It is perfectly possible to privately hold conservative views in politics. Just maybe not if you're the leader of the Liberal Democratsby Andrew Brown / June 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
What role did the Devil play in Tim Farron’s resignation? God’s views have been widely canvassed, but the devil plays a greater part in politics. Evangelical Christians have no trouble answering the question: the evil, for them, was that a good man was hounded by the liberal elite for his views. The fundamentalist campaigner Andrea Williams claimed Farron’s resignation was the start of a process that could end with her views being criminalised in Britain. Even the shrewd and level-headed thinktanker Nick Spencer said that “Tim Farron’s conviction that the Christian faith is no longer compatible with leading a liberal party is both an indictment of, and warning to, our public life today.”
In this, he may be taking Tim Farron’s account of his difficulties too much at face value. As a matter of principle, it is clearly wrong that a politician should be disqualified from office over their private reservations about party policy. Going along with policies that you personally disagree with out of loyalty to the larger collective is one of the cornerstones of grown-up politics. It holds together everything that lies somewhere on the spectrum between Ayn Rand and the People’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Judaea.
This is easy to see when we share their reservations: do we really want all the Brexiteers in government to resign and hand over their jobs to people like Daniel Hannan? More relevantly, I remember the persecution of Rowan Williams by conservative evangelicals (prominent among them Williams) when he was Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rowan’s position was the mirror image of Tim Farron’s: he believed, and was well known to believe, in the equality of gay people. Yet he felt it his duty to go along with the Church’s homophobic official policy while reserving the right to argue in private against it. This was completely unacceptable to the conservative evangelicals, who wanted to establish the principle that anyone who believed gay sex was not sinful should not hold any office in the church—whether or not they were themselves celibate.
This seemed to me entirely monstrous bullying. It was right then, and is right now, to defend Tim Farron’s duty to hold the convictions that he honestly does and even where appropriate to argue them in private.
But the devil has no interest in principles. His place, as is…