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Diverse interests aired at Christians on the Left summit

21 February 2014

David Lammy MP addresses the summit of Christians on the Left

David Lammy MP addresses the summit of Christians on the Left

QUESTIONED about his party's alleged shift to the authoritarian Right, David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, told a summit held by Christians on the Left on Tuesday night that it had always been a "coalition of interests".

A similar definition could apply to the diverse group of people who attended the summit. A session chaired by Stephen Beer, political communications officer for Christians on the Left, was attended by a diverse group including a campaigner for the freedom of street artists, keen to hear why he shouldn't defect from Labour to the further-left Green Party; a young woman involved in anti-fracking protests who suggested that her generation was "disgusted" by politics; and a local Labour organiser who warned that Christians were regarded as "part of the system".

There were discussions at a plenary session about how open Christians should be about the faith that motivated to them to social action. The chief executive of Christians Against Poverty, Matt Barlow, reported that just ten per cent of those helped by the charity went to church, but suggested that "If we all did all of this work and nobody came to faith, that would be a complete and utter tragedy."

The Shadow Employment Minister, Stephen Timms, was among the MPs who addressed the 120 people who packed the London City Mission Community Centre, also home to the Vauxhall Food Bank.

"We need to point out to churches that their mission of tackling poverty . . . for that to be done seriously requires political change as well, which only Labour can deliver," he said. "But we also need to point out to Labour the value and importance of the contribution that churches are making and the importance of listening to the perspective that churches are bringing."

Among those working directly with needy people who brought their stories to the summit were the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Chris Mould, and the chief executive of Housing Justice, Alison Gelding, both of whom spoke about the value of solidarity and its roots in the Bible and church teaching. Local activism was well represented by David Barclay, who is campaigning to help communities tackle the mushrooming of payday lenders on their high street.

Also present were members whom Christians on the Left were helping to embark on a career in politics, including Suzy Stride, a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow.

The evening was concluded by a talk from Mr Lammy, who described a visit last Friday from a 22-year-old constituent who was sleeping on night buses after falling into arrears and losing her council flat.

"Christians, I hope, understand the idea of personal responsibility, but we must also understand second chances, youth, and seek to be a country in which we have the compassion and empathy to ask deeper questions," he said.


All's not well for Welfare State

by Tim Wyatt

ONE in four people does not think that Britain will have a recognisable Welfare State in 30 years, research by Theos suggests.

The religious think tank's study found that a further 34 per cent of people surveyed expected the Welfare State to shrink in size in coming years.

Eighty-seven per cent of people agreed with the statement "The welfare state is currently facing severe problems," and 68 per cent said they agreed that "Welfare benefits should be a safety net for only the poorest in society."

The figures were released to mark the publication of a report by Theos, The Future of Welfare, which includes contributions from the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, and the Labour MP Frank Field, among others.

The director of Theos, Elizabeth Oldfield, said: "Contributors agree that we do have a moral responsibility for each other. . . However, there was also general agreement that people need to be able to connect what they put in to what they get out, and that this has been lost over recent decades."


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