The above tweet was sent using the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron’s official twitter account.
Three people including Tim Farron and his spokesperson Paul Butters have access to his twitter account. I spoke to Paul tonight. He noticed the above tweet when he was at home this evening, and deleted it. He then called Tim to confirm he had not written the tweet, knowing it would still become public, to which he replied “No.” Paul said “I assume he has been hacked” and added: “I know Tim, I have nearly worked for him for ten years. It wouldn’t be his views; its bonkers, its mental.” As a precaution passwords have been changed, with “no idea where this has come from.”
I asked if anyone might have got hold of the devices with which they access the official twitter account, to which Paul said he could only “talk for his own.”
I then discussed with Paul the Cathy Newman interview, and how they would be dealing with public perception that secularism was being pushed to cover for Farron’s Christian views and past statements:
“Tim is going to be what Tim is. Tim has his faith, it is his personal faith. He will do exactly what Charles Kennedy did; he will keep his faith personal and lead the party. What he was saying to Cathy, if people ask him about Government he will answer but if people want to ask about faith they should talk to a faith leader.”
Could someone on Farron’s staff have tweeted using the wrong account? In case you think it is impossible someone with such views might work for Tim Farron, an intern was once supplied by the “gay cure” Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) group for his office.
Regarding that intern programme, a number of MPs were caught out, including new Labour leader candidate Liz Kendall. She responded at the time:
‘I am a long-standing and passionate supporter of LGBT equality. When I became involved with the CARE internship program in December last year, I had no idea CARE had co-sponsored a conference in which “therapeutic approaches to same sex attraction” appeared on the agenda.
‘I find this deeply offensive to members of the LGBT community. I completely disagree with such extreme views, and have therefore pulled out of the CARE internship program with immediate effect.’ [Source]
Searching twitter, I could find no record of Tim Farron ever tweeting the British Humanist Association before, and the only tweet still viewable was regarding the “fish and frogs” tweet.
So what happened? I share the skepticism that the BHA has over the tweet being written by Tim. As Paul Trollope, Tim’s press and campaigns officer, once tweeted:
I have spoken to religious believers who are very pro gay rights and equality, who nevertheless view homosexuality as a choice, or as some kind of defect as that tweet suggested. The question “why do you think people are gay?” becomes a question to ask.
If it was a staff member using the wrong account, or not securing their device, then it may be a disciplinary matter. If hacking, it seems too easy to happen on twitter. Whatever actually happened, hoping personal faith can be kept separate from public scrutiny may be as long a shot as the Liberal Democrat fightback.
Nick Cohen has recently written about Tim Farron. It highlights reasons I supported his candidacy, like not being from the Oxbridge southern bubble. Nick mentioned regarding Tim’s beliefs:
Whatever else I may think of his doltish credulity, I do not think Farron is a danger to gays or that his public statements hide a malevolent purpose. He is just making an argument for tolerance, which anyone can make regardless of their beliefs. We don’t hear it too often because modern culture insists that we ‘passionately’ endorse the ‘life choices’ of others. Farron’s case is less phoney, and more likely to convince doubters because it does not ask them to lie, and feign an enthusiasm where none exists.
A phoney tweet has not helped at all, as it reminds us of the difference between what Tim Farron may personally believe and what he must passionately advocate in public as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
My thanks to John Matthews for alerting me to this with his screenshot, as reproduced above, and to Tim Farron for getting his office to contact me. I have invited Farron to write for the blog on liberalism and secularism.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
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