Farron is to step down next month when parliament enters summer recess

Tim Farron

Liberal Democrat Tim Farron has resigned as leader of the party as he felt “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader”.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who will step down next month when parliament enters its summer recess, said in a speech at the party’s headquarters that his faith had made him a “subject of suspicion” that has distracted from the party’s campaign and message.

Farron said being a political leader and living as a committed Christian “felt impossible” to him. He added that being a liberal meant he was “passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.”

Farron’s announcement in London follows the resignation on Twitter of Lord Paddick as Lib Dem home affairs spokesman.

Paddick, who was until his retirement from the Met in 2007 the most senior openly gay police officer, said he was stepping down over “concerns about the leader’s views on various issues that were highlighted during GE17”.

During the election campaign Farron was questioned about his views on gay sex and he was at first reluctant to comment. Later he did state in a BBC interview that he didn’t think gay sex was a sin or that being gay was a sin.

In the interview in April he said that he didn’t “want to get into a series of questions unpicking the theology of the Bible”.  But added that because it had “become an issue” he had decided to clarify his stance as he did not want people to get the “wrong impression” about his views.

The BBC has reported that Ed Davey and Norman Lamb are in the running to become the party’s next leader, and former minister, Jo Swinson, is a bookies’ favourite. It is also reported that Sir Vince Cable may take over in the interim.

The party could not confirm those said to be in the running, but said the nomination process for a new leader had not yet started.

Farron has also announced an election for the party’s deputy leader who could take over once he stepped down while a new leader is found.

In his resignation speech Farron talked about the doubling of the party’s membership and argued that its recovery from the “devastation of the 2015 election” was “never inevitable”.

He added: “There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it - it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.”

“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.”

Farron said he loved his party and asked what would lead him to voluntarily give up the leadership role. He then quoted Christian hymn writer and theologian Isaac Watts: “It would have to be something so amazing, so divine it demands my heart, my life, my all.”