Tag Archives: Tim Farron

And the sign at the side of the road pointed to Mars

I have taken what should hopefully be a brief absence from Twitter. The alternative would have been to unfollow or mute significant numbers of genuine friends, and I’m not willing to do that. It’s alll got very ugly since Parliament voted on airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The mood reminds me of the days immediately after the death of Princess Diana, and not in a good way. Twitter is not the place for nuance.

Labour MP Jess Phillips sums up how I feel quite accurately.

My husband was once asked which super power he would have if he could pick. He gave the utterly unbombastic answer “the power of hindsight”. While I’m spying on you with the invisibility power that I picked, he will be resting on the laurels of never making a mistake. Mine is more fun in the short term but his eliminates a life of pain and hand-wringing. What a clever man he is.

Without this power I remain uncertain. What I am certain of is that those who are so certain that they are right are certainly not as clever or good as they think they are.

Indeed. As was said on Twitter a while back about a completely unrelated issue, if you really don’t know all the answers, it’s better to be zero than a minus one.

In this time of great uncertainty, we need some proper grown-ups in charge, and the people we do have don’t measure up. David Cameron comes over as little more than an opportunistic spiv with no underlying principles, who wants to go to war in an exercise of nationalist willy-waving. Even if he’s right, he’s probably right for the wrong reasons, and it’s hard to blame anyone for not buying what he’s selling.

But Corbyn is no better, an inflexible ideologue who, even if he’s a decent person at heart, is too weak a leader to be able to control the more thuggish elements amongst his own supporters. The personal abuse I’ve seen on Twitter towards those who supported the Government, especially women, has been quite appalling. And these people claim to be on the side of “peace”.

In terms of weighing up whether action or inaction is the lesser of two evils, among party leaders Tim Farron comes over as the only adult in the room. Even he may be wrong, but I’m more inclined to trust his judgement than that of Cameron or Corbyn.

It’s not as if a tiny number of planes is going to make a great deal of difference anyway. To defeat ISIS, something that does need to be done whatever the “peace” movement might say, will require putting together some sort of anti-ISIS alliance on the ground. That will need a lot of diplomacy and may well require treading on the toes of some of our supposed allies. And even that would be a fruitless game of whack-a-mole unless we also discredit their ideology, something that may take a generation to accomplish.

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Why I voted for Tim Farron

So Tim Farron has been elected as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the long and difficult job of rebuilding the party following the catastrophic near wipeout in the last general election begins.

There’s a massive contrast between the Liberal Democrat leadership election and that of the Labour Party. The refrain we kept hearing from both Tim Farron’s and Norman Lamb’s supporters was “Both of them would make excellent leaders but our candidate will be better”. Compare that with Labour’s “The party is doomed if that other candidate wins”. The Liberal Democrats, unlike Labour, do have a clear vision of what sort of party they want to be.

It was a difficult choice between two very good candidates, but in the end I voted for Tim Farron. One deciding issue for me was his faith. There were one or two dark whispers early on in the campaign that his Anglican faith made him unfit for leadership of a party devoted to liberal values. For me the very idea that religion is a relic from a superstitious past that must be purged from public life is a profoundly illiberal concept.

The last Parliament saw the historic equal marriage act, which represented an unprecedented liberal shift in the Overton Window. But since then there have been situations that have bought the gay community into conflict with conservative religious groups. The extent to which different communities should have the right to express their own identity and the extent to which they should be required to respect one another’s spaces isn’t as clear cut as some people would make out. Would not somebody who is both a committed Liberal and a Christian be in a better position to recognise where the boundaries lie?

We live in a time when large parts of the left have fallen into a dangerous authoritarianism for whom a vaguely-defined freedom from offence trumps freedom of speech, and sometimes competing sectarianisms seek to drive each other from the public square. A party committed to liberal values must oppose these sorts of zero-sum identity politics, and prevent the right from positioning themselves as the sole champions of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Sometimes it is the liberal thing to defend an unpopular minority against the tyranny of the majority.

So, congratulations for Tim Farron as the newly-elected leader of the Liberal Democrats. It’s a long and difficult road ahead for the party, but he is the right person to lead the party along it.

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