LONDON — Tim Farron said he planned to quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats long before the June 8 general election.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett on Friday morning, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale said he put his decision “to bed” around two weeks into the campaign, while he was touring the country ahead of the snap election.
Farron announced his decision to resign as party leader a week after the election, citing his personal struggle to both hold Christian views and lead the Liberal Democrats.
The MP faced repeated questions during the general election campaign about his views on homosexuality after he refused to say whether he believed that gay sex was a sin.
“To be a political leader — especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 — and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me,” Farron said upon announcing his resignation last month.
“I made the decision about two weeks into the election campaign,” he told Barnett this morning.
“I thought there isn’t a way forward out of this without me either compromising or just causing damage to the party in the long run.”
The outgoing Lib Dem leader also told Barnett that he had taken the party out of “intensive care” and made it relevant again after its support collapsed in the 2015 general election.”My job was to save the party,” he said.
“The Liberal Democrats still exist and we’re moving forward.”
The Liberal Democrats made a net gain of three seats at the election, taking their tally up to 12 in the House of Commons. However, the party’s vote dropped to 7.4%, despite early talk of a resurgence fuelled by Remain voters.
Farron also revealed that he shed a tear after receiving a text message from his 15-year-old son after announcing his decision to quit. “I completely held it together, I knew what I was going to do, I made the statement to party HQ,” he told Barnett.
“I was about to head back up north and I got this lovely text from my 15-year-old son saying ‘I’m very proud of you’ and I had a cry then.”
Vince Cable set to replace Farron next week
Former Business Secretary Vince Cable is set to be officially announced Farron’s successor next week.
The MP for Twickenham announced his candidacy last month and is all set to be elected as no other Liberal Democrats are contesting the position. Cable is a veteran MP who has held numerous positions within the party.
Speaking to Business Insider last week, Cable said he planned to attract “millions” of moderate Brits who feel alienated by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and Theresa May’s Conservatives.
“There is a vast opening in British politics,” he told BI in a sit-down interview.
“We are very polarised between the hard right and hard left. There are millions of people with moderate views who are looking for a party that is shaped like the Liberal Democrats but haven’t been supporting us. My job is to turn that potential into political support. I don’t underestimate the difficulty given how the British voting system works but that is the challenge, but it’s also very clearly an opportunity.”