The politics of the Grenfell Tower fire in London was summarised for me in Channel 4 News, and in later, similar comments on BBC 2 Newsnight. This was the claim, however true or not, that the cladding on the tower that went on fire so rapidly was to beautify the tower for the wealthy nearby residents, and this is why a recent upgrade could include such absences of fire protection and combustible material for the actual, poor, residents. And with legal aid provision withdrawn, these residents lacked the ability to challenge what was taking place around them. We forget that in cities people in poverty can live right next to the wealthy, especially so in London, and the fear now is that when this tower block is knocked down the replacement will not be social housing.
As well as this event, I want to mention also another programme on TV tonight, again on BBC 2 between 9 and 10 pm. It was an attempt to see if a group of travellers on a terrible rail franchise south east of London could meet the conditions for a bid. All along the way, the Department of Transport put traps in their way: and they found the fifty million pounds suddenly required of them, and even then they were rejected. The fact is we have railway companies subsidised to make a profit for lousy rented services (trains etc.) that don't work, many of the profits going abroad to State owned railways to subsidise their social fares. Not once did this programme mention the most obvious thing to do: either nationalise the whole thing and make it credible again (e.g. ticketing) or so arrange the finances so that the whole thing is one functioning private company with full flexibility of ticketing.
Two issues in this country that matter: poverty, inequality and absence of basic standards, and a "not fit for purpose" (House of Commons pre-election) system by which the corporate pals of government can arrange finance and set-ups to milk the railways.
There is more than a hint in his resignation speech that being a biblical Christian and “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with being his party’s leader. He is liberal to his fingertips about the rights of others to live as they will, but clearly he was implying that being a biblical Christian doesn't allow that for him or others like him. Indeed, just a little earlier, Lord Paddick resigned from his position citing Tim Farron's views, but also a regret that he felt that Farron could not be a committed Christian and leader of the Liberal Democrats.
This raises a question whether he was lying in the election when he said he does not regard gay sex as a sin. It raises the question what exactly does he regard as incompatible between living as a biblical Christian and running a liberal party in 2017. Perhaps he thinks the Bible thinks gay sex is a sin and he does not. But that raises another question about him as this committed Christian.
Who cares, once he is no longer a leader? Of course many would want to question his assumptions about being a committed Christian and regarding gay sex as sinful. There is the whole question of context. Does Tim Farron approve, for example, of recent decisions by the United Reformed Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church? Presumably he approves of the opt outs in liberal fashion, but what about church marriages with same sex couples who will shortly go to bed with each other and sexually?
I don't wish to overdo my criticism. Theresa May is an Anglican Christian, known to have made anti-lesbian statements in Merton, London, and is socially conservative. She would press a nuclear button and when a nurse in the General Election campaign almost wept that her pay was falling back in real terms year by year, all that May could say was that there is no money tree. No comassion there then. Tim Farron is the far better example of Christian, as both Christian and politician.
I suggest something else, too, regarding his resignation. Early on I had a sense that Farron just was not up to the job. I could have been wrong, and he might have become a Charles Kennedy. The election campaign might throw up some positive surprises. This is what Jeremy Corbyn did, after all, who was transformed from someone who could not run his office to someone who could campaign and run his office. Farron was overshadowed, as well as lacked traction on the European argument before the negotiations began, before the economy started to go seriously wrong. In two years it would have been different.
But he was just crap. He was also robotic, like Theresa May, in voice and presentation even if he did answer questions. He was not a leader. He might have been all they had, given that he voted against the Bedroom Tax and kept his promise regarding tuition fees. Nevertheless, in a time when government competence will be in short supply, the Liberal Democrats need to rebuild with a leader with gravistas. The Tory voter will be looking for somewhere to go soon, and the fact is that a Labour government will only have a majority if the third party recovers. Votes that went to a two party system (and allows the Tories to crow about their vote numbers) have to return to a three or even four party system. That way Labour wins: it is how it won (except perhaps the first time) under Blair.
If Vince becomes leader (say) then the party will be seen to have a heavyweight leader and attractive to Tories fed up with incompetence, narrow interests and lack of direction in the government neither restored nor refreshed. Vince will have instant appeal, because he can talk about competence in the coalition even if it annoys lefties who voted Liberal Democrat. After all, the lefties and young will now be voting Labour, and Vince will be appealing to those who have a better view of the coalition than I did, for example.
So goodbye Tim and it never did happen. A Calvinist in me says it was never going to happen under you so it is wise to have stood down, even if the day is unfortunate timing when others reflect on tragedy and the wider causes of tragedy.