Tim Farron

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Tim Farron

Tim Farron 2016 (cropped).jpg
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government
Assumed office
7 February 2019
Serving with The Lord Shipley
LeaderVince Cable
Preceded byWera Hobhouse
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
12 October 2017 – 7 February 2019
LeaderVince Cable
Preceded byThe Baroness Parminter
Succeeded byAlistair Carmichael
In office
7 October 2008 – 11 May 2010
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded bySteve Webb
Succeeded byDan Rogerson
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
16 July 2015 – 20 July 2017
DeputyJo Swinson (2017)
PresidentThe Baroness Brinton
Preceded byNick Clegg
Succeeded byVince Cable
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
7 January 2015 – 16 July 2015
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded byEd Davey (2010)
Succeeded byTom Brake
President of the Liberal Democrats
In office
1 January 2011 – 1 January 2015
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded byThe Baroness Scott of Needham Market
Succeeded byThe Baroness Brinton
Member of Parliament
for Westmorland and Lonsdale
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded byTim Collins
Majority777 (1.5%)
Personal details
Born
Timothy James Farron

(1970-05-27) 27 May 1970 (age 49)
Preston, Lancashire, England
Political partyLiberal Democrats
Other political
affiliations
Liberal (1986–1988)
Spouse(s)Rosemary Cantley (m. 2000)
Children4
Alma materNewcastle University

Timothy James Farron (born 27 May 1970) is a British politician who was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats between July 2015 and July 2017. He announced his resignation on 14 June 2017 following the 2017 United Kingdom general election, remaining in his position until Sir Vince Cable was elected on 20 July 2017.[1][2]

He is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Westmorland and Lonsdale, having first been elected in 2005 and re-elected at the 2010, 2015 and 2017 general elections, and was the President of the Liberal Democrats from 2011-14.[3][4][5]

Since 7 February 2019 he has been the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government, serving alongside The Lord Shipley.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Farron was born in Preston, Lancashire, and educated at Lostock Hall High School and Runshaw College, Leyland,[7] before going on to Newcastle University, where he gained a BA in Politics in 1992.[8] Farron has described how, in his youth, his bedroom bore pictures of "strange sort of left-wing politicians", including John F. Kennedy and former Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond, as well as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[9] From 1987 to 1992 Farron fronted the Preston-based band 'Tim Farron and the Voyeurs'.[10] According to Farron, the band were popular amongst Lancashire's youth after a series of highly successful tours. Farron recently stated that the band was even offered a record deal with Island Records.[11] However, this claim has been countered by former band members instead describing 'Tim Farron and the Voyeurs' as a "fourth rate New Order."[12]

In 1990, he was elected to the National Union of Students' National Executive.[8] The following year, he was elected president of Newcastle University Union Society, the first Liberal Democrat to hold the position,[8] having joined the Liberal Party at the age of 16.[7] Before his election to Parliament, Farron worked in higher education at Lancaster University from 1992 to 2002[8] and St. Martin's College, Ambleside from 2002 to 2005.[13]

Political career[edit]

Positions beginning prior to 2005[edit]

Farron contested North West Durham at the 1992 general election, where he finished in third place, behind the sitting Labour Party MP Hilary Armstrong and Conservative Party candidate (and future Prime Minister) Theresa May. He then served on Lancashire County Council from 1993 to 2000 and was also a councillor for Leyland Central ward on South Ribble Borough Council from 1995 to 1999.[14]

Farron was selected to contest the Labour/Conservative marginal constituency of South Ribble at the 1997 general election, and again finished in third place.[15] Thereafter, he was a Liberal Democrat candidate for the North West region in the 1999 European Parliament elections.[16]

At the 2001 general election, Farron contested the Westmorland and Lonsdale seat and finished second, reducing the majority of the sitting Conservative MP Tim Collins to 3,167.[17] He then served as a councillor for the Milnthorpe ward on the South Lakeland District Council from 2004 to 2008.[18]

Westmorland and Lonsdale from 2005 win to 2009[edit]

Farron in 2008

At the 2005 general election, Farron again fought Collins in Westmorland and Lonsdale, and this time won this election by a narrow margin of just 267 votes.[13] He made his maiden speech in Parliament on 25 May 2005.[19] As a new MP, he became a member of the Education and Skills Select Committee and was appointed as Youth Affairs Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats.[7] In 2005 he founded the all-party parliamentary group on hill farming, of which he was still chair as of March 2015.[20][21]

During Menzies Campbell's period as the Liberal Democrat leader, Farron was Campbell's Parliamentary Private Secretary.[7] In 2007 he was made a Liberal Democrat spokesman for Home Affairs.[22]

Farron resigned from the front bench of the Liberal Democrats on 5 March 2008 in protest at the party's abstention from a parliamentary vote on a proposed Conservative referendum on Britain's accession to the Lisbon Treaty. However he later returned to the party's front bench as spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.[23] He is a member of the Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats.[24][25]

2010–2015[edit]

In the 2010 general election, Farron achieved an 11.1% swing from the Conservatives, winning by a majority of 12,264 in his historically Conservative seat. This result was against the run of the rest of the party, making Westmorland and Lonsdale one of the few Liberal Democrat strongholds.[26]

On 27 May 2010, Farron announced he would be standing for the position of Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, made vacant by the resignation of Vince Cable. On 9 June, Farron lost the competition to the former party President, Simon Hughes. Hughes won by 20 votes; having had 38 nominations from the parliamentary party, compared to Farron's 18.

Farron in March 2014
Farron the day before the 2017 General Election

On 16 September 2010, Farron announced he would be standing for the position of President of the Liberal Democrats following Baroness Scott's decision not to seek re-election. He won the election with 53% of the vote, beating fellow candidate Susan Kramer on 47%.[27]

In March 2012, Farron was one of three MPs who signed a letter sent to the Advertising Standards Authority, criticising their recent decision to stop the Christian group "Healing on the Streets of Bath" from making explicit claims that prayer can heal. The letter called for the ASA to provide indisputable scientific evidence that faith healing did not work; Farron subsequently admitted that the letter was not "well-worded" and that he should not have signed it "as it was written".[28]

Farron was one of only eight Liberal Democrats elected nationwide at the 2015 general election. He was considered a favourite to succeed Nick Clegg as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.[29]

Leadership of the Liberal Democrats[edit]

In May 2015, Farron confirmed his bid for the Liberal Democrat leadership on BBC Radio 4.[30] On 16 July he won the leadership election with 56.5% of the vote, ahead of Norman Lamb who achieved 43.5%.[1] Farron's first speech at the Liberal Democrat September 2015 Conference in Bournemouth was praised in the press.[31]

At the 2017 General Election, Farron narrowly retained his seat with an 8.4% swing to the Conservatives and a majority reduced to 1.5%, while the Liberal Democrats as a whole increased their seats from nine to twelve, although with a reduced overall share of the vote. Farron announced he would step down as party leader following the election, stating that he had become "torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader". He remained as leader until the summer recess in July 2017 and the result of the leadership election, which was won by Vince Cable, who ran unopposed.[32][33]

Political positions[edit]

Among political observers, Farron is widely seen as being of left-leaning political position.[34][35][36][37] In a September 2016 interview, he identified the Liberal Democrats under his leadership as being centre-left.[38]

Policy as Liberal Democrat leader[edit]

In August 2015, Farron identified seven campaigning priorities for the Liberal Democrats. These were rural affairs, the EU referendum, mental health, immigration, civil liberties, the green economy, and housing.[39]

Welfare[edit]

Farron was one of only two Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the under-occupancy penalty (also known as the bedroom tax) in 2012.[13]

Education[edit]

In December 2010, he voted against increasing the cap on undergraduate university tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000.[40] Referring to Nick Clegg's earlier pledge not to raise fees—and the previous long-standing Liberal Democrat policy of abolishing them—he said: "Integrity is important. You must not only keep your word but be seen to keep your word. You can say no."[41]

Migration[edit]

He was the first senior British politician to back the EU proposal for a quota to take in refugees during the Mediterranean crisis. He called for the UK to accept up to 60,000 non-EU refugees to help with the influx. He attended the Refugee solidarity march in London in September 2015 and gave the opening speech.[13] In the 2016 Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, Farron accused the government of cowardice and heartlessness over their current refugee policy.[42]

Representation of women and minorities[edit]

Farron has said that 50% of target seats will be represented by women and 10 per cent of target seats will be represented by black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) candidates.[43]

Farron's appointment of party spokespeople was applauded for its diversity with 12 women and 10 men given positions. Women also took high ranking roles such as defence and economics spokesperson.[13][44]

LGBT rights[edit]

In 2007, he voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which for the first time imposed a general restriction on businesses discriminating against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.[45] In May 2015, regarding a court ruling which found that a Belfast bakery had acted unlawfully in refusing to carry out an order for a cake in support of gay marriage, Farron said that "it's a shame it ended up in court" and "it's important that you stand up for people's rights to have their conscience," but "if you’re providing a service, that’s the key thing – you need to do so without prejudice, without discrimination against those who come through your door."[46]

He voted in favour of allowing marriage between two people of same sex at the second reading of the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, but he voted not to timetable the debate on the Bill, which would have made it much more difficult to pass had the House of Commons agreed with his position,[47] over concerns of the impact the "spousal veto" could have on trans people.[48] He was absent for the vote for gay marriage on the third reading of the Bill.[49]

In 2014, he voted in favour of extending the right to same sex marriage to Armed Forces personnel outside the United Kingdom.[50] He currently holds a 90.4% rating on the issue of same sex marriage according to the website Public Whip.[50]

During an interview in 2015 with Cathy Newman for Channel 4 News, following his election as leader, Farron avoided a question from Newman on his personal beliefs regarding gay sex, saying that his "views on personal morality [didn't] matter", adding that to "understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners".[51] In the build-up to the 2017 General Election he repeated similar lines in another Channel 4 News television interview, before Nigel Evans asked him in Parliament whether he thought being gay was a sin, to which he replied, "I do not" and said that he was "very proud" to have supported his party's efforts to introduce gay marriage.[52] Later, in a BBC interview, he further stated that he didn't believe "gay sex" was a sin.[53] Despite this, Lord Paddick resigned from his post as home affairs spokesperson in June 2017 "over concerns about the leader's views on various issues".[54] In 2018, he expressed regret over his previous assertions that he didn't consider homosexual sex to be sinful, saying he felt under pressure from his party which led him to "foolishly and wrongly" make a statement "that was not right".[55]

Farron's handling of questions regarding LGBT rights and the sinfulness of homosexuality have been heavily criticised by LGBT+ Liberal Democrats,[56][57] as has his continued association with evangelical anti-'gay lobby' groups, which has been seen as a "lack of care" to the LGBT community.[58] Former head of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Chris Cooke, made unsubstantiated complaints to the party about Farron's personal conduct when "drunk", and admitted that he "made up a story to cause trouble" following his suspension over Twitter comments directed at Conservative MP Anna Soubry.[59]

Defence policy[edit]

He voted against replacing Trident with a like-for-like submarine-based nuclear weapons system.[60]

European Union[edit]

Despite describing himself as "a bit of a Eurosceptic",[61] Farron strongly supported Britain's membership of the European Union,[62] but criticised David Cameron's renegotiation as "about appealing to careerist Tory MPs, who were selected by Europhobic party members, to persuade them to vote to remain".[63]

In June 2016, Farron stated following the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum in which 51.89% of the voters voted to leave the EU that if the Liberal Democrats were elected in the next parliamentary election, they would not follow through with triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and leaving the EU but would instead keep the UK in the European Union.[64]

Farron is against the government's proposed plan to return to the traditional blue British passport. He has criticised the move publicly as part of "ever increasing list of the cost of Brexit" and holds the position that the plan is "a completely superficial expenditure which could have been spent on our hospitals and our schools."[65]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Farron has criticised Britain's close ties with Saudi Arabia. He said: "It is time to shine a light onto the shady corners of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is time we stood up for civil liberties, human rights and not turn a blind eye because the House of Saud are our 'allies'."[66]

Cannabis regulation[edit]

He supports the complete legalisation of marijuana for both medical and recreational purpose, saying that "I personally believe the war on drugs is over. We must move from making this a legal issue to one of health."[67]

Personal life[edit]

Farron is a lifelong non-conformist Protestant[citation needed] and is a committed evangelical Christian and says that "becoming a Christian at the age of eighteen [was] the most massive choice I have made."[68] He is a vegetarian,[69][70] and a lifelong fan of Blackburn Rovers.[71] In January 2018, he won a round of Celebrity Mastermind, with Blackburn Rovers as his specialist subject.[72]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tim Collins
Member of Parliament
for Westmorland and Lonsdale

2005–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
The Baroness Scott of Needham Market
President of the Liberal Democrats
2011–2015
Succeeded by
The Baroness Brinton
Preceded by
Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
2015–2017
Succeeded by
Vince Cable