Poor old Tim Farron. A couple of days into his new job, and already he is under attack for holding orthodox Christian beliefs. Specifically, he is accused of holding illiberal views on homosexuality, something which is deemed ironic for a leader of the Liberal Democrats.
But this is what liberalism is all about. Tim Farron has his Christian faith, and appears in general to accept the ethical conclusions that flow from that. It is fair enough to ask whether you want someone with those convictions representing you, but before anyone leaps to conclusions it is worth asking 'what does Tim Farron do next?' Does he try to legislate his convictions? Does he advocate that anyone who disagrees with him should be pilloried and driven from public life?
No, he doesn't. Because he is a liberal, and liberalism is about what happens when you disagree. It is about working out what the common good looks like when we don't have a common worldview. As such, it seems to me that it will be an increasingly important part of our political landscape going forward. And Tim Farron, as someone who holds a minority worldview, could be well placed to revive liberalism's fortunes after the crash at the end of the coalition.
As an aside, I think personally this is very difficult. I flinch when I read Farron quoted as saying 'this is my private faith' - really? It is your private faith that Jesus is Lord of all the universe and all people in it? But then, I don't know how exactly I would tackle this. I'd like to see the interface between Christianity and liberalism worked through a bit more, but then that was hardly likely in the Guardian...
Those who are accusing Tim Farron of illiberalism should show where in his behaviour he has been illiberal; instead they have simply decided that anyone who doesn't agree with the majority opinion on sexuality or faith is inherently anti-liberal. So there's the real irony: there is nothing more illiberal than insisting that a particular set of views, particularly minority views, is beyond the pale in public life, and yet this is being done in the name of liberalism.