Lib Dems face second hunt for leader in two years after Tim Farron resignation


The Liberal Democrats face their second hunt for a new leader in two years following the dramatic resignation of Tim Farron.

Mr Farron announced on Wednesday he was standing down as party leader as he could not endure continued questioning over his Christian faith.

Former business minister Jo Swinson, who regained her East Dunbartonshire seat from the SNP in the General Election, was immediately installed as the bookies' favourite to succeed him and become the party's first female leader.

Mr Farron - a committed Christian who was repeatedly questioned during the election campaign as to whether he believed gay sex was a sin - said his religion had made him a "subject of suspicion".

His shock announcement came just hours after the party's openly gay home affairs spokesman Lord Paddick said he was standing down citing "concerns about the leader's views on various issues".

There were reports other senior figures were ready to follow suit to force his hand if he did not step aside voluntarily.

In an emotional statement Mr Farron, who had been in post less than two years, said he had been unable to reconcile his Christian faith with the demands of leading a "progressive, liberal" party.

"The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader," he said.

"To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me."

Mr Farron faced intense criticism during the election campaign for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality.

While he made it clear he supported equal marriage and LGBT rights, he initially declined to say whether he believed gay sex was a sin.

After days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue, he finally made clear he did not, but continued to be pressed on the issue in interviews.

In his statement, Mr Farron said the continued questions over his faith showed people in Britain were "kidding ourselves" if they thought they were living in a tolerant liberal society.

"I'm a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me," he said.

"Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society."

Mr Farron said that he would carry on as party leader until Parliament breaks for the summer recess next month, when an election for a new leader would be held.