Seven reasons for Christians to vote Conservative
Cranmer is not in the habit of telling his readers or communicants the way they should cast their votes: in the Protestant tradition, it is a conscience matter; between the individual and God. And we will all give account on Judgement Day for the way we have neglected our responsibilities and used and abused our liberties.
It is widely known how His Grace thinks on matters political and religious, and he has been variously mocked, abused, derided, misrepresented and insulted for advocating his theo-political worldview.
Notwithstanding an expectation of more of the same, His Grace has decided to set out why his ashes will be voting Conservative today, not least because he believes that this General Election will turn out to be of far greater historical significance than that of 1997: indeed, it may mark a turning point in our democracy and in the course of Christianity and Conservatism in this great nation as we are increasingly subject to political correctness, buffeted by secularism, denied our liberties and absorbed by European ever-closer union.
His Grace has often been berated for encouraging his readers and communicants to vote for ‘the lesser evil’. Frankly, in a liberal representative democracy, he is not sure what else one should do. Since the government is not yet upon His shoulder, both the practice and institution are imperfect, blemished, sinful and, on occasion, downright evil. But by voting for a particular party, Christians are not endorsing every policy position. And in the three-horse race we now appear to have, Christians must exercise their discernment to judge between the worst, the less worse and the least worst.
And these degrees of ’worseness’ are intrinsically linked to extents of evil: it is the task of government to enshrine righteous laws to yield justice and mercy; to navigate a path between the liberty and coercion of the individual or, as St Paul would say, between freedom and bondage. Augustine observed that it is the state which restrains the effects of sin in society, rendering the state a wholly necessary evil.
But we live in an era in which there is no longer agreement on what constitutes sin or what differentiates right from wrong. There is no absolute truth and no morally-cohesive foundation which, historically, has been provided by the Established Church. Since our political leaders have been seen to flout the laws of God, break the Commandments and ignore His precepts, there is a sense in which Parliament has already been secularised: the prayers before each session are pretence, and the parties’ protestations of Christian conviction nothing but a vacuous soap opera.
If one were to seek honesty, trust, integrity and truth, one would not naturally turn to the politician. And yet it is they who are elected, and it is they who are appointed by God to legislate for liberty, morality and on matters of Mammon.
Of one thing Cranmer is certain: when today is over and the votes are counted, we will get the Government we deserve. He quite understands why Christian might historically have voted Labour. But New Labour has abandoned its Christian roots and has legislated to create a Britain which has become distinctly hostile to Christian expression. Even its own Christian MPs have referred to the ‘darkness’ at its heart.
His Grace has reported over the years numerous examples of how the Christian foundations of the nation have been systematically undermined by this Labour Government. Over the past 13 years, under the premierships of two ostensibly professing Christians, we have seen Christianity relegated to the peripheries of public life. When Christians dare to be convicted, Labour portrays them as bigots. When they articulate a view with which Labour disagrees, they are bigoted or dogmatic. When they defend the unborn, Labour says they are unenlightened. When they oppose animal-human embryos, Labour says they are anti-science. When they express concern over the fatherless, to Labour they are homophobic. When they speak up for the poor or refer to inequality, they are liars. When they defend faith-based education, they are intolerant. When they seek to uphold marriage, Labour brands them ‘right wing’ reactionaries.
While Gordon Brown pretends to defend the right of worshippers to express their faith in public, the natural consequence of Labour legislation has been a steady stream of state persecution of Christians.
There have been nurses, teachers, foster parents, registrars, hotel owners, B&B proprietors, bishops, street preachers, and adoption agencies which have suffered immense detriment as a result of Labour’s profoundly anti-Christian agenda.
Bishops of both the Church of England and the Church of Rome have expressed their concern at the hostile culture which seemingly has no tolerance of Christian orthodoxy.
Of course, Christians in the UK are not being persecuted in the same sense as our brothers and sisters are in some parts of the world, where each day really is a matter of life and death. But we are increasingly being marginalised.
We have a choice: to abandon ‘mainstream’ politics and protest from the cultic fringes of obscurity. Or we can remain very actively involved in the ‘mainstream’, arguing within the Conservative Party for what we hold to be true Conservative values and to ensure that we are salt and light as we are commanded to be. This is, of course, a matter of conscience. Yet the more salt and light which abandons the Conservative Party, the more it is likely to abandon its church roots and be given over to the forces of evil as those who contend for the Faith diminish in number, leaving evil to triumph.
So why is His Grace voting Conservative?
He could talk about Burke, conservatism, natural law and religion. But he will not, principally because the history increasingly matters little and the longer this post is, the less likely it is to be read.
He will focus instead upon the here and now: upon Labour’s record in Government and the alternative vision being expounded by the Conservative Party.
1. Labour’s blasphemy
Perhaps Labour’s entire period in Government is symbolised by their decision to abolish the laws of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, which were repealed as part of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 after a concerted campaign by atheists. Since then, we have been subject to increasingly illiberal but unwritten blasphemy laws which favour all faiths but Christianity, and one in particular. The blasphemy laws may have been otiose, but they were symbolic of that which underpins the British Constitution. Having removed them, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is also the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ has become but one deity in the pantheon of gods.
Significantly, the blasphemy laws were staunchly defended by Conservative MPs – Jewish, Anglican and Roman Catholic.
2. Labour’s disregard for the Sanctity of Life
Labour passed the odious Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 2008. It legalised the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for research; allowed the creation of ‘GM children’ or ‘saviour siblings’ and abolished the need for a father. While Labour allowed its MPs a free vote on these three issues, their MPs were whipped to support the Bill as a whole.
Conservatives were allowed a free vote on animal-human hybrid embryos. David Cameron has said that he will respect the primacy of the individual conscience: to him, whipping such a Bill through Parliament was objectionable. Conservatives also had a free vote on the ‘fatherhood’ issue, and Party spokesmen stated that children conceived through IVF needed a male role model. David Cameron voted for keeping the ‘need for a father’ requirement.
The Bill saw also an attempt to lower the upper limit for abortion from the present 24 weeks. Labour MPs were permitted a free vote on this. Gordon Brown himself voted against any reduction, as did Nick Clegg. In the final Commons debate, the Government used a tactical procedural measure to ensure that amendments to further liberalise the abortion law went to the bottom of the list for consideration. Lack of time then meant that they never reached a vote.
Conservative MPs had a free vote on abortion. David Cameron voted to lower the abortion time limit to 20 weeks. Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Spokesman, wanted the abortion limit to be reduced to 22 weeks. If elected, David Cameron has given an assurance that he will revisit the issue and has said that it would be subject to a free vote.
Labour also passed the Mental Capacity Act in 2005 which legislates for euthanasia by omission. It did not formally legalise the practice, but created what have become known as ‘living wills’ which could open the door to euthanasia.
David Cameron has condemned the idea of decriminalising assisted suicide and warned that helping the terminally ill to die is “dangerous for society”. The Conservative Party allowed its Peers a free vote on assisted suicide when an attempt was made to weaken the law in the 2009 Coroners and Justice Bill. The Party’s instincts are more ‘pro-life’ than both Labour’s and that of the Liberal Democrats.
3. Labour’s erosion of our Liberty
The Employment Act 2003 saw the introduction of special employment rights for homosexuals and employment laws covering ‘religion or belief’ which have interfered with the ability of churches and Christian organisations to maintain their distinctive doctrines and ethos. Under these laws, the Bishop of Hereford was successfully sued for refusing to employ a homosexual youth worker.
Labour have consistently refused to include conscience protections for Christians in business. It was this Act which set up the egregious Equality and Human Rights Commission which increasingly defines what is permitted and what is prohibited. Absurdly, they also appear to be defining what constitutes a religion.
Labour’s Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) of 2007 banned any adoption agency from refusing to place children with same-sex couples. Since then, almost all Catholic adoption agencies have either become entirely secular bodies or closed. The SORs have also been used to sue Christian B&B owners who refuse double rooms to same-sex couples.
Almost three times as many Conservative MPs voted against the SORs as voted for them. A significant number also abstained or were absent.
After several earlier attempts, the Government finally succeeded in passing an incitement to religious hatred offence in the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. Many prominent lawyers, politicians and academics rightly feared that the offence, as originally worded, threatened free speech. However, after an extensive campaign, vital safeguards were introduced to protect, amongst other things, religious debate and evangelism. As amended, the law (which has a maximum seven-year prison sentence) only covers threatening words or behaviour intended to stir up hatred, and there is an explicit protection for free speech and evangelism. The Government opposed these safeguards, which were introduced by the House of Lords, and said it would remove them in the Commons. However, in only the second Commons defeat for the Government since it came to power in 1997, MPs voted to keep the safeguards.
The then Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said the proposed law would “seriously undermine freedom of speech” and would be “massively counter-productive”. In the Lords, Conservative Peers voted against plans to introduce religious harassment laws in the provision of goods and services following concerns about free speech and religious liberty.
The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on public bodies – like schools, hospitals and the police – to actively promote homosexual and transsexual rights at the expense of religious conscience. Labour accepted amendments by Lord Alli to permit the registration of civil partnerships in churches (and other religious buildings).
Conservative MPs and Peers were whipped to support an amendment by Lady O’Cathain maintaining existing employment exemptions for churches. Its Peers were allowed a free vote on whether the registration of civil partnerships should be allowed in churches.
In 2007 Labour introduced an offence of ‘incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation’. There was no free speech protection. However, a free speech clause was successfully inserted by the House of Lords after a campaign led by Lord Waddington. Having tried three times during 2008-09 to remove the free speech protection in the Lords and losing each time, Labour brought the incitement offence into force including the free speech shield in March 2010. They have, however, pledged in their Manifesto to repeal Lord Waddington’s free speech clause, and to invoke the Parliament Act if necessary to overcome the opposition of the House of Lords.
4. Labour’s disregard for public morality
In November 2003, Labour approved the reclassification of cannabis from a class B drug to a class C drug by passing the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Modification) (No. 2) Order 2003. This applied to the whole of the UK, and came into force in 2004. However, in response to overwhelming evidence of cannabis damaging mental health, Labour restored the drug to class B in 2009. It was later revealed that in England and Wales cannabis users would not be arrested until they have been caught three times – a softer approach than is usually taken with other class B drugs. Recent figures show that only one sixth of people caught with cannabis were prosecuted.
The Conservative Party opposed the reclassification from the outset.
Labour’s Charities Act 2006 removed the presumption that churches exist for the ‘public benefit’. They are now required to prove that they provide ‘public benefit’ to obtain or maintain their charitable status, and this means being subject to equality legislation.
The Conservative frontbench led an amendment to ensure the presumption that churches and religious organisations are for the ‘public benefit’ was explicitly retained in the Bill and pushed the issue to a vote.
The Gender Recognition Act, passed in 2004, provides a raft of legal rights for transsexuals – including the right for people to change their legal birth sex. So a man can become a woman in law and then marry another man. And the other man has no right in law to know the original gender of his partner.
The Licensing Act 2003 allowed for 24-hour drinking, which came into force in 2005. The Act also brought lap-dancing clubs under ‘entertainment’ licensing which allowed a proliferation of lap-dancing venues across the country. In 2009 the Government reversed its liberalisation by moving lap-dancing clubs into the ‘sex establishments’ licensing system, tightening up the law.
The Conservatives have promised to repeal the 24-hour licensing legislation, replacing it with greater control for local councils over whether to grant licences.
In 2005, Labour passed the new Gambling Act. The Act swept away layers of sensible restrictions which, for years, had controlled the worst excesses of casinos, betting shops and slot machines. It formally legalised virtual casino machines in betting shops and elsewhere. These machines, known as Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, have been called the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
The Act also greatly reduced restrictions on new casinos opening, repealed the 24-hour membership requirement and lifted the general ban on all gambling advertising. In addition, slot machines with unlimited stakes and prizes were allowed for the first time. Licences were granted for 16 huge new casinos – with the largest of them considerably bigger than anything existing before the Act. The Prime Minister only rejected plans for the one super casino allowed by the legislation.
And on marriage, Labour’s Manifesto rejects tax breaks for married couples and states that “financial support should be directed at all children, not just those with married parents”.
The Conservatives Manifesto gives a commitment to “end the couple penalty for all couples in the tax credit system”. It also states that marriage will be recognised in the tax system in the next Parliament.
5. Labour’s persecution of Christian schools
Labour say they are committed to increasing the number of academies, a programme which allows the creation of publicly-funded schools with a Christian ethos. However, by banning existing schools from interviewing the parents of prospective pupils, Labour has made it harder for church schools to ensure that applicants subscribe to a Christian ethos.
Labour’s instinct is to eradicate faith-based education and to assert an aggressive secularism in state education. In their most recent Children, Schools and Families Bill, they planned formally to regulate home education, including provision for officials to question home-schooled children without their parents being present. The Bill also proposed to liberalise and centralise control of sex education, including forcing state schools to teach about civil partnerships and cohabitation alongside marriage, repealing the right of parents to withdraw their child from sex education when the child reaches the age of 15, and removing control of sex education from school governors. The Bill also made it compulsory for Christian schools to teach about abortion in an ‘enlightened’ and ‘non-judgmental’ way.
The Government’s proposed curriculum included teaching seven-year-olds about civil partnerships. Draft sex education guidance published alongside the Bill suggested detailed sex education lessons for children as young as five.
The sex education and home education elements of the Bill failed to become law before the General Election, but Ed Balls has vowed to reintroduce the measures “in a new bill in the first session of the new Parliament” should Labour be re-elected.
The Conservatives blocked plans contained in the Children, Schools and Families Bill to clamp down on home-schooling families and to change the law on sex education. During the Bill’s passage through Parliament, the Conservative Party tabled an amendment which rejected the planned new primary curriculum, including primary school sex education. The Party said it did not object to primary and secondary school sex education in principle, as long as it is “taught appropriately” and schools have “flexibility” in teaching it. They also sought to amend the Bill to require schools to formally consult parents over their sex education policies. The Government had planned to include compulsory sex education within a statutory national curriculum for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. David Cameron has said he is opposed to centralised control of sex education by Whitehall or Westminster.
Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has committed the Conservative Party to supporting new state-funded ‘independent’ religious schools. David Cameron has said he supports faith schools “politically and personally”.
6. Labour's undermining of the Constitution of the United Kingdom
By signing the ‘Constitution for Europe’ (aka the Lisbon Treaty), Labour have subsumed the British Constitution to a higher sovereign authority.
On the day the ‘Constitution for Europe’ became law, the ‘President of Europe’ became our head of state. The Queen is still the Queen, but she is now subject to the provisions of the new constitution. The Prime Minister is still the Prime Minister, but he is now obliged to promote the aims and objectives of the European Union over and above those of the United Kingdom. We are now but a province in the Empire of Europa: the Queen is but a regional governor beneath an omnipotent Emperor; Parliament is but a regional council, yet it lacks even the authority to legislate for refuse collection.
David Cameron has said that all future treaties would be subject to a ‘referendum lock’. He has withdrawn his MEPs from the federalist EPP grouping in the European Parliament and committed to invoke the Maastricht subsidiarity provisions in order to repatriate aspects of employment and social law. He has also pledged to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a UK Bill of Rights.
By attacking the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, Labour have left unanswered the issue of an hereditary head of state. On House of Lords reform, in March 2007 the Government was heavily defeated in the Lords over plans for an all-elected Second Chamber. The Labour Manifesto says they will “ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords” and create a fully-elected Second Chamber in stages.
Over recent years it has been the House of Lords, not the Commons, which has been a more effective protector of religious liberties and a firmer defender of family values. Many Christians will be concerned at any curtailment of the role of the House of Lords.
Labour created the new Supreme Court. It began operating in October 2009, replacing the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the UK. Christians are becoming increasingly concerned that the Supreme Court is adopting a more political and acutely secular role which makes rather than interprets the law and takes sides on the great moral issues of our time.
The constitutional settlement in Britain provides that Britain is not a secular state. The Protestant Reformed Christian nature of the Constitution is evident not only in the Monarch’s Coronation Oath, but also in the establishment of the Church of England and the bar on the Monarch either being or marrying a Roman Catholic (the latter contained in the Act of Settlement 1701).
Gordon Brown announced last year that the Government was looking at the issues regarding the bar on the succession of Roman Catholics to the throne, but also added: “What we’ve got to do is to protect the position of the Queen as head of the Established Church, the Church of England. So nothing we must do (sic) must affect that.” The Labour Manifesto states: “We believe that there is a case for reform of the laws concerning marriage to Roman Catholics and the primacy of male members of the Royal family. However, any reform would need the agreement of all the Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is the Sovereign.”
7. Labour’s legacy of debt
Yesterday, the European Union warned that the UK’s budget deficit will hit 12 per cent this year - higher even than that of riot-hit Greece. Gordon Brown has ignored the deficit warning, choosing to focus instead on an EU prediction that the British economy would be the fastest-growing in Europe next year - “but only under the polices we are pursuing”.
“This is not a Conservative moment,” he told an audience at Bradford University in his final set-piece speech before election day. “Everybody knows that the wrong cuts in the wrong places at the wrong time will risk our recovery - everybody except the Conservatives.”
The reality is that Labour have bankrupted the country (again). This is an issue for Christians insofar as it is the poorest (again) who suffer.
As chancellor, Gordon Brown consistently spent above his means, taxed the most vulnerable, and gave away the nation’s gold reserves (the price has quadrupled over the past decade, losing us some £14 billion). As prime minister, he has made the supply of money unlimited to pay for his imprudence and economic dysentery. And the world is ditching paper money for gold once again, because it is finite and precious: it cannot be created ex nihilo and quantitatively eased out.
“It is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1Cor4:2).
The one who is guardian of the nation’s wealth is entrusted with that which belongs to us all. And he is constrained by a centuries-old unwritten code of ethics in the administration and distribution thereof. He will be tempted to succumb to the bribes of man and the pressures of the world. But the moment he does so, the public lose confidence as he is seen to give in to corrupt, ignorant and short-range considerations of what may seem right, as against what we know to be unsound or sense not to be quite right.
It is not for the theologian to tell the surgeon the details of his business. And yet even a theologian knows when the right hand must be cut off. And the wise doctor will always listen to the intuition of the patient.
Labour are beyond surgery and incapable of listening. They do not do what is right and necessary because they no longer know what is right. They are devoid of conscience, deficient in intellect and lacking knowledge.
Cranmer exhorts his readers and communicants today to vote Conservative: it is our only hope. God knows they have their flaws and David Cameron is far from perfect, but they certainly represent the least worst option for Christians: they are the only party capable of defeating Labour and forming a government of righteousness, justice and peace.