There has been no finer example of the hypocrisy exhibited by the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate than its attitude towards Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Almost every Christmas, we are told that there is a “War on Christmas”, and that this is another way in which Christianity is “under attack”. Christians, we are told, face increasing discrimination in the workplace. Yet when Farron gets it in the neck, they are silent.
Those who look in regularly on Zelo Street will remember the case of electrician Colin Atkinson - a committed Christian - who worked for Wakefield and District Housing. He broke company rules by fixing a cross to the dashboard of his company van. When this practice was forbidden, the Mail became particularly righteous. Atkinson, they declared, was being “persecuted”. The case sucked in the EDL and BNP.
It is so different with Farron: the Mail has served up articles like that headlined “Churchgoer Michael Gove slams Tim Farron for hiding behind his faith after the Lib Dem leader fails AGAIN to say gay sex is not a sin”. “Churchgoer”. It’s an activity that I never noticed in the scribblings of Gove’s wife Sarah “vain” Vine. But it is a way for the Mail to reinforce its call to Vote Tory by bashing the opposition.
And the Lib Dems may well prove to be stern opposition to the Tories in several seats around the UK. But, you might wonder, why shouldn’t Farron be held to account for his personal views, given he is in the public eye, the leader of a still significant political party? And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, by their actions shall you know them. Farron’s voting record on gay rights is as liberal as his chosen party.
And two, if we’re talking Christians, who claim that their faith informs their actions and outlook on the world, why is Theresa May not being quizzed to the same degree? Does she think that gay sex is sinful? Why is it only Farron who has to be summoned to reveal his thought processes to the Tory-supporting press? And why can’t our free and fearless press see that their behaviour is, once more, partisan to the point of absurdity?
On top of that, as Ian Dunt has mused, “I'm really uncomfortable with what has been asked of him here. What he happens to privately think is neither here nor there … His voting record is solid. He recognises the distinction between his private faith and personal freedom in society”. The press is constantly frightening its readers about the “thought police”, but in their world, this is a solely left-wing threat, not one that they pose.
So yet again, papers like the Mail and Sun are guilty of rank hypocrisy (the Mail’s recent attack on the “thought police” featured, you guessed it, Michael Gove). They aren’t interested in Farron’s actions, merely in prising his thoughts out of him. But as these are not organs of the state, it can’t be at all like something out of Nineteen Eighty-Four, oh no.
The attacks on Tim Farron encapsulate the right-wing press’ hypocrisy. They would scream blue murder if the rotten lefties tried that on with anyone on the right. But because it’s the bloke who leads the Lib Dems, and they could give the Tories a hard time, then it’s open season. Pass the sick bucket.