Sunday, 9 May 2010

Election results in more MPs supportive of Christian conscience

The election has resulted in a hung parliament but it has also resulted in a parliament that is better balanced on Christian conscience issues.

Prior to the election we reviewed the voting records of the 491 MPs who were standing again and classified them with respect to the Christian conscience issues in the Westminster 2010 Declaration as supportive (159, 32%), unsupportive (297, 60%) or unclear (35, 7%).

Of these 491 MPs 412 were re-elected classified as follows: supportive (149, 36%), unsupportive (234, 56%), unclear (29, 7%).

So overall we lost 63 MPs with poor voting records but only 10 MPs with good voting records. While it is very sad to see the loss of people like David Drew and Geraldine Smith, we can be thankful that re-elected MPs are overall balanced more in our favour.

What about the 237 new MPs? What do we know about them?

We do not have past voting records here to rely on so assessment is more difficult. However we can make some sort of judgement from public statements, email correspondence and their willingness to make the Westminster 2010 pledge to ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’.

32 new MPs have made the pledge and a further 38 were judged supportive on the basis of their emails and public statements – 70 in total or 30% of the 237. Five were unsupportive. Of the remaining 162 we do not have enough information to make a judgement.

So overall of our 650 current MPs (assuming that the Anne McIntosh gets re-elected for Thirsk and Malton) 219 (149+70) are supportive (34%), 239 (234+5) are unsupportive (37%) and the views of the remaining 191 (29+162) are unclear or unknown (29%).

If just 15 of these192 unknowns are supportive (and we would expect many more than this) then the balance of supportive to unsupportive MPs will be better than that of the 491MPs who stood for re-election.

What was the overall effect of the Christian vote? The Christian Party won less than 18,000 votes in total for its candidates. However it is very clear that most Christians vote for candidates from one of the three main parties and around the country a number of Christians are amongst the new MPs. Entering parliament for the first time are nine members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and one member of the Christian Socialist Movement. More than ten other new MPs indicated in their correspondence to us that they were Christians.

Amongst our gold star (supportive) and silver star (tactical vote) candidates in marginal constituencies a number won their seats on significant swings against sitting MPs with poor voting records on Christian conscience issues.

For example in Oxford West and Abingdon, Nicola Blackwood, an evangelical Christian, edged out outspoken secularist MP Evan Harris with a 6.9% swing. Robert Halfon cruised in with a 5.9% swing in Harlow (expelling Bill Rammell) and Jeremy LeFroy managed a 7.4% swing in Stafford to oust David Kidney. Similarly Gavin Shuker held firm against a smaller than average swing of 4.6% to hold Luton South for the Labour Party.

The real impact of the Christian vote in this election will require more detailed analysis – but Christians have been mobilised to vote on conscience issues in greater numbers than ever before.

Over 120,000 have visited our website, over 60,000 have signed the Westminster Declaration and over 8,000 have joined our Facebook groups in just four weeks. Hundreds of churches have sent in petition forms and thousands have written to local candidates to enquire where they stand. The church is awakening.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience – Newsletter #3

This is your final update before the election on 6 May.

Over 50,000 Christians have now signed the Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience and over 7,500 have become ‘Facebook fans’ in just over four weeks since its launch on 4 April (Easter Sunday).

We know that Christian voters will be weighing candidates and parties in different ways. Here are some resources that you may find helpful.

New Resources to help you

1.If your constituency is marginal and you wish to vote tactically for the best candidate who has a chance of winning then you may find our list of ‘preferred candidates’ in 250 marginal constituencies helpful. Our blog explains the rationale for considering a vote for the ‘least bad option’ and explains gold and silver stars.
2.We now have over 800 candidates graded red or green on conscience issues listed on our candidates’ page. Search on candidate, constituency or grade and read how we did it. This information is still being regularly updated.
3.Our links page gives links to a huge range of Christian election websites and resources and another blog article tells you how to research your MP.
4.Two new videos on Westminster 2010 by CCFON and Kingdom Reporting TV

How you can help us

1. Pray - that Westminster 2010 will make a positive difference through encouraging ordinary Christians to take a stand, helping them to vote wisely and through making all candidates aware of the importance of the Christian vote in a close-run election where it may, by God’s grace, prove decisive.

2. Gather signatures – Please continue to encourage Christians in your churches to sign the declaration after the election. The Election has been our initial focus but the Declaration itself is more timeless and we are planning to present it to the incoming Prime Minister when the election is over. Sign up forms can be printed easily from the homepage. Send them in to Westminster 2010, 8 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL and help us on the drive to 100,000 signatures!

3. Follow progress – Keep up via the website, become a fan on our Facebook page, join our Twitter feed or read our Blog.

With thanks again for your support.

Warmly in Christ Jesus

Westminster 2010 Support Team

Monday, 3 May 2010

It is worth considering a vote for the least bad option – Gold and Silver Stars explained

The expenses controversy, the economic crisis and the undermining of protection for human life, marriage and Christian conscience in the last ten years has led many Christians to lose faith in politicians generally. Many are also disillusioned with all of the three main parties and especially the three leaders, all of whom have at best mixed voting records on issues of Christian conscience.

As a result some Christians have decided this year either to vote for local Christian candidates with no real prospect of winning or not to vote at all. An alternative approach is to vote for the ‘least bad option’, the best candidate with a realistic chance of winning the seat.

Westminster 2010, as it focuses primarily on issues of conscience is not party political. We recognise that no party or no candidate is perfect. However, as citizens living in a democracy we do have a responsibility to vote and it is clear that there are some candidates who are preferable to others.

So far, on the basis of past voting records, public statements and replies to emails we have been able to identify over 800 parliamentary candidates whose position on Christian conscience issues is known. Our grading system of red, green and grey symbols is explained on the Westminster 2010 blog.

250 candidates have made the pledge to ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’. Another 250 are known to be supportive on the basis of past voting records or personal statements. A further 300 are known to be unsupportive.

About 6 million people in the UK regularly attend church; about 10,000 in each constituency. Committed Christians are only a minority group but our votes can have a real impact in marginal constituencies. The parliament we end up with will be determined entirely by what happens in marginal constituencies as they are the only ones which are going to change hands in a close-run election.

We have therefore taken the 300 most marginal constituencies in the UK and tried to identify in each a ‘preferred option’. This information is now displayed on our candidates page and is being constantly updated as new data comes to light.

Currently we have ‘preferred option’ candidates identified in 250 marginal constituencies or 84% of the total. Of these 58 have made the pledge and a further 91 are known to be supportive. Another 101 are tactical votes aimed at keeping someone who is known to be unsupportive out of office.

The preferred candidates include 192 Conservatives, 35 Liberal Democrats, 19 Labour, 2 SNP and 2 Independents. Conservatives dominate for two main reasons.

First, if we look at current MPs’ past voting records, in general Labour and Liberal Democrats have voted for the legislation that is now being used to discriminate against Christians, whilst Conservatives have opposed it. There are notable exceptions of course on both sides. Several members of the Conservative front bench, for example, have very poor voting records but unfortunately they are not in marginal seats.

Second, in the vast majority of marginal seats with a Labour or Liberal Democrat MP with a poor voting record, it is a Conservative rather than a Liberal Democrat Candidate who is in second place and stands the best chance of winning. Many of these unfortunately are still unknown quantities and we have been frustrated somewhat in our analysis by Conservative Central Office advising its candidates not to respond to us or to send us cut-and-paste replies.

Of the 192 ‘preferred option’ Conservatives candidates 78 are sitting Conservative MPs with good voting records. A further 30 have made the pledge. The remaining 84 are simply tactical votes lying second to Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs with poor voting records. We have no data on them and for all we know these candidates may be no better than the sitting MPs whose seats they are attempting to win.

We have marked each ‘preferred option’ candidate as follows:

Gold Star - has made a pledge to 'respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’ and/or is known to be supportive on the basis of past voting records, public statements or correspondence and also stands a good chance of winning the seat.

Silver Star – position on conscience issues is unknown to us but they are the candidate with the best chance of winning against someone who is known to be unsupportive

The ultimate decision is yours. We are not telling you how to vote but simply providing information for you to weigh in making your choice. You may have local knowledge of your candidates which we don’t have and there are many other sources of information for you to draw on in deciding which candidate gets your vote. We particularly recommend the excellent resources on the Christian Institute website including their election briefing, MP voting records and party manifestos.

However, where you place your cross on polling day is a matter of Christian conscience for you alone to decide. We know you will praying earnestly about it. Overall let's pray that God is glorified in his people in this election. To God be all the glory.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)