This month we have a delegation of church leaders attending each of the four biggest party conferences, alongside The Salvation Army and Quakers in Britain. This blog is about our visit to Labour conference.
I attended the Labour Party Conference this week with senior representatives of our churches.
We were present for the Tuesday of Conference. Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was scheduled for Wednesday and eagerly anticipated by Conference delegates. In the main hall chants of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ summed up the mood of the party faithful – it felt as if the party leader could do no wrong.
We had six meetings with prominent Labour MPs. We wanted to listen to their interests and fears and to thank them for their public service. We wanted them to know that we would pray for them, and of course we asked for their views on specific issues and how they thought our church members might help to bring about change. As a result there is some scope for one or two follow-up meetings in Parliament. ‘Brexit’ was in the background rather than the foreground of these exchanges. The topics discussed included strengthening cohesion in diverse communities, better support for asylum seekers, problems caused by Universal Credit, struggling local economies, the arms trade and foreign policy.
We also enjoyed a Prayer Breakfast hosted jointly by Christians on the Left and All We Can. Simon Beresford of All We Can spoke on the nature of true relationship in international aid. Revd Stephen Keyworth, Baptists Together, extended this theme with a theological reflection around the Good Samaritan. Stephen Timms MP, a very committed Christian who has for many years been the focal point in the Parliamentary Labour Party for engagement with faiths, offered a thoughtful reflection. He suggested that values are in-vogue again in politics. This gives a political party an additional reason to ensure that it is entirely comfortable with the presence of faith in the party, because, he suggests, Christians tend to be passionate about values and seeing values lived out in the world.
Much food for thought amongst the celebratory atmosphere.
If you’d like to explore the relationship between faith and politics further then download and use our six-week bible study, ‘The Art of the Possible‘: