Over the last few years, there have been many scandals involving men and women of supposed faith abusing their position. This has probably enhanced the negativity that exists in some quarters towards faith in the public arena. It is easy to forget though that men and women inspired by their faith can often do many positive things. Politics in this country and across the world is full of these examples, with the most obvious historical case being the works of a figure such as Wilberforce. Maybe rather than looking at what Farron’s faith may stop him doing, we should look at what his faith can lead him to do.
Tim Farron strikes me as a decent principled man and in politics we need more members like this, both those with faith and those without. However whether he is the right man to lead the Liberal Democrats is another question and one that only Liberal Democrat members can answer.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – The Sun