Children’s television shows such as Peppa Pig should feature more homosexual characters, one of the two contenders to lead the Liberal Democrats has said.
Norman Lamb, who is battling with rival Tim Farron to succeed Nick Clegg, said it was not ‘out of bounds’ that characters on the popular programme should be homosexual.
He said that more children’s shows should depict loving same-sex relationships so that children knew it was acceptable to be gay.
Daily Telegraph, 1 July 2015
Let’s talk about gay sex. We’d rather not, but if Tim Farron’s in the room, the media find it hard to avoid the subject. Because he’s a Christian, you know – an evangelical Christian – and some people suspect that just possibly he might believe gay sex to be sinful.
The ‘story’ first surfaced when he was standing for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats in 2015. Religion and homosexuality were about the only topics that the media wanted to ask him about. Particularly interested were Radio 4’s Today, Channel 4 News and the Guardian. Well, it would be them: not many other media outlets were much fussed at that point about who got to lead the Lib Dems.
Even so, it was an odd fixation. Just as it was back in the 1980s and ’90s when the tabloids were similarly obsessed with politicians and homosexuality. Except that now the soi-disant liberal media were coming at the question from the other side.
Not much got resolved in 2015. Farron protested that, as a legislator, he was in support of gay rights, and that, as a Christian, he believed we were all sinners. Which didn’t satisfy his critics.
There was some excitement when it was discovered he’d once given an interview to the War Cry, the organ of the Salvation Army, but his comments there didn’t help matters much either. ‘The Bible is clear about sexuality of all sorts,’ he’d said. ‘The standards that define my personal morality as a Christian are not the standards of public morality.’
Anyway, this month the same issue re-emerged, this time, bizarrely, as a major theme in the first week of a general election campaign. Appearing on Robert Peston’s television chat-show, Farron refused to answer the burning question of whether gay sex is a sin. He was pressed hard, but he blocked Peston’s thrust.
And then all manner of outrage broke out.
‘I think that’s pretty offensive and will rightly anger a lot of people,’ said Liz Kendall. Michael Gove, as ‘a churchgoer’ himself (he didn’t add whether he was also a Christian), was quick to weigh in: ‘Gay sex is absolutely not a sin.’ Which is an impressive level of certainty, even for a man who used to be quite important.
Various figures from the world of showbiz and light entertainment were equally keen to have their say about what the former member of failed pop band the Voyeurs hadn’t said.
But would no one stop to think of the kiddies? Yes, Owen Jones would. Farron’s lack of comment was ‘horribly damaging to young LGBT people struggling with their sexuality’.
And then, after days of frenzied debate, with the entire nation desperate to know what his position was, Farron finally came out with it: ‘I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin.’
And it’s for that statement, that bending to the illiberal media – print, broadcast and social – that we nominate Tim Farron for this award.
Because this isn’t really anything to do with gay sex or even with faith. It’s about the nature of a liberal society.
Farron’s personal faith has nothing to do with us. What he does in public is relevant to his chosen career; what he believes in private is not.
That division between private and public is absolutely central to the cause of liberalism. And so too is the division between sin and the law. It was there sixty years ago in 1957, when John Wolfenden published his report, advocating the decriminalization of the practice of male homosexuality.
‘We are concerned primarily with public order and not with private morality,’ explained Wolfenden, ‘with crime and not with sin.’
And that’s how the report was understood. ‘In a civilized society all crimes are likely to be sins also, but most sins are not and ought not to be treated as crimes,’ wrote Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to Wolfenden. Although he considered (pace Michael Gove) homosexual acts to be sinful, ‘There is a sacred realm of privacy for every man and woman where he makes his own choices and decisions, a realm of his own essential rights and liberties.’
Quite. So although it’s Tim Farron’s face on the rosette, this award is really for all those buffoons in the media who are casually tossing away a longstanding tradition of liberalism in the spurious name of diversity.