A month ago I wrote, not very positively, about the Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience. I always had my misgivings about the lack of balance in this Declaration, which correspond to what I wrote a few days ago about issues of Christian principle at election time. To summarise, the Declaration seems to have largely ignored the real issues in this election, and the issues of poverty and social justice which ought to be of top priority for Christians.
So I was not really surprised to read, initially from Ruth Gledhill and also in their own latest news report, how the true political colour of the Westminster Declaration has now come to light. Now they write:
Westminster 2010 is not party political but concerned solely with conscience issues.
But their true leanings towards the Conservative party, if not already clear from their selection of issues to campaign on (and from the list of key signatories, including the husband of the controversial Conservative candidate Philippa Stroud), become clear from the list of preferred candidates which they have now issued:
Preferred candidates include 192 Conservatives, 35 Liberal Democrats, 19 Labour, 2 SNP and 2 Independents. Tories come out on top because in general their MPs have better past voting records on Christian conscience issues …
But let’s examine how they came to their conclusions in two constituencies.
In my own constituency of Chelmsford, the sitting Conservative MP Simon Burns is being strongly challenged by an excellent Lib Dem candidate Stephen Robinson, with the Labour candidate Pete Dixon likely to take a poor third place. Westminster 2010 is bold enough to “prefer” the Conservative. But on what basis? None of these three candidates have made the Westminster 2010 pledge, nor have any of them explicitly refused it. The Westminster 2010 preference seems to be based entirely on the sitting MP’s past voting record. But that is a quite unfair basis of judgment because the other candidates, who have not been MPs, have no known past record to be judged.
Then let’s look at another constituency, Sutton and Cheam. Here there is a Christian Peoples Alliance candidate who has signed the Westminster 2010 pledge. But Westminster 2010’s preferred candidate is a Conservative who has not signed it – although she is Philippa Stroud (with her name mis-spelled).
So, in the words of the Facebook commenter quoted by Ruth Gledhill,
it’s quite clear what you’re saying…”vote Tory.”
I’m glad I didn’t sign up to this Declaration. I urge my Christian readers to think twice before following the group’s recommendations, and to bear in mind what I wrote a few days ago:
So, how should Christians vote on Thursday? I don’t suggest that there is only one correct answer. But I do say that all Christians need to think about these issues of social justice as well as about those of life and personal morality, and need to base their vote on what the various candidates and parties are actually promising to do on these issues.