More calls to halt nastiness in run-up to general election

08 November 2019

Election round-up: benefits, Grenfell, anti-Semitism, and nativity plays

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The Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, leaving the Conservative headquarters in Westminster on Monday

The Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, leaving the Conservative headquarters in Westminster on Monday

PROSPECTIVE candidates in the December General Election are being urged to sign up to a “Stop the nastiness” campaign, and conduct themselves with respect, “call out hate, and promote compassion”.

Among the groups supporting the move is Taxpayers Against Poverty, a Christian charity. It follows the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning last week that the use of “inflammatory” language risked pouring “petrol” on Britain’s divisions over Brexit (News, 31 October).

Dame Caroline Spelman, the outgoing Second Church Estates Commissioner, who is standing down as a Conservative MP (News, 12 September), wrote last week that she “took a principled stand over Brexit, which proved costly in terms of the abuse which affected me, my family, and my staff”.

She wrote in The Times that, after the abuse she had received, she was not surprised that so many female MPs were stepping down. “As a nation, we need to look deep into our soul to try to discover why this misogyny still prevails.

“Men and women should be treated equally at work, but it is sometimes only when men discover the discrimination suffered by females close to them that they become active in tackling conscious and unconscious bias against women.”

This week, the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg was forced to apologise over comments he made about the Grenfell Tower fire.

He remarked to a radio interviewer on Tuesday: “I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common-sense thing to do.”

The Area Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “Government managing to shoot itself in the foot several times today over #Grenfell. Words and gestures matter & need careful thought out of respect for survivors and families.”

Also on Wednesday, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I’ll tell you what’s common sense: Don’t put flammable cladding on people’s homes. That’s common sense.”

The Jewish Chronicle has urged its readers not to vote for Mr Corbyn’s party, labelling him an anti-Semite. Its editor, Stephen Pollard, wrote to readers warning of a “tense foreboding lest Labour win”.

In one of the last acts of the old Parliament, the Work and Pensions Select Committee urged the Government to scrap the two-child benefit limit. In a report published this week, it argued that families were “left with no choice but to make their already frozen and capped incomes stretch ever further — sometimes to breaking point.

“All too often it will be children themselves who bear the impact.”

Church of England bishops have criticised the policy in the past (News, 6 April 2018). This week, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said: “The two-child limit takes support from families when they need it most.”

He hoped that a new government would act swiftly to reverse the policy.

Christian Aid published a “manifesto” on Tuesday, which urged political parties to tackle climate and economic injustice, and to build peace.

Christian Aid’s senior UK advocacy adviser, Daisy-Rose Srblin, said: “At a time of considerable change and turmoil, it is critical we ask those in power to play a positive global role, and create a just and sustainable world.”

The charity’s campaigns manager, Luke Harman, said: “We need to remind candidates asking for our votes that the scandal of international poverty is something millions of us care deeply about.”

The Guardian reported that a leaked briefing note “strongly advises” prospective Conservative MPs “against signing up to any pledges” on the climate crisis and NHS privatisation.

The Evangelical Alliance has launched a prayer series to coincide with the General Election, and will be posting weekly prayer pointers on its website.

Two bishops have criticised Downing Street’s decision not to publish a report by the Intelligence and Security Select Committee on Russian interference in British politics.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, asked on Twitter: “Surely we can expect this to be published? Or good reason given why is is not?” The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, said: “Vital we have confidence in our democratic process, and for that transparency is key.” The Select Committee chairman, Dominic Grieve, called the decision “jaw-dropping”.

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has written to returning officers urging them to refrain from using schools as polling stations, to minimise disruption to nativity plays and carol concerts. He said that Advent and Christmas events were “important highlights in the school calendar, and the result of a huge amount of hard work”.

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