Friday, March 20, 2009

Is the Church of England still ‘the Tory Party at prayer’?

The relationship in the UK between party politics and religious affiliation has been nowhere near as analysed as the correlation in the United States. So sparse is the research that it has barely moved beyond the 18th century perception of the Church of England being the Tory Party at prayer. One of the principal historic divisions in the House of Commons has been between the Anglican Tories and the Roman Catholic Labour MPs; a divide which has been reinforced through numerous surveys over the decades.

Total Politics has attempted to contribute some insight into the contemporary situation, observing that such surveys are increasingly distorted by the reluctance of some members to ‘do God’. It is also muddled by the undeniable reality that Anglican adherence is increasingly a cultural expression which has meaning once or twice a year – possibly at Easter but always at Christmas – while Roman Catholic adherence is more usually a vibrant commitment and a regular practice. During the debate on the Bill to abolish the common law criminal offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, Bill Cash MP noted that the case for the Established Church of England had overwhelmingly been articulated by Roman Catholic Conservatives, there being so few committed Anglicans on the Conservative benches.

But among Conservative supporters, a very different picture has emerged about the state of the party’s soul. The Theos think tank commissioned a ComRes poll of more than 2000 adults from all over the UK as part of a major study into attitudes towards evolution, to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Integral to this were questions about religious belief and political affiliation. Total Politics summarises the results and draws three principal conclusions:

1) The Church of England really can be described as the Tory Party at prayer in that among the 35 per cent of the population who claim to be Anglican, almost a third of these are Conservative identifiers while fewer than a quarter (23 per cent) are natural Labour supporters. There are fewer Roman Catholics among Conservative identifiers - 23 per cent - compared to 29 per cent of Labour identifiers. So the historical stereotype is still, it seems, borne out.

2) Conservative supporters are the least likely to claim no religion, but the secularists are evenly spread among both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Among Tory identifiers, fewer than one in five, 18 per cent, say they have no religion compared to 26 per cent of Labour identifiers and 28 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

3) While the Tories have got the lion's share of the Christian market in voters, they do much less well among other religious groups. The upshot of this is a reduced support base among Asians. Where the party allegiance divides fairly evenly between Conservative and Labour for those who describe themselves broadly as Christian (28 per cent to 25 per cent respectively), among Muslims the division is very stark - just 11 per cent describe themselves as Conservatives (which is fewer than the Liberal Democrats attract), yet 41 per cent are Labour identifiers.

It will be profoundly disheartening to David Cameron that, despite his quest to change the ‘face’ of the Conservative Party - principally through a ‘priority list’ which is yielding quality black and Asian candidates - the Conservative Party continues to poll badly among these groups. The survey found that 54 per cent of black and Asian voters identify most with the Labour Party while just 16 per cent are inclined towards the Conservatives. The only encouragement is that the Liberal Democrats attract a paltry 3 per cent.

Important for all parties vying for ‘the middle ground’ is the finding that 27 per cent of UK adults say they are of no religion, while 60 per cent are either practising or non-practising Christians. The ‘cultural’ affiliation – ‘believing without belonging’ – remains strong.

Quite why Roman Catholics continue to support this profoundly anti-Christian Labour government is a mystery. And why any of them support the rabidly anti-Catholic Liberal Democrats is equally bemusing. Until one understands that, sexual morality aside, the vast majority of Roman Catholic bishops in the UK are pathologically of the Left, just as those in the Church of England.

Labour has rejected Methodism for secularism, and its mission statement now includes the persecution of church schools, the closure of Catholic adoption agencies, the undermining of marriage, and legislation for the creation of human-animal hybrids, fatherless children and ‘saviour siblings’. The Liberal Democrats are intent on going even further with a desire to legalise euthanasia and deregulate abortion to a do-it-yourself kit in the comfort of your own home. But for Roman Catholics in the UK, all of these horrors are subsumed to the utopian desire for Socialist economics, a generous welfare state, non-interventionist foreign policy and more compassion for criminals than retribution.

Total Politics is right to observe that party ‘identification’ is not quite the same as voting intention, especially in a fluid and volatile context like the present one which sees polls fluctuate immensely from week to week. But these figures ought to persuade the Conservative Party to adopt a moral agenda in tune with the Christian majority. At the very least, a pledge to liberate church schools from government interference, and to reinstate the right of adoption agencies to screen potential parents in accordance with their orthodox understanding of the family, would go a very long way to winning some of the 'Catholic vote'. And since such a moral purpose would undoubtedly find resonance among the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities, the Conservative Party would find itself increasingly attracting the votes of ethnic minorities.


Blogger Wyrdtimes said...

There are certain things in common - both the CofE and the Conservative and Unionist Party hate the nation that spawned them.

20 March 2009 at 10:18  
Blogger The Heresiarch said...

Very interesting. "Cultural affiliation", of course, may be more about belonging without believing than believing without belonging - or, in many cases, believing that one belongs, even where one doesn't.

Given the differentials in birthrate among various groups, it's interesting to speculate where these figures might end up positioning the parties politically. A Labour party that becomes increasingly dependent upon Muslim votes might one day find itself the mosque at prayer, and with policies to match.

As for the inherent Leftism of the Catholics, that's certainly a feature of the English church. Less true in places like Spain, I believe.

20 March 2009 at 10:45  
Blogger Christian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

20 March 2009 at 12:48  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms Christian,

If you had bothered to read His Grace's post carefully, you would have read: '...the vast majority of Roman Catholic bishops in the UK are pathologically of the Left.'

The left-right distinction is, in any case, increasingly meaningless when it comes to such analysis. The religio-political realities are far more complex than such terminology permits.

20 March 2009 at 13:19  
Blogger King Athelstan said...

I have been a left footer all my life, if You think I'd vote for the scum-sucking, bottom feeding, Liebour filth You must be ill. The bishops I feel would be more friendly to the tories if they felt they could trust them to be a little more, well, conservative.

20 March 2009 at 13:36  
Blogger Jabba the Cat said...

"...the vast majority of Roman Catholic bishops in the UK are pathologically of the Left."

Lol...the vast majority RC bishops in the UK are peat bog diggers imported from Ireland, that true bastion of narrow minded medieval bigoted and truely unreformed Catholicism. It is a well honed form of religious totalitarianism that pre-dates Marx, Engels and the French Revolution by centuries.

20 March 2009 at 14:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

The picture becomes a little clearer when you take into account the fact that many of the Labour party who are Catholics are also Scots,ie, Tom Clarke, John Reid, Michael Martin and Helen Liddell to name a few. In Scotland, the Labour party first found its roots in the Irish Catholic communities in the West of Scotland. Catholicism is to Labour in Scotland, what Methodism is to Labour in England and Wales. There has always been a relationship (if a somewhat uneasy one) between the two. Over the past couple of decades that relationship has soured. Cardinal Winning had absolutely no time whatsoever for Tony Blair and it went downhill from there. Not all of our bishops are left wing now. Bishop Devine of Motherwell Diocese is quite definitely right wing, while Archbishop Conti has kept quiet about his affiliation. Cardinal O'Brien is not above giving Labour a tongue lashing; last year he savagely attacked them over the hybrid embryo bill. The picture is more complex than it appears.

21 March 2009 at 00:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 March 2009 at 13:26  
Blogger Sam Brady Stand-up Comedian said...

"more compassion for criminals than retribution"?

Perish the thought that a follower of Jesus Christ could hold such an unholy belief!

23 March 2009 at 13:48  

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