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Theresa May bids for working-class support at Conservative conference

Tim Wyatt

by Tim Wyatt

Posted: 07 Oct 2016 @ 12:04

PA

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Seeking the middle, and higher, ground: Theresa May in Birmingham on Wednesday

Credit: PA

Seeking the middle, and higher, ground: Theresa May in Birmingham on Wednesday

THE Conservative Christian Fellowship (CCF) has celebrated its tenth anniversary by challenging the Party during its annual conference on some “difficult policy areas”.

The Fellowship’s director, Gareth Wallace, said that his group would use their space at the conference in Birmingham this week to host discussions on homelessness, foodbanks, and refugees.

The CCF celebrated its anniversary during a service at Birmingham City Church on Sunday. Members were joined by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman MP, and the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who led prayers for the conference.

The Fellowship’s theme for the week was “Serving Jesus, Serving the Nation, Serving You”, and its stall and events highlighted partner charities such as World Vision and Christian Aid.

The two aid agencies put on a fringe discussion on how to show “Christian compassion at the point of need” to Syrian refugees, both at home and abroad.

Conservatives attending the conference encountered further challenges outside the conference, where Christians for Economic Justice protested against austerity. Activists sang hymns and handed out leaflets and pieces of bread as a “symbol of sharing the world’s resources”.

Nicola Sleapwood, a disabled Christian from Birmingham, who organised the demonstration, said: “However well-intentioned individual Christian Tories may be, their party as a whole is persecuting the sort of people with whom Jesus took sides.”

On the conference stage on Wednesday, the Prime Minister described the vote in June to leave the EU as a “quiet revolution”. The Government would deliver on Brexit, but plenty of other things also needed to change, she said, in a bid to claim the centre ground of British politics.

Driving home the slogan of the conference — “a country that works for everyone” — Mrs May said she would target “tax dodgers”, address the lack of affordable homes, and invest in strategic sectors of the economy.

She also claimed that it was the Conservative Party, and not Labour, which was now the party of the working class, the NHS, and public servants. Labour had instead inherited the mantle of the “nasty party”, she suggested.

Proposals to exempt British soldiers from the European Convention on Human Rights while fighting overseas were announced at the weekend by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. A Christian pacifist group, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, has attacked the idea.

“Members of the military need to be held to account for what they do,” said the Revd Christopher Collins, a Methodist minister and trustee of the charity. “No one is above human rights.”

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, had to defend herself after criticism of her plan — announced at the conference on Tuesday — to reveal how many foreigners were employed by British firms, in an attempt to “shame” firms into hiring more British workers.

“We must not ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration; and if we do talk about immigration don’t call me a racist,” she told BBC Radio 4.

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