The Lib Dem leader’s bid to boost his party’s metro mayor campaign in Bristol was overshadowed by a subsequent interview in which he refused to say whether he believes homosexuality is a sin.
Tim Farron was at the launch of Stephen Williams’ manifesto in the Arnolfini on Tuesday evening in the wake of the Prime Minister’s surprise General Election announcement and seized the chance to rally for voter support.
Taking to the stage earlier than planned because of a Channel 4 News interview, Farron described Theresa May’s motivation as “a cut and run, blank cheque”.
But it was the following interview, filmed live outside the Arnolfini with the M Shed and Balmoral as a backdrop, that made headlines around the UK as it shows Farron again repeatedly refusing to answer reporter Cathy Newman’s question of whether he considers homosexuality is a sin.
“I am not going to go making theological pronouncements” failed to satisfy commentators and campaigners including Sue Perkins and David Walliams.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, however, Farron said he does not believe being gay is a sin, finally clarifying his views on the issue.
Conservative MP Nigel Evans asked Farron: “Does he think that being gay is a sin?”
Farron replied: “I do not. And I tell you what, I am very proud to have gone through the lobby behind him in the coalition government where the Liberal Democrats introduced gay marriage, equal marriage, and indeed did not go as far as it should have done in terms of recognising transgender rights.
“However, there is much more to be done, and if we campaign in this election, as we will, for an open, tolerant, united society, then we need to make sure that we do not in any way be complacent about LGBT rights, not just here, but in other parts of the world.”
Prior to his fateful Channel 4 interview on Tuesday, Farron had been met with a standing ovation by the party faithful in a city that has regularly had a Lib Dem-controlled council and had Williams as an MP for Bristol West for 10 years until 2015.
On the General Election announcement, Farron said: “I will be voting for the snap General Election to go ahead because we had already forecasted for this to be the case, and I wouldn’t go back on this.
“This doesn’t mean I trust [Theresa May’s] motives, with Brexit plans and her choosing her time wisely so she fights against Jeremy Corbyn.”
He also gave his backing to Williams’ bid to become the region’s first metro mayor with powers over transport, education and housing.
Farron described Williams’ manifesto plan as ambitious and deliverable and one that will “ensure the region remains a thriving, sustainable and attractive place to live and work”.
Claire Young, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Thornbury and Yate, introduced an evening that saw Williams provide a mime show for onlookers as he looked at his watch before taking to the podium to welcome Farron.
Farron’s later return to the stage was met with ever louder cheering as he said: “If I win, my success will not just be a springboard for the local government elections in years to come, but for the General Election success on June 8.”
When asked directly what his predictions were for the Lib Dems in Bristol from a resounding defeat in 2015, Williams had one thing on his mind.
“2015 was an aberration in British politics,” he said. “It’s not the baseline with which we’re facing now. I think Brexit is a meteorite for this which shook everything up in politics.
“I think people now are ready to listen to the Liberal Democrats again, particularly as we have got an absolutely consistent line on why we want to leave the European Union, and that boasts relevance to the metro mayor election on May 4, and is highly relevant to the following General Election.”
Main photo courtesy of Channel 4 News
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