Tim Farron has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats claiming it has become “impossible” to reconcile the role with his Christian beliefs.
Announcing his decision, the embattled politician said he found himself “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a leader”.
It follows a highly personal election campaign, in which Mr Farron repeatedly found himself at the centre of a row over his views on gay sex and abortion.
It also followed the resignation of the party’s openly gay home affairs spokesman Lord Paddick, who cited “concerns” about the leader’s views “on various issues”.
Addressing party staff at Lib Dem HQ yesterday, Mr Farron defended his liberal credentials claiming he was “passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me”.
But he said he had become “the subject of suspicion” since the campaign “because of what I believe and who my faith is in” and this has “obscured” the party’s message.
“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,” he said.
“[But] 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.
"I'm a liberal to my finger tips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.
"Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in... That's why I have chosen to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats."
Earlier in the day, Lord Paddick had tweeted that he was stepping down as home affairs spokesman "over concerns about the leader's views on various issues".
He did not mention a specific example, but it has been widely speculated that the key factor was Mr Farron's refusal near the beginning of the election to state whether or not he thought gay sex was a sin.
Mr Farron said he intends to serve until the parliamentary recess begins next month.
The newly re-elected MP for East Dunbartonshire, Jo Swinson, is already being floated as a possible replacement.