Liberal Democrat Party Leader Tim Farron announced he was stepping down from leadership on Wednesday after the party’s disappointing showing in last week’s U.K. election, admitting there was conflict between his Christian faith and his stewardship of a progressive party.
The Liberal Democrats managed just 12 seats on June 8, despite uncertainty in a post-Brexit Britain. They were the only party campaigning for another referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU.
As well, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn both faced enough questions about their leadership — to the extent that The Economist magazine, based in London, endorsed the Liberal Democrats as the best option, though it admitted in its endorsement the party had no chance of success.
Farron and his party were unable to capitalize on the apparent vacuum between the right and left.
Farron, 47, faced repeated questioning over whether there was a contradiction between his Christian beliefs and a party often known for its secularism.
Farron was seen as evasive in April in a televised interview as to whether he thought homosexuality was a sin.
“There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it — it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel,” he said in a statement released by the party on Wednesday.
But Farron admitted he was torn between his faith and his duties as leader, and that he could have handled questions about his faith during the campaign “more wisely.”
The Liberal Democrats, with Nick Clegg at the helm, helped David Cameron’s Conservatives form a government in a coalition agreement after a hung parliament result in the 2010 election.
But their fortunes have fallen since, as they swooned from 57 seats to eight in the 2015 voting. Clegg stepped down soon after as a result.
Farron emerged three months later as the winner of the party’s leadership contest.
The party gained seats last week but suffered a slight decrease in overall vote share. Clegg lost his seat, while Farron won in Westmoreland and Lonsdale by just under one percentage point and just over 900 votes.
Despite the modest increase of just four seats in last week’s voting Farron said on Wednesday the result shows that the party matters and will remain “passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy.”
Farron will stay on as leader until a replacement is chosen, a process that could take weeks. It was not immediately clear if he would retain his seat after the successor is chosen.
Vince Cable and Jo Swinson are considered possible replacements for Farron. The Liberal Democrats sent eight men and four women to Westminster as MPs.