Labour shuns Roman Catholic advisers
But it is an awful faux pas – on the approach to a General Election, when Labour desperately needs to shore up its traditional vote – to alienate and offend further still a vociferously-faithful and electorally-sizeable community (remember Glasgow East) which is already smarting from Labour’s anti-Christian legislation, not to say distinctly anti-Catholic agenda, on faith schools, homosexual equality, abortion, euthanasia, embryo experimentation, stem-cell research...
And all during a year when Pope Benedict will make history by being the first pope to make a state visit to the United Kingdom, with a scheduled address to Parliament from the very place in which the patron saint of politicians was condemned to death.
John Denham says he has appointed 13 new faith advisers ‘to encourage a deeper and broader relationship between Government and faith communities’. He said they will ‘act as a “sounding board” to advise on effective engagement with faith communities, and the impact of Communities and Local Government policy on faith communities’.
Sounding board or sounding brass?
When one wades through the waffle on the Communities and Local Government website (‘all experts in their chosen field’; ‘will enhance ministerial understanding’; ‘an unprecedented wealth of knowledge and experience’... unprecedented?), it amounts to a crass attempt to engage with ethnic minorities and inflate the egos of clerics and pseudo-clerics who will all pussy-foot around the most contentious issues in order not to offend their advisory colleagues and risk being un-appointed from this prestigious socially(-and-CV)-enhancing body.
John Denham said the new panel ‘will help advise on the big issues facing society such as the economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change’.
Mr Denham, do you mean this compromised, politically-correct group will either tell you what you want to hear and be affirmed, or what you do not want to hear and be ignored?
Do not Roman Catholics have anything relevant to say about the economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change?
Does Caritas in Veritate not have something relevant to say on the economy or social justice? Is the traditional Roman Catholic view of the family and parenting too conservative for you? Do they have nothing to say on loving one’s neighbour, comforting the lonely, feeding the starving, housing the homeless, helping the weak, the destitute, the disenfranchised?
If it is Labour’s desire to ‘continually seek ways of supporting and enhancing the contribution faith makes to the decision-making process on the central issues of our time’, then why not start by heeding those of faith who are already in the legislature. Why ignore Frank Field’s wealth of knowledge? The Labour Party has 43 Roman Catholic MPs: why sideline Ruth Kelly? Why alienate Paul Murphy? Why set aside the concerns of the 26 bishops in the House of Lords?
The members of the panel are:
• Canon Dr Alan Billings - Formerly Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at the University of Lancaster.
• Dr Harriet Crabtree - Director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK.
• Marcia Dixon - Editor of Keep the Faith, a publication distributed to black majority churches.
• Dr Doreen Finneron - Founder and director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network.
• Jenny Kartupelis - Director of the East of England Faiths Council and Fellow of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths College.
• Wakkas Khan - Director of the Exploring Islam Foundation and a founding member of the Radical Middle Way.
• Alveena Malik - A Principle Associate at the Institute of Community Cohesion and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute.
• Mehri Niknam - Founder and director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.
• Rosalind Preston - President of the Jewish Volunteer Network and Chair of Nightingale House.
• Dr Jasdev Singh Rai - General Secretary of the British Sikh Consultative Forum and Director of the Sikh Human Rights Group.
• Bishop Tim Stevens - Anglican Bishop of Leicester and Founder and Chair of the Faith Leaders Forum of Leicester.
• Arjan Vekaria - President of Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK) and the Hindu Forum of Britain.
• Prof Paul Weller - Head of Research and Commercial Development, Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences and Professor of Inter-Religious Relations, University of Derby.
Heresy Corner has done some magisterial researching this panel, and Paul Goodman has already highlighted the Wakkas Khan’s links to extremist Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Labour’s Panel of religio-political ‘experts’ with their ‘unprecedented wealth of knowledge and experience’ is made up of:
7 (54%) Christians (5 [71%] Church of England, 1 [14%] Baptist, 1 [14%] Pentecostal)
2 (15%) Jews
2 (15%) Muslims
1 (8%) Hindu
1 (8%) Sikh
Considering the declared religious make-up of the UK at the last census, the constitution of this panel should be of great concern to many groups, but none moreso than Roman Catholics, who make up around 8 per cent of the nation (it may now be nearer 10 per cent following Eastern European immigration), and the Secular-Humanist-Atheists (who may also consider themselves Agnostic, Buddhist, Jains, Unitarian, Taoist or hold other related philosophical beliefs) who make up around 20 per cent.
Not to mention the 390,000 Jedi Knights.
As Mr Heresiarch observes, this panel of 13 are prophets of inter-faith work, social cohesion, diversity and multiculturalism. At least three are or have been actively engaged in Labour Party politics, while no other mainstream parties are represented. Two are professionals from the world of public relations, and all are involved in quangos or organisations in receipt of public funding.
John Denham explains:
"Given that faith plays a defining role in many lives, anyone wanting to build a more progressive society should not ignore the powerful role of faith and the strong values their communities hold. Government needs to have an understanding of this relationship - a relationship that shapes peoples behaviour - in order to help develop public policy that is relevant to our society. The relationship between faith and government will however not always be easy and some faith communities will no doubt sometimes disapprove of government decisions. Likewise Government should not shy away from honest debate or criticism when warranted and that this should not exclude any faith."
Since Cranmer thinks this panel is (to put it politely) somewhat lacking, he would like to propose an alternative 13 (though he is not sure why the Government has chosen this unfortunate number) whose meetings would be lively (to say the least). He would like to enlist the assistance of his communicants in this (he will update during the day):
1 The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali
2 Joanna Bogle
3 Keith Porteous Wood
4 Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien
5 Terry Waite CBE
6 The Rev Canon Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
7 Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE
8 Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari MBE
9 Anne Atkins
10 Dr Roger Ballard