Current Affairs

Analysis: Follow the Roman Catholic handbook on influencing politics

Tony Grew May 28, 2008
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The Roman Catholic Church has said that the defeat in Parliament of attempts to lower the time limit on abortions is not the end of the matter.

Indeed, they have urged their adherents to target those MPs who voted for maintaining the status quo at 24 weeks, especially those who have a small majority.

Peter Jennings, spokesman for the Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols, told the Daily Telegraph:

“I would encourage all Catholics, Christians and members of all faiths who support the value of human life to think very carefully before they put their ‘x’ beside a name at the next general election.

“I would have thought no member of Parliament who voted against human life deserves re-election.”

Some have been worried by this latest attempt by the Catholics to interfere in the political process.

The Church under Pope Benedict XVI has been politically outspoken and unashamed to make its presence felt.

Early in his papacy he caused anger and bemusement when he lambasted Canadian Roman Catholic leaders for “allowing” the “immorality” of gay marriage in their country.

The Church tried to influence the elections in Spain earlier this year, holding “family” rallies and proclaiming from pulpits and TV studios that politicians who had supported gay marriage should not be re-elected.

In Italy, the Church spoke out in the most vicious and insulting terms against modest proposals to legally recognise gay relationships.

Or, in the words of  the chair of the Italian Bishops Conference:

“Why say no to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say no to incest? Why say no to the paedophile party?”

In Latvia this week, the Roman Catholic Cardinal has written to the government to share his interpretation of the country’s Constitution, which he thinks bans gay Pride events.

There are estimated to be five million Catholics in Britain and while church leaders say they will not tell their congregations who to vote for, many are keen to turn abortion into an election issue.

But there are dark warnings to Catholic voters to “think very carefully” about voting for anyone who disagrees with the Church’s views on abortion.

Of those five million people that the Roman Catholic Church claims are its followers, the majority are not practising.

The same cannot be said of the estimated 3.6 million gay and lesbian people in Britain.

Most of them are practicing. Very much so in fact.

They are also taxpayers and most importantly voters. does not believe that gays and lesbians are “one issue” voters.

However, abortion was not the only key measure under discussion during the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill earlier this month.

There was also the matter of equal access to fertility treatments for lesbian women, sometimes turned away because the law states doctors must consider the “need for a father.”

A change in the law to require clinics to consider whether the child would receive “supportive parenting” seemed uncontroversial.

All three main parties gave their MPs a free vote on the issue during the committee stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill but Labour members will be expected to support the entire bill during its later stages.

The bulk of the Shadow Cabinet voted in favour of an amendment that would have retained a requirement on doctors to consider the need for a father when assessing women for IVF treatment but it was defeated by 292 votes to 217.

Of the 25 members of the Tory frontbench who are MPs, 17 voted in favour of the amendment, including the party leader David Cameron.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, Shadow Cabinet Office spokesman and former party chairman Francis Maude and Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert voted against the amendment.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was there to vote against the amendment, alongside Cabinet ministers Ed Balls, Hazel Blears, Douglas Alexander, John Denham, Harriet Harman, James Purnell, Nick Brown, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw, Ed Miliband and Jacqui Smith.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham and Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy voted for the amendment.

But many of those MPs have commanding majorities.

We decided to take a leaf out of the Roman Catholic book of political campaigning and have compiled this list of MPs with majorities of less than 3,000 who voted against lesbian rights.

To paraphrase the Archbishop of Birmingham’s spokesman: “I would have thought no member of Parliament who voted against gay and lesbian equality deserves re-election.”

Remember, every vote counts.

David Jones – Con – Clwyd West – 133

Anne Milton – Con – Guildford – 347

David Drew – Lab – Stroud – 350

James Brokenshire – Con – Hornchurch – 420

Paul Rowen
– LDem – Rochdale – 444

John Grogan – Lab – Selby – 467

Rob Wilson – Con – Reading East – 475

Mike Penning – Con – Hemel Hempstead – 499

Stephen Crabb – Con – Preseli Pembrokeshire – 607

Adam Holloway – Con – Gravesham – 654

Peter Bone – Con – Wellingborough – 683

Mark Pritchard – Con – The Wrekin – 942

Paul Keetch – LDem – Hereford – 962

Nigel Waterson – Con – Eastbourne – 1,124

Claire Ward – Lab – Watford – 1,148

Robert Goodwill – Con – Scarborough and Whitby – 1,245

Anne Snelgrove – Lab – Swindon South – 1,353

Anne Main – Con – St Albans – 1,361

Jeremy Wright – Con – Rugby and Kenilworth – 1,557

Lee Scott – Con – Ilford North – 1,653

David Mundell – Con – Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale – 1,738

Daniel Kawczynski – Con – Shrewsbury and Atcham – 1,808

Anthony Steen
– Con – Totnes – 1,947

Andy Reed – Lab – Loughborough – 1,996

Michael Jabez Foster – Lab – Hastings and Rye – 2,026

Philip Dunne – Con – Ludlow – 2,027

Paul Burstow – LDem – Sutton and Cheam – 2,846

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