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Don’t forget children, parties urged

15 November 2019

Election round-up: children, Brexit, Islam, votes, Kashmir


Campaign trailing: the Prime Minister visits the London Electric Vehicle Compamy, in Coventry, on Wednesday

Campaign trailing: the Prime Minister visits the London Electric Vehicle Compamy, in Coventry, on Wednesday

CHILDREN’S organisations have called on political parties to take children seriously and “recommit to them” ahead of next month’s General Election.

An open letter organised by the Children’s Society, and signed by figures including the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, and the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, says that “it is our fear that the voices of our children and young people will be drowned out” in the General Election campaign.

It calls on “each political party to commit to establishing the annual measurement of children’s well-being in schools, and to put children’s well-being firmly at the heart of policy development and spending decisions”.

The Children’s Society’s director of policy and research, Sam Royston, this week praised Labour’s plans to invest £845 million in children’s mental health.

Research by the charity suggests that about 110,000 children are turned away from mental-health services each year. “For those that do get treatment, they have to wait up to 83 days from first referral.”

Candidate lists for the General Election were finalised yesterday. Among the 317 Brexit Party candidates required to stand down by Nigel Farage this week was the Revd Sam Norton, the Vicar of Parkend and Viney Hill, in Gloucester diocese (News, 9 August).

In a post on Twitter, Mr Norton wrote: “Having had a night and day to reflect . . . what is most on my mind is my paternal grandfather, who (with regiment) was used as the ‘bait’ at Tobruk, and who therefore spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. I don’t have it that bad.”

Others were less sanguine. Darren Selkus, who was the Brexit Party’s candidate for Epping Forest, said that Mr Farage had “betrayed my incredible volunteers and thousands of constituents who will have no one to vote for”.

Another Anglican standing for election is Robin Lunn, a lay member of the General Synod for Worcester diocese. Mr Lunn, a Worcestershire county councillor, is the Labour candidate for the Wyre Forest. Speaking on Tuesday, he said that one of the things he was keen to do was to “make the 2020s in the Wyre Forest rather better than they have been for the past decade”.

The seat is currently Conservative, held with a 13,000 majority. Mr Lunn said that this was not “completely insurpassable”. He said that the key difference between the Synod and Parliament was that, at the Synod, people were trying to reach a consensus, often with compromise: for example, on women’s episcopacy. Mr Lunn argued that this “would be a good method for Brexit”.

Last week, the bishops of Winchester diocese wrote to all their clergy and lay readers urging them to pray for politicians during the election period.

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, called on people to vote in the election, which “affords us an opportunity both to rebalance the agenda and to give proper time and attention to so many important issues which impact negatively on millions of lives”.

The Labour Party has sought to quell a backlash among Indian voters by shifting its stance on the Kashmir crisis. In a motion passed at its conference in September, the Party called for the right of the Kashmiri people for self-determination, and said that there was a humanitarian crisis in the region.

The Party’s chairman, Ian Lavery, wrote in a letter that “the Labour Party will not take a pro-Indian or pro-Pakistan stance on Kashmir.”

More than 100 Indian groups had written to Jeremy Corbyn in protest against the passing of the motion. It has been reported that WhatsApp messages have been circulating among British Hindus urging them to vote against Labour.

It was revealed this week by The Guardian that 25 sitting and former Conservative councillors have been exposed for posting Islamophobic and racist material on social media. Offensive posts include calls for mosques to be closed, and the terming of Muslims as “barbarians”.

Baroness Warsi, the Conservative peer, told BBC Radio 4’s Today on Wednesday: “I’m starting to question just how much needs to come to light before the Party finally acknowledges we have a serious and deep problem with Islamophobia, and that, institutionally, we’re failing to deal with it.”

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