Tim Farron has quit as Liberal Democrat leader less than a week after the General Election after facing scrutiny over his Christian views.
The 47-year-old, who succeeded Nick Clegg in the wake of the party’s shocking 2015 election results, stood down hours after the party’s senior frontbench spokesman Lord Paddick quit in protest at Mr Farron’s views.
“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,” Mr Farron said as he read out a statement.
Surrounded by party colleagues including Vince Cable, he added: “I seem to have been the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.”
“The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader,” he said.
“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.
“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.”
Lord Paddick, who was the most senior openly gay police officer in the UK serving as Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service from 2003 to 2007, announced his departure on Twitter.
The Lib Dem peer, who stood as the Lib Dem London mayoral candidate in 2008 and 2012, stepped down as Mr Farron announced plans for the party to hold an election for deputy leader this month.
Mr Farron said he wanted to “revive the role” to give the party “another powerful voice” before dramatically quitting hours later.
After days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue, Mr Farron made clear he did not believe gay sex is a sin.
The Lib Dems gained four seats in last week’s election to take their total to 12, but lost former leader and ex-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on a night of big gains for Labour.