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Liberals Can No Longer Trust Tim Farron - And Nor Can Anyone Else

22/05/2017 14:27
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

What does Tim Farron stand for?

It is only once you put the question so forthrightly that the answer becomes readily apparent: there isn't one, really. Just as (surely) no one was captivated by the sincerity of his eventual answer on gay sex, he has surpassed even his own disingenuity this week, bizarrely denying that he had ever heard of the War Cry, a Salvation Army magazine in which he said that abortion is wrong and something to be wished away.

What is he trying to tell us? That the interview did not happen? That the Salvation Army made it up? That he has changed his mind? In characteristic fashion, Tim spends some time flirting with telling the truth and wrestling with his integrity, avoiding the question he doesn't want to answer so he can answer a related one honestly. Even his own colleagues don't know what he thinks, claiming he changed his mind while Tim maintains he's always held the same view. In the end, of course, deceit reigns supreme and Tim cedes on
the issue about as unconvincingly as when Bill Clinton didn't inhale.

Of course, by denying that he had ever heard of the War Cry he meant to tell us exactly nothing at all. But it tells us more than he hoped: it tells us that he has no convictions, admits no mistakes, and has no limits. One has to be fairly desperate to paint the Salvation Army - homeless shelters, brass bands and all - as libellous knaves, charlatans and crooks. Painting Harold Bishop as a fabricating tabloid stooge is, truly, a low depth to which to sink.

It is not as though he had no choice. All of us make mistakes and have regrets. All of us have private moral views which we would not want to enforce in public policy. All he had to do was say that he once held a view that he no longer endorses. Or say that he still holds that view but would never make it a matter of public policy. We live in a graceless world, but he would be afforded those graces. Even when it looked like he opted for the latter, he prompted impassioned defences from the LGBT+ community. But these would not satisfy Tim - they would risk giving up a few votes from the especially radical wings of his party. So rather than admit a mistake or keep his private views private, he forwent all honesty for votes.

Here is the important part: we cannot let our political leaders hold honesty so cheaply. With a pathological liar across the Atlantic in charge of the most powerful nation in the world, we cannot afford to sacrifice honesty so cheaply. We will not - cannot - be helped by another liar. However you feel about other politicians' views - whether woefully misguided or cruel - there are honest ones among them. And Tim Farron is not one.

For those who are not in complete agreement with Tim's policies, this will be reason enough not to vote for him. But there is an extra worry even for those who do agree: why think that Tim will be true to your views, when he will not even be true to his own? Why will he hold your views more dearly than his own? Because it wins votes? Perhaps, but there lies populism - and as soon as the votes are more easily won by reinforcing structural evils, you will have nothing left to offer.

There was a time this election cycle when I was inclined to vote for the Liberal Democrats. But when truth, honesty and integrity are increasingly vulnerable, we need now more than ever to send our politicians a clear signal: stay true to your principles, and tell us what you really think. We have suffered enough harm from lies in the last few years. Voting for Tim Farron is only voting for more.

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