LIBERAL Democrats have spoken of their shock at the resignation of leader Tim Farron less than a week after his election campaign increased the party’s MPs by 50 per cent.
Mr Farron stepped down on Wednesday saying he was “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader” having faced intense questioning on the election trail about his views on gay sex.
His resignation came just hours after shadow home affairs spokesman Lord Paddick, who is gay, resigned citing concerns about Mr Farron’s “views on various issues”.
Party members in Sussex said Mr Farron would be missed, having guided the party from election humiliation in 2015, increased their MPs from eight to 12, more than doubled national membership and increased membership in Brighton and Hove five-fold.
Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said: “I was very surprised, there was no warning whatsoever. I thought his announcement was very dignified.
“I think you can have faith and liberal views, I have a strong faith myself, but it can be very difficult when the opposition and the media focus on a particular area in the way that they did.”
Kelly-Marie Blundell, recent candidate for Lewes, said Mr Farron would be “greatly missed” as party leader.
She added: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Tim Farron gave the Liberal Democrats the impetus to build back up again following the bruising Coalition years.
“I was very sorry to hear Tim felt his religious practice was in conflict with liberalism as I simply don’t believe that is the case.”
Michael Wilbur, chairman of Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats, said: “He gave us the confidence to stand up for compassionate, liberal values when our party’s morale was its lowest and our voice was being squeezed out by the politics of fear and grievance. His unwavering support for our European future will be vindicated in time.”
Former Liberal Democrat Brighton and Hove City Councillor Paul Elgood said: “I don’t see the need for conflict between his faith and equality issues. This was as much whipped up in the election as anything.
“Tim has always been committed to full equality and his voting record bears this out.”