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Lord David Alton: My party has become a hostile place for people of faith like Tim Farron

Cross bench peer in the House of Lords and committed Christian Lord David Alton responds to the news that Tim Farron is stepping down as leader of the Liberal Democrats...

Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems has resigned because he says "I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.

"In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.

"That's why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats."

The old Liberal Party - of which I was Chief Whip - was a Party of conscience and proud of its Christian foundations - a tradition which stretched back to Gladstone and included significant Christians from all denominations and traditions - from G.K.Chesterton to Clement Davies, from the high church to the nonconformist Wesleyan chapels.

That tradition was subsequently ridiculed by many Liberal Democrats, implacable in their hostility to Faith schools and insistent on imposing policies, such as abortion, on their members. Inevitably, this has made it a hostile place for people of Faith. 

It is ironic that a Party, which I joined as a teenager, because of its belief in conscience, human rights and free speech, has morphed into something so narrow and intolerant that, in resigning, its leader says "we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society" and has been forced to choose between his Faith and his Party.

Doubtless his detractors will shed few tears at his departure - but in turning themselves into a secular version of the Exclusive Brethren they become a sect rather than a broad based political party. And they should reflect that millions of British people share his Christian beliefs. 

This same narrow intolerance characteristic of the commentariat and the political elites has also fed into the creation of the less tolerant and unreasonable world in which we live.

Tim Farron should never have been forced to make this choice but has made the right call and should be admired for doing so.

Lord David Alton of Liverpool is a former Liberal Party and later Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament who has sat as a crossbench member of the House of Lords since 1997 when he was made a life peer. He is well known for his Christian faith and human rights work. This statement originally appeared on his Facebook page.

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