Equipping Christians for the General Election

So, what now…?
Public Affairs

This is the question on everyone’s lips following an election night like no other.  Like 2015, the first hint that something interesting could be afoot came with the publication of the official Exit Poll from BBC, ITV and Sky just after polls closed at 10pm yesterday evening.  Except this time, the poll proved accurate.

Rather than waking to a surprise Conservative majority as was the case in May 2015, the UK awoke this morning to a political landscape almost unthinkable just a few short weeks ago when Theresa May announced on 18 April that there would be a snap General Election.  As a reminder, at this time the Conservatives enjoyed a working parliamentary majority of 17 seats and had been regularly polling well ahead of Labour who were a distant second under Jeremy Corbyn.  A YouGov poll on 18-19 April gave the Conservatives a 24 point lead and some predicted a 100+ seat Conservative majority.

In the event, we have a hung parliament, with no one party able to form a majority Government.  The Conservatives are down 12 seats on 318, Labour are up 29 seats with 261, the SNP are down 21 seats with 35, the Lib Dems are up 4 seats with 12 and the DUP are up 2 seats with 10.  Plaid Cymru are up 1 seat with 4, the Greens retain their solitary seat, and the SDLP (-3), UUP (-2) and UKIP (-1) lost all their seats.  Sinn Fein gained 3 seats to leave them with 7 MPs, none of whom will sit at Westminster, the independent MP Sylvia Hermon retained her seat and at the time of writing one seat (Kensington) is preparing for a third recount.

It has been an extraordinary result for Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn which few predicted.  At the other end of the scale, despite some encouragement for the Conservatives in Scotland, it has been a deeply disappointing night for Theresa May who in the coming days must convince the British public, her party, her fellow MPs and leaders across Europe and the world that she can form a workable Government.

Despite calls from both Mr Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron for Theresa May to resign, in an announcement from Downing Street shortly before 1pm this afternoon Theresa May stated her intention to remain as Prime Minister and to form a Government with support from the DUP.  This would not be a formal coalition akin to the Conservative-Lib Dem pact in 2010, but is likely to be more of a working agreement wherein in the DUP would ensure, for example, that the Conservative Party is able to pass a Budget.

With a Prime Minister diminished rather than enhanced by a snap election many thought a foregone conclusion, a rejuvenated opposition under Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit talks due to begin in just 10 days’ time, there is a definite sense of uncertainty today, rather than the strength and stability Mrs May sought to bring to bear.

CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach, reminded us only yesterday that in the midst of uncertainty we can be sure that our God is unchanging, faithful, sovereign and in complete control.  Let’s keep this in mind in the coming days, as politicians try to reassure the public and as MPs prepare to return to the House of Commons on 13 June to take their Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation.

Whether we are overjoyed by the result of the Election, devastated, or somewhere in between, the real work begins now for the politicians and also for us as Christians as we seek to be salt and light in the UK today, tomorrow and beyond.


You can see the results in full here

Show Up Today with Faith for Tomorrow
Nola Leach

It’s General Election Day – as we head out to the polls today we can thank God that across the UK millions of citizens will have the privilege of participating in our democracy and exercising their right to vote.

The polls are open until 10pm tonight, so there’s still time to prayerfully consider who you would like to represent you in parliament over the next five years and to make your way to your local polling station to cast your vote.

Voting is a practical way in which we can begin to shape our society to reflect our biblical values and for it to become more just and compassionate. So let us not waste this opportunity. As good stewards of the Earth, let us honour God by casting our votes today.

What else can I be doing today? 

Pray. Beyond voting we are also called to pray for our nation. This includes praying for a high turnout, giving thanks for all of the candidates who have stood in this election because they want to serve our country, and praying for the result – that godly men and women of good will be elected and that His will be done.

And tomorrow, then what?

As the results come in many of us might wonder what God is doing – but we can be certain that our God is unchanging and faithful; He is sovereign and in complete control.

On Friday our neighbour will still be our neighbour, our family still our family. We are in a great position to show others how to unite after this election as we know our foundation is in God and His Kingdom.

Let our votes be just the beginning of our role in bringing real change to our communities; may we continue to engage with MPs and get to know our local MP so that we can bring salt and light to the issues facing the next government.

Could life issues be a vote decider?
Could life issues be a vote decider? avatar

Who to vote for?  It is a rare to find one party or one candidate that you think has all the ‘right’ views. Most of us will have to decide what is important to us – sometimes it will be the party, sometimes the candidate or maybe a single issue will make the difference.

Deciding your vote on a single issue might seem quite narrow, but the position a candidate, or a party, takes on ‘life issues’ could actually be incredibly significant. It need not just be about the position a candidate holds on abortion or euthanasia, important as they are. But what does a candidate also think about the care of the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable in society? Will your candidate, or party, fight for the person with a disability, the elderly person needing a good care home, the frightened teenager in an abortion clinic, the young child whose father has just left them, the embryo in a test tube with three genetic parents, the dying, lonely, patient with no sense of hope?  What value does a candidate place on these lives? Are they lives worth fighting for and if so, how?

Indeed, concern about ‘life issues’ could extend even wider, perhaps to the desperate lives of those in a downward spiral of debt, those suffering bullying at school or in work, the poverty stricken, the broken families, or the homeless. The list could go on.

The gift of life, at whatever age, is a precious gift and it needs protecting, not because of what a person can do or contribute to society, but because of who we are. How we value, and look after the most vulnerable lives in our society, from womb to tomb, speaks volumes about what we value. So thinking through where a party or candidate stands on life issues is not just a narrow peripheral issue to consider in this election.

Written by Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy at CMF

Do manifestos set us up to be disappointed?
Rachael Adams

The main UK-wide parties have released their manifestos, setting out a series of pledges that they see as priorities for the next parliament if they are elected into government.

These manifestos are the parties’ public declaration of their intentions and vision. CARE has put together a summary of the main points of each party’s manifesto which relate to family, life and justice that you can access here.

Manifestos have consistently fallen into the trap of over-promising, which means that when the winning party is elected to serve, because of changing and often unforeseen circumstances parties often have to compromise or U-turn on their pledges.

However, this reality does not absolve us of our duty to get to know our candidates, read the manifestos on offer and ultimately vote when Election Day comes around. What it does is remind us that our government is subject to the same shortfalls that we also struggle with because it is the result of a fallen world.

As Christians we only have to turn to the Bible to see the reality of what a promise entails. The Bible is full of God’s promises to His people that He never fails to fulfil. Therefore, as Christians we have a fixed idea of what a promise looks like from reading the Bible and due to our own relationship with God.

It’s important therefore to take a multi-layered approach to how we view promises. If we hold manifesto pledges to the same standard as our expectation of promises that we take from the Bible, we will always be disappointed in what political parties actually deliver. But we can prayerfully consider these manifestos and the party’s intentions, whilst at the same time being aware that often promises are made which are not always able to be kept.

This does not mean we cannot hold parties to account once they take office, but instead this approach manages our own expectations of what we can realistically expect parties to achieve. It encourages us to not be disillusioned when promises sadly cannot be fulfilled and instead gives us an opportunity to pray through the difficulties, lifting up our MPs and government to the One who fulfils all of His promises.

The Confused Christians Guide to GE17
The Confused Christians Guide to GE17 avatar

I’m glad that we don’t have the tradition in the UK church of members of congregations asking their pastors, ‘how should I vote?’   If I was asked I wouldn’t know what to say, other than pray and make your own mind up!

The trouble for me as an ordinary Christian and citizen of this great nation is that I feel as though I am both confused and disenfranchised.  I have my own political opinions but I find myself struggling to decide how to vote.  Even as I write I am sitting with my postal ballot in front of me and don’t yet know what I am going to do.   I am a political geek – I even read party manifestos and watch political interviews and I will do an all-nighter on June the 7th/8th.  But even so I still struggle.

In Britain we have a parliamentary constituency system, not a presidential one.  So first of all I am voting for someone to be my local MP.   My choice is limited because only four candidates are standing – two of whom have no chance of getting in. One is a from a party I would normally vote for but recently they have adopted polices which I disagree with and I am not overkeen on the MP’s somewhat scandalous behaviour.  The other is from a party I have an emotional and traditional aversion to, but that is surely not an intelligent and rational response?  And yet how many of us vote from traditional, tribal and cultural perspectives?

So perhaps I need to think of the wider picture.  Am I going to vote for May, Corbyn, Sturgeon or Farron to become Prime Minister?  The latter two of course have no chance and I can see weaknesses and strengths in both of the others.  Besides I really do not like turning our democracy into a personality contest. So what about policies? Can I decide that way? For me the main concerns are Brexit, the economy, justice, defence, poverty, the NHS, liberty, education, immigration, religious freedom, the family and the right to life and liberty.   None of the parties ticks all the boxes for me, so I now have to decide which are more important.

But here is the real rub – I don’t really think there is all that much difference between the parties.   I don’t know the personalities well enough to make a judgement based upon any kind of real knowledge and in terms of most things I find that the political parties are all much of a muchness.  From a Christian perspective they are all socially liberal and economically capitalist.  I cannot help but feel that none of them are facing up to the long-term realities our nation faces.

Our rejection of God and his law has led us into a confused mess where our finances, welfare system, NHS and education are all under great strain and may buckle.  Politicians can offer financial solutions (without any real way of paying for them) but they dare not face up to what has happened.  As the basics of our society, family, justice, Christianity and its values, have been undermined, so our communities have become increasingly fragmented.  We are materially rich and spiritually poor.  Which one of our leaders is going to admit to that?  And if they don’t recognise the core issue, how can they effectively deal with the resulting problems?

How am I going to vote?  I still don’t know…but I will pray for our politicians and the whole United Kingdom.  Lord, have mercy and forgive our foolish ways..

David Robertson
St Peters Free Church
Associate Director Solas CPC

We can reframe the debate around abortion now
Nola Leach

The recent polling conducted by Where Do They Stand could change the debate on abortion in the UK.

Whilst the last few months have seen an ambitious Ten-Minute Rule Bill calling for full decriminalisation of abortion pass through the first stages of parliament this survey shows that there is very little appetite for this change.

Only 1% of the general public actually supports full decriminalisation of abortion, whereas an overwhelming majority of British people would in fact prefer to see the abortion time limit reduced from 24 weeks.

This is hardly surprising; the innovation in technology means that we can in greater detail than ever before see just how babies develop in the womb. Also, incredible advances in both medicine and science have enabled babies that are born before the abortion cut-off date to be cared for and ultimately go home and lead healthy lives.

It is hard to justify a proposal for a Bill in parliament asking for full decriminalisation of abortion when this poll makes is clear it’s not only not in the public interest but that the public are very much set against it.

What would be a better use of MPs’ time in the next parliament would be to get behind the Private Members Bill Lord Shinkwin proposed in the last parliament, but which was sadly lost when parliament  dissolved. The Bill looked to stop the injustice that an unborn baby can be aborted up until birth if it has a disability.

This law runs completely contrary to all our laws against discrimination based on disability which seek to prevent limits being placed on what disabled people can achieve because we know that putting a cap on that potential is harmful to all. But by allowing abortion for unborn disabled children right up until birth we are not valuing their inherent worth and what they can bring to society. We are judging them before they’ve even entered the world.

In the lead up to Election Day on June 8th there are going to be great opportunities to engage with candidates on these issues. They will be turning up at your door canvassing for votes and also will be answering voters’ questions in organised hustings.

Abortion is likely to come up as an issue in the next parliament, but we can reframe the debate around it now. Any vote that happens in relation to abortion is likely to be subject to a conscience vote; therefore MPs are free to vote as they see fit, rather than following the party line. For that reason, it’s important to get to know the candidates standing in your area now and find out whether they would back public opinion on an important issue such as this.

engaGE with a tweet
James Mildred

You are entering a rare place. Good, well-researched election websites from a clear Christian perspective that cover such a range of key issues are not common. We are indebted to CARE’s policy team for their hard work in producing so much content, in such a timely fashion. Packed, as it is, with plenty of up-to-date content on policy areas such as euthanasia, abortion, family policy and religious liberty I am in no doubt this website will prove invaluable for Christians as they wrestle through who to vote for.

We need websites like this. How our country is governed and what different policies will mean for the unborn, the elderly, families and those who are being denied justice all matter to us. As Stuart Weir has already argued, June 8th is a chance to ‘curate the Commons’ so we should seize the opportunity.

If we are going to effectively engage, perhaps it will help us to get creative. My friend Johnny Monro reminded me recently how easy it is to ask your candidate what he or she thinks by using twitter or facebook. Last year, I remember tweeting my local MP on a number of key issues and I always got a reply. Both facebook and twitter include a private messaging service which means you can ask your candidate a question without requiring him or her to commit more publically. So why not do this? Just about every party candidate will use twitter constantly to let you know how their campaigning is going. This is a great means of asking direct questions and hopefully, getting reasonably direct answers.

The other avenue to pursue is a church husting. This has always been a massive feature of CARE’s election websites. Church hustings are not only useful for candidates and voters, they also help local churches develop and establish links in local communities. CARE’s UK director Gareth Davies speaks here about election hustings.

Cynicism about our politicians and this election is a far easier option for us than hope and expectation. In the UK, our Judeo-Christian heritage has been undermined consistently now for decades. For many Christians, I suspect there is a great deal of frustration and irritation. The temptation is to not engage. Some might choose not to vote in protest or because they cannot vote for any party on conscience grounds. We must respect everyone’s right to vote according to conscience. But I hope we take the opportunity afforded to us in a democracy to make our choice, carefully and prayerfully and then to seek positive engagement with our new MP over the next parliament.

CARE’s longstanding commitment to human dignity is also a reminder that the responsibility to be salt and light carries on well after June 8th. At a time of such political upheaval as we are witnessing today, it is of no small comfort to remember our God reigns. Over all that takes place on June 8th and beyond that, God is Sovereign and it is his will we seek to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.


James Mildred is the co-founder of the Holy Political Podcast, which provides cutting edge political analysis from a Christian perspective.

We have the right and privilege to vote for our representatives
We have the right and privilege to vote for our representatives avatar

Q.   What are elections for in the UK?

A.   To elect 650 MPs to the House of Commons, (approximately one for every 92,000 people, or one for every 68,000 electors.)

Q.   What do they actually do?

A.   One candidate (who is standing for re-election) describes the job in these words: MPs split their time between working in Parliament and working in the constituency.  In Parliament, MPs spend their time fighting for the interests of their constituents, attending debates, scrutinising and voting on legislation, and attending meetings.  They consider and vote on legislation and use their position to ask government ministers questions about current issues.

In the constituency, MPs hold advice surgeries for their constituents to come and talk to them about local issues and problems, attend meetings and community events, as well as visiting local organisations and businesses.

Members of Parliament are able to help with all matters for which Parliament or central government are responsible and are able to take up issues with other government departments on (your) behalf. 

By any standards this is extremely important and demanding work – which is why it is so important that all of us who are eligible to vote actually help that process to work by doing so.

Yet, like so many others, I am becoming weary of the constant calls to vote. In the past 20 years we have gone into our polling stations on no fewer than 20 occasions (including the upcoming election in June).  However, if I opt out in few weeks’ time, I am passing the responsibility of choosing my elected representatives to others.  That means that I cannot expect whoever is elected to actually be my representative and ‘fight for (my) interests’ as just described.

Being that representative is tricky, for (s)he will face many competing demands from people and groups with exactly opposite views.   An MP said to me recently that he had all sorts of groups lobbying him, but rarely did church based groups come to see him about an issue. He deeply regretted that, and made the obvious point that if people don’t make their views known to him, they cannot expect him to represent them or their views in the corridors of power.  This perspective is not one that many Christians embrace easily.  We lapse all too easily into thinking that what we believe is right will be done almost by default, and that we can let our elected representatives get on with that job without further input to them, discussion with them, or prayer for them.  Not so.

Being that representative also means that they will need great wisdom.   So I will not be impressed by the candidate who shouts loudest.  Nor will I vote for any candidate who is abusive or aggressive towards others in the debates before this election.  Bad behaviour is not much commendation for being a good public representative.  I am looking for rigorous and thoughtful debate; for evidence of a listening ear and for a desire to build the relationships that will oil the wheels of worthy change and steady progress. The character and temperament of the candidate matter to me.  The party manifesto is certainly not the only consideration, because it takes wise and thoughtful people to deliver it.

I have only one vote out of the 68,000 (approx) in my constituency. I have the privilege of using it.  I must not devalue that privilege by abstaining.  And, before God, I will try to use it wisely, and follow through on the Biblical command to be concerned for the common good, and not merely my own preferences.

Written by (Very Rev Dr) Norman Hamilton  OBE

Ulster Unionist Party: Where they stand on our issues
Public Affairs

The Ulster Unionist Party launched its manifesto on 1 June.

The full Manifesto is available to read here. The manifesto does not refer to any of the issues covered on the engaGE17 website.

Where do the main parties stand on Assisted Suicide and End of Life issues?
Public Affairs

CARE believes that every life has value from its beginning at conception to its natural end and opposes assisted suicide.  We also call for greater access to high quality palliative care.  As the culture of individualism takes deeper root in our society with its stress on autonomy and choice in all aspects of life, including death, campaigns for assisted suicide have become louder.  Further information as to where CARE stands on Assisted Suicide and End of Life matters can be accessed here

Below are extracts from the manifestos of the larger political parties relating to end of life matters.

Alliance Party

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Conservative Party

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Democratic Unionist Party

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Green Party (England and Wales)

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Green Party in Northern Ireland

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Labour Party

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Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats commit to “provide more choice at the end of life and move towards free end-of-life social care, whether people spend their last days at home or in a hospice.” (pg. 21)

Plaid Cymru

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Scottish Greens

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Scottish National Party

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Sinn Fein

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Social Democratic and Labour Party

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Ulster Unionist Party

No comment