Tim Farron on faith, morality and serving others

Tim Farron MP was yesterday announced as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. Members of the Liberal Democrat party, whose numbers have swelled since the election, had a choice between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb with 56.5% of members voting in favour of the former. The choice marks a break from Nick Clegg who went into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, a government that Tim Farron was never a part of.

A committed Christian, Tim Farron came to faith after reading a number of Christian books that were occupying the shelves of a home he was staying in overseas before attending university. And it was after watching Cathie Come Home - the 1960s television drama about homelessness - that he decided to engage with politics. The portrayal of injustice in that drama resonated with him to such a degree that he committed to serving others as a result. This desire to serve hasn’t gone unnoticed with his predecessor Nick Clegg describing him as a remarkable man of integrity and conviction.

Having a faith has meant the new leader of the Liberal Democrats has come under particular scrutiny and it brings into question the old dilemma of whether religion and politics should mix. Asked on the Today Programme about whether he would seek God’s guidance before making decisions, Tim Farron responded saying “it should be hardly surprising that someone of faith says prayers”.

So how does the new leader of the Lib Dems view his faith given his public role? At the official launch of Christians in Politics, Tim Farron spoke of how, while at university, members of the CU tried to dissuade him from getting involved in politics because it was a ‘dirty business’. While he admits that there are unique temptations for the ego in politics, he sees it as no ‘dirtier’ than any other profession. According to Tim, we serve God when we work to the best of our ability in whichever sphere we find ourselves in, including politics.

At that launch event, the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP went on to warn that “I wouldn’t get involved in politics if you want to write a Christian manifesto.” This is perhaps where we see the reasoning behind his choice of aligning with the Liberal Democrat party. For Tim the liberal principles of tolerance and acceptance are essential. He never got in to politics to impose his morality on others but instead to be a witness and to carry out God’s call of loving our neighbour.

Claire Mathys, Co-Director of Christians in Politics and Director of the Lib Dem Christian Forum (LDCF), commented on Tim's selection as leader that "[He] has been a supporter of the LDCF for many years and we are fully behind him as the new party leader. While on a personal level it's encouraging that Tim is a Christian, what is most important is that Tim is a passionate communicator, a committed liberal and a brilliant campaigner, someone with integrity and charisma, and these things make him exactly the right person to take the party forward over the next few years."

Whatever your political persuasion and indeed whatever the future holds for Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats we should take great encouragement from the fact that there are people compelled by faith to show up in politics in order to serve others.