Lib Dem leader Tim Farron resigns, blaming "suspicion" over his religious beliefs

Possible candidates to replace Farron include Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson.

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Tim Farron has said he will step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats at the beginning of the parliamentary recess next month, citing the focus on his Christian faith during the election campaign. 

Possible candidates to replace Farron include Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson, who had been tipped to become deputy leader of the party.

His resignation throws into doubt the party's deputy leadership election, which sources close to Farron expected to be a coronation for Swinson.

The Liberal Dems managed to increase their number of MPs from 9 to 12 during the election.  

However, Farron was dogged by questions over his views on homosexuality, and failed to explicitly say he did not believe homosexual sex was a sin on a number of occasions. 

His resignation comes just hours after Lib Dem peer Lord Paddick - who is himself gay - quit as the party's Home Affairs spokesperson over Farron's views on homosexuality and abortion. 

In a speech to party staff at Lib Dem HQ, Farron said he should have dealt with questions about his faith, including around homosexuality, "more wisely":

"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."
 
"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."

"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."
 
"Even so, 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."

Farron also hailed the party's electoral gains and its pro-EU stance. 

"The Liberal Democrats have established ourselves with a significant and distinctive role - passionate about Europe, free trade, strong well-funded public services underpinned by a growing market economy."

Jasper Jackson is the New Statesmans digital editor. He was formerly assistant editor of Media Guardian, and editor of TheMediaBriefing.