Exclusive: Lord Paddick claims he is 'not happy' Farron resigned as senior figures from across politics express regret
Figures from across politics have expressed regret over the resignation of Tim Farron, including the Liberal Democrat peer whose own resignation many believe precipitated Farron's surprise move.
Lord Paddick, who quit as shadow home affairs spokesman yesterday before Farron's resignation, told Christian Today that he 'did not expect' the leader to resign and is 'not happy' that he has done so.
Paddick, who is gay, resigned yesterday morning over what he said were 'concerns about the leader's views on various issues that were highlighted' during the general election campaign in which Farron was repeatedly questioned on his views on homosexuality.
Meanwhile, senior Lib Dems lamented the decision taken a 'while ago' by Farron, who clearly 'struggled' through the campaign, and one said that his 'literalist' interpretation of the Bible was incompatible with traditional liberal values.
Lord Oates, former chief of staff for Nick Clegg and senior Lib Dem strategist, told Christian Today: 'Tim has obviously been struggling with these issues and he's come to a conclusion that he can't continue as party leader. I don't agree with him as it happens – I think it is perfectly possible to be a Christian and the leader of a political party such as the Liberal Democrats, but I fully respect that he's taken a principled decision.'
Oates dismissed as 'totally untrue' the notion that Farron used his faith as an excuse after being effectively pushed out by party figures. 'Anyone who saw him in the campaign could see he was struggling with these issues,' he added.
Oates said that Farron had decided to resign some time ago. 'For me it came as a complete surprise but from what I understand he had made up his mind a little while ago,' he said.
But Chris Huhne, the former Lib Dem Cabinet minister, told Christian Today: 'Tim clearly struggled to reconcile his evangelicalism with the image and ease with modernity required of today's liberal leader...There is an inevitable tension between literalist readings of the Bible and the liberal principle from JS Mill that one should tolerate activity that does not harm others.'
Meanwhile Alastair Campbell, the former chief strategist for Tony Blair who famously said 'We don't do God,' said that the way Farron was treated had been 'unfair'. Campbell told Christian Today: 'I said during the campaign that I felt it was unfair that Tim Farron appeared to be the only one being asked these questions of personal morality. There are plenty of people in politics who have a faith but who are not defined by it and whose politics are not defined by it.'
Matthew Doyle, another former press officer to Blair and a Catholic, said: 'I don't want to comment on Tim Farron's interpretation of his own faith – that's a matter for him – but what is worrying about this, is if a perception grows that having faith is incompatible with public life.
'We need to ensure that faith communities are part of the public debate. This also means the public needs to be more understanding of individuals saying my faith tells me X, however I know my role as a legislator is Y. What matters is how people of faith carry out their public duties, which is why I'm more concerned about the DUP being in a position of influence over the Tory government given the way in which they have opposed rights for women or LGBT people in a way that is outside the mainstream of most people of faith, let alone the wider community. There has been plenty of lazy commentary that the DUP is representative under a general tag of "Northern Ireland being very religious" when any referendum on equal marriage in the North would have the same result as the South.'
Ruth Kelly, the Catholic former Labour Cabinet minister, told Christian Today: 'Public discourse is becoming increasingly intolerant to people who hold traditional or conservative Christian views. It was very sad to see Tim feeling he had to resign as leader.'
And Ann Widdecombe, the Catholic former Tory minister, simply said: 'What we have now is the British inquisition and the only difference between that and the Spanish Inquisition is the absence of physical torture.'