THE Prime Minister’s decision to hold a snap General Election on 8 June gives voters a chance to act on behalf of the poor, church figures have said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office said that he would not be commenting on the election; but the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, tweeted: “May I ask all followers of the risen Christ to think, speak, and vote so as to help the poorest and displaced.”
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said on Wednesday: “I encourage all Christians to quiz their candidates about their views on the poor, the marginalised, and those in need of refuge.”
This view was reflected across the political spectrum. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, who is the Conservative MP for Meriden, reminded voters that the election would involve other issues as well as Brexit. It would also give the Prime Minister the chance to present a new domestic agenda: “one which will bring people closer together and make sure that Britain works for everyone, not just the privileged few”, she said.
Christians on the Left’s political communications officer, Stephen Beer, said: “We need a society and a Brexit deal which works for the whole nation and not just a few.” A particular responsibility fell on Christians, he said. “We need to show people how it is possible to disagree well with each other, and we need to call out bad behaviour wherever we encounter it.”
He accused the Prime Minister of “being opportunistic” with a bid to increase her parliamentary majority. “The problem is that there is no clear agenda from Theresa May or the Conservative Party,” he said. “Nine months on, we still have no idea what values underpin the kind of Brexit deal they want.”
The Liberal Democrat Christian Forum’s director, Sarah Dickson, welcomed the election announcement. She said: “With all that is happening in politics at the moment, from Brexit to the crisis in the NHS, and changes in our education system, it is right and just that the people are given a say in the direction our country takes. Theresa May’s decision gives us all an incredible opportunity to do just that.
“As the election campaigns get going, politics will become suddenly more tangible and present in our lives. In this time, I am excited about the opportunity we, as Christians, have to be God’s salt and light by doing politics differently: disagreeing well with each other and always looking outwards with compassion and love to others.”
The Conservative Christian Fellowship’s executive director, Gareth Wallace, said that it was “looking forward to the opportunity to support CCF members who are candidates”, and was “excited by prospect of new Christian MPs elected and representing the Conservative Party”.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, who is vice-chair of the Christians in Parliament group, tweeted: “This is your chance to change the direction of your country. If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit, if you want to keep Britain in the single market, if you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”
The Labour MP Andy Burnham tweeted simply: “Tory Party puts its own interests before the national interest”; but Stephen Crabb MP, a Conservative, tweeted: “Sun is shining. Perfect moment for an election. Let’s go.”
Tearfund called on Wednesday for the Government to reaffirm its commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change, and continue to spend a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas development, as is currently the law.
But the Prime Minister declined to confirm whether the 0.7 per cent commitment would be in the Conservative manifesto, in the House of Commons, on Wednesday.
Church House has released this prayer for the General Election:
Lord, we give thanks for the privileges
and responsibilities of living in a democratic society.
Give us wisdom to play our part at election time.
Protect us from the sins of despair and cynicism,
guard us against the idols of false utopias and
Strengthen us to make politics a noble calling that
serves the common good of all.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.